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Meet Sara Sheckells of Sara Sounds Communications in Andover

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sara Sheckells.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Sara. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Growing up, my favorite pastime was a toss-up between reading books and recording myself playing at being a DJ on an audio cassette recorder. As a family, reading aloud was a nightly ritual and when riding in the car, we listened to a lot of re-issued recordings of radio dramas from the 1930s and 1940s. I was fascinated with the notion of telling stories using only audio.

In college, I practically lived at the campus radio station, and ultimately focused my studies on children’s media, but my experience as a Resident Assistant landed me on a path to a 20-plus year career in higher education and college student development.

I always intended to return to my original focus, taking voiceover classes and volunteering as a narrator for Recording for The Blind and Dyslexic (now Learning Ally) for a number of years.

Audiobooks became a constant in my life as my own children’s reading habits became more voracious. They also carried me through a long commute. When said commute began to weigh heavily upon my day-to-day experiences, I reassessed my vocational direction and decided there was no better time to give something new – and long hoped – after a try.

Before leaving my last full-time role in higher education, I spoke a lot to friends and family about my thoughts and feelings. I conducted research during my free time and began networking with people who worked in audio production and narration/text accessibility services. I also attended voice-over industry-related workshops and trainings.

A friend introduced me to the Audiobook Creation Exchange, where narrators can connect with independent authors seeking to create audiobooks. I created an account and began submitting auditions. Presently I am working on my 11th production.

My next step has involved creating a professional demo, which shall serve as a launching off point for more narration, as well as corporate and educational voice-over work.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It has been admittedly, very difficult to start out in a new field, especially when a large part of what I do is submit auditions in the hopes of winning a production bid. I receive little feedback on what I record and present, so there is a significant risk of becoming overwhelmed by self-doubt. I have little, if any idea of who I am competing with and whether or not I have hit the mark as to what the client is seeking in a voice talent.

The technical learning curve between what I used to know about radio and the current ins and outs of in-home audio production is significant. While the information and training exists, I have had to seek it out and really push myself outside of my comfort zone. While the introvert in me loves to spend hours in the serenity of my booth, the business owner in me knows that I must also engage with clients and actively pursue new leads and outlets for further developing my craft.

That noted, I welcome all of these challenges. I feel motivated in a way I have not experienced before. The decision to work for myself was incredibly timely and has allowed me to wholly invest in a long-held interest. I am learning new and different things daily, and am finding that this is a field with massive potential for growth and change in the years to come.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Sara Sounds Communications – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Sara Sounds Communications is in many ways a storytelling service. My aim is to bring words to life in the way in which an author intended. The more that I learn, the more I view what I do as voice artistry and I am finding great comfort in this creative realm.

Presently my focus is on audiobook production and in working to introduce my services to authors and publishers. I am quite interested in eLearning narration and am aiming to have that be the next narration realm I explore. Corporate and commercial voiceover work is on my list too.

My kids love audiobooks and to hear them say, “Mom makes audiobooks…” means more than I can express. I hope to produce more titles that they can listen to, they are my most important audience. They are incredibly honest critics too! I have been known to alter character delivery based upon their feedback!

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
Moving forward, my goal is to firmly establish myself as a go-to resource for authors, publishers, educators and businesses who are looking to align an accessible voice with their products and services. I hope to make headway in the number and quality of audiobooks Sara Sounds produces over the next year and intend to invest more in my home-studio, as well as in networking opportunities and industry specific events and trainings.

Ultimately, I hope to position myself to take on projects that can educate, entertain, and engage listeners as the delivery of storytelling itself continues to evolve.

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