Category: Non-Fiction

Voice Arts Awards Winner 2019

You have to scroll waaay down through all of the Society of Voice Arts and Sciences 2019 winners (where only a small fraction of the narrators are credited) to Audiobook Narration – Biography, Best Voiceover category winner. There you’ll find a book I co-edited and for which I wrote and narrated an essay. Nevertheless We Persisted #MeToo was a courageous labor of love for all of us and I was proud to be a part of yet another important production from Blunderwoman Productions even before this award. If you choose to purchase the book, know that “half of the proceeds are being donated to https://www.rainn.org , a national sexual violence prevention and support resource. The other half of proceeds will be used to produce future BWP anthologies, allowing more writers to share their stories.” (from original Go Fund Me campaign)

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On Creativity with Suzanne McConnell

Author, along with Kurt Vonnegut, of Pity the Reader: On Writing With Style As a writer-in-progress myself, I feel so lucky to have been invited to record this title for Highbridge Audio. The book is filled with thoughtful, generous (and on Vonnegut’s part, often humorously grumpy) advice about writing well, the writer’s life, and really about any creative person’s place in the world. For a taste, just read Suzanne’s answers to my questions about her writing life. KW: What contributes to flow in your work? SM: Keeping in daily contact with whatever I’m working on, by working on it, primarily—and/or by making lists of my intentions or questions, if they are ‘listable,’ by scribbling notes or thoughts, or merely by thinking about it. This abiding with it seems to set my subconscious in motion.  The result is that some of my most productive ‘ah-ha’s’ occur in the middle of the night when I awake with a brilliant solution, or just the right phrase or word, or—even in the mundane outreach process, another person I forgot to email or who could make a terrific connection. I’ve long been interested in dreams. I once took a life-changing class in a method to change our dream, and one result was an eye-opening awareness of the subconscious at work. Over years. I’ve learned to trust it and my intuition. So if I am deeply engaged in my work in the daytime, night time often yields the answer.  KW: Do you have a mentor? What gift did s/he pass to you that you use regularly? Embed from Getty Images SM: Kurt Vonnegut bestowed many things but the biggest gift he gave me is simply by being a model in terms of his commitment and persistence to writing, fueled by passion to convey serious truths as he saw them. KW: Do you have multiple creative outlets in your life? SM: I think other outlets are very nourishing and teach you a lot about the creative process in general, but also what’s specific to each art. I play the piano, but was taught classically; I took jazz piano lessons from a wonderful teacher over the last two years while writing Pity the Reader, which was joyously freeing. It was a relief from the computer and writing, immediate and playful, and it reinforced my sense of my intuitive creativity. I went through a period of doing watercolors for several years, in my 30’s I took dance classes, I once took an improvisation acting class that was marvelous and fed my teaching and sense of spontaneity in general. Writing is sedentary and all these other creative endeavors are more physical and immediate. I also love to bake, take care . . .

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DOWNHILL FROM HERE by Katherine S. Newman

Retirement Insecurity in the Age of Inequality Available now from Highbridge Audio. Retirement insecurity is an increasingly serious manifestation of the vast inequality that risks destroying the social fabric in America. The nearly inevitable consequence of lifetime wage discrepancies, security in retirement is linked to the kinds of jobs we hold during our work lives. That, in turn, is a product of all the forces leading to historic levels of inequality, forces that have protected the very wealthy, destroyed any hold on stability for the poor, and gradually eroded the security of the vast middle class. The problem of inequality has moved from an academic preoccupation to a growing theme in national and local politics. The election of Bill Di Blasio in New York was the first real political victory that owes itself to citizens demanding a reversal of inequality. It has been an underlying theme in the Democratic presidential debates, a motif for the Hillary Clinton campaign and a pronounced feature of Bernie Sanders’ bid. This attention is not an accident. When members of Congress returned to their districts to test out messages for upcoming elections, the one issue that resonated among their publics was “Do something about retirement.” Highbridge Audio Listen to a sample here: THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.  Linda is the randomly selected winner and the CDs will be mailed out to her as soon as I get her address.  Thanks to all for entering!  I give away lots of books – to find out about them in the future, please consider following this blog, or my Facebook page, or on Twitter. a Rafflecopter giveaway

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NOBODY'S GIRL FRIDAY by J.E. Smyth

Available now from Highbridge Audio. From the Publisher: “The first comprehensive history of Hollywood’s high-flying career women during the studio era, Nobody’s Girl Friday covers the impact of the executives, producers, editors, writers, agents, designers, directors, and actresses who shaped Hollywood film production and style, led their unions, climbed to the top during the war, and fought the blacklist. Based on a decade of archival research, author J.E. Smyth uncovers a formidable generation working within the American film industry and brings their voices back into the history of Hollywood. Their achievements, struggles, and perspectives fundamentally challenge popular ideas about director-based auteurism, male dominance, and female disempowerment in the years between First and Second Wave Feminism. Nobody’s Girl Friday is a revisionist history, but it’s also a deeply personal, collective account of hundreds of working women, the studios they worked for, and the films they helped to make. For many years, historians and critics have insisted that both American feminism and the power of women in Hollywood declined and virtually disappeared from the 1920s through the 1960s. But Smyth vindicates Bette Davis’s claim. The story of the women who called the shots in studio-era Hollywood has never fully been told—until now.” My recording experience: This book was provocative in terms of seeing what ground has been gained and lost for women over the years in Hollywood. A must for avid fans and students of cinema history, it seems that J.E. Smyth has unearthed facts ignored by previous (male) historians. Not only did I have a good time doing the research on this one (to find name pronunciations of many of the lesser-known actors, editors, designers, etc that are mentioned, I watched a LOT of YouTube videos including ancient Oscars telecasts and episodes of What’s My Line) I also learned some random facts, for one, that the Republican Party was the first to support the Equal Rights Amendment.   Listen to a sample here: THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.  Lee F. is the randomly selected winner and the CDs will be mailed out to her as soon as I get her address.  Thanks to all for entering!  I give away lots of books – to find out about them in the future, please consider following this blog, or my Facebook page, or on Twitter. Oftentimes, you can also enter there!

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TWO SOCIAL JUSTICE TITLES

In the past few month I feel lucky to have recorded several non-fiction titles that have given me new insights into today’s troubled times. Two of these books, The Middle of Nowhere by Mary Pipher and Witnessing Whiteness by Shelly Tochluk, were actually published years ago but have received increased interest due to what’s happening in our country right now and are thus getting published in audiobook form for the first time (both from Tantor Audio). Both are usefully, but somewhat sadly, even more relevant now than when they were first written. If you, like me, want to have a deeper understanding of the cultural currents in our society, I highly recommend them both. Over the past decade, Mary Pipher has been a great source of wisdom, helping us to better understand our family members. Now she connects us with the newest members of the American family—refugees. In cities all over the country, refugees arrive daily. Lost Boys from Sudan, survivors from Kosovo, families fleeing Afghanistan and Vietnam: they come with nothing but the desire to experience the American dream. Their endurance in the face of tragedy and their ability to hold on to the virtues of family, love, and joy are a lesson for Americans. Their stories will make you laugh and weep—and give you a deeper understanding of the wider world in which we live. The Middle of Everywhere moves beyond the headlines into the homes of refugees from around the world. Working as a cultural broker, teacher, and therapist, Mary Pipher has once again opened our eyes—and our hearts—to those with whom we share the future. Witnessing Whiteness invites listeners to consider what it means to be white, describes and critiques strategies used to avoid race issues, and identifies the detrimental effect of avoiding race on cross-race collaborations. The author illustrates how racial discomfort leads white people toward poor relationships with people of color. Questioning the implications our history has for personal lives and social institutions, the book considers political, economic, socio-cultural, and legal histories that shaped the meanings associated with whiteness. Drawing on dialogue with well-known figures within education, race, and multicultural work, the book offers intimate, personal stories of cross-race friendships that address both how a deep understanding of whiteness supports cross-race collaboration and the long-term nature of the work of excising racism from the deep psyche. Concluding chapters offer practical information on building knowledge, skills, capacities, and communities that support anti-racism practices, a hopeful look at our collective future, and a discussion of how to create a culture of witnesses who support allies for social and racial justice.

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NEVERTHELESS, WE PERSISTED

Tales of Loss, Love, and Finding Your Own Power. Available now from Blunderwoman Productions at Audiobooks.com and Amazon. From the Publisher: Nevertheless We Persisted is a special audio-first anthology of poems, essays, and stories that explores themes of loss, love, and finding your own power. It’s an astonishing collection filled with heart, tears, laughter, and ultimately hope. This collection was created from writers across the United States and also in Australia, England, India, and New Zealand. Each piece is performed by a talented narrator. Music by Jennie Knaggs and Nick Shillace of Lac La Belle. Pieces include: A woman’s journey fleeing Iraq with her children and how it made her stronger. A man recovering from his experience in Vietnam and learning empathy. A journey with cancer as posted on Facebook that ends not with a prayer…but a blessing. A 25-year-old talking about being a millennial and feelings of gratitude. A mother getting through Taco Night at her home without drinking. For once. A mother losing her husband whose children become the thread that pulls her through. Poems that are sensual and beautiful. Words on faith and hope. A first kiss, a chance encounter on an airplane, letting go of a loved one, the sense of loss in losing a parent. The hope and joy and madness of being a mom. An woman talking about how she’s judged for her brown skin. A poem about dancing in the rain. A poem about ordinary objects and thoughts of love. Finding joy in making love with a partner as the years pass and their bodies age. Looking for the silver lining, conquering white water rapids and fear, a young woman and her relationship with a gambling addict that made her question love and find her strength. A middle-aged woman who falls in love with another woman and the struggle she has to embrace her true self, honor her husband, and live an authentic life. A call for women to rise up and speak. And my piece is included that is dark and tough and deals with sexual violence by giving voice to the young woman in Lolita. I’m sure I’ve forgotten some, but it’s a really beautiful and strong collection from everyday people. This is a piece to listen to, to discuss, to share. Ebook is coming out soon. Writers include: Amy Oestreicher, Cat Gould, Charlotte McKinnon, Christa Lewis, Christina St Clair, Danielle Daney, Deepti Gupta, Echo Aspnes, Gina Dawe Weaver, Gracie Greenbaum, Jack Arkel, Jacqueline Pick, Janina Edwards, Jerrianne Hayslett, Karen Randall, Karen White, Kass Hillard, Laura Schmidt, Lauren Ezzo, Lily Schmidt, Mark Blickley, Martha McSweeney Brower, Nancy Wagner, Rodney Vaccaro, Sandy Logan, Shahana Kumar, Sue Pitkin, Tanya Eby, Tamara Hansen, Tammy Scott, . . .

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NOMADLAND by Jessica Bruder

Available now from Highbridge Audio. From the Publisher: “From the beet fields of North Dakota to the wilderness campgrounds of California to an Amazon warehouse in Texas, people who once might have kicked back to enjoy their sunset years are hard at work. Underwater on mortgages or finding that Social Security comes up short, they’re hitting the road in astonishing numbers, forming a new community of nomads: RV and van-dwelling migrant laborers, or “workampers.” Building on her groundbreaking Harper’s cover story, “The End of Retirement,” which brought attention to these formerly settled members of the middle class, Jessica Bruder follows one such RVer, Linda, between physically taxing seasonal jobs and reunions of her new van-dweller family, or “vanily.” Bruder tells a compelling, eye-opening tale of both the economy’s dark underbelly and the extraordinary resilience, creativity, and hope of these hardworking, quintessential Americans―many of them single women―who have traded rootedness for the dream of a better life.” From the Library Journal Starred Review: “Karen White’s clearly enunciated, steady-paced narration nicely relates this densely packed information that is essential for all public libraries, especially those in communities experiencing this phenomenon.” From the review at Every Day I Write the Book blog: “I listened to Nomadland on audio. It was narrated by my friend Karen White, who gave it just the gravity it needed. Her precise delivery, verging on alarmed, conveyed the substance and urgency of the topic, yet she handled the book’s wry and humorous moments just as well.” My recording experience: This is one of those books that will stick with you, despite the barrage of news that fills the airwaves and interwebs daily. At least it did for me. Bruder’s writing based on immersive reporting experience opened my eyes to a new reality for so many Americans. A reality that’s both inspiring and scarily dystopian. For an example of what I’m talking about, check out this video I found when I was trying to find out the correct pronunciation of “Kiva”: Or, if you want the other side of the coin, there are articles at Nature Sport Central and CheapRVLiving.com where you can find out how to make this lifestyle your own. Listen to a sample here: THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.  Johanna is the randomly selected winner and the CDs will be mailed out to her as soon as I get her address.  Thanks to all for entering!  I give away lots of books – to find out about them in the future, please consider following this blog, or my Facebook page, or on Twitter. Oftentimes, you can also enter there!

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THE HAPPIEST KIDS IN THE WORLD by Rina Mae Acosta & Michele Hutchison

Narrated with Henrietta Meire. Available now from Blackstone Audio. From the Publisher: “The secret to raising the happiest kids in the world? Whatever it is, it’s somewhere in the Netherlands. Would parents rather their children be successful or happy? Kids in the US face lots of pressure to excel – often at the expense of happiness. But does it have to be this way? Not in the Netherlands! In The Happiest Kids in the World, expats Rina Mae Acosta and Michele Hutchison – both married to Dutchmen and bringing up their kids in the Netherlands – examine the unique environment that enables the Dutch to turn out such well-adjusted, independent children. With heaps of good humor, and no shortage of amazement, the authors are delighted to find that babies get an average of 15 hours of sleep per day, children learn bike safety and proficiency in school, teenagers are less likely to get pregnant than their counterparts in almost every other nation, and parents really do serve chocolate sprinkles for breakfast! Along the way, they discover that the most commonly strived-for grade is just passing (6 points out of 10), how to achieve the perfect work-life balance, and that being normal is crazy enough.” From the Booklist review: The book’s alternating narrative lends itself to audio format. White voices Acosta’s wry American perspective, while Meire’s smooth English accent conveys Hutchison’s parental worries and insights. Both women keep the pace moving briskly, ably handling the occasional handful of tongue-twisting Dutch words. From the review in AudioFile Magazine: “Authors Rina Mae Acosta, an American, and Michele Hutchison, a Briton, both moved to the Netherlands to be with their Dutch husbands and to start their families. Taking turns, Acosta and Hutchison describe their experiences with child-rearing in the Netherlands. Their respective sections alternate between American narrator Karen White and British narrator Henrietta Meire, a production choice that helps to clearly delineate each author’s perceptions. In sharp contrast to life in the U.S. and Britain, the authors paint a picture of a country that emphasizes the happiness and emotional well-being of both children and their parents, while at the same time delivering outstanding educational results. Narrators Meire and White both deliver clear and engaging performances, letting the authors’ interesting observations about Dutch culture speak for themselves.” My recording experience: First, THIS VIDEO: But all hagelslag aside, I found this book to be wonderfully thought provoking, on subjects from work-life balance to helping my teen approach her college applications. Whether you’re a new parent or you’ve been doing it a few years, I recommend this book! Also, many thanks to my good friend Cisca Brouwer, who talked me through all the Dutch pronunciations. All errors . . .

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HIDDEN LIVES OF OWLS by Leigh Calvez plus Giveaway

Available now from Tantor Audio. From the Publisher: In this New York Times bestseller, a naturalist probes the forest to comprehend the secret lives of owls. Leigh Calvez takes listeners on an adventure into the world of owls: owl-watching, avian science, and the deep forest—often in the dead of night. These birds are a bit mysterious, and that’s part of what makes them so fascinating. Calvez makes the science entertaining and accessible while exploring the questions about the human-animal connection, owl obsession, habitat, owl calls, social behavior, and mythology. My recording experience: Leigh Calvez does a beautiful job of bringing the reader along on her experience of learning all about the owls she encounters. Recording this book, so many of my own owl-related memories bubbled up: dissecting owl pellets at my kids’ elementary school Science Night, the very scary owl in Beatrix Potter’s book The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, the owl that mysteriously lived on our very urban street in Sherman Oaks, and best of all, the board book Owl Babies that my babies loved as much as I loved reading it to them. I had a great time listening to the different owl calls on the Cornell ornithology site, and doing my best to voice them, too! There is something magical about owls, and Calvez does a great job of exploring what it is that draws us to them as well as raising awareness about their threatened existence. A great gift for anyone who is interested in the environment, birds or naturalist writing. Listen to a sample here: THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.  Sally is the randomly selected winner and the CDs will be mailed out to her as soon as I get her address.  Thanks to all for entering!  I give away lots of books – to find out about them in the future, please consider following this blog, or my Facebook page, or on Twitter. Oftentimes, you can also enter there! (If you’d like to buy a copy, using this link, I’ll receive a small percentage from Amazon through their Associates program. Narrators don’t earn royalties, so this is a way I can be compensated for marketing the book.)  

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