Narratives National

Andrew McLellan, 4th October 2017
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There is something intriguing about hearing an author read their own words.

In Narratives National, listeners can connect with the latest and best Australian writing. Each edition hears from at least two authors, traversing a variety of fiction and non-fiction works - from fantasy to comedy, science and children's literature.

Every half-hour draws on the wider project - the Narratives Library - a growing collection of author interviews and reads, all recorded face-to-face.

We asked award-winning presenter Karena Wynn-Moylan of Bay FM about the program.

As the presenter of Arts Canvass locally on Byron Bay’s Bay FM, you cover many creative disciplines. What drove you to the establish the Narratives project in addition to your other audio production work?

I’ve interviewed hundreds of authors over the years and I know how difficult it is for them to get their work known and out there - even with the support of a big publishing house!

I thought there had to be a better way to connect authors to their potential audience. It was while making the documentary The written word, the Spoken Thought that we first asked authors to come into the studio and just read a little of their work. I then had had the brainwave of setting up the Narratives site when I saw the reaction the author’s reads were having on people.

I refined the concept to the idea of asking the authors to read for 5 minutes only (or thereabouts!) as I figured everyone can spare five minutes to listen to a story and then decide if they are intrigued enough to want to hear more.

On the website I then categorised the reads into crime, romance, philosophy, science, etc., so you can go straight to a genre you are interested in or just wander about in the ‘Audio Bookshop’ - as one person called it.

Are authors generally keen to be recorded reading their own work? What challenges does it throw up? 

They are very keen! Most authors love to read their own work. One author said this used to be a feature at writers festivals but no-one does it anymore. Some are a bit nervous of course but that doesn’t matter, it’s not about creating a perfect ‘audio book’ - it’s about hearing the sound of the person who wrote the actual words read them for you. In some cases you come away with the author’s accent so fixed in your head that you hear the book that way whenever you read it.

The challenges are all around the location of the recording. I am often recording at festivals and it is difficult to completely exclude outside noise. I have had generators, noisy room air conditioners, leaking applause, music to contend with – you name it.  

thriller author literatureHow do you see the state of Australian literature today?

Independent publishers are starting to get some big runs on the board. Self publishing is acquiring more and more credibility. Authors are beginning to go the same routes independent music has gone.

The initial fear over ebooks has subsided as print makes a resurgence and book design is reappreciated.

Do you think there are any overriding themes or styles that are prevalent in and/or unique to contemporary Australian literature?

I think Australian authors are less obsessed with the ‘Literature’ with a capital ‘L’ and more concerned with telling a good story. As storytellers, Australian authors are among the best in the world.  

Tell us a few of the highlights coming up in the months ahead.

Don’t miss Nikki Gemmel paired with David Leser as they read and discuss their respective memoirs to do with their parents - deeply moving. And lots of funny stuff from Peter Helliar, Steve Bisley and serious scientific discussion from Tim Flannery, Charlie Veron and Peter Doherty.

Pulitzer prize winner Sebastian Smee reads for us and Ashleigh Wilson reads a moving piece from his bio on Brett Whiteley. There will also be bodice ripping romance, and crime thrillers and many more. During the year we will vary format occasionally and do longer pieces on one author and there will always be great music selections.

How long can we expect Narratives National to be in production for?

We will continue to collect new material whenever possible which means visiting major writers festivals, conventions and conferences to record our authors live.

The 2017-18 series of Narratives National has received enough funding from the Community Broadcasting Foundation to be produced for 26-weeks, and we are always on the lookout for sympathetic sponsors. So far I have set up a website which now attracts over 50,000 hits per month. It continues to expand and maybe someone would like to support it a little in return for some (tasteful) promotion! 

The National Edition is now going out across community radio in Australia. These editions will also be available as podcasts on the Narratives site, and also the LybSyn app on Android, google Play and Itunes, always after broadcast date on radio..

Future development will be our own dedicated app so people can take Narratives (and maybe even other interesting podcasts I produce) wherever they go. When I first conceived this concept I decided to give it 5 years of my life to get it to sustainability and I am only halfway through so we’ll see how it goes!

CBF logoFor CRN subscribers:
  • Narratives National (27'50) is broadcast/distributed by CRN Mondays from 19:04 EST/EDT, and is available for DDN capture
  • Began distribution 2 October, 2017. Download the October PDF iconsynopsis info sheet.
  • Produced with the assistance of the Department of Communications and the Arts via the Community Broadcasting Foundation.
  • For more information contact CRN staff on 02 9310 2999 or email crn@cbaa.org.au

Not a CRN subscriber, but want to find out more about getting content like this for your station? Read more here.

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