Going Public… In Shorts and an Interview with narrator Cassandra Campbell

June is Audiobook Month (JIAM) is in full swing! Audiobook Week is next week, I hope you’re all getting your posts ready for the daily discussion topics, and hopefully a few reviews as well.

Today, though, I’m going to share another part of JIAM with you. This year, the audiobook community is giving back by teaming with the Going Public Project to offer a serialized audio story collection. All proceeds will go to Reach Out and Read literacy advocacy organization. Throughout June, 1-2 stories will be released each day on the Going Public blog and on author/book blogs. The story will be free (online only – no downloads) for one week. In collaboration with Blackstone Audio, all the stories will be available for download via Downpour. The full compilation will be ready June 30th.

The full schedule of the story release dates and narrators are at Going Public. Engineering and Mastering are provided by Jeffrey Kafer and SpringBrook Audio. Graphic design provided by f power design and published by Blackstone Audio. Project coordination and executive production by Xe Sands.

I’m working with narrator Cassandra Campbell to bring you the audio of Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Stone of Invisibility (buy it here | read Cassandra’s post). You can listen below, and an interview with Cassandra follows.

DOB: I’ve absolutely adored some of the audiobooks you’ve narrated, such as The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and You Know When the Men are Gone, but can you tell my readers a little more about your career. How many audiobooks have you narrated now? What awards have you won? What are some of your favorite titles you’ve narrated?

CC: First of all, thank you for taking the time to interview me! I follow your blog and am excited and honored to be a part of it!

I’ve been narrating audiobooks for almost 10 years. I got started working at Books on Tape which at that point was serving the library market. Books on CD were the primary format, downloads were still well in the future. Okay, I’m dating myself here! Yikes! Anyway, the very first book I narrated was R. L. Stein’s The Sitter, Janet Stark directed me and taught me a ton, then and later. I fell in love with the process IMMEDIATELY and felt so at home reading aloud for hours at a time and immersing myself in the story and the characters. Since then I’ve narrated over three hundred books and directed probably well over 200. I have been fortunate to get to narrate some amazing stories, both fiction and non-fiction and I love the work more and more all the time. I have been nominated for 10 Audie Awards and won twice: as one of the readers of The Help and for The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. I lost to Katy Kellegren this year for Best Solo Narration, but I say, if you’re gonna lose, it might as well be to someone as spectacularly talented as she is! I’ve also gotten nearly two dozen Earphones Awards and a slew of starred reviews in both Publisher’s Weekly and Library Journal.

Some of my favorite titles? What comes immediately to mind is A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True by Brigid Pasulka. It’s a book I wish had gotten more attention in general but that came out in the same season and with a similar subject matter as The Invisible Bridge (written by Julie Orrigner and narrated beautifully by Arthur Morey) and just didn’t get the media profile it should have. The narrative alternates between a small village in Poland during the second world war and the same family years later as communism is coming to an end. It’s just an amazing story told in third and first person in alternating chapters. It was hugely challenging to do, loaded with Polish words and accents, and I was fortunate to be in studio with Gabrielle DeCuir directing (she’s phenomenal).

More recently, I loved the powerful first person narrative voice of Claire Messud’s The Woman Upstairs, and Sand Queen by Helen Benedict, which I am recording now for Tantor Audio. It’s two voices as well: a female soldier stationed in Iraq at the start of the war in 2003 and a young Iraqi woman.

I couple of others I’ve recently adored include A Guide to Being Born by Ramona Ausubel (recently released from Dreamscape) Paris Was the Place by Susan Conley (coming soon from Blackstone), and The Gravity of Birds by Tracy Guzeman (August, from Simon & Schuster). I am very, very grateful to get to narrate the work of these and so many other phenomenal authors (Elizabeth Strout, Ellen Kushner, Chris Bohjalian, Elliot Holt). I could go on…

DOB: How did you get involved in Going Public…In Shorts?

CC: I have gotten to know Xe primarily through Twitter, where her presence for anyone interested in Audiobooks is not only stellar but essential. She’s fun to follow and I’ve been inspired by her weekly Going Public postings. So inspired that last fall I decided to join her and sent her one of my favorite poems, The Infinite by Giacomo Leopardi to share. I studied Italian Literature in college and grad school speak the language, so I recorded it in Italian and did my own English translation. It was wonderful to spend some time on a pet project and Xe’s inventiveness is a wonderful to all of us. So when the opportunity came up to be part of this project, of course I wanted to participate.

DOB: Tell us a little about the story you chose. Why did it appeal to you?

CC: When I was a sophomore in college I read Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron in Italian. It was a break through for me at the time to realize that this piece of classical literature, remote in time and with such an intimidating title, could in actuality be so funny, lively and easy and so accessible. I was converted, I loved these stories. And as the neophyte, I wanted to share them with people, to give them the same experience I’d had, with the idea that these stories aren’t just for the super educated and the elite, but that people like me, small town and not very sophisticated, could really enjoy them. After college I wrote a screenplay (it was bad!) based on some of the stories (I’d seen the Pasolini movie and didn’t like it!). Then life took me in other directions, a theatre career, marriage, kids, audiobook work…but the stories have always been in the back of my mind.

Boccaccio wrote them at the end of an outbreak of the Black Plague in Florence in 1348. (He offers one of the most vivid descriptions of the plague extant anywhere.) The stories were dedicated to women (this I loved right from the start!) They poke fun at religion, sexism, social mores, and foolish husbands. They’re playful, they’re quintessentially Italian, they’re bawdy. Calandrino, who is the protagonist in the story I recorded, is a recurring character in several of the novelle. He is a buffone, he’s like a stock character from Italian Commedia. His name means ‘colander’. You know, head like a sieve. Interestingly, coming back to the stories, I did shrink a bit at the cudgeling. But it was of it’s time certainly, and like Shakespeare’s Falstaff, Calandrino the shirker, the swindler, the scoundrel, gets his due in the end.

DOB: If you had to recommend two audiobooks -one you narrated and one you did not – for people to listen to this audiobook month, what would they be?

CC: I’d listen to Kathe Mazur reading Quiet-The Power of Introverts. Kathe’s incredibly talented and this book is not to be missed.

As for my narrations, well, in addition to the many I’ve already plugged, there’s a lovely collection of short stories called Birds of a Lesser Paradise by Megan Mayhew Bergman that I just adore.

Check out yesterday’s Going Public…In Shorts posts:

Jenn’s Bookshelves
SFF Audio

And don’t forget to visit Kevin Herne’s blog tomorrow for another post.

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