Listening to Books

June is Audiobook Appreciation Month, and I’ve been listening to a top-notch audiobook. Portrait of a Thief is a novel by Grace D. Li, about a group of Chinese American college students who rob museums of looted Chinese art to return it to China.

It isn’t political in the sense that so many books are political – red vs blue, Rep vs Dem. But it is strongly political with themes or racism, narrowed expectations, and colonialism.

That sounds weighty, doesn’t it? But this is a fast-paced book that would make a great summer read. I’m sure the print or ebook would be great, but I really recommend the audiobook.

I have writing friends who have quit listening to books. They say that they cannot listen to a book and simultaneously study how to improve their craft. For me, this isn’t a problem but it may be that I love the sound of language and play with that even in my teen nonfiction.

Because of this, when I finish a manuscript, I use Microsoft Words Read Aloud function. All I have to do is position my cursor at the top of my manuscript and click “Read Aloud” in the ribbon at the top of my screen. I’m not in love with the computerized feminine voice but it isn’t too bad.

Listening to my books, I hear repeated phrases. I can also hear when I’ve used the wrong word. Often these are typos but they are typos that for some reason Word’s editor doesn’t catch. Believe me, it has no qualms about telling me to change punctuation or a word even when I’ve used exactly the right word!

Another feature that I’ve just discovered in the updated version of Word is “Dictate.” This is on the right end of the ribbon. Click the button and, as long as you have a microphone, you simply start speaking. Word types out your text.

I haven’t played with this yet but I’m curious. I’ve never tried “telling” a story vs typing a story.

Also, I’m not sure if it would work to transcribe a Zoom call but I intend to find out later this week! If it does, it would be a great way to capture an interview. Yes, you can, with permission, simply record the interview and transcribe it. But, NOTE this. It takes approximately 6 times as long to transcribe as the original interview and that’s if you are really good.

Audio is one of many tools in the writers toolbox. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I left the characters in a really tense place. Perhaps you’d like to recommend a great audio book to everyone?


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