Sunday, June 15, 2014

Making a Career with my Words

Usually when I assess my career goals I end up with the same goal: I want to make a career with my words. There is something exciting about manipulating words on the page (or screen) that I love. The more people I talk to people who make a living writing, the more possible my dreams become.

I find my research as a student often leads into research in life. My interest in interviews as a medium for crafting the Slave Narratives and as a source for gathering information complements my interests in crafting narratives through interviews in my career. It's only natural that my interest in words would mingle old traditions with newer ones and lead me to want to use my voice both on the page and on the mic. 

Which came first?

When I was a teenager, my friend Alicia and I decided we were going to be rappers. We didn't say we wanted to try to be rappers, just that we were going to be rappers. Our manager was a good friend, Peace. She didn't know much about the music industry but Peace is a natural advocate. If there was any negotiation involved, we needed her on our side. 

We found a studio in Philadelphia and when we rehearsed our lines, we went to make a demo. 

"What track is this going to?"The engineer asked.

It turns out we weren't prepared. We thought it was his job to find out about music, copyrights and anything else we needed to know. 

He popped in some generic music and we put rhyme to beat. In the almost 20 years since making that demo I've listened to it probably once. 

One day we decided we were no longer rappers.

Since then I have worked as an accidental professional voice-over artist and now I want to do it on purpose.  Crafting a career with my words can include on the page and on the mic. A few weeks ago I went to a studio to make a professional demo. Before arriving the producer asked me to find four types of scripts and to practice them. I went to the studio much more prepared than I did in the past and so far, I've listened to the demo three times. Now to send it out.

Want to listen? Here it is courtesy of VoiceOvers-UK

Thursday, June 12, 2014

My TEDx Tips: What I Learned in My TEDx Talk


A few months ago, I was nominated to give a TEDx talk at Lancaster University.   I had watched TED speakers engage, entertain and enlighten audiences for years. The opportunity to present a talk on a platform I admired was as exciting as I imagine it will be to be listed on the New York Times Best Seller’s list.

 It wasn’t until my nomination was approved and I was offered the opportunity to speak that my excitement turned in to something as close to panic as I get.

What would I talk about?

While I was pursuing my Master’s at Johns Hopkins I attended a class in Florence, Italy.  I was writing a novel at the time. The novel was problematic. There were three main characters in varying degrees of relationships with one another. The complication as I saw it was that none of the characters wanted to be in a relationship. The complication according to Professor Perlman was that all of the characters were me.

He didn’t say that.

“Who are the main characters?” he asked. “And what does she want?”
If my life is my story and I’m the main character, what do I want?
Plotting my life reminds me to look for solutions to obstacles; that I have goals, and that the supporting characters in my life have motivations other than mine; it helps me to recognize and create opportunities; to forgive myself and others and to appreciate the beauty in revising.

How could I motivate and inspire others to be the main characters in their own lives?
Before I created an outline of the points I wanted to touch on, I spoke my talk out loud. Picturing my audience as I spoke reminded me to inflect, make eye contact and use body language. But at first my view of my audience was too large. I pictured an audience of people I didn’t know, mixed with people I did: coworkers, colleagues and family. My imaginary auditorium was filled with faces with different expectations. Would I say something that could embarrass my mother?

My talk was personal. Were there things in my story that would reflect negatively on other characters in my life? I kept practicing. I plucked familiar faces from my mind and when I practiced I talked to an audience of people who didn’t know me. Picturing a room full of strangers allowed me to share the idea and passion I wanted to share.


If you spend too much time worrying about what people who aren’t there will think, you’ll miss out on sharing valuable ideas with people who are.

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