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Seek and you shall find...

The truelife adventures of a publisher of audio books
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A few years ago I had a problem. I had created four wonderful fairy tales to share with the children of the world but I wanted to present them to my audience in sound as well as in word. Being a former teacher, I fondly imagined these stories and tapes being read and listened to in the classroom—in classrooms the world over if possible. And even the seemingly impossible must start off with a dream.

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But what did I know about sound recording? Even less than I knew about self publishing at the time—in other words, nought. But life in the 20th century still offers a modicum of magic. Enter the Yellow Pages. Skimming through its list of local recording studios…AABBBCCC…I made a total of three calls. The first responded with a busy signal. The second promised to call me back within the hour. The third was Jezz Wright, boy genius and sole proprietor of 'blockhouse studios,' London, U.K. That same evening, I was sitting in his mystically equipped studio warren—located within a converted industrial shed in Stratford, East London—discussing how he would help me to realize my dream.

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I needed a professional narrating voice, I needed incidental music and sound effects, I needed a boy Merlin like Jezz to weave it all together, employing the technological equipment I had seen ranged around his studio, leaving me mystified, like Stone age man—okay, Stone age woman—catapulted, via time capsule, into the third Millennium. Our sublime adventure lasted eight months until all four of the FUNLIT SERIES tapes/CDs had been successfully recorded. None of us could have known that Jezz would suspend his activities at the studio, having been snapped up by BBC Radio literally days after our last recording session was over. Blessed fortune? Synchronicity? Coincidence. Who knows?

At any rate, we were on a tremendous 'roll' in those early days. I purchased a few cassette tapes of mediaeval music to formulate some idea of what I wanted. I hunted down a suitable musician, again via the Yellow Pages but, in the end, after stumbling down a few blind alleys, it was Jezz I turned to, and he offered to create both music and sound effects for all four tapes. And the results were destined to be extraordinary!

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I still needed to find a competent narrator for the text. It turned out to be stage-and-screen actress, Paola Dionisotti, who appeared—I like to believe—through the undercurrents of combined magic we were all busily creating. Gracious Paola agreed to consider my request, but withheld her decision until she had read the first story. A few days later, she returned her positive verdict, and the adventure began.

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A shower of creative sparks—suggestions, alterations. artistic disagreements—flew around the 'blockhouse' studio from time to time as we ploughed together through each of the four stories. Paola, a true professional, offered useful comments on the phrasing, diction and dramatic pacing of the whole. Well in advance, she studied the story text and rehearsed the roles and 'voices' that she would perform on tape. Our recording sessions took up the entire day, since each fairy tale is about six thousand words long.

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Jezz set up his state of the art equipment and performed his sound checks. Paola entered the soundproof studio and donned a headset. I sat in an armchair, text in hand, checking each word as it was being recorded. Throughout the day, we halted and re-recorded whenever the pronunciation of a word, the correct pacing or sound level failed. The entire adventure from start to finish was a labour of love, of dedication, of talent and of exactitude, generating—in me, the neophyte, at least—a sense of exhilaration similar to that of embarking on a journey to planet Mars.

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At the finale, as I sat in the studio, auditing Jezz's brilliant musical arrangement of the final story in the Funlit Series, 'The Northern Isle of Dreams,' I shed a few tears. Today, I continue to be grateful to Jezz and to Paola. Fusing their considerable talents, they have created a new dimension to my silent, brain locked stories, just as Samantha Thomson, my illustration artist, was also able to do.

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Samantha Thomson, Illustrator of the Millennium Tales

© Christina Manolescu, 2006, Prince Chameleon Press