Janis Ian and Stefan Rudnicki record my audio book Part 4: Webster’s Redemption

By on Aug 4, 2013 in Featured, Lost Cantos | 0 comments

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Yes. It has come to this. Me, the anti-blogger or forced-blogger has chosen to blog in order to have a legitimate means to procrastinate all the other stuff I’m supposed to be doing. So, during this rather low moment in my current workday, I thought I’d blog about a rather embarrassing moment during the audio recording with Janis and Stefan. Here goes.

We are knee-deep in day 2 of recording. My shoes have long since come off, I’m pretty sure my shirt is unflatteringly scrunched up in the back, as I have opted at this point to ungracefully lay on the floor like a teenager as opposed to sitting in one of the many chairs or on the sofa (like a proper adult. I do have my spine as an excuse, you know). I no longer bother with the napkin under my coffee cup, I just put it down and hope to God I don’t knock it over, I have no idea where my backpack is…the one that I had initially been so very careful to keep “out of the way”. I still hold my pee and wait for Janis to request a break before I move leave the room, but I no longer ask if I can have a Perrier. Janis and Stefan, probably in attempt to relieve the sight of me awkwardly flitting about not knowing what I could and could not touch, had told me, “You are here now, so help yourself to whatever is in the fridge,” which one, in a forced attempt at civility, attempts to NOT to do…until you’re knee deep in day two. By middle of day-two, I am scrounging around in the fridge noting what is fresh and what is not, and counting Perrier bottles. So long as I’m not taking the last one, I grab one. Janis appears over my shoulder while my paw reaches in for the second to last. Damn. Hand caught in the cookie jar.

“Go ahead, take whatever you want! You want a Perrier?”

“Yes, I do, but I figured they were pretty much reserved for you.”

“Awe no! The beautiful thing about working here, as opposed to home, is that nothing ever runs out. Help yourself.”

Whew. And what a novel and refreshing concept. We are tired, but we are giddy. We are in the groove. We have a system now, so I can give feedback where the ARCs they are working off of don’t match the final print. I raise my hand, and I think by now, Stefan trusts me that I’m not going to say something coated by any kind of Diva or Possessive-over-my-work-author stickiness. So, he calls on me now and we fix whatever discrepancy there is and move on. Though in the beginning, early in day 1, I would raise my hand, see him see it out of the corner of his eye, and completely ignore it. I don’t blame him. You never know what kind of artist you’re about to deal with…. especially an author…especially a first time author, who was a dancer, who has a rather fancy degree, and who clearly has no idea how the process of what you’re doing works or how incredibly technical and artistic it is. But by day two, I think we were building some trust. Or perhaps we were just tired…in any case. By now we are poking good-natured fun at one another: Janis’ Jersey heritage – despite her usually gloriously crystalline articulation and tone – busts forth every time she tries to pronounce, “Merely.” I became very aware of how often I use that word, because every time it appeared on the page, this is what I heard from the booth:

“Mearley….Bugger. Damn it. Rat Bastard. Meeeeeeer. Meeeeer. Meeeer. Meeerly, Like Meer cat, right, Stefan? Bugger. You can take the girl out of Jersey, but not the Jersey out of the girl.”

Slightly chuckling, finger on the com button, Stefan says each time, “Yes, Janis. Like Meer cat.”

We are comfortable enough that Janis pokes fun at parts of my writing, comments on others as she goes – even Stefan now looks over occasionally and says, “That part is just beautiful,” which makes me light up like a little girl twirling with a sparkler. There is something to be said for doling out praise only in small nuggets. The recipient is forced to savor them and turn them over and over, polishing them and treasuring them. After one comment in particular, however, I felt inclined to offer Ms. Janis the finger, which I did, though because only Stefan could see it, he busted out laughing and had to ask Janis to go back, but wouldn’t tell her why. He appears tightly bound in politeness and professionalism, but I think that is because that makes the cracks in such a veneer all the more delightful and enjoyable for him. I’m enjoying the jovial atmosphere brought on by working and creating together,
and together with theses two stellar artists and people. I’m enjoying having apparently shed much of the awkwardness of the first day. I’m feeling a little more like a grown up than a kid at the adult’s table (despite laying on the floor propped up on my elbows with my heels kicked up behind me). I’m feeling like the author, damn it! I’m part of the process now. I am…, as Janis keeps reminding me, the wordsmith, the artist! I’m feeling confident. And then it happens. Ah, “pride goeth….,” as they say.

So we’re moving along nicely when Janis says over the voice-of-God speaker, “Stop. Stop. Is this ‘s-e-t-a-e’ a real word? How do you say it, Stefan?”

“I don’t know, Janis. Let’s ask the author. But if it is a real word, you would say it ‘say-tey.’ Author,” Stefan turns to me, “are you sure this is a word?”

“Yep, I promise it’s a word.”

From the voice-of-God speaker I hear, “Ok, authoress, if it’s a word, what does it mean?” The voice-of-God challenges me.

Aw dang it. Did I mention we were all tired by this point?

“Um, “ I stutter. I wrote it. I chose that word. I choose my words, especially the strange ones, carefully when writing these stories. I research them. I do my homework. But my mind is utterly blank. Setae. “Um…F**k me. I can’t remember exactly,” I have to confess. “But I promise it’s a word….and it has something to do with parts of an insect,” I finally dredge up that not-so-helpful or dull-witted tidbit from a resistant and clearly rebellious file in my brain.

Finger on the com, Stefan says, “The authoress promises it’s a word. Just go ahead Janis.”

Ouch. I hear in my head the voice of my fifth grade teacher catching me the one and only time I lied about school work. I feel from a distance, the cascade of molten shame of at worst fraudulence and at best amateurishness. How could the author not remember the meaning of her own words?


Thankfully, since I was on the floor, I could see that under Stefan’s desk was what seemed to be, in my foggy and now slightly humiliated state, the largest dictionary I’d ever seen. I mouth to Stefan, “Just give me a sec. I will prove it.” Holding my breath, praying the resistant file in my brain was not also possessed by a self-sabatoge demon, I search for “Setae.” But first I have to sing the alphabet song in my head to get to the right page, “A, B, C, D…….P, Q, R, S…there it is!”

Oh thank god.

I hold my finger on the proof for the next 10 minutes, until Janis breaks again, at which point I jump up and say: “Yes, yes. See? ‘Setae’ is the plural of ‘seta’ and it refers to the bristle like underside of insects.”

So, I have lost faith in my brain, but have redemption via a giant Webster’s. *grin* A writer always writes to be redeemed, in some way or another, by words. I shouldn’t have been surprised.

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