There is a significant chance I implode with glee today. Very significant. If you can recall, I am a bonafide bookworm. I love books. I love their weight in my hands. I love the smell of new books and old books and even text books, those dreadful things. I’m also a bit of a freak for words, grammar, interesting phrases and, sometimes, when you talk to me you might find me zoning out. This is me mentally (sometimes physically) filing something you’ve said that might inspire a future story or character. I admit I’m a bit geeky. Lately I’ve gone to sleep listening to Building A Better Vocabulary, where they’ve taught me that learning the etymology of a word will help you to recollect it and understand its meaning. For people like me, it’s fascinating stuff.
Usually, I have several books on the go at any time. I’m currently reading the physical copies of Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Owen King, Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood, and Three Men In A Boat by Jerome K. Jerome. I’m also listening to A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole and Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne with 5 others in the cue. This brings me to the importance of the narrative performance. Tristram Shandy is well written but one of the most difficult books to listen to. The narrator is a distraction to the work but I’m trudging through it because of its satirical genius, of which I’m leaning toward with my own work.
If you can recall, I’m in the middle of my MA at Middlesex University in London, where I am taking an MA in Novel Writing. Recently, students were invited to participate in a project called “The Writer’s Journey”. The idea is for students to interpret the journey of a writer in 500 words or less. The piece can be realistic or fictional and must be read within about 3 minutes because it will become part of a YouTube channel launched in conjunction with a literary festival in London in March. So…I had my story (which is considered flash fiction), but I needed a narrator. The university was willing to provide this to post-graduate writing students but this didn’t appeal to me. Sure, there are probably many talented people that would have done this for me but my heart was on something, someone, much bigger.
For the better part of a decade, I’ve been listening to Grover Gardner perform some of my favorite works. He doesn’t just narrate them. He performs them. He is a master vocalist and his ability to make readers feel every ounce of emotion in a text is a wonder in itself. He has narrated, I believe, over 800 works including for some of my favorite authors: Stephen King, David Rosenfelt, Edgar Allan Poe, William Faulkner and more. He has been named one of the “Best Voices of the Century” and has won numerous awards for his work. He is that good. He is the BEST.
Because the narrator is just as important as the writer, I had a mission. I needed this man, this genius to perform my work. I did some research and found his contact information and, truthfully, I didn’t believe it was actually real. Even as I was writing to him and explaining my itty-bitty project, I didn’t believe I was really writing to him. I hoped it was him, but wasn’t convinced it was actually him. So, I sent the email and didn’t expect a response.
Then I got one.
He agreed to look at my story and see if he could make it work. Still, I thought it was probably some jokester at the other end, playing with small folk like me, lying in wait to crush laypersons’ dreams.
He wrote back. “Nice writing, and I read a lot,” he replied, and agreed to perform my story. There was no way this was real. Sure, I jumped up and screamed in the middle of my kitchen and scared the shit out of the girls but they knew what I was waiting for and, collectively, we jumped up and down and celebrated…with a bucket of KFC. (We’re cool like that.)
Of course, this couldn’t be real. To be honest, I still was not convinced it was actually THE Grover Gardner. He couldn’t have liked my writing, could he? The dude who lives and (literally) breathes books? No way. So, I went to bed, and my last thought before I went to sleep was, “if only it were real”.
When I woke up there was an email waiting for me. An audio file. I opened it up, expecting some teenage boy to screetch, “GOTCHYA!!!!” But there was no teenage boy. There was Grover Gardner performing my story. THE Grover Gardner.
For those of you who do not listen to audio books or haven’t watched him in a play or taken one of his classes, you may have no idea who he is. Please look him up. He’s ridiculously amazing. Yes, one of my ultimate goals is to have a novel published. And I will. I know I will. The book I’ll be submitting for my dissertation will be my best. I’m sure I’ll jump and scream when I get that first “yes” from an agent or publisher but it will be on par with the feeling I got when Grover Gardner said “yes” to my short story.
No, this story won’t be world famous. It won’t get a million hits on YouTube. It won’t get me an agent or a publisher. It will be confined to YouTube and a short weekend in London. But it’s more than enough for me.
Lastly, my dear friend April is a wizard. She is a creative genius and an all around good person. I knew that I could swing this story by her and she’d come up with some phenomenal image I could use . She always does. She eats and sleeps art and oozes imagination. She came up with the image so quick I think she might have just pulled it from her back pocket. She’s a beauty. Thanks a million April!
And thank you, thank you Mr. Gardner.