My Volunteer Journal: Episode 25 – Voicing Glinda the Good Witch for Librivox

I’m half way through with my Mission 50 to complete 50 different volunteer activities before 2010.  I picked LibriVox for number 25 because it’s really a unique volunteer experience

88375443When I decided to become a professional actor and writer one of the jobs I looked forward to the most was voice-over acting. Being a huge fan of books on tape and cartoons I couldn’t wait to break into this area of the business. I took mimicry, improv, and speech classes, did bizarre exercises like recite Shakespeare sonnets in a backbend and worked for hours on my enunciation with a cork between my front teeth (I didn’t come up with those on my own - trust me. I’ve had some inventive teachers). So you can imagine my delight when, during a volunteer activities search on Google, I stumbled across a group dedicated to voicing all the works of literature in the public domain.

It’s a lofty goal, trying to record everything written before 1923 [no copyright = public domain]. To accomplish this Herculean feat LibriVox calls on volunteers, professional and amateur, to record, organize, edit, and catalogue all their projects. Why do they do this? LibriVox says they, “love reading, love books, love literature, think the public domain should be defended and enriched, we like free stuff, we like to hear people read to us, and we like reading to other people.”

But how do vocal recordings of literature help society? Why is this a worthwhile project? Think about all the people who are bedridden and could use a little entertainment, or the visually impaired, or people stuck in traffic or a long car ride. By helping to record works in the public domain you are encouraging literacy and you might find a book or two that you want to read yourself.

You can volunteer for LibriVox from the comfort of your own home, but beware it’s not for the faint of heart. You must jump through a number of computer and recording challenges. I have a slight tech handicap so here is how I fared…

I registered on and logged into the forums to find something to read. I thought at first I’d tackle Shakespeare since I’d spent so much time with him, but there were no parts left. I finally found something to read in the Readers Wanted: Books Forum. A number of parts were still available in Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum.

Ozma of Oz is the third book in the Oz series. Being that it was my first assignment I picked small parts. Glinda “The Good Witch” only showed up in the last chapter and Nanda the Maid had brief scenes in two chapters. I figured these women would sound very different so I took both.

Now it was time to apply some of those acting classes and basic common sense. Glinda would probably speak with confidence since she is powerful and I liked the sing-song quality actress Billie Burke gave the character in the movie “The Wizard of Oz” so that voice was invented. Nanda is the maid to the commanding Ozma of Oz, thus my vocal interpretation of her is subservient, and nervous.

I used the program GarageBand on my Mac and a Logitech microphone to record the voices. On each project's page you will find detailed directions on how and what to record and where to post it.

When I finished recording I posted my Glinda lines on the forum for the editor (or MC) of the project to approve. You can listen to it here. Notice that I only record Glinda’s lines and not the narration or the other characters lines in between. That was a specific instruction for this piece. The editor liked my work even though it had some technical problems like background noise and stereo instead of mono recording. She is going to correct the problems and use the voice in the final production – YEAH!

Though LibriVox is a technical challenge it’s well worth the effort when you hear one of the completed books. Whether you're a trained actor, an amateur, a technical genius, or just a lover of books there is a role for you on a LibriVox project. Go to the LibriVox website now to hear hundreds of books, send one to your friend, spread the word. Promoting literacy and good literature is always a worthwhile cause.