Ann Connery Frantz
Telegram & Gazette
September 27, 2020
On the first Tuesday of each month, starting promptly at 8 p.m. and running until 9, Audio Journal presents “Speaking Volumes,” its audio book club based in Worcester. Members proudly note that this nonprofit broadcasting service was recognized by Oprah Winfrey last year in her O Magazine.
Socially distanced volunteers meet via Zoom the night before each session to record their discussion. Audio Journal’s Mary Frandsen says volunteers may read the book to listeners or join in the monthly discussion. (Volunteers also read newspapers, magazines, books, store flyers and other print material.) Frandsen always welcomes new volunteers.
Under normal circumstances, listeners may call in to join the discussion as part of the group. That has changed somewhat. Books are both fiction and nonfiction, and always are available through the Talking Book Library. They are recorded by the Library of Congress on digital cartridge and are available through Perkins Braille and Talking Book Library and Worcester Talking Book Library.
“Speaking Volumes is affected by COVID,” Frandsen said. “No longer are volunteers meeting in the studio on the first Tuesday of the month to broadcast their discussion live. A day before the broadcast, they use Zoom to record their discussion. Unfortunately, listeners are not able to call in through Zoom.” Consequently, the group edits its Zoom audio file and broadcasts it using their automation system.
Carol Sarafconn, who leads the group, says books are chosen four months inadvance, to allow listeners to reserve their copies. “Our criteria for book selection is a little different than other book clubs, for two reasons,” she said. “First, all the titles we choose must be available through the Talking Book Library because most of our listeners listen to their books. We announce books a few months ahead, so people have time to get them. (The Talking Book Library is through the Library of Congress and provides audio books free to those who have been certified by a medical professional as unable to access printed books.)
“Second, we strive to choose a wide variety of books because our listeners are so diverse. We mix up fiction, nonfiction, mystery, biography, an occasional science fiction, and last year we even read a vampire book.”
Upcoming selections are Oct. 6, Nathan Philbrick’s “In the Heart of the Sea”; Nov. 3, “March: Book One” by John Lewis; Dec. 1, Fredrik Backman’s “Beartown”; and Jan. 5, 2021, “Rez Life: An Indian’s Journey Through Reservation Life” by David Treuer.
“In the Heart of the Sea” became a film in 2015, produced by Ron Howard. It’s based on a true story of the most notorious whaling disasters of the 19th century, focusing on the sinking of the whaleship Essex by a sperm whale, a story that inspired Herman Melville to write “Moby-Dick.” It’s an exciting story, with all the specifics of harpooning and life aboard a whaling ship.
“I am excited about the selection for November,” Sarafconn said. “We will be discussing a graphic novel, (“March” by John Lewis). This is the first graphic novel that Talking Books has recorded. Apparently, their narration includes a description of the art. I am looking forward to our discussion of both the content and the genre.”
Some members of the group read print editions, Sarafconn said. E-books are another favorite format.
“It really is a special book club,” she said.
There are several ways to listen. Smart speakers equipped with Echo, Echo Dot or Google home make it easy to tune in. You can connect to the Echo via phone or tablet as well. If the technology has them stumped, a volunteer will come to a listener’s home to help set it up.
Streaming podcasts and online archives are also available, via iTunes, Zeno Media and TuneIn. It’s also available on Simple Radio App and the Sero App. One can subscribe to podcasts or other local programs on YouTube or by contacting http://www.audiojournalfeeds.org/podcast.rss. Audio Journal has an extensive list of available programs.
To listen by phone, call Zeno Media at (712) 770-1043. Audio Journal is also carried on local television access channels. WICN Public Radio in Worcester carries the broadcast available through a specially tuned radio-receiver available through Audio Journal (call (508) 797-1117).
For more information, check https://audiojournal.org.
Call (508) 752-0557 or (508) 373-2343 to take part in the program, or email Frandsen at firstname.lastname@example.org. Support comes from the Memorial Foundation for the Blind, Mass. Commission for the Blind, local foundations and corporations, individuals and events, Frandsen said. An archive of past sessions is available on https://audiojournal.org/speaking-volumes/