Blind Midlands Author Records Memoir at SC State Library

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Midlands resident Carmella Broome and the Talking Book Services (TBS) division of the SC State Library will soon be completing the recording of Ms. Broome's memoir. Carmella's Quest: Taking On College Sight Unseen is published by Red Letter Press of Columbia and was released in standard print in Feb of 2009. During the past several months, Ms. Broome has spent time reading her book aloud into the State Library's digital recording equipment so that others who are blind can enjoy it. Ms. Broome does this using her laptop and a computer program that converts text to speech.

"I knew TBS volunteers recorded South Carolina related books there at the library," Carmella said. She decided it might be an interesting challenge to narrate her own book. "It's neat to hear a book read by the person who wrote it," she says. "That's especially true of memoirs. I knew I had a way to read it myself and really wanted to do that. Chris was open to us giving it a shot and I think it worked out really well."

Carmella, her laptop, and her Seeing Eye dog Maggie squeeze into a soundproof booth while TBS's Christopher Yates operates the digital equipment to capture Carmella's voice. Mr. Yates says he doesn't know of any other blind author who has done anything like this in South Carolina.

Carmella has the text of her book in a notepad file and figured out which margins and rate of speech worked best for her as she moved through the text line by line. She speaks the words as her computer speaks them to her. She wears an ear piece that allows her to hear what the computer is saying without the recording equipment picking up the robotic speech. Instead, the equipment records the author herself reading her own book.

If she stumbles over words or doesn't like the way she reads something, Carmella simply pauses and then rereads the sentence again. "Reading this way takes a little more concentration," Carmella admits, "but we had a lot of fun making the recording. I can't wait to hear the finished product."

After Carmella completed reading the book, Mr. Yates, along with volunteers, Louis Miller and Tonya Anderson, edited the recordings. Ms. Broome and Mr. Yates will soon record a few final edits and put the finishing touches on the recording. It will then be made available to TBS patrons across the state and to National Library Service libraries around the country.

Carmella's Quest describes the author's first year at North Greenville College in upstate South Carolina in the mid 1990's. Carmella talks about her friendships and romantic relationships, academic stresses and successes, and the unique challenges of being the only legally blind student on campus. The book is available through Red Letter Press RedLetterPress@Gmail.com. The author can be contacted at CarmellasQuest@hotmail.com.