Austin Bunn's audiobook wins spoken word 'Oscar'


“The Brink,” an audiobook of short stories by Austin Bunn, associate professor in performing and media arts (PMA), was honored June 1 at the 2017 Audie Awards in New York City as the winner in the short stories/collections category. The “Oscars of spoken word entertainment” are given out by the Audio Publishers Association.

The written version of “The Brink” was published in 2015. The collection’s stories focus on themes of large-scale change and transformation. The audiobook was released last year and features the voices of Bunn and others.

“I have been a longtime lover of podcasts and audiobooks, so I was excited by this opportunity,” Bunn said. “I was really proud of our work, and for our little project to be recognized by this institution is a big honor.” Other nominees in Bunn’s category included “The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke” and “East, West” by Salman Rushdie.

Bunn has past experience producing works for audio. His monologue, “Basement Story,” won the Missouri Review Audio Essay Prize and is included as a bonus track on “The Brink” audiobook.

“Many of the stories in ‘The Brink’ are monologue-oriented, so they respond well to being read aloud,” Bunn said. For example, “How to Win an Unwinnable War” is told from the perspective of a 13-year-old boy in a “gifted and talented” summer class on nuclear war that turns his family upside down. A young couple’s idyllic beach honeymoon is interrupted by terrorism in “Getting There and Away.” And when an immersive video game begins turning off in “Griefer,” an obsessive player falls in love with a mysterious player in the final hours of a world.

The Brink

Bunn said making the audiobook opened his eyes to a new process: selecting narrators, recording his story at a studio in New York City, and choosing and creating original music to transition between the stories. He wrote one of the musical pieces himself using GarageBand and used others created by his brother and cousin.

“I feel like the world of media production – the art form of speech in podcasting and broadcasting – is exploding,” he said. Audiobook company Audible is hiring playwrights to produce one- or two-person plays, a project that intrigues Bunn, and he said he would like to teach an audio drama class in the future in PMA.

Kathy Hovis is a writer for the College of Arts and Sciences.

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Rebecca Valli