Archive for Interviews & Appreciations

A Conversation with Lori Mortensen: About Edward Gorey and the Craft of Picture Book Biographies

“As I delved into the research,
I couldn’t wait to write an equally memorable
picture book biography
about this curious,
whimsical,
one-of-a-kind artist.” 
— Lori Mortensen

I’ve been making an informal survey of picture book biographies of late, a favorite genre. So many great titles out there. One of the best is Lori Mortensen’s NONSENSE: The Curious Story of Edward Gorey. Here is an oddball, innovative, breezy, confident, utterly charming book that lives up to its subject. No small accomplishment: a book that Edward Gorey deserves. So I’ve set out a bowl of mints, fluffed up the throw pillows, put on my hazmat suit, and invited Lori over for a chat. Come, let’s say hello.

 

How did this book and subject come about for you?

Interestingly, I find picture book ideas in many different ways, from a title randomly popping into my head at the library (Mousequerade Ball), to my neighbors’ dogs escaping from their backyard and racing down the street (Cowpoke Clyde and Dirty Dawg). For NONSENSE! The Curious Story of Edward Gorey, I was out on my morning walk and happened to catch a podcast about Edward Gorey on Stuff You Missed in History Class. As I listened, his name and dark style sounded very familiar, and I was sure he’d illustrated a memorable book from my childhood. When I arrived home, I searched my bookshelves and found The Man Who Sang the Sillies, a collection of silly poems written by John Ciardi and illustrated by Edward Gorey. One of the most memorable poems, “The Happy Family” began:

Before the children say goodnight,

Mother, Father, stop and think:

Have you screwed their heads on tight?

Have you washed their ears with ink?

The poem was accompanied by Gorey’s illustration of children scrambling around their bed trying to catch their floating heads. As I delved into the research, I couldn’t wait to write an equally memorable picture book biography about this curious, whimsical, one-of-a-kind artist.

 

Let’s pause here to give up a cheer for creativity and morning walks. So, Lori, how does one undertake a picture book biography? I mean, getting started. Just read everything, take lots of notes, and wait for genius to strike?

 

 

Once I’m intrigued by a subject, I jump into research and see what I can uncover. These days, there is a treasure of online resources right at our fingertips that include museums, historical sites, newspapers, experts, archives, photos, libraries, and books. As I research a subject, I copy links into a document along with the information I’ve found until I’ve gathered a firm foundation of information. Research takes time as I buy, borrow, and read as many books as I can about the subject. When my initial research phase is complete, I organize the information into chronological order, so I understand the information in the order that they happened. As I study the information,
an underlying theme or thread emerges. In the case of NONSENSE! The Curious Story of Edward Gorey, the path seemed clear — how Edward Gorey, a child prodigy, created a sweet and sinister style that has influenced a generation of creators from Lemony Snicket to Tim Burton.

 

It seems like picture book biographies of late are more focused on “slice of life” storytelling, rather than a comprehensive cradle-to-grave treatment. The genre, perhaps once a little stiff, is bursting with creativity and freedom.

I love picture book biographies. Because they are a mere 32 pages, authors have a daunting, yet exciting challenge to shine a light on the most intriguing and meaningful aspects of the subject’s life for young readers. Sometimes that results in a “slice of life” approach, where writing about the achievement alone is key. Other times, it’s about the subject’s journey from birth to their achievement that shows how their childhood influenced their accomplishment (as was the case with my book about Edward Gorey), and lastly a biography that spans their entire life, from birth to death.

As you noted, picture book biographies are more creative than ever, and it was a delight and a pleasure to write NONSENSE! The Curious Story of Edward Gorey, and share his unique story with today’s young readers.

At a certain point, you must have far too much material for a picture book. How do you reconcile all that great info that you didn’t include? Is it agony? I see so many books increasingly cluttered with back matter –- one recent title I came across had 8 pages of it! — and I’m not a fan.

You’re right! Picture book authors have to make tough choices and sometimes scenes that I would have liked to include just don’t make the final cut. That was especially true for my picture book biography, Away with Words, The Daring Story of Isabella Bird, about Victorian traveler, Isabella Bird, who was the first female member of the Royal Geographical Society and wrote 10 books about her exciting explorations. Talk about tough choices! Hopefully, I chose the best.

And as you noted, extra information is often included in the back matter. While you don’t want to go overboard, back matter often includes a more complete life-to-death narrative, author notes, timelines, and glossaries. Back matter is especially important element for today’s nonfiction books so they can offer as much as possible in the STEM/STEAM market for schools and libraries.

This book is written in free verse. Tell us about that decision.

Since Gorey was a unique personality, it seemed only right to tell his story in a unique way as well. I read a lot of picture book biographies and took special note of tone, structure, and arc. One of my favorites has always been Strange Mr. Satie, by M.T. Anderson. With each page, Anderson’s unique details drew me into this musician’s strange life, full of odd circumstance, eccentric decision-making, and controversial musical excursions. With all that input brewing in the background, I began writing about Edward Gorey.

 

It wasn’t long before a quaint, quirky voice emerged that seemed to already know where it was going. This was a happy occurrence because so often it’s a process of trial and error with many false starts. When I wrote this story, however, everything seemed to fall into place as if there was a sign pointing the way.

While writing it, did you have any awareness of how the book will be illustrated, or by whom? Chloe Bristol’s illustrations strike the perfect note. She’s just amazing. Lucky you!

Interestingly, even though I’m not an illustrator, I always have images in mind when I write. In fact, I write my manuscripts with scenes and page turns in mind because that’s what picture books are all about. When authors take these elements into consideration, it will make their manuscript even more appealing and effective.

In the case of Nonsense! The Curious Story of Edward Gorey, I didn’t have any idea who would illustrate it, but it seemed likely that whoever illustrated it would have the same sweet and sinister style as the subject, Edward Gorey. I was delighted when Versify brought Chloe Bristol on board because her style was the perfect match to tell Gorey’s story.

What’s next for you, Lori?

That’s always a great question because one of the wonderful things about writing is that there’s always something exciting just around the corner. In 2021, I’m looking forward to the release of my humorous picture book, Arlo Draws an Octopus, inspired by the countless hours I spent as a child trying to draw at the kitchen table where I had my own share of crumpled “disaster-pieces” just like Arlo. In between releases, I’m tapping away at the keyboard, conjuring, coaxing, and prodding my next story to life, and waiting for good news that’s just around the corner.

Thanks for swinging by my swanky blog, Lori. Yes, the mints are free. Sure, of course, go ahead, take all you want — pour the whole bowl into your pockets. Okay, that’s fine. Anyway! Have a safe trip home, Lori. Thanks for inspiring us!

 

Lori Mortensen is an award-winning children’s author of more than 100 books. Recent releases include NONSENSE! The Curious Story of Edward Gorey; If Wendell Had a Walrus, illustrated by Matt Phelan; Away with Words, the Daring Story of Isabella Bird, illustrated by Kristy Caldwell; Mousequerade Ball, illustrated by Betsy Lewin; and many more. Coming in May, 2021, Arlo Draws an Octopus, illustrated by Rob Sayegh Jr. Please feel free — because, after all, you are free — to visit Lori’s unimaginatively-named website at lorimortensen.com. 

The Pleasures of Speculative Fiction: Scary Tales and Outer Limits and the Genius of Harlan Ellison

A teacher-friend posted this image on social-media, what she calls her “custom reading pillow.” I like it!

And, yes, I love the book tucked inside it, from my “Scary Tales” series.

Writing those books was a pure pleasure. All my life up to that point, I’d honed pretty true to the Realistic Fiction genre, both as a writer and a reader. Give me a closely-observed scene of a family sitting around the dinner table and I was happy. That’s still true, but I’ve grown over the years. 

For “Scary Tales,” I was able to open up to new inspirations and wild imaginings, new channels of communication. Zombies! Swamp Monsters! Benign Robots! Creepy Dolls! Good times, good times. And I made sure the books were fast-paced and easy to read, in hopes of connecting with hard-to-reach readers (best for grades 3-5, I’ve met many middle school readers who tell me they don’t usually like books, but love that series. Alas, Macmillan never had as much success getting those books into the public’s awareness as we’d hoped, so the series stopped at six stories.

        

In format, I was hugely influenced by Rod Sterling’s “Twilight Zone” series. Each story was unique: new characters, new setting. They were unified only in that each one promised a similar experience for the reader. Creepy, twisting, full of page-turning suspense.

The book tucked inside the pillow is titled I Scream, You Scream, and it turns on a boy who might not be all that he seems to be.

Okay, spoiler alert!

Illustration by Iacopo Bruno!

I was recently reading about “The Outer Limits” television series, which I only vaguely remember from my childhood. One episode gets mentioned a lot, often topping lists of best episodes ever: “The Demon with the Glass Hand,” written by the legendary pioneer of Speculative Fiction, Harlan Ellison. It’s on Netflix now, or Amazon Prime, one of those, streaming on television. The story hinges on a “shocking” conclusion, which might not shock modern viewers, since we’ve seen it borrowed many times since (“Terminator” and “Bladerunner,” most notably). I don’t know if Ellison was the first writer to pull it off, but he certainly did it in a big way, blowing minds on national television. What the what??!! Watching it, I couldn’t help but recognize that I owed “Outer Limits” and Mr. Harlan Ellison a tip of my hat along with my lasting appreciation.

Plot Summary: Days ago, Trent awoke with no memory of his past. Since then, sinister men have pursued him constantly. He manages to stay one step ahead of them by following the advice of his hand. Made of glass and apparently capable of speech, Trent’s hand can answer many of his questions. But it cannot tell him who he is or why his enemies seek him until he finds all of its fingers. The only trouble is that they’re in the hands of his enemies.

 

AND LET’S NOT FORGET . . .

 

“The Outer Limits” had a classic opening to every episode. A disembodied voice would announce: “There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission . . . For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat: There is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to . . . THE OUTER LIMITS.”

 

Joanna Cole (1944-2020), Remembered: How the Magic School Bus Got Started

I was sorry to read that Joanna Cole has passed away at age 75. I have memories of her, met her a number of times over the years. Always a gracious, friendly, kind person. To me, at least!

Joanna was what I think of as a children’s book person. The genuine article. She worked for years, wrote many books, before “getting lucky” and hitting it out of the park with Bruce Degen and the Magic School Bus series.

I interviewed Joanna for The Big Book of Picture-Book Authors & Illustrators, published back in 2001. My intro paragraph:

What’s Joanna Cole interested in? Well, just about everything! And when Joanna Cole is interested in something, she usually writes a book about it. She’s written about fleas, cockroaches, dinosaurs, chicks, fish, saber-toothed tigers, frogs, horses, snakes, cars, puppies, insects, and (whew!) babies.

THE BACKSTORY TO THE MAGIC SCHOOL BUS

Fresh out of college (and after a year of waitering at Beefsteak Charlie’s), I got a job as a junior copywriter at Scholastic for $11,500. I stayed on there in the second-half of the 1980s — the money was so good! — then moved upstate, and continued in various freelance capacities for years after that. There was a time when those folks at Scholastic were my publishing family. My very best pal from those days was an editor, Craig Walker, working under the direction of Jean Feiwel. Craig was hilarious and brilliant and we ate lunch together several times a week for many years. We loved eating chicken and rice at the deli next door. Delicious, inexpensive, and a little seedy, we way we liked it. Ah, those were happy times. Anyway, it was Craig, assisted by Phoebe Yeh, who came up with the idea for the Magic School Bus series.

The standard science books for children at the time were usually dull, dry affairs. Just deadly. Straightforward facts accompanied by black-and-white photographs. Craig had the idea of trying something bold and new, bringing humor and full-color, cartoon-styled art into the science curriculum. The first writer he called with Joanna Cole.

At the time, Joanna was respected for her well-researched nonfiction books. She was smart and accurate. In 1984, she had published a well-reviewed book, How You Were Born. But what really caught Craig’s attention was that Joanna had another side to her work; she also wrote silly, funny, playful books for young readers. Most notably, she created the “Clown-Arounds” (a precursor to Dav Pilkey’s “Dumb Bunnies” and in the same vein as James Marshall’s “The Stupids”). And that was the genius of Craig’s idea: he brought together the two sides of Joanna Cole into one book series. The science and the silly. It was as if Joanna had a split personality and Craig helped make her whole again.

As a fun fact, Bruce Degen was not the first illustrator that Craig called with the series offer. No, he phoned Marc Brown first. But at the time, Marc was busy with the Arthur books and felt he couldn’t sign up for another project. So Craig, a fan of Jamberry and the Commander Toad books, flipped through his Rolodex and found Bruce’s number. That call worked out pretty well for all concerned, including Marc Brown.

What I remember and most respect about Joanna is that she was simply an old-school children’s book writer. Making books, and more books, and more books. Plying the craft, fighting to earn a decent living. All for the love of children’s literature.

Then, yeah, one day she got a phone call from Craig.

A treasured snap of Craig and I from 1986, the year the Magic School Bus was first published.

A lucky break? Sure was! But Joanna got that call because of all the work she had accomplished before that point. She had earned her good fortune by very quietly putting in years and years of hard work. The foundation was already built. When opportunity came knocking, she had all the skills to take a loose idea and turn it into a groundbreaking series.

Celebrating Poetry for Children: A Conversation with Debut Author, Vikram Madan

“When I started, I had no idea

what the poem was going to be about.

I just followed the words home.

Sometimes that is the best journey

a writer can experience.”

Vikram Madan

 

 

I’m that guy at the party — do you remember parties? it was this thing in the olden times when people used to get together and — nevermind! — I’m the guy who tugs on your arm and says, “Have you read Vikram Madan’s new book? It’s fantastic,” and then I press it into your hands. Anyway, today we’re lucky to spend time with debut children’s poet, Vikram Madan. His clever, quirky, playful poetry includes aliens and garden gnomes, robots and dragons, instantly bringing to mind past masters Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky. So put down the Swedish meatballs and let’s say hello . . .

Greetings, Vikram. Congratulations on your new book!

Thank you, it’s a pleasure to be featured here!

I’m curious about the path that led you to this moment, a collection of playful poems for young readers. According to your bio, you spent many years working in the tech industry.

I grew up in New Delhi, India and was rhyming and doodling from an early age but never imagined myself as an artist or poet. Instead I followed the herd into engineering and ended up working in tech, with one brief detour as a newspaper editorial cartoonist. It was only after my kids were born that I encountered the work of Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein, and Jack Prelutsky and that inspired me to start writing poetry again, though it took me the next decade to figure out how not to do it.

Wait, how not to do it? What mistakes were you making?

I was writing rhyming poetry very instinctively, and it was largely raw –- forced rhymes, mismatched stresses and pauses, unbalanced and asymmetrical feet, lines that wouldn’t scan cleanly -– basically everything that makes an editor wince. Sometimes I could tell it was off, but not why. Only after discovering prosody did I develop the vocabulary to analyze what I was doing, and fix what I was doing wrong. For those interested in writing rhyming poetry, I highly recommend Timothy Steele’s All the Fun’s in How You Say a Thing. By 2012 it was clear to me that I needed to ‘follow my heart,’ at which point I quit tech, enrolled in art school, and started writing humorous poetry, all of which has culminated in this book.

Bold move, Vikram. There’s a great tradition of poets and their day jobs. Wallace Stevens worked for an insurance company; William Carlos Williams was a general practitioner; Frank O’Hara worked as a clerk and published a collection titled, “Lunch Poems.”

I think most poets have had to have day jobs. Poetry is a labor of love and feeds the soul, but rarely the stomach :). Right now my day job is ‘visual artist’ so I suppose I am a little more fortunate that I can scratch my creative itch in more ways than one.

With A Hatful of Dragons, you were published by Boyds Mills & Kane. But you self-published your first book, The Bubble Collector. People have differing perceptions of self-published work, but I think it was a courageous step. Big respect. Tell us about it.

Poetry is fairly hard to place with agents and publishers, and a common submission guidance is “Don’t tell us your work is just like Shel Silverstein’s,” which was a problem, because my work is like Shel Silverstein’s! After years of amassing rejection slips, I finally decided that if no one was going to publish my poetry, I would just publish it myself, which led to The Bubble Collector. Once the book was out, I discovered writing a book is the easy part. Getting a physical self-published book in front of readers is HARD. By ‘hitting the pavement’ a lot, I was able to get the book in front of enough people that it was invited into the WA State Book Awards, won a Moonbeam Children’s Book Award, and garnered praise from booksellers, reviewers, and readers. The experience, though, gave me a healthy respect for traditional publishing!

Are there particular poets who influenced you? When it comes to funny poems for children, I guess Jack Prelutsky sort of owned that playing field for many years.

I didn’t believe I could write poetry professionally till I saw an exhibition of ‘raw’ Dr. Seuss manuscripts. I didn’t think of combining art with words till I encountered Shel Silverstein’s books. And Jack Prelutsky’s work opened my eyes to language, vocabulary, rhythm, and rhyme. Beyond those three, I particularly admire 19th century poets: Lewis Carroll, Guy Wetmore Carryl, W.S. Gilbert, John Godfrey Saxe, and Edgar Allan Poe.

It’s interesting that you illustrate your own poems. Who is the boss, the writer or the illustrator? Or does the inspiration flow back and forth? I’m fumbling to ask: Do you start with the words or an illustration?

It depends and is different for each poem. Sometimes I conceive the art and words together, sometimes the words are in the driver’s seat, and, occasionally, a visual image will trigger the poem. Usually as I am writing I do have a good sense of how the combination will look on the page.

I imagine that your process changes from poem to poem. I wonder if we could share a specific poem from the new book here, and then you could talk us through your creative process.

Yes, every poem has its own unique back-story. When I am writing poetry, the natural cadence and in-built rhythm of words, both in how I hear them and how they feel on my tongue, can sometimes organically steer the poem one way or another. An example of this is the first poem in my book, “The Panda and the Pangolin.” 

Looking back at my notes, I had been making lists of animals as potential subjects, and at one point I wrote:

Banded Pangolins

followed by:

A band of banded Pangolins

And following the sound of that sentence, I then wrote:

The panda and the pangolin

which seemed to offer more possibilities.

You are fooling around with language, alert to the inner dynamics, without necessarily an end in sight.

Yes. I asked myself, What if it was the other way around?

The pangolin and the panda?

I tried:

At the edge of my veranda

sat a pangolin and panda

But “The Pangolin and the Panda” didn’t have the same natural rhythm as “The Panda and the Pangolin,” so I went back to the original:

Said the panda to the pangolin

I like your little mandolin

Better. And it was developing a musical theme, similar to the “band of banded pangolins.” But I needed to drop the extra “Said” syllable:

The panda and the pangolin

between them have a mandolin

a clarinet, a violin

a drum made from some beaten tin

And the rest of the poem unfolded from that starting point. The first poem then directly seeded the next poem, which then seeded more humor in other parts of the book. Note that, when I started, I had no idea what the poem was going to be about. I just followed the words home. Sometimes that is the best journey a writer can experience.

Delightful! Thank you for sharing that, Vikram. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you and your work.

Thank you for featuring me here. It’s an honor!

Hey now, don’t get carried away. Glad to have you, and good luck. 

Vikram Madan grew up in India where, despite spending his childhood rhyming and doodling, he ended up an engineer. After many years of working in the tech industry, he finally came to his senses and followed his heart back into writing, drawing, and painting. When not making whimsical paintings and public art, he writes funny poems. His self-illustrated poetry collections include A Hatful of Dragons and the Moonbeam Award Winners The Bubble Collector and Lord of the Bubbles. He lives near Seattle, Washington, with his family, two guitars, and a few pet peeves. Visit him at vikrammadan.com.

The Craft of Recording Audiobooks: A Conversation with Voice Actor Christopher Gebauer

Exciting news, folks: thanks to Recorded Books, there are now 14 Jigsaw Jones titles available in audiobook format. Cheap! The voice actor, Christopher Gebauer, did a terrific job, full of wit and nuance and a sure sense of character. So I looked him up on ye olde interwebs to send along a complimentary note. We emailed back and forth, and I eventually asked Christopher if he’d be willing to do an interview. He waffled until I told him, “Seriously, you don’t have to wear pants.” That seemed to win him over.

Hey, Christopher. How you holding up? Is it safe to assume you are in sweatpants with a big bowl of Fiddle Faddle nearby? And not the dapper guy I see in this photograph?

Ha! Yes. More than safe. I have grown to love that I can wear pajama pants at all times and have made it my quarantine business attire. Except when I walk the dog or get groceries. That requires real pants. I get “dressed” just for the necessities now.

Okay, so you are in your PJs. That’s a relief. Where are you now?

I currently live in Astoria, a neighborhood in Queens, NYC.

Not far from Flushing and the New York Mets! Pretty sure Mr. Met has a place in Astoria.

I may have seen him around. Yes, I’m holed up there, but at my girlfriend’s apartment rather than my own. Staying inside and doing the social distancing. Which is odd. As an almost lifelong New Yorker, an empty street slightly terrifies me.

Yeah, it’s got to be strange. My oldest, Nick (26), is in Manhattan, so I’m acutely aware of the experience down there.

 

You came to my attention when I saw that 14 Jigsaw Jones titles had been produced by Recorded Books — and you were the voice actor who read them all. That’s a lot of Jigsaw Jones. Did it make you a little crazy? I haven’t even read that many!

Hahaha. No. I never got tired of these stories. I grew up listening to books on audio cassette tapes, and my favorite stories were the ones that had personality. Sometimes that was as simple as a narrator having that intangible weight or gravitas to their voice (we had a collection of ghost stories and Poe poems read by Vincent Price that I adored), but often it meant having fun characters, each with their own voices and rhythms. And Jigsaw’s world has that in spades. I may have taken a few liberties with some of the characters, but finding their voices was pretty straightforward coming from what I read. It made the whole process an absolute blast. Plus, I got a nostalgic blast of my Elementary school years spent with Encyclopedia Brown and the Hardy Boys.

Many of us enjoy audiobooks, but the process is something of a mystery. How does it work? You get a call? They send you the books? How do you prepare for the recording sessions? I guess there are about eight related questions I could ask. Maybe you could just talk us through it?

It all depends on the source. Many self-publishing authors post their titles on an audition platform like ACX.com and vet a slew of candidates (and there are some new audition sites coming online from major publishing houses now as well), some producers from different publishers or audio production teams will email me out of the blue with an audition opportunity, or sometimes producers just ask if I’m available and willing. Direct offers only come from people I have done a great deal of work for but that was kind of how I was approached on Jigsaw: I do a large amount of YA and kids literature for Recorded Books and they felt like I would be a great fit for the gumshoe genre stylings of Jigsaw Jones (hopefully they were right!).

How do you prepare?

After getting a gig, I read through the book(s), taking notes on words or names I need to check pronunciation on, as well as marking when new characters are introduced in the story. If someone sticks around for a while or returns in another book, I want to remember what they sound like so I track who pops up where and how people describe them and how they sound.

 

After that is settled, I usually record in a studio somewhere in NYC, but I have lately been recording books from my girlfriend’s audio studio (a soundproofed closet) to great effect.

Seriously, you did a fantastic job. And I’ll admit to approaching these things with a feeling of dread. It’s strange to hear someone else read the voice in my head. I guess in your position, you have to try to divine an author’s intentions, while still owning it for yourself? I guess that’s true for all acting in general.

That’s so kind of you: truly. I am honestly often slightly terrified that an author will DESPISE what I do with their words. Especially with children’s and YA literature, I just remember what I loved at that age and I just hope my choices translate into something people don’t hate. So far my instincts have done me well in that regard, but it is a leap of faith. I would be remiss in not pointing out that so many of your characters had such a clear rhythm in how they were written that it really just came down to would you find my voice annoying.

 

But thankfully I didn’t feel like scrying bones: most of the voices felt like an easy choice.

Scrying bones, oooh, I like that. You must have voiced more than a dozen characters, easily. Two dozen? How do you keep it all straight?

I just try to keep track! Once I realized so many characters would keep showing up throughout the series I noted every time a character would speak in each book. I then recorded samples of each voice on my phone so if I needed to remember what they sounded like I could reference those soundbites quickly.

Readers are fussy about how books are read on tape. It’s a huge responsibility. I’ve tried to listen to some and nearly drove off the road. If it’s too fast, I’m done. Are there common mistakes you try to avoid? Give us a pro tip or two!

Pro tip? Ho boy. Pace is everything: while you do need to say everything clearly, you can’t go too slow or too fast. For me that came from being comfortable with public speaking. As a kid I went to an episcopal church and often did readings. To make sure I didn’t read too quickly, I would rest for a beat of silence at every comma, and three at every period (meaning I would count to that number in my head). Between that and memorizing and reciting poems and plays I built a bit of a public speaking/narrator cadence. And that age-old adage is key: practice makes perfect. if you are interested in narrating, find ways to read aloud (even if it is to yourself). Everyone can record themselves with a phone now, so read a chapter or two aloud, listen back and see what you think. Copy your favorite narrators: think about what kind of cadence and flow they have and try it out. None of this was probably useful but it’s what I did!

What’s next for you? More voice work? Film, television, stage? How does a young actor survive during these times? You can’t even wait tables!

You are very right! I was unfortunately laid off a from a restaurant the week before this Covid crazy hit (didn’t extend the 15 year lease and they told us 24 hours before closing down) so these are odd times indeed. Thankfully I can record from home and have been able to audition for a bunch of Voice Over and audiobook
work. In terms of film I have a tiny part that will probably get cut from an upcoming and still unannounced film and otherwise I’ll be finding work wherever it comes. I have been doing live drinking game play readings with a company called Drunk Texts which we have been doing with The PIT improv here in NYC. So yeah…staying afloat and sane while the world is in limbo.

Drunk Texts! Yikes! Now we’re hitting too close to home. Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Mostly, I want to thank you again for doing such an incredible job reading my books. You are clearly a talented actor. I’ll be off on the sidelines, quietly rooting for you. I wish you good health and a great career.

Truly, thank you. Your books were an absolute joy to read and it is so kind of you to ask me to do this. I’m lucky I get to perform at all and working on something good makes a world of difference. Thank you for Jigsaw and good luck and health to you and yours sir! Stay Sane!

Too late, my friend!

 

Born and raised in Manhattan, Christopher Gebauer was fascinated with acting from a young age. Whether it was a performance in one of his favorite movies, the nuance of a narrator for an audiobook, a character’s voice in a video game or animated show, Chris wanted to be a part of that world. Chris graduated from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts in 2012, where he studied at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting and the Stonestreet Studios for Film, TV, and Voice-Over. Since graduating, Chris has been working in stage and film, including a couple of Off-Broadway shows, and has recently found a tremendous amount of joy narrating audiobooks.