A Narrator’s Joy: The Curve of Time



I’m so proud to announce the release of my latest audiobook, M. Wylie Blanchet’s memoir The Curve of Time.

It is the first audio production of this beloved classic – and for me, it’s the fulfillment of a career-long dream. I searched for years for a producer who would share my commitment to it and could help me with rights and marketing.   I hit the jackpot when I found the wonderful Carlyn Craig at Post Hypnotic Press.

The Curve of Time is a collection of essays that Muriel “Capi” Blanchet wrote about the boat trips she took in the 1930s with her children along the coast of Vancouver Island and up British Columbia’s magnificent Inside Passage. Both her writing and the places she writes about are magical.  I’ve been captivated by this book since the first time I read it many years ago.


But just as extraordinary is the woman herself: eloquent, witty, tough, sensitive, sensible, and intrepid.  Born in Montréal in 1892, Muriel Wylie Liffiton grew up in a well-to-do family; she attended private school and excelled as a scholar and a rower.  She married early, at the age of 18, and shortly afterward she and her husband Geoffrey Blanchet moved to Vancouver Island, settling into a cottage at Curteis Point on the then-remote Saanich Peninsula north of Victoria.  They bought a boat – the 25-foot cabin cruiser Caprice – and began to enjoy family outings in it around the shorelines and islands near their home.

In 1926, Geoffrey took Caprice out on a solo camping trip and didn’t return.  The boat was found empty, and his body was never recovered; his death remains a mystery.

This left Capi a young widow with five children to raise on little more than her own wits and financial creativity. She began taking her children on summer-long sojourns on Caprice (I’ve wondered if she did this partly so that she could rent out her house as a source of income). She wrote essays about their trips and ultimately  published them as a compilation, The Curve of Time, released just a few months before her death in 1961.


The Caprice

During their summer explorations, Blanchet piloted this little boat through every kind of water imaginable – open ocean, tidal currents, whirlpools — going as far north as Queen Charlotte Sound. They encountered bears, cougars, and orcas.  They explored numerous First Nations village sites, some of which had probably never been visited by whites.  They climbed thousand-foot cliffs to gather huckleberries, and dropped their fishing lines into hundred-fathom fjords to see what they’d catch.

Indian Village, Gilford Island


They also met an array of colorful human characters, each of whom Blanchet found delightful and treated with great respect.  There’s Old Mike, for instance, who for 30 years had lived alone in a remote cabin surrounded by mountains and the sea:

. . . I don’t think anyone could have summed up that book better than the logger from Michigan.  Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s — he loved them.  I would leave him a pile of them.  At the end of the summer when we called in again, he would discuss all the articles with zest and intelligence. . . .  


What a pleasure it was for me as a performer to voice Blanchet’s lyrical cadences, range of moods (languid, eerie, suspenseful, dryly humorous) and vivid imagery:

. . . We had hardly cleared Battle Point when the morning wind caught up with us, and with it some quite unexpected fog — soft and rolling.  It would roll down the open channels in great round masses — hesitate for an island, and then roll over it and on.  It would fill up all the bays — searching and exploring.  It came on board and felt us all over with soft, damp fingers, and we hoisted our sails and fled before it. . . .


David and Peter, 1929

As an actor, I also loved reading her wonderfully skilled dialogue and dialects.  With some audiobooks, I have to work pretty hard to make an accent sound natural or to distinguish my characters.  Blanchet made it easy, writing even her childrens’ speech in a way that brought each of their personalities to life.  I especially enjoyed creating the voices of little John and his big brother (and rival) Peter!

The narrative is always driven by her own energetic curiosity, imaginings, and vivid observations about the anthropology, boat navigation, marine life, and cultural history of this vast, untrammeled landscape.

Each chapter / essay has a theme, but sometimes Blanchet tacks her way toward her destination “crabwise along the coast,” to use one of her own metaphors. And you don’t mind following her anywhere she goes.


It was an honor and a joy to narrate The Curve of Time.  I hope Capi Blanchet would have been pleased.

Francis, Peter, Betty, David, Joan, and Capi



The Curve of Time is available on the Post Hypnotic Press website.

You can also find it on Audible.com.

You can hear a sample on the book trailer in my YouTube channel.

An excerpt from the first chapter is part of another audiobook I’d recommend: Summer Shorts, just released by Tantor Audio. It’s an audio collection of stories, poems and essays from a group of over 40 narrators, the proceeds from which go to ProLiteracy.


My thanks to the Estate of M. Wylie Blanchet for providing the family photographs above.  Reprinted with permission.


A Love Story

In 1979, I fell in love with a guy named Dave.

Yeah, I know–I was a little mystified by this myself.  From the outside, we couldn’t have seemed more different.  I was a prissy English major at the University of Oregon with my eye on academia; he was a science geek at U of O whose only career goal, from what I could tell, was to find a job that would cover rent and beer.

But he invited me out for a cup of coffee, and that was that.

We went on hikes and bike rides.  We watched Star Trek on my little black-and-white TV.  I  followed him on climbing trips (Mt. Whitney, Mt. Hood, Devil’s Tower, Joshua Tree, Smith Rock), where I’d go birdwatching at the base while he and his friends made ascents.

He followed me to the underworld, where he’d find me huddled and shaking, and he’d lead me gently up to the sunlight.

He taught me not to make Visa payments by taking out cash advances on my Visa card.  (I know, right?  Cool tip!)  I taught him that there were more feelings inside of him than just “hungry” and “tired.”  We read sci-fi and played Battlezone and skied and went on more climbing trips.  We stood on our porch in Portland and watched Mt. St. Helens erupt.

I helped him find the courage to apply to medical school (but I kept my day job).  He helped me find the courage to go to drama school.

In 1982, we brought our best and worst selves together and began a marriage.

Plans changed a little:

And again:  

We named our babies Whitney and Logan, after mountains.

And then a blur of diapers in the dryer, Barbies and Lincoln logs, Halloween contraband, puppies, homework, camping trips, pet funerals, and more candles on every cake.  Dave’s schedule was grueling . . .

. . . but he managed to be there to shoulder the baby backpack, find lost chickens, pull blueberries out of noses, patch the roof, attend most recitals . . .

. . . light the coals and flip the burgers, assemble toys from Santa, keep the cars going.

Keep me going.

Whitney and Logan grew up on us:

Dave and I started hiking and skiing more.  We watched Firefly on our new HD TV.  I turned my voice gigs into a business.  Dave built me a recording studio and gave me constant encouragement (but kept his day job).

And suddenly, it’s our 30th anniversary.  Amazing.  So much has changed in our marriage, but some of the most important things haven’t.  We’re still best friends; we still drive each other crazy sometimes; we still make each other laugh.  He’s still my hero.

This evening, we’ll celebrate by hiking up a local peak to eat a picnic dinner and toast the next 30 years.  I’ll make the food and buy the wine, but Dave, as usual, will haul most of it up the trail.

Because that hasn’t changed, either:  I’m still a cheap date, and he still carries the heaviest pack.

Resolutions Fizzling? Fear Not.

It’s that time of year: the old New Year’s resolutions are starting to falter, and people are sliding back into the low self-esteem they felt during Christmas dinners with their families. (Note that I’m managing here to be both presumptuous and a buzz-kill. What can I say? It’s a gift.)

But I learned some encouraging things about the whole resolution thing when I read the book Succeed by Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson. And by “read,” I mean “aloud,” as in: I narrated it for Blackstone Audio last month. (This is why I love narrating nonfiction: I learn such interesting things! Sometimes I even retain what I learn, but that’s a subject for a future blog.)

Halvorson, who’s a social psychologist specializing in motivation and goals, tells us that the government actually keeps track of New Year’s resolutions. I checked out the website she cited, and sure enough, there are the usual suspects in the Top Ten list (stop smoking, lose weight, etc.), with resource links for government pamphlets on how to drag your sorry butt toward achieving them. Halvorson notes that the failure rates for many of these resolutions are stunning (e.g., 85% of smokers fail to quit).

But here’s the encouraging part, and it has to do with radishes. In one study of self-control, hungry college students were presented with two bowls each, of chocolates and raw radishes, and asked (depending on the group) to eat no chocolates and a few radishes or vice-versa. The researchers then asked the students to work on a very difficult puzzle. They found that the group that had been made to eat radishes and avoid chocolate had the least patience and self-control with this new task.

It turns out that self-control is a kind of “muscle.” If you overuse it, you can fatigue it (as the radish-eaters did, which is why they couldn’t stick with the puzzle). But if you do a little every day to pump it up, it gets stronger: for instance, in another study, people who used their non-dominant hands for some tasks every day showed more self-control in general afterwards.

Halvorson’s advice for resolutions (New Year’s and otherwise) include:
• Don’t overload yourself with “willpower” demands, or you’ll fatigue your self-control muscle
• Use incentives (non-food rewards for eating less; money for smoking less)
• Practice a small daily self-control task unrelated to your main goal, and you’ll do better with all your goals

I recommend Halvorson’s fascinating book, and not just because I recorded it. Honestly, read it in print if you want; whatever. But if you opt not to read / listen to the book, you can always go the slacker’s route, as I do: don’t make New Year’s resolutions to begin with! Less failure that way! It defies many wise proverbs and parables, I know, but it sure cleans the slate after the holiday binge.