Pretty much everything talks to you these days, from your audiobook to your company phone tree to the voice mail prompt for your password.

Someone, somewhere, records all of them. 

"We're everywhere, we little voiceover people," quipped Matilda Novak of Albany.

Novak, daughter of Joseph and Matilda Novak of Novak's Hungarian Restaurant, has been doing professional voiceover work for more than 25 years. Earlier this month, she was nominated for a Voice Arts Award, the Society of Voice Arts and Sciences' highest possible honor and the equivalent of an actor's Oscar.

Novak was nominated for Best Voiceover in the 2017 Voice Arts Award for a novel called, "Just Look Up," by Two Words Publishing, in the category of Audiobook Narration: Inspirational/Faith-based Fiction.

She didn't win, but she did get a trip Nov. 5 to the Lincoln Center in New York City for the awards ceremony. And once she saw the competition, she said, she was fine with a loss.

British actor Brian Blessed, who did the voiceover work for "The Cat of Bubastes" by Heirloom Audio Productions, took home the trophy that night. "I checked out all of their work, and it is stellar," Novak said. 

Novak said she was too nervous to take a picture during the ceremony, so she left that to Suzanne Stalick Vucovich, a dear friend who accompanied her to the event.

"My hands were like ice," she recalled. "At that point, I hadn't researched my competition. If I had, I would have stayed home." 

It might be nice to be declared one of the winners someday — "Those statues are so pretty," she mused — but just knowing someone recognized and appreciated her work is enough for now, Novak said.

"I still love everything I do," she said.

Novak was born in Southern California and is close with cousins, an aunt and other family and friends who still live there. She was 8 when the family moved to Oregon, but always knew someday she'd go back.

Novak graduated from West Albany High School and enrolled at what was then Western Oregon State College (now a university), with the intent of becoming a teacher. She loved working with students, but a tough experience during her student teaching time changed her mind about a full-time career.

Novak had done plays and musicals in both high school and college and really enjoyed her time onstage. "I thought, maybe I'll just go do that other thing that's crazy and insane — which was studying acting," she said.

At Regent University in Virginia in the late 1980s, where Novak studied drama and communication for her master's degree in communication, a professor noted her diction, "good ear" and abilities with oral interpretation. He suggested she try voiceover work. 

"At the time, I didn't know what it was," she recalled.

She didn't pursue any opportunities in that direction until 1992, when she was back in Albany and had the opportunity to do a real estate show for a cable company in Corvallis.

She tried doing some voiceover work in Portland for a time, then decided to return to California. She moved to Los Angeles in 1996 and stayed for the next 19 years.

Novak began by volunteering for the Braille Insitution. In spring 2000, she auditioned for her first voiceover book, a short story collection called "Interpreter of Maladies," over the phone and was very surprised to find, after her acceptance, that she would be recording the work in a closet.

"It's not like that anymore," she said with a smile. Now, she said, she has her own portable sound studio.

In her time in California, Novak's work included radio, television, animation, audiobooks, documentaries, business narration, and even the interactive voice responses you might hear when being prompted on the phone to enter your choice for the company phone tree.

Her work can be heard on the "Interpreter of Maladies" audiobook, stocked by the Albany Public Library, or via the samples on her website, matildanovak.com.

Books — Novak estimates she's done close to 20 — are her favorite. However, she's quick to note, "There's never been anything I've done that I haven't enjoyed." 

She's never done a video game, but figures there's a good reason. The industry prefers its voiceover professionals to act out the movements as they record. 

"I can act my pants off with my voice, but not physically," she said, laughing.

Novak returned to the mid-valley in June 2015 to be closer to her immediate family and to her twin, Karen. She still keeps close ties with Los Angeles, including her church there, Hollywood Presbyterian, but said it has become easier in recent years to do voiceover work almost anywhere. 

She learned about the award nomination from a message from Claton Butcher at Two Words Publishing. Her first reaction: "There must be some mistake." 

The visit to Lincoln Center was incredible, Novak said: very much the same red-carpet treatment enjoyed by Academy Award nominees.

She was honored to re-meet actress Lily Tomlin, a nominee in a separate category, and talk to her about the time they'd first met: Tomlin had offered her own AAA card when Novak's car broke down following Tomlin's show in Portland. And she picked up a business card from John Fornoff of Heirloom Audio, whose company took the top award in her category that night.

Novak is working on a "government gig" coming up, and continues to audition for other work. 

And while someday she'd like to be back at the Voice Arts awards ceremony, she's fine with having gone at least once.

"This particular thing was so nice of God," she said. "I got to have some fun." 

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