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Voicing a Cause: Xe Sands


Looking for real-world Common Core multimedia & oral language projects? Xe Sands has created the Going Public project, a platform for crowd-sourced audiobooks, as well as an effort to raise funds for literacy. I spoke to Xe as part of an occasional focus here on Audiobooker about members of the audiobook community who are voicing a cause, such as Dion Graham and Debra & Bob Deyan. Going Public is a great way for audiobook fans, aspiring narrators, students and teachers to join with audio professionals in creating audio productions. Want more on audiobooks and the Common Core? Check out this “Voices in My Head” column.

Xe, please tell us about your involvement in Going Public & Reach Out and Read.

Thanks so much for asking about this, Mary. The Going Public…in Shorts project grew out of my weekly side effort, Going Public – a platform for folks (professional narrators and others) to record and share public domain letters, poems, stories, etc. purely for the joy of doing it and giving back.

For June is Audiobook Month this year, I wanted to build on last year’s efforts during Audiobook Week, and suggested to a number of my narrator colleagues that we produce an audio short story series to be released as a “Thank You!” for listeners throughout the month of June. Karen White suggested that we broaden the effort into a philanthropic campaign, and Johnny Heller threw in the idea of supporting children’s literacy, and steadily our initially modest listener give-back had grown into an amazing, ambitious effort to that brought together 38 narrators reading 38 short pieces, 35+ bloggers helping to promote the  project, and a way to give back to listeners, feed our creative souls, and support Reach Out and Read, an innovative literacy advocacy organization working with physicians to serve more than 4 million children and their families across the nation. It was a phenomenal effort that brought together narrators, listeners, bloggers and publishers, for the love of listening and in support of children’s literacy. And I am overwhelmed by the support of the community for the project, and honored to have the participation of so many industry and narrator colleagues.

Please share your role in the audiobook community, and how you have found a platform to voice your cause.

My intent has always been to act as a positive, connective force in the industry, forging direct ties between the listening community and narrators, and shining a light on the books, performances or efforts of others that might otherwise be lost in the furor over heavily promoted projects. For me, as with all aspects of life, it’s all about individual relationships – about reaching out on a grassroots level, one listener or blogger or reader at a time and establishing a genuine, personal connection based on mutual interests – audiobook related or not. So once we decided we were really going to do this crazy thing, I reached out to the various folks I’ve connected with who have expressed interest in audio and/or literacy, or who just have a love for all things BOOK, and asked if they might be willing to help us get the word out. I was simply blown away by the outpouring of support, time and energy that we received in return. We simply couldn’t have done this without the audio and print blogging community and supportive outlets such as Publishers Weekly, Salon, AudioFile Magazine and you, Mary. Here’s a list of all the June blog posts featuring Going Public…In Shorts narrators.

Why have you chosen to go public with your involvement in Reach Out and Read?

By talking about this here, there and, well, everywhere, I’m hoping to raise awareness of both the treasures awaiting readers in the public domain, and the importance of Reach Out and Read’s and other children’s literacy organizations’ efforts. By offering the public a wonderful, diverse collection of public domain work, we hope to help listeners (re)discover some amazing writing and authors, while also helping an organization dedicated to getting books into the hands of children in very innovative ways, thus boosting literacy and creating a whole new generation of readers.

How can other members of the audiobook community – listeners, fans, professionals – become involved and help?

In the short-term, for listeners and fans, the easiest way to help is to purchase either individual stories or the full compilation, as all proceeds go to Reach Out and Read, and then spread the word to others via social media, blogs, word-of-mouth. Check out sound clips from each of the stories on SoundCloud.

For professionals, what would help most is what so many have already been doing (and for which we are so grateful!) – spread the word via your various connections. And let me know if you would be interested in participating in any similar future efforts.

In the long-term, I strongly encourage everyone to donate to Reach Out and Read or other literacy advocacy organizations, read to children at their local libraries, and read to their own children…and also consider joining me over at Going Public by sharing a piece of public domain work that really resonates with you, whether you record it or simply share the text or visual. I produce Going Public weekly, so there is always an opportunity to join me.

Thanks so much for spearheading this great effort, Xe! I am looking forward to sharing the Going Public project with teachers & students as we head into the classroom. What a great way to connect Common Core standards – students recording their own performances of public domain works – back to school with sound literature 🙂






About the Author:

Mary Burkey is an independent library consultant in Columbus (OH). An enthusiastic audiophile, she has served on all four of ALA's audiobook award committees as well as the Audies. In addition to writing the "Voices in My Head" column for Booklist, she is the author of Audiobooks for Youth: A Practical Guide to Sound Literature (ALA, 2013). Follow her on Twitter at @mburkey.

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