Telling Stories

Over the weekend I converted a broom closet in our house to a little voice recording studio. By converted I mean I took all the random crap out of the room and hung a rug over the door. Works like a charm, actually. 

The re-purposed room is a part of my decision to buckle down and learn the art of audio storytelling. Of recording audio versions of every New Bayou Book.  

The rationale is pretty simple. Let me lay it on you. 

When I have a chance to talk to people about New Bayou Books, one thing I usually say is something like everybody in South Louisiana knows a great storyteller. Which, if you’re from the area, I’m sure you can attest is the truth. So, let’s just accept that some things are universally true of Acadiana. Everybody’s momma can make a roux, somebody has an extra koozie for your beer, and at every family reunion, there’s that one uncle who holds court under the big shade tree, telling stories and keeping everybody in stitches all afternoon. 

That’s basically why I believe there must be dozens of great writers hiding in plain sight. With so many vivid storytellers, it stands to reason there are at least a few writers with something special. 

Except that writing and storytelling–the oral tradition of spinning a yarn–are not exactly the same thing. And just as writing and speaking are related but not equivalent, reading and listening are also distinct methods of consumption. It’s easier to listen. More convenient. 

I know how to write. At least, I thought I did . . . until I started getting serious about recording dramatic readings of my work. But anyway, I’m getting off track. Let’s assume that, even if I’m not a masterful writer, I’m at least better at it than I am at recording myself reading said dubious prose. Which is a long way to say that I pretty much suck at reading audio versions of the stories. 

There’s a separate, more nuanced topic here–the relationship between the written word and its audio rendering, and how the sound of the words can and should influence the written word–but that topic stands on solid, geeky wordsmith territory and so I’ll save it for another time. 

For today, the point is simply this: I’ve resolved to be the best I possibly can be at recording audio versions of New Bayou material. I will focus, intensely, on learning this skill. I will overcome the self conscious way I feel about the nasally sound of my own voice. I will manage the fact that I don’t even have a Cajun accent anymore. I will learn not to say “fuck!” in exasperation every time I fuck up a sentence I’m trying to read for the fifth or sixth time. 

I will stay motivated throughout the process by thinking about all the new listeners New Bayou Books will acquire once I perfect this art of telling stories in the classic, oral tradition. This blog is my commitment, to myself and to those as yet unconverted fans of New Bayou Books around the world.

Look for bootleg recordings of new, unpublished stories on newbayoubooks.com. They will be rough. But I will get better, quickly, and soon you’ll be sharing links with friends, telling them you gotta check out this story. I may not ever get good enough to rival that one uncle we all have who holds court under the big shade tree at the family reunion . . . but I will do my very best, and we will see if that’s good enough.  

Published by New Bayou Books

JR Reed started New Bayou Books to spark a revolution in Louisiana literature. The goal of the company is simple: to great writers out of the shadows to carry on the Louisiana literary tradition.

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