Taking New Risks: The Sound of My Voice

This week I did something I’ve never done before; I recorded the Preface and Epilogue of my memoir for an audio book. I’m comfortable with public speaking, but recording in my friend, Melanie’s studio was different. Unlike the speaking I’ve done, this recording will live on, captured in audio files for people who aren’t in front of me. In the past, when I’ve heard my voice on a recording, I’d say to myself, “That doesn’t sound like me,”  (I thought it sounded like my cousin, but I won’t say which one!)

Melanie’s husband, Jeff, who worked at the controls and is a veteran sound editor, told me that nobody likes to hear their voice recorded. I didn’t give him my particular defense of why I have felt self-conscious, about the comments people have made about my Southern accent (see post-Southern Drawl). Even with feeling on edge, part of me wishing I didn’t need to do the recording, I relaxed some knowing that I was in the company of friends. I’ve known Melanie for over twenty years and when I’ve been around Jeff, he has a quiet kindness that puts me at ease.

Melanie’s a voice over-talent and the leader of our Triangle Writers Group. I’m delighted that she’s doing the narration of my memoir, He Heard My Voice. She’s been with me through the life-changing events described in my book and has critiqued every chapter. I feel so fortunate to have my talented friend work with me on this project and I didn’t want to disappoint her with my performance.

Before I started recording, Melanie helped me to understand the set up– where I’d stand, how I’d pause between pages, directions she’d give me from behind the door. There was baffling, or materials to deflect extranous noises in my recording area: foam where I spoke into the microphone, curtains and rugs on the walls and floor. All of this was new for me but everyday for Melanie.

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We worked our way through my recording in the hour that we’d scheduled. I felt satisfied when I left that I’d done my best. I remembered back to my solo journey to Iona, Scotland. There, I’d vowed to let go of some of my self-consciousness in order to move forward and be all I was created to be.

Our retreat leader had stood with us on the shore of Iona Sound and directed us to pick a rock that represented a weight we carried. After considering the burden of what we carried, we were to throw it into the water. My burden had been my self-consciousness, my perfectionism and I remember the “thunk” of my rock hitting the water. Soon after that, I had the opportunity to test out my new self and it had to do with not worrying about how I looked or sounded. (see post- Things You Leave Behind)

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Iona Sound where I’d left that rock

Now, I think that I’m making progress by letting go, following through with the audio recording in spite of my discomfort.

The point of me reading the Preface and Epilogue is to introduce my readers/listeners to my Southern voice, while Melanie’s trained voice does the majority of the work. I practiced before our recording session and decided to share with you a portion of the Preface.

Since I’m letting go of my self-consciousness, I’m not going to worry that this was done after a day of keeping my grandson, when like the recording of me at Iona, I hadn’t had time to “brush my hair or freshen up.”

I’m taking a risk, putting it out there, and praying in this–as in all things, that God will bless my efforts and the desires of my heart. May it be so for you, too!

 

 

How About You?

What do you need to let go of in order to be all you were created to be?

What risk do you need to take?

Referenced posts:

Things You Leave Behind

Southern Drawl

Looking Back, Looking Forward

We’re in that period of the year that feels like suspended time, hanging between the current year and approaching the new one, taking those uncertain steps toward the future. The constant t.v. and radio reminders of the year in review—whether it’s political changes, deaths of famous people, sports records– keep us focused on what feels like a blur that happened too fast to take in, leaving me asking, “What day is it? What year is it?”

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Searching heron on Gulf Coast of Florida #solojourney2018

When I steady myself and look back at 2018, one of my new activities was becoming a Podcast listener. Less than two years ago, when my coworker told me about a podcast he produced, I thought that’s for ‘younger people’ the Gen Xers like my coworker, or the younger, Millennials. But once I got hooked on the true-crime podcast, “Up and Vanished,” I was in. When I decided after my writing conference in May to go Indie with publishing my memoir, a friend recommended podcasts focused on non-traditional publishing. Now, at the end of the year, I listen to many and consider that content as part of my self-education in publishing. I am one of ‘them’ who listens regularly to podcasts.

Last week on my fifty-minute drive home from visiting Mama at the nursing home, I heard an episode by Christina Canters, a business and communications coach out of Australia. In her show, “Stand Out Get Noticed,” she was looking at what she’d accomplished in 2018, what mistakes she’d made and how she learned from them, and what her goals are for 2019. Besides her lovely Aussie accent and feeling connected to her international community, it helped to hear someone else’s perspective of how to sort through the past and prepare for the future.

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Since listening to her podcast three days ago, I’ve been going through the areas she covered, thinking about my life. Join me as I tell you what I came up with and consider these questions for yourself—Reflective Questions coming during the post instead of at the end.

What did I/you accomplish in 2018?

For me, the thing I accomplished was completion of my memoir. At first, incorporating the professional edits and corrections felt like more than I could do. When I received my 210 pages marked with track changes from my developmental editor, I thought, “How in the world am I going to go back (after so many times of rewriting already) and make all those changes?”

I had to step back for a few days to build up my energy and resolve for that task. There was no way but through. Like I do with all my writing, I prayed that God would give me what I needed to complete the task. There were ‘people in my path’ to support me along the way.

What were the mistakes I/you made in 2018 and how did I/you learn from them?

Well, this one would take a while to cover, more than the usual word count for my posts! Of course some of the mistakes were private ones, usually ways I came up short in relationships—that ongoing thread of life of learning through each interaction and making corrections as you go. But as far as my writing business, I made the mistake of focusing on increasing social media numbers with Twitter when I should have been more focused on my email subscriber list. I know this won’t make sense to those who aren’t working on ‘building a platform’ as they say an author should do—especially before that book is published.

My action was based on the direction of a Literary Agent that I was hoping to get a contract with that ultimately didn’t work out. While I have received benefits from engaging on Twitter, I listened closely when one podcaster said she had 10K Twitter followers and that had made minimal impact on her book discoverability and sales. Now I’m working on following the advice of Indie publishing podcasters for engaging in what is best for me.

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What is my/your goal for 2019 and what will you need to reach that goal?

Well, I guess mine’s pretty obvious—publish my memoir, He Heard My Voice: A Midlife Mom’s Journey through Cancer and Stress and Her Unexpected Arrival at Healing and Wholeness. I know that subtitle is a mouthful, but it really does describe the content of the book and was the gracious gift of that Literary Agent from Denver. I wrote about him in the post, “Unless You’re Famous.” I have been working on this book for around ten years and have been praying about the timing for publication. I do believe the time is now and my prayer is for it to be published in Spring of 2019.

What do I/you need to reach your goal?

I need to remain steadfast and focused, balancing my life and cutting out any clutter that gets in the way of reaching this goal. But I can’t do it alone; I need you. My readers help me by keeping me going when I want to stop. They encourage me to stay the course with their prayers and their comments that let me know my writing has made a difference in their lives. My readers help when they tell others about my writing and they discover me.

When I make public my goal I’m taking a risk and if I don’t reach it, I could feel embarrassed, like I’m a failure. But by letting you know that I need your help to realize my goal, I feel that I have a team of support.

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Bike ride at Coquina Beach, March 2018

How about you? Are you willing to let others know your goal and ask them for their support? Will you allow yourself to be vulnerable and trust that you can count on them to be on your team?

My prayer for you as you are suspended in this transition time between 2018 and 2019, is that you are listening to the desires of your heart, making a goal that is truly what you want to accomplish, and asking others for what you need.

May you look back on 2018 with gratefulness and humility and look forward to 2019 with hope and fullness of heart, knowing that you will have what you need to accomplish your goal.

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Gulf Coast Sunrise #solojourneyFlorida

 

Referenced Post

Unless You’re Famous

Solo Journey: Dream Destination

In last week’s blog post, I told about how a Literary Agent set me on a Solo Journey of Indie Publishing. I knew my dream destination—publication of my memoir, but I felt hesitant to take the first step forward. Like when I approach my yearly solo journeys– the destination is determined but there is uncertainty with how to start. Before each journey, I feel resistance to crossing the threshold of the safety of the known in order to enter the unknown world.

 With my yearly pilgrimages, I’ve developed a pattern of asking the question, “Where should I go this year, God?” and then wait to see what comes forth. After that, it works best to take some action, even though it might not follow a logical order—just move forward on the path and the clues for what to do next will appear. After meeting with the Literary Agent, I took a couple of weeks to consider things and then decided to hire the professional editor that I met at the conference.

When she sent back my manuscript with her remarks, she started her email with, “Don’t be overwhelmed with all these comments. It’s a lot and more than anyone can handle at once. Just work your way through them one at a time.” She was right; I’d never received editorial notes for 210 pages at one time. At first I said to myself, “I can’t do this.” Her edits came the day we were leaving for the beach. I’d deal with them when we returned.

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Forgetting the edits at Emerald Isle, N.C.

I took the next month to make the needed changes. As an Indie Author, I was the boss and would set my own pace.  Like traveling solo, I had no one else to answer to, no need to negotiate how to approach the journey. Doing the rewrites for my memoir was a big task. There were days I’d say to myself, “Keep your butt in this chair and stick with it.” I’d look out my window and see other people enjoying summer and it felt like I was being forced inside to do my homework. But then I’d remember that I chose this and was intentionally moving forward on the path toward my dream.

Further down that path, it was time to hire a cover design artist. Several people at the conference recommended the company 99designs. You submit your request in the form of starting a contest with their international artist community. After you write your brief telling about your story and give details that will help a designer, you wait for proposals to come in. You have a narrow window of time for giving them feedback, asking for preliminary changes, and deciding on the finalists. I wasn’t sure about the process but it was the best option that I had.

The proposals I received in the first twenty-four hours were disappointing. I wondered if using that company was a mistake. There are times on my trips when I feel uncertain, and at times, foolish, afraid that I’m going to make a mistake, especially when it comes to time and money. But after forty-eight hours, I received two proposals that were much closer to what I had in mind. Over that week, I went back-and-forth with an artist in Madrid. With the time difference between Spain and the East Coast of the U.S., I had to pay close attention to the ticking clock of the contest. There were moments I felt uncomfortable with making such an important decision, since a book jacket helps to show your story and to attract readers. But like working through those edits, I’d think about the options, pray, take a walk and sort through the pros and cons. I called on several people who’ve read my book to weigh in on the proposed jacket.

The main issue came with the image of the woman on the cover—the one depicting me at forty-five sitting by Oak Creek in Sedona. After I’d had the artist change the image several times, I still felt hesitant but couldn’t put my finger on the problem.

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I went to bed knowing I had to give the final okay by the following day. I woke up at 3:30 and the woman’s image– sitting on the rock looking at the water, came to mind. Staring at my alarm clock, it occurred to me what was wrong.

Her hair has to look like post-chemo hair, I thought. The woman’s long hair was what I wished I had back then, but was far from the short, curly locks that grew in after treatment. I couldn’t offend my readers, who like me, didn’t take hair for granted after losing it.

I got out of bed and sent an email to the designer. It would be 8:30 in Madrid and she may have time to make the change while I went back to sleep.

Later that morning, I checked for the artist’s response and felt pleased with her new image, the figure with enough hair to show a woman’s silhouette but not the long hair with a flip that didn’t ring true for my story.

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A portion of the cover of my memoir, He Heard My Voice

My solo journey to my dream destination has taken me on a path through edits, and cover designs and other discoveries. There are more challenges ahead. Like my yearly pilgrimages, I will continue to put one foot in front of the other, uncertain of how to walk each section but depending on God and the people in my path to help me.

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How About You?

What is the Dream Destination for your Solo Journey?

What obstacles or challenges might you encounter?

What supports do you have to help you walk through each section of your journey?

 

Gather Yourself: Lessons in Scotland

After all the dreaming, planning, and praying, I’m now at the threshold of Iona,” I wrote in my journal a year ago as I looked across the white-capped-waters of the sound toward the stone buildings of the Abbey. I’d made it to the village of Fionnphort in the Inner Hebrides, where I’d booked a room for two nights at the Seaview Bed and Breakfast, to rest and prepare for my week living at Iona Abbey. It was my solo journey, my yearly spiritual pilgrimage, but this time, it was to a historic pilgrimage site, my first trip to Scotland.

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Seaview Bed and Breakfast, Mull, Scotland

I was glad that after my arrival on Thursday afternoon, I would have until Saturday at 3:00 before I would join the forty others from around the world for our week together. We would live in that faith-seeking community and explore The Pilgrimage of Life– our theme for the week with our leader, Alistair McIntosh, a native of the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.

Any doubt about whether I’d selected the best lodging was immediately dismissed when I met John and Jane Noddings, the owners and hosts at the B & B. John, who referred to himself as the ‘chatty’ one, showed me around and introduced me to Jane, who was in the kitchen cooking dinner.

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John, the ‘chatty’ one

That first night, I was so tired and her meal of lamb and potatoes nourished me and warmed the chill that had stayed with me since the ferry. John, who’d formerly been a fisherman, gave me helpful information to make my stay easier– like how the strong currents could shut down the ferry to Iona that was just a ten-minute trip across the sound.

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It was as delicious as it looks!

That first meal, I had the dining room to myself as the other guests had not arrived. How I savored those bites, looking out across the water, watching the vanishing light over Iona. I wasn’t able to post my pictures last year because I had so many problems getting wifi in that remote area. But I’ll make up for it now and share them with you.

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It was nice to sit in the quiet. I’d just come from Edinburgh where my husband and I had finished our trip together that had included Paris, London, and a day trip into the Scottish Highlands. Seaview B & B provided me a place to restore my energy before becoming part of a group for a week. It would give me time to gather myself, to pull in before I spread out– experiencing the dynamic growth of living and learning from a new community.

Looking back, that was a perfect plan.

How many other times in my life should I have recognized the need to fuel up, to allow for an intentional transition in order to be ready for what was ahead?

My usual practice was to keep going and not slow down. But having that time to see the threshold, that place of crossing from what is known to the unknown–like what has been experienced by pilgrims over the ages, helped me to mentally, physically, and emotionally prepare for that week that was life-changing.

After dinner those evenings at Fionnphort, I walked around the village.  How peaceful it was in the quiet of that small community on the western shores of Scotland.

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On the banks of Fionnphort

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View of ferry dock at Fionnphort

On my ferry ride from Oban to Craignure, where I then boarded a bus like the red one in the photo, I decided to make my first video while on a solo journey. But when the time came to post it, I chickened out, always a bit self-conscious about being filmed, about the sound of my own voice. Well, it’s time to let go of that.

While the day was sunny, I was not use to the dampness and wind, that I would learn was ever-present on the coast of Scotland. By the end of my ferry ride, I was chilly in spite of my layers of clothing. Seeing this video, lets me relive that Thursday afternoon last September.

 

As I anticipated joining the group on that Saturday, several questions pressed in on me. I wrote them in my journal:  “What will it be like to live in a community for a week? How will I fit in? How will I manage without an ‘escape route’ like I have with my trips in the States?”

I waited and prayed on the banks of Fionnphort and asked God to bless me and the people in my path in the week ahead.

Next time, I’ll tell you how God answered my prayer, how He Heard My Voice.

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How about You?

What times in your life have you been at the threshold of a life-changing event?

Were you able to take the time to Gather Yourself, to pull in and fuel up, allowing for an intentional transition so you would be ready to receive the benefits of what was ahead?

Posts from the trip before I arrived at Iona

Scotland Calling

Paris Can’t Wait

Tea at Two