Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Windy: When my husband and I got married 30+ years ago, we didn’t have a television. We didn’t have a phone. We didn’t have a lot of stuff that most 12 year olds have today. What we DID have was books. My husband, James, did not enjoy reading as much as I did. He found it tedious. So to pull him into my world of books I began reading aloud. A major part of our evenings consisted of James stretched out on the couch, his feet propped in my lap, while I happily read story after story.
Little did I know that all that reading would eventually help me step into the audio book recording world. Over the years when I have had occasion to read aloud I would have people say, “You should do books on tape.” (I know I’m dating myself here!) I remember listening to Lynn Brooks read Christian Classics on BBN and thinking to myself what an awesome job she had. I wanted to be her!
Because I’m a dreamer, I began combing the internet for voice over work. I happened across an ad on Craigslist for a non-paying recording gig. It basically consisted of reading 500 different prompts. Some were single words, others were complete sentences. I walked into a little recording booth, grinning from ear to ear, with absolutely no earthly idea what I was doing. A gentleman handed me a pair of headphones, placed the reading material on a stand, and directed me to start reading at his prompt. Much to his surprise (and mine) I read the entire thing without one mistake. As I was leaving, he made the comment that I had just read more accurately than the professional voice over artist in the adjoining booth. I was over the moon excited. I left him all my information and told him I would love to work in the industry. Blah blah blah. Naturally, I never heard from him again.
However, as I said before, I’m a dreamer. So I jumped right back into searching the internet. Eventually, I ran across another ad on Craigslist. This one was advertising for audiobook work. I responded to the ad and the producer called to talk with me. The first words out of his mouth were, “Can you lose the accent?” Yikes! Easier said than done! (Think deep East Texas.) After visiting a few minutes over the phone, he emailed me a section of a manuscript and said, “Start reading and don’t stop until I tell you to.” I plowed right in and read my heart out. After about 2 or 3 minutes (translate that ETERNITY), he had me stop. He invited me to come to his studio to record a demo. It was incredibly intimidating. Much more “official” than my one experience over a year earlier. I swallowed hard, sat down in front of the biggest microphone set-up I had ever seen in my life, and started reading. It was much more difficult than I imagined. He stopped me a thousand times for a thousand different reasons. I was making mouth noises. My hand brushed against my pant leg. I was breathing too deep. I was popping my P’s. And who knew that the long vowel sound for “i” could be so difficult to pronounce! I must have read the word “light” a million times before he was satisfied. By the time he had a finished product, I personally hated it. I thought it sounded so bland and boring. I tend to want to infuse my voice with audible emoticons. I want my tone to communicate happy faces, rainbows, and cute little bunny rabbits. Evidently, that is not what the recording world is looking for. The producer explained to me that when a publisher wants a book to be recorded, he requests demos of different readers. From those demos, the publisher chooses who he would like to read the book. He smiled as he showed me the door and said, “Don’t call me, I’ll call you.” OK, that isn’t exactly what he said, but that was what it amounted to!
Fast forward a year. I had totally forgotten that I had even created a demo when the phone rang, and the producer was on the other end. He had an emergency. His reader for a particular book had to cancel at the last minute, and he was in a bind. Was there any way I could drive to Austin immediately and record? Well what do you know, my calendar suddenly found itself wiped clean. I was in the car and out the door in record time. The recording was brutal. If you’ve never sat stock still for hours on end, trying not to smack, swallow, blink, breath, move, or basically do anything that living beings do, then you cannot understand my trauma. It was trial by fire. I could tell by the look of pain on my producer's face that my accent was just about to kill him, but much to my joy, he was in a pinch and was stuck with me. After the book was completed, I assumed that would be an item checked off my bucket list, and I would never hear from him again.
Imagine my surprise when a few months later he called me up. Once again, he was in a bind and could I come. Heck yeah, I could come! I didn’t mind being the last resort. I was just happy to get to do it at all. The producer seemed a little less brusque this time around. I enjoyed getting to know him just a bit. He thanked me for being available, and I thanked him for asking. He called one more time a few months later with the same request. The “first choice” wasn’t available, would I be willing to come. All of these opportunities were such a blessing to me. It gave me a chance to learn and practice. The producer confided in me later that it was nice to work with someone who wasn’t entitled and who was willing to work hard and do what needed to be done. Because of those opportunities, the publisher was able to get to know my reading style and see that I had more to offer than my demos showed. My producer helped me overcome some of my accent issues, and just learned to live with the rest!
Finally, the day arrived when my dreams were realized. My phone rang, and my producer’s happy voice called out on the other end. “Guess what? You were FIRST choice!”
Thanks so much, Windy! I love that story. Windy has narrated All Dressed Up In Love by Ruth Logan Herne, I Hope You Dance by Robin Lee Hatcher, The Wedding Chapel by Rachel Hauk, Unstuffed by Ruth Soukup, The Wedding Shop by Rachel Hauk, and Just a Kiss by Denise Hunter.
Windy Lanzl is originally from Kirbyville, Texas. but New Braunfels has been home her entire married life. She and her husband of 31 years, James, have 3 boys: Tony 28, Levi, 22, William 15. Windy is Foster-mom to a rescued baby skunk. She works part time as an Office Assistant and is a Christian and active in her church. Windy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org