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Thriving Narrators Retreat

Providing space for Creativity, Business Growth, and Camaraderie for Audiobook Professionals

Nestled in the vibrant heart of Cincinnati, OH, the Thriving Narrators Retreat is a unique opportunity for audiobook narrators of all levels to learn and grow together, alongside producers, coaches, casting directors, and fellow narrators.

Hosted by award-winning narrator and creative entrepreneurship coach Jennifer Jill Araya, the Thriving Narrators Retreat provides four days packed with opportunities for honing your craft, expanding your business, and building relationships within the audiobook community. 

August 22-25, 2024

at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center in Cincinnati, OH


Learn the Craft

The Thriving Narrators Retreat will include ample time to study the craft of audiobook narration, with the guidance of our retreat faculty and the support of your colleagues.

Each of the four days of the retreat will provide focused learning opportunities, including workshops, seminars, masterclasses, and group coaching sessions.

Study the Business

Audiobook narration requires balancing the creative and business sides of your work, often a difficult task.

The Thriving Narrators Retreat is the perfect opportunity to collaborate with your colleagues as you seek to build an audiobook business that works. 

Connect with Your Colleagues

No man is an island, and no audiobook narrator is an island! The audiobook industry is built on the supportive, nurturing relationships between the artists and actors who inhabit the audiobook community.

The Thriving Narrators Retreat allows you to spend time "in real life" with your audiobook colleagues and friends, sharing experiences and building relationships that will help all of us take ownership of our true identity as thriving audiobook professionals. We can do it, together.

Thriving Narrators Retreat Faculty

Jennifer Jill Araya

Award-winning audiobook narrator Jennifer Jill Araya has been listening to audiobooks since she was a young child, and the fact that she now gets to narrate audiobooks for a living is a dream come true. A two-time Audie Award Winner, Earphones Award Recipient, multiple SOVAS Award Winner, American Library Association YALSA Amazing Audiobooks Award Winner, and three-time Independent Audiobook Award Finalist, Jennifer has narrated nearly 400 audiobooks for a variety of publishers and producers, including Penguin Random House Audio, Simon & Schuster Audio, HarperAudio, Blackstone Publishing, and Audible Studios. In addition to narrating books in virtually every genre (and loving every second of it!), Jennifer also coaches other artist business owners, like herself, in creative entrepreneurship within her coaching community, Starving Artist No More. When she’s not narrating, Jennifer can be found hiking, biking, running, or generally exploring her home city of Cincinnati with her husband Arturo (aka “Partner in Crime”).

Arturo Araya

Arturo has always had dual – sometimes competing, sometimes collaborating – passions in both music and technology. After studying Cello Performance at Oberlin Conservatory and the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music, and then performing as Principal Cellist of the Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra in Shenzhen, PRC, Arturo's career took him to the technology sector, where he is currently a tech lead for Fifth Third Bank. Arturo still performs music as a tenured member of the Springfield Symphony, and he also nurtures a parallel vocation as audio engineer. He has engineered over 200 audiobooks, with multiple awards nominations. He is also part of the creative team behind the Crafting Audiobooks and Starving Artist No More podcasts.

Erick Black

After graduating from Full Sail University, Erick Black worked several gigs, including live sound reinforcement, operations at an independent TV Station, and as an audio engineer for a company that manufactures brass bells. Finally, his love of audio and passion for the written word led him to Dreamscape Media where he started recording and directing audiobooks. He has been casting and producing there since 2017 and absolutely loves the work and the audiobook community.

Jennifer Blom

Jennifer Blom is a technical-minded broadway fan and self-proclaimed Reaper Queen. She is also an accomplished narrator, director, engineer, producer, and more. She has her own production company, Reaping Audiobooks. Wearing all of these hats gives her a unique view on the world of audiobooks and the process behind it. Jennifer loves breaking down technical issues into easily digestible nuggets and helping people learn new tricks, all in the name of efficiency and finding joy in tech. She is passionate about using tech to lessen pain points and to unlock creativity.

Lisa Cahn

After an early career in journalism, Lisa stumbled into audio publishing during its early “books-on-tape” days in the mid-90s. She is currently at Hachette Audio, casting and producing nearly 100 titles annually in all genres. Lisa also produces numerous titles for indie authors and small publishers worldwide from Prose Garden Productions, her audiobook studio in New York's Hudson Valley. Lisa is a total word nerd and particularly enjoys discovering and coaching new narrators and directors. Despite being an audio geek, Lisa collects rare print books and ephemera, and in an alternate universe, she is a rare book expert at some fancy auction house somewhere.

Steven Jay Cohen

Steven has been telling stories his whole life; professionally, since 1991. His guiding principle – in all things, serve the story – tends to make his approach bardic in nature, nurturing the magical moment kindled when words are shared mouth to ear. He studied acting with Uta Hagen and F. Murray Abraham, honed his writing while mentored by Allen Ginsberg and Frank McCourt, and learned the intricacies of recording spoken stories under the direction of Isaiah Sheffer at Symphony Space. A bit of a literary magpie, Steven weaves together these diverse influences and experiences, revealing captivating narratives, awakening audiences to new worlds and points of view.

Neil Hellegers

Neil Hellegers is an actor, narrator, and educator who lives in Brooklyn, NYC. He has narrated over 400 audiobooks for PRH, Brilliance, Audio Studios, Harper Audio, Hachette, Spoken Realms, and numerous independent authors, has performed Shakespeare internationally, and can be found playing various bearded professionals on a variety of on-screen projects. Neil was Lead Teaching Artist for the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival Education Program, co-creator of the University of Pennsylvania Summer Theater Institute, and has worked as a teacher and coach for numerous students in the NYC area, including audition monologue preparation and audiobook narration coaching. He has a BA in Theatre Arts & Psychology from UPenn, and an MFA in Acting from Trintity Rep Conservatory.

Marni Penning

Award-winning actress Marni Penning has been onstage since age 8, and is also a playwright, children's book illustrator, acting coach, and founder of The Penning Method for the Panicked Actor. Marni lives with her husband, son, dog, fish, and chickens outside Washington, DC. She also co-founded Cincinnati Shakespeare Company (playing over 35 roles there, including Juliet, Kate, Rosalind, Beatrice, & Hamlet). She received the Best Young Adult Audiobook 2021 honor from the Independent Audiobook Awards, was a nominee for Best Female Narrator, won a SOVAS award in 2020, & was nominated in 2022. Her grandmother's blindness got her into recording audiobooks for the Library of Congress, and in addition to her 200 titles on Audible, she has recorded over 350 titles for GraphicAudio (for whom she is an accent and character voice specialist), and over 450 articles for the news app Curio. She now records commercial audiobooks in her broadcast-quality home studio, and posts daily to her thousands of followers on TikTok.

Jonathan Pennock

Jonathan Pennock is an award-winning Audiobook Producer and Director for Brilliance Publishing with over 10 years of experience across all levels of production. Starting out as an engineer recording some of the top voices in the industry, Jonathan grew to love the process and was determined to get more involved with directing, casting, and production. He has worked with a wide range of talent from novice to celebrity, and has experience coaching and directing authors for narration. He has a passion for collaborating with authors and performers to help tell the best possible story in audio. When he’s not absorbed in a gritty Southern Gothic, he loves spending time with his wife, 2 dogs, and his distressing hockey teams.

Amy Rubinate

Amy Rubinate is the owner of Mosaic Audio, an award-winning Los Angeles production company that has produced thousands of audiobooks for major publishers. Amy regularly directs pro narrators, authors and celebrities, and is Mosaic's Casting Director. She has narrated over 300 audiobooks and received multiple awards and distinctions including AudioFile Earphones Awards, Booklist Editor’s Choice Media, Top 10 Historical Fiction, AudioFile Best Romance, and YALSA Amazing Audiobooks. Amy earned an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University. Her first graphic novel, Kate and the City of Fire, was released in 2023, and her second, Annie and the Unsinkable Ship, comes out in 2024.

Gail Shalan

Gail Shalan is a storyteller based in NYC. She holds an MFA in Acting from the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and has worked in both the U.S. and U.K. in theatre, film, and voice over. Her narration has garnered praise from The School Library Journal, Library Journal, Vulture Magazine, BookRiot, Audiofile Magazine, has been noted as both Apple Books & New York Times Must-Listens, and she was listed as a 2023 Voice to Know by Audiofile Magazine. As a teacher and consultant, she’s taught various elements of audiobook narration as a guest lecturer at New York University, Boston University, and the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. She has appeared on panels at APAC and VO Atlanta, and taught at the inaugural Audiobookin’ in Andover. She loves to empower others to step into the driver’s seat of their careers and their creativity, to be the main characters of their own stories.

The Details

Date & Time: 

Thursday through Sunday, August 22-25, 2024.

Retreat activities will begin at 5:00pm ET on Thursday, and will last through 6:00pm ET on Sunday. 

Retreat Faculty: 

The Thriving Narrators Retreat Faculty is an accomplished group of audiobook narrators, coaches, and casting professionals. We are all excited to share our time and expertise with you!

The Faculty includes Jennifer Jill Araya, Arturo Araya, Erick Black, Jennifer Blom, Lisa Cahn, Steven Jay Cohen, Neil Hellegers, Marni Penning, Jonathan Pennock, Amy Rubinate, and Gail Shalan.

Health and Safety: 

We take it as a given that, as audiobook narrators (and as human beings), our health is vitally important. We will have N-95 and surgical face masks available for everyone who chooses to wear one, HEPA air filters in each event room, and a red-yellow-green lanyard system so attendees can indicate their comfort with physical closeness. We also ask that all attendees take Covid tests prior to travel and submit a photo of their negative tests. (Details of how to do this will be made available to all attendees prior to the retreat.)


All retreat activities will take place in the brand new Clifton Cultural Arts Center, or CCAC, located at 3412 Clifton Ave, Cincinnati, OH 45220 in the heart of Cincinnati's vibrant and bohemian Clifton neighborhood.


Lodging for retreat attendees is available at the Graduate Hotel, a walkable 1 mile from the CCAC. We will also be providing shuttles between the hotel and CCAC at key points during each day of the retreat for those who prefer not to walk. 

To take advantage of the hotel's group pricing for the retreat, follow this link

**Please note that since retreat activities will last through the entire day on Sunday, August 25, we recommend that you plan to depart Cincinnati on Monday morning, August 26.**

Retreat attendees are responsible for making their own hotel reservations. The hotel cost is not included in the retreat participation fee. We encourage attendees to share rooms with their audiobook friends and colleagues to reduce cost.

Retreat Fee: $1,397, which includes ...

  • Four focused days of audiobook learning, entrepreneurship coaching, and relationship building, guided by our incredible Retreat Faculty. 

  • Catered hors d'oeuvres during Thursday's opening celebration.

  • Catered light breakfast Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

  • Catered box lunch Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Register Now

Thriving Narrators Retreat DEI Scholarship

We are thrilled to announce the Thriving Narrators Retreat DEI Scholarship. This scholarship will provide one (1) full scholarship and three (3) half scholarships. The goal of this scholarship is to provide narrators from historically marginalized, underserved, and underrepresented communities the opportunity to participate in the Thriving Narrators Retreat. 

Scholarship applications must be submitted by 11:59pm PT on Sunday, April 21, 2024. Scholarship recipients will be notified by Friday, April 26, 2024. Scholarship recipients must accept or decline the scholarship no later than May 3, 2024.


Apply for the Thriving Narrators Retreat DEI Scholarship