Guest Post: “You Survived”

This guest post was written in response to workshops that Hilary ran at the YSEALI conference in Singapore this past December. 


YouSurvivedDo you remember [a student] who had “stage fright” during the commitment presentation? At that time, It was hard for her to catch her breath and calm down. Every time she looked at the audience, she became nervous again. So, she forgot what to say and what to explain. Even though she was done presenting her plan that time, she still had goosebumps and was unable to breath normally until….

“You Survived.”

Two words that came out from your mouth.
To her.

Magically, those two words calmed her down and she was able to see things clearly (before she went up to the stage). (more…)

Guest Post – Don’t Let That Microphone Give You The Blues

Double Speak by Hilary Blair of ARTiculate: Real&ClearA microphone, colloquially mic or mike (/ˈmk/),[1] is an acoustic-to-electric transducer or sensor that converts sound in air into an electrical signal.

Thanks, Wikipedia! Now what do we really need to know? Let’s get down to the nitty gritty.

My name is Doug – I am a sound guy. I know a lot about sound and have made a living reproducing it as a live and recording studio sound engineer for almost 30 years. I have been on tour with international musical acts, worked on Grammy nominated recordings and been a moving part in some of the biggest and best technological productions that are happening today. Through these experiences, I discovered that the one thing that can stop even the greatest performance… is improper microphone usage.

As speakers, you are now performers. You will be using the same exercises and techniques that any million-dollar celebrity has learned, projecting the presence that TMZ can’t wait to hook.

As with all great successes, there will inevitably come guaranteed fails. I am hoping to prepare you for the pitfalls of live audio, so you can confidently go into your session, and speak in appropriate terms with the basic knowledge needed to communicate with even the most jaded hotel “professional technician”. (more…)

Let’s Be Honest: Listening to Our Voice Can Keep it Real

Honest Voice by Stevie CaldarolaI’ve always thought of myself as an honest person.

When I first signed up for a Voice & Speech class, I admit that part of my motivation stemmed from the whiff of theater cachet.

My family has a multi-generational love affair with the theater, with several relatives taking to the stage in their school and university days and afterwards, and one of them going on to complete both a BFA and MFA degree.  Three are working professionally in the theater right now.  My family took us to shows regularly as I was growing up — an advantage to living so close to New York City.  I had a great time.  To me, theater = fun: the joy of words, the transformation of lives, even for only an hour.

Of course, I couldn’t let myself take a Voice class purely for fun reasons, so I quickly found a professional cover for my interest.  I am a member of Toastmasters, the leadership and communication organization, and could see how a closer look at voice and speech would fit well with my agenda of becoming a better speaker.  I’m a freelance writer, you see, and in order to help earn our living, sometimes we have to speak, too.

There. Practicality: done.

Since I’m now on my fourth Voice & Speech class, it’s time to admit that neither of these reasons still holds water.  Actually, when I say them I am, well… lying.

I keep coming back to working on Voice because it has been the single most powerful way for me to be honest.  Which has been the single most powerful way for me to access my work.

Let me explain.

Most writers have to learn a painful lesson about what happens to our writing when, in the process of writing, we avoid topics or details or feelings that are uncomfortable, embarrassing, painful and/or self-revelatory.  Our writing starts to blow Big Donkey Chunks (BDC).

There is absolutely no variation to this rule.  Writers of fiction and of non-fiction, sci-fi and memoir and YA, are all equally handicapped.

If there is a topic or a truth which is uncomfortable and real, and I try to go around it, because either a) I’m worried about making my audience uncomfortable, or more often, b) I don’t want to be uncomfortable myself… that evasion is the equivalent of coming behind an opponent and slicing along his hamstring with my sword.  I am hamstringing the work.  From that point forward, all it will be able to do is limp and struggle for balance.  Sure, it can stand where it is, and look as big as it did before, but try giving it one good shove.  It will topple over sooner than an ice cream cone in hot weather.  And it smells.  BDC really smells.

To be honest, being honest is uncomfortable.  Being honest means giving people access.

Guess how excited we writers are by this.

The expression “find your voice” has a comfortable seat at the table of writerly aphorisms.  We use it as a metaphor in writing all of the time.  “Finding our voice” is finding what is unique to us as a writer, the weird and untranslatable combination of style and word choice, grammar and sensibility, characters and themes.

Voice is when you pick up a work by someone and you can recognize immediately who it is.  You know, even if you don’t know their name, if you’ve read anything else by this person before.  You know Stephen King if you’ve read him before, even if the story is different.  You know Barbara Kingsolver.  You know Temple Grandin or Dave Barry immediately, the way they carry themselves with their words.

If writing fails if it’s not honest and honesty means giving people access, then writing can only succeed by giving people access — to me, to the tender underbelly of what I really feel and believe, unprotected by the quills of my outward identity.

I started taking Voice because I wanted to get in touch with my writer’s voice.  I wanted to tap into the creativity that was mine alone, which I couldn’t get from mimicking anybody else or providing content for anybody else.  The scary and beautiful thing was that Voice unlocked a part of myself, one which I hadn’t realized existed and therefore didn’t know how inaccessibly I’d buried it.  This part of me was big and muscular and emotional, and didn’t take too well to being told to go back to sleep once I roused it out of its long period of latency and night.

Honesty caused earthquakes.

For me, “voice” as a writer is not a metaphor.  For me it’s a physical thing.  The two actually touch — my vocal cords, and my writing.  The one releases the other.

As soon as I brushed up against Honesty, I knew exactly when I was lying.  My voice betrayed me.  It betrays me on the page, and it betrays me in person.

Beyond that, my voice identifies me.  And isn’t that what we all want — to be recognized?

But nobody is going to recognize us if we’re always in disguise.  They’re not going to recognize our message, either.  Writing isn’t the only thing that fails if we’re not honest.

Where is your voice betraying you?

Alexandra O’Connell
Artwork by Stevie Caldarola 

“Alexandra has been a storyteller and a lover of stories all her life. She works as a freelance writer and editor serving  creative small businesses and solo professionals in support of their story. You can find her on the web at www.alexoconnell.com.”

We had an amazing voice intern, we asked her to blog about her experience and wow, thanks Kelci!

This past August, I had my first last day of school ever as a Speech Language Hearing Sciences student on a very sunny Monday (I remember because I would have much rather been outside). I walked into the classroom of my Senior Seminar with summer still on my mind and out the door an hour later and with every step I took sand, sun, and beach bodies slipped farther away from my reality as a full-time student. Not too soon after that, I was assigned an internship with ARTiculate: Real and Clear, which replaced some of the fun summer had to offer.

Being an intern is more than just providing premium quality slave labor for a passing grade, although some of my classmates in Senior Seminar who were stuck in clinical settings might disagree. I was lucky enough to work under Ms. Hilary Blair: Voice coach professional extraordinaire. She has been one of the most charismatic and empathetic mentors I have encountered both in life’s travels and in a professional setting. Hilary encourages individuality and a loving relationship with our voices. I had only ever observed Speech Pathologists working with children at schools or with the elderly at hospitals, so I was more than excited after my initial meeting with Hilary when she told me I was going to be not only observing, but also participating in her Voice For Actors class every Thursday evening.

All of a sudden I was thrown out of my comfort zone in this new world and this weird sense of competitiveness came out from deep within me. Hilary encouraged this internal desire for a great stage voice… for what? It didn’t matter! I was going to be requested for Broadway after they heard my booming voice coming from stage room #8. My classmates were encouraging; all there attempting to fulfill dreams of their own as Hilary served as their conductor. I stood witness as small squeaky voices prove they could be big, powerful, and demanding of attention. I watched as monotone professionals transformed into full, aligned, characters expressing themselves through hard-hit consonants and rounded vowels, exploring the emotion connected to language available for their audience. Dropping in to character is something that takes so much talent- I am thankful for people that can let go and become their emotions. It is a magical process. Hilary was a perfect mentor as she paired the empathetic practices of voice therapy to the scientific routine I have been lectured on during my undergraduate studies. I witnessed how someone who had voice problems as a youngster come back and find a passion for it. I saw that passion pour into her clients as she encouraged and shared a part of herself with all of them. She was a friend and a boss.

I am most thankful for the experience of training with someone who understands how it feels to experience difficulty with her instrument-her voice. As a student of speech and hearing science, I would consider progressive treatment methods as useful tools to get in touch and better manage the speech system. However, the voice- the authenticity and truthfulness, which Hilary searches for in every voice she works with, has been overlooked in the clinical treatment of speech. Experiencing individuals in a range of experience and paths of life come to work with Hilary to connect and come to love their voice was powerful.

Thank you for this opportunity, ARTiculate team! And a warm, Happy Holidays to all!

Sincerely,

Kelci Newlin
Fall Semester Intern 2013