Classically Speaking Podcast

Reviving Classic Short Fiction

Who reads classic literature unless they’re preparing for an exam?

As language usage and style evolves, many literary works, great stories, become difficult to digest as they age. But our hunger for story remains. Humans bond over honest, masterfully told stories that illuminate the world and the life in it.

As the great Ezra Pound once said, “Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree.” I would add that Story is the thing that charges language with meaning. By the same token, it is what charges every art form, every medium, with meaning, including writing, dance, music, sculpture, all the visual arts and on and on, and each exudes meaning in its own way. The medium, the art form is the sizzle; the story is the steak, whether simple or complex, uplifting or horrifying. It may ignite profound discussion, or remain ineffable. Regardless of the medium, can meaning exist without story?

The human voice is, of course, a medium for story art just as any other. In fact, spoken and heard precedes written and read by thousands of years, and there are so many story dynamics that only the human voice can convey.

I am so grateful to the generations of authors whose story inventions should never fade or become lost. I truly hope my human voice proves a worthy medium to tell their story, their meaning.

Please enjoy Classically Speaking.


Audiobook Release: Vacation by JC Miller

Vacation CoverVacation released July 14, 2017


It was such a pleasure to collaborate with JC Miller in producing and narrating her tender and charming love story about the irresistibility of human attraction and the delicate and graceful balance of humans and nature. (“Fragile cells alone in an ocean of darkness, finding one another, and then clinging together like soap bubbles.”)

JC’s inspired visions of everyday life as a man struggles to emerge from grief and emptiness in the aftermath of his wife’s death mirror the elegant simplicity of the microscopic world of William Koval, an introverted medical scientist with little faith in humanity and even less desire to bond with it. He meets a matter-of-fact and self-reliant history professor on a walking tour of the Cotswolds and their endearing efforts to overcome grief, regret, and isolation have us willing their hearts to open.

This production is also the culmination of a new pre-production process I’m using to analyze and internalize the story in an effort to enhance my oral delivery. It feels like a success from that perspective, but listeners will determine that. As the narrator I want it to be so engaging and satisfying that you forget you’re listening to an audiobook. A tall order indeed. What I know is that my experience in telling the story was quite fulfilling. I’m pleased. I’m not satisfied. But I’m pleased.

What It Takes: Love Story Cheat Sheet /Controlling Idea (Theme)

Audiobook-Logo-White-2-No-B“Love triumphs when lovers dispel their ignoble attitudes and embrace the vibrant mix of humanity within all social classes.” — Shawn Coyne, Love Story Cheat Sheet / Controlling Idea.

In Part 4 of his 6 part guest post series on, Shawn Coyne analyzes Jane Austen’s Pride And Prejudice and guides us to the story’s Controlling Idea, or Theme. How does the story end? What causes the love value to move from ignorance at the beginning to (spoiler) at the end? How do the lovers change? And what causes them to change?

Shawn goes into much greater detail in his book, The Story Grid. Written primarily for editors and based on his twenty-five year career in publishing, The Story Grid is also a valuable resource for both aspiring and established writers. I’ve begun using The Story Grid‘s concepts to analyze and internalize Stories I’m preparing to produce and narrate as audiobooks. My first production completed utilizing some of the tools in The Story Grid and in Stephen Pressfield‘s book, Nobody Wants To Read Your Sh*t, will be released on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes in the next few days.

Vacation by JC Miller; you guessed it, a Love Story, set both in the Cotswolds, the walking capital of England where the lovers meet, and finally in atmospheric Seattle where the lovers court, change, and become. It’s difficult for me, for obvious reasons, to assess my success in applying this approach. All I know is it feels good, and in delivering the story orally, my personal experience was very satisfying. I think I did get to a level of engagement and expression that I might not have otherwise. But listener response should tell me something. So. We’ll see. Either way, it’s a great experiment and for me an important one. I’m definitely enjoying it.

Why Love Rules By Shawn Coyne

What I Mean by Love Story By Shawn Coyne

What Are Love Stories For? By Shawn Coyne

Love Story Cheat Sheet / Controlling Idea By Shawn Coyne

Love Story Cheat Sheet / Obligatory Scenes By Shawn Coyne

Love Story Cheat Sheet / Conventions By Shawn Coyne


Wrapping up Pre-production for Vacation by JC Miller

vacation-cover1I am excited to be approaching the final phase of a new pre-production process for my next audiobook. Vacation by JC Miller is a charming love story with an inventive redemption mini-plot. It will be about a seven-hour listen. Set in the gentle hills and stone villages of the Cotswolds of England and in the atmospheric Pacific Northwest, a vacation walking tour of pastoral England sparks an attraction between an introverted scientist and a wounded and independent history professor. Complications ensue of course.

This will be my eighth audiobook, self-produced in my home studio, a closet gutted and then treated for voice recording. One reason for this blog is to document the development of my craft. This post represents a new development in my process that I hope will enhance my storytelling and hence the listener’s audio experience.

I want to be a spell-binding storyteller. There I said it. It’s my goal. Nothing wrong with having a goal. And am I? A spell-binding storyteller? I don’t think so. At least not yet. But the glimpses I have are encouraging and fulfilling. And I do have an AudioFile Earphones Award to my credit now, so maybe I’m on the right path. The challenge is to keep moving on that path and turn those glimpses into an unbroken flow of compelling oral storytelling, and that is what my process is about. Some may say, “Just read the damn thing.” Sorry, I can’t. So, here’s what I have to do.

In my search to hone my craft I stumbled across The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne. Shawn is an editor, literary agent, co-writer, and ghostwriter with twenty-five years experience including the Big Five publishing houses, independent publishing, and Hollywood. He’s also a business partner of one of my favorite authors, Stephen Pressfield (The Legend of Bagger Vance, Gates of Fire, The Lion’s Gate, The War of Art) who also writes a lot about writing. The Story Grid is Shawn’s contribution to the editing craft, for which there is no course of study, no degree, no training ground beyond apprenticeship. In it, he shares his deep knowledge of the building blocks of Story and how to break a Story down into all of the functional pieces that make that Story “work”.

What does that have to do with producing and narrating audiobooks?

The more I work with Story, the more I find myself needing to think like a writer. I find that when I spend time with an author’s work and come to know the Story intimately, then much of my work as a producer/narrator is done. Tone, pacing, emotional content, breathing, subtext, I don’t have to think about these. They are there because I’m so intimate with the Story. If I fall in love with the Story, the telling is easy, and will hopefully capture the imagination of the listener in a way that silent reading does not. And that’s why I love the oral tradition. Great writing is great writing either way, but for me, a spell-binding storyteller is the bomb. Analyzing the Story and defining the building blocks, such as the concept of the novel, the theme, the stakes, the narrative device, inciting incident, climax, beats, the obligatory scenes of the genre. How is the climax imbedded in the inciting incident? Does a scene turn on revelation, or character action? It all helps me fall in love with the Story. I guess we’ll see, huh?

Production starts March 11, 2017.


Words on the page to Sounds in the air

Audiobook-Logo-White-2-No-BSuch a strong testimonial for the oral tradition. It’s not lost. Humans still have the urge to tell the story.

Silent reading is okay too.

Thank you, Little Red Reviewer.

the Little Red Reviewer

Remember when you were a kid, and someone read you a story? Didn’t matter if you liked the story or not, but I bet you enjoyed being read to.

If you’re a parent, I’m sure you read or have read to your kids.  Didn’t matter if you liked the story, but I bet you enjoy the experience of reading to someone.

Ever notice how the feel of the story changes when you read it out loud? When you’re reading out loud, you can control the pace of the words, where the pauses between phrases are,  you can use inflection how and when you want. The words on the page take on entirely new dimensions when they become sounds in the air, and if you are one doing the reading, you can connect with those words in an entirely new way.

I picked up an anthology the other day, and flipped…

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The Audiobookworm Sunday Spotlight: Curt Simmons

Curt Simmons happens to be one of the most congenial, approachable individuals I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know through The Audiobookworm. He so expertly narrated Omari and the People that I had to know more about his experiences in narration and audiobook production. Curt was generous enough to give us some insight into his profession and discuss how it […]

Source: Sunday Spotlight: Curt Simmons – The Audiobookworm