I've always loved story time. Of course, I enjoy reading independently, but there's just something about hearing a story read aloud that captures me, that ignites my imagination. Even as an adult, on the days I work in the library and the librarian reads a story to the kids, I can't help but listen. Occasionally, a professional story teller comes to the library. On those days, I'm so absorbed that I might as well just sit down on the rug with the kids and listen.
I believe that listening can actually make me a better writer. In the years that I've been a public radio listener, I've become more appreciative of the power of listening. I've become more attuned to the reader's pacing, inflection, and expression. I've noticed that some written pieces that are destined to be audio files are written even more descriptively than those that have the benefit of images. As a result this, I've worked to incorporate more imagery into my writing, to attempt to paint a word picture for those who might read or hear it one day. I've also started reading my pieces aloud to myself and adjusting the pacing or rhythm of sentences. Polishing the flow. Honing the words until they convey precisely the image and intention that is in my mind. Listening to my work read aloud leads me to write differently.
On public radio, I've listened to countless interviews with authors and poets and have heard them read their work aloud. Listening to a writer read his or her own work is a lot like listening to a musician play his or her own composition. I believe that if you're going to write, you need to read your work to others. It's an incredibly powerful part of the experience, for the reader and for the writer.
With this as a backdrop, I started submitting some of my essays to our local public radio station for "Iowa Voices". In this occasional feature, local writers read pieces they've written. When I first started listening to public radio, I was struck by how deeply I felt the emotion in the commentary pieces I heard over the radio, perhaps even more so than if I'd only been reading them. I thought it would be an interesting experience to record one of my essays.
My first time reading was back in May with "Library Day", an essay which is posted on this blog. Then a couple of weeks ago, I recorded another essay, "Circles", which is also on this blog. To hear the recording, go to http://www.woi.org/ (scroll down the right side of the page to "Iowa Voices.")
While I'm not a professional writer, I am someone who feels called to write. Through writing, reading, and then listening to my work read aloud, I'm convinced that I have become a better writer. Listening to my own written word adds another, richer dimension to the experience for me, and I hope, for others who may hear it.