Posted in Storyteller

Meet Stig Wemyss: the voice of your favourite audiobook

Stig Wemyss reads books. Out loud. Lots and lots of books by all sorts of people like Andy Griffiths, Paul Jennings, Margaret Clark, Tim Winton, Stig Wemyss (himself!) and … well, HEAPS more. You might know him as the voice of The 13-Storey Treehouse audiobooks (he even reads the ‘audio illustrations’. Cool.). Stig Wemyss is someone we have wanted to interview for a long time … and what better month to do it in than June — to celebrate Hear a Story!

Stig Wemyss
Photo courtesy Stig Wemyss

So — what’s it like to be an audiobook narrator? Read on!

 

Where do you live?
I live in the back shelf of Andy Griffith’s fridge, behind the relish. Wait — Andy’s not going to see this is he? I really don’t want him to know I’m in here. Maybe it’s better if you just put “Melbourne, Victoria” and don’t mention the whole fridge thing … Um, can you close the door, the margarine is starting to melt.

What skills do you need to be the narrator for an audiobook? 
People underestimate how difficult it is to be narrator. Like, you have to be able to read, for a start. You have to have a whole range of different voices, you have to spend hours at a time locked in a little glass booth — so if you’re claustrophobic, forget about it — and you have to be a bit of an idiot. So as you can see, I tick all the boxes.

How did you find a job as an audiobook narrator?
I started narrating books about 25 years ago. Somebody recommended me to Vision Australia as an actor that might be good to narrate books for kids and young adults because of the youthful quality of my voice. And the fact that I would do it for free. I can’t remember what my first title was and I suspect I was probably not very good but for whatever reason, the producers loved it and continued to get me back. Not long after that, I narrated Tim Winton’s That Eye The Sky [a book for adults] which went on to win a number of audiobook awards and the rest, as they say, is history.

Do you discuss a book with its author and illustrator before you record it as an audiobook?
Most authors are happy to let narrators bring their own spin to a book. Andy Griffiths has given me a license to play around and be creative, providing I’m true to the text. I remember getting a letter from Nan Bodsworth after I had narrated one of her books saying how much she loved my performance. That was really nice, usually you never hear from the authors … unless it’s to ask you to move out of their fridge.

[Listen to an excerpt of Stig Wemyss narrating The 52-Storey Treehouse.]

The-52-storey treehouse audiobook

Do you get to choose which books you record?
Bolinda are fantastic at matching the right voice for the book. I’m lucky enough to have been asked to narrate over 150 books for Bolinda and I said yes to all of them. These days I even do live shows in schools and libraries around the country. (You can find out if I’m coming to a library near you on the internet. Just look for Stig Live @ The Library.) 

You wrote The Tripp Diaries specifically as an audiobook. What’s different about writing a book that’s intended to be an audiobook, rather than one to be read in traditional fashion?
Audio is a whole different medium, it is theatre of the mind. With audio, you can create fantastical, larger-than-life scenarios using music and sound effects so you can take the listener on a journey well beyond what you could just with the written word. It’s sort of like animation with your eyes closed.

When you read in your own time, do you prefer to read books the traditional way or do you prefer audiobooks?
I love reading and I love listening. The great thing about an audio book is you can read it anywhere, anytime … and while you’re doing something else. Driving, cleaning, exercising, knitting, shearing a sheep, painting a house, doing homework, pretending to be asleep, on a bus, on a train, at the beach … these are all things I’ve done while listening to an audio book. Reading I tend to do in bed.

Do you have any tips for young people who would like to record audiobooks (or perhaps podcasts)?
Go for it! Make up something crazy and outrageous and record it. Make up silly voices and crazy sound effects. There is no limit to the fun you can have with audio, it’s a playground for your imagination.

Hear a Story, See a Story, Feel a Story ©-ACLA. Image used with permission.

This post is part of the celebrations of Hear a Story … and Hear a Story is part of the work of the Australian Children’s Laureate, Jackie French. You can find out more about Hear a Story on the Australian Children’s Laureate site. And check out our other interviews this month with an oral storyteller (Glenn B Swift), and with Jackie French herself.

For more about STIG WEMYSS and his audiobooks, check out his website!

Interview with Stig Wemyss © June 2015 Stig Wemyss & Rebecca Newman
Posted in Storyteller

Meet a storyteller: Glenn B Swift

 

Hear a Story, See a Story, Feel a Story ©-ACLA. Image used with permission.

Jackie French (the Australian Children’s Laureate) and Ann James have created the Share a Story Calendar. (You can download it for free.) The theme for June is: HEAR A STORY, SEE A STORY, FEEL A STORY.

Today we are celebrating HEAR A STORY with a visitor …

Glenn B Swift (photo)

Glenn B Swift is a Western Australian Storyteller. Glenn says his repertoire ranges from the historical to the hysterical, and includes material for pre-primary through to adults.

Glenn has performed in almost every public library in Western Australia, and his talents have taken him as far afield as South America and Iceland! (He has performed in the Reykjavik Public Library.)

We asked Glenn if he could tell us a bit about being a storyteller.

Where do you live?
I live in Fremantle, Western Australia, which is where I was born and went to school. It’s a port, and I often go the end of the breakwater at the harbour and watch ships come and go. I like their hugeness, and I like to think that one day I’ll just jump on one for the heck of going across the ocean for some days or weeks. Fremantle is lovely place , and  a hot-bed of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, who are very welcoming to me as a Storyteller.

And how did you come to be a storyteller?
It started with a phone call. Well really, it started with some clowns. I had finished my training to be a teacher of the Alexander Technique (a useful thing for actors and musicians) and was waiting for my teaching job to begin at WAAPA (performance school in WA) when I ran into friends working as clowns for Myer in the school holidays. The marketing lady gave me a job working as a clown, and then before the next May school holidays, phoned me up to ask if I was a Storyteller, because that’s what she wanted in the Children’s Book department for the holidays. I answered of course, that I was  a Storyteller! (How hard could it be?) I spent the next couple of weeks reading Grimm’s Fairytales (often in the bath) and working out how I would perform them and get kids to participate and play parts as well.

Do you write your own material or do you tell stories written by other people?
Both. I like to adapt a good narrative — so for upper primary, I’m happy to tell my version of some Roald Dahl stories which can be quite ‘icky’, I also tell my own ghost stories. I have adapted some classic fairy tales and other stories for telling (with audience participation) and for junior primary I create stories that work as a game for many players that involve words, noises, screams and responses. I quite like having a big group of junior primary screaming together. They love it, though the teachers can look a bit worried, until it stops as suddenly as it began …

As a storyteller, what are your most valuable skills or tools?
My voice, and my ability to do funny voices for characters. Also a sense of simple comedy, little tricks that make kids laugh. And very good stories!

What is different about an oral tale from a written one?
Without a book in hand, there is a direct connection in a story between the teller and the audience. It allows me to always know how the audience is going, and if i need to make changes in pace, volume or content.

Can we hear an example of your storytelling?
There is this one link to a piece on YouTube …

Do you have any tips for young storytellers?
Just get up and do it! Start with a simple story everyone already knows, like ‘The Three Bears’. You’ll be scared the first time that you might get it wrong, but having done it once, you’ll find it’s great fun, and you’ll want to do it again! Your teachers will be very encouraging.

You can find out more about Glenn B Swift and his stories (and storytelling!) at his website: http://glennbswift.com/Storyteller/

If you want to celebrate Hear a Story month, check out these great activities on the Australian Children’s Laureate site.