She Reads My Book to Me

I’m on the treadmill with earbuds in. I walk in my crocs because they allow my post-surgery foot to flex more freely. I’m listening to a chapter that came by email the day before. It’s from a book that I wrote, but I don’t remember this chapter. This is a remarkably strange moment in time.

I’m plagued with ambivalence. Nothing as simple as wondering for the millionth time if the writing is good enough. I have become fearful of my book as an entity. Stable Relation is my memoir that came out eight years ago. Writing it was one of the most important events of my life, meaning the actual work of sitting in front of a computer and typing. I had that book stuck in the back of my throat for a few decades, in the way that most of us have a story to tell.

When I was finally done with rewrites and editing and publishing, I was lucky to have modest success. Readers shared the book and wrote good reviews.

And then my life changed in ways I never imagined. I became weirdly superstitious about this book but I didn’t notice right away. I was busy writing other books and traveling. People always mentioned Stable Relation and I thanked them. Some said they had read it several times. I nodded but kept my secret. I am afraid of a paperback book with my name on it.

What if I didn’t like the book now? What if I was shallow or trite, what if the writing seemed amateurish now? What if I overthink this until I go catatonic in a made-up flop sweat. My anxiety became a legend in my own mind.

I was willing to let this all sleep in the corner, but I got hooked on listening to digital books. Well, first I got lonely for books. My reading time was taken up by writing and like most authors, it wasn’t my only job. Finding an hour to read was impossible and I got sad/mad but then one subscription and twenty free books cheered me right up.

Listening to books meant I could catch up on recent literary fiction while I did barn chores. I could deep dive into authors I liked while I did laundry. I could have the decadent pleasure of visiting old favorites while I showered. My heart was soothed after the death of a friend by listening to a good book read by an especially warm voice. I read for education and entertainment on a year-long, 13k mile road trip, while I was writing a travelog about that trip. Trust me, I have some things to say to Steinbeck about him and Charley.

Audiobooks are like dining from the best dessert cart three meals a day but coming away strong and intelligent.

But this little book in the corner, hidden under my anxiety, was always muttering something I couldn’t quite hear. It got harder to avoid, and now that I’d become a hopeless audio-bookworm, the requests for a digital version of Stable Relation were harder to ignore. Maybe I thought one day, I’d narrate it myself, you know, in my copious spare time. Maybe I thought somehow the three dogs wouldn’t bark for a month or so.

Okay, not likely, but celebrating that I don’t have to do it all, I began the research. I knew better than to let Amazon own me, I’d need to produce it myself. I put out a call on an online site for a narrator. Lots of good voices responded and I finally narrowed it down to five readers. I paid each of them to read the first chapter because I honestly couldn’t tell who I should sound like.

I was still afraid of my book but I took the jump and hired Annette. She had a rich confident voice. The first chapter came back, redone after our contract. It has snippets of 50s songs and she sang those parts with just the right note of dorky car-dancing I’d intended.

That brings us back to the treadmill. I get a few chapters a week and listen while I walk in the morning.

I’m a visual thinker. It helps my writing, but it always gives me the feeling of being a voyeur in my own life. I live it and watch it simultaneously. Then I think about it way too much. If that isn’t enough of a ‘play within a play’, now someone is reading it back to me. I remember the experiences but not how I wrote them. Does that mean it’s a play within a book within a play?

At first, I scrutinized every word Annette’s voice articulated. Some pronunciations were slightly different and she didn’t always emphasize words that I might have. But then I got distracted by the story; abducted by the words as Annette read life into them. Soon, I couldn’t tell her voice from mine.

Maybe this was just what the book had been muttering about. Books are living things. Maybe she needed a new set of eyes after mine had gone dark. Stable Relation, a gold medal winner who was proud of herself, was being resuscitated and in a bizarre twist, I was the fangirl.

It does embarrass me to be laughing at something I wrote but don’t remember. A couple of chapters back, I got something in my eye. Bits of it remained there after the reading ended. I am a gray mare now and if you live long enough, everything recycles back. Sometimes the second ride is even better than the first one.

Thank you, Annette, for reading my book to me. I like having it back.

Maybe Annette will read it to you, too. Available soon on all digital outlets.


Anna Blake at Infinity Farm

Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro

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  1. I always keep an extra copy of that book on hand in case I happen to meet a new horse person who hasn’t read it. Who needs to read it. Congrats on getting your book narrated, and thanks for being brave enough to write it in the first place.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love that book. And your experience on hearing it, which felt to me like mirror in mirror in mirror, was both exciting and discombobulating? Is that how you felt? You are brave. Very very brave to step up to the edge and see what is there! I’m glad it was ultimately a good experience, as it has been for us. (8 years….really????)


  3. Anna,  You are so courageous !! Maybe some folks dont realize how vulnerable it can make a writer feel to put their work, their words out there. SR is at the very least an AMAZING story, many stories actually. Thoroughly enjoyable even if one isnt into horses. I have read it twice over last few years & look forward to listening for a 3rd read.  Yay, you !

    Sent from the all new AOL app for Android


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