Category: Life (page 2 of 3)

Child of the 80s

Folks older than me seem to assume that I identify more with the 90s because those were the years in which I graduated from high school and college, but really, I consider myself a child of the 80s. To me that decade was much more interesting and colorful — if given the choice to revisit either, I’d easily pick the 80s.

And what would the 80s have been without Cabbage Patch Kids? I remember yearning for one of these in a way no other toy had previously captured me. They were overpriced, ugly, impractical dolls that flew off shelves most likely due to their clever adoption gimmick. Whenever you purchased a doll, it came complete with its own name and adoption papers, and the company that manufactured the dolls would keep in touch with you if you properly completed your paperwork. In addition, to validate the authenticity of the dolls, you had to find the Xavier Roberts signature on its bum. It was all very important and official.

But these dolls were hard to come by. Not only were they easily out of the price range of most middle class families, they sold so quickly, the company couldn’t keep up with the orders.

I had all but given up on getting one when my 9th birthday rolled around. I carefully examined all of the wrapped gifts and saw that none of them bore the famous shape of the Cabbage Patch box, and I didn’t want to make my parents feel bad by showing my disappointment, so I acted especially excited about a lavender terrycloth robe that my mom presented me with, and rejoiced when I saw the solar powered calculator that was supposed to help me improve my math skills. At least there was cake, I figured.

Then my mom and my sister disappeared into my parents room and returned triumphantly carrying my new Preemie™ and my mom told our guests the story of being afraid to walk it home from Fred Meyer for fear she’d get robbed.

Marlena and me, right after she was “delivered” on November 25, 1984

My baby’s given name was Marleen Berty, which I thought sounded terrible with “Kokkoris” so I promptly re-named her Marlena Charisse. Marlena after my favorite character on Days of Our Lives, and Charisse after one of my close friends at the time.

In this photo you can see Marlena with her adoption papers and her first birthday card. She still sports the outfit she came in.

In the 80s I also begged for another toy I never got: Atari, the revolutionary home video game system that pretty much all of my friends had. Instead of giving in to that desire, my parents and grandmother supplied me with a steady stream of quarters, which I rapidly fed to the arcade across the street at the Eastport Plaza mall. My games of choice: Tempest, Centipede and of course, Pac Man (or more specifically, Ms. Pac Man). Below you’ll see a sticker from one of my stationery collections featuring the character.

Above the sticker is my book about Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton. Mary Lou was what kept me glued to the ’84 Olympics and also what made me take gymnastics for the next four years. I had a bodysuit and training suit identical to hers and practiced my winning smile (another thing she was famous for) in my bedroom vanity mirror on a daily basis. I still watch and enjoy the Olympics, but I don’t remember ever liking another athlete as much as I liked her.

Memories Matter

When I was young, every Easter I would beg for a bunny. Since I was allergic to cats and dogs, and rabbits could stay contained in one room, I thought having one would be ideal. My parents thought otherwise.

They showered me with Easter baskets full of Cadbury Mini Eggs (my favorites), magazines with Michael J. Fox on the cover and various token gifts. But never did I receive a bunny. Mom claimed that rabbits smelled, I was most likely allergic to them too, and it would be too devastating when someday said pet passed away.

Though she was right on all counts, that didn’t stop me from wanting one and visiting the rabbit cages at the pet store across the street. I also made a friend of Diamond, a sweet grey bunny that belonged to my 6th grade reading teacher, Miss. V.

Diamond lived in our classroom and we often made a game out of letting her out of her cage. I was one of the trusted few who was allowed to leave the room to retrieve her because I was calm enough to coax her back (I know, me, calm?!)—I took this privilege very seriously and was rewarded tenfold.

Miss. V. sometimes went on vacation and needed students to board Diamond while she was away. Each time she helped try to talk my mom into letting me take her home and each time my mom responded with a resounding “no.” I would get too attached, my Dad (the biggest animal lover of all of us) would relent and get me my own after Diamond left, etc. She never caved.

But Miss V. remained a favorite teacher, and recognized my way-above-level reading and writing skills. She was the first to introduce me to Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl and the first to encourage me to read forbidden works by the brilliant Judy Blume. Really, she was a hell of a teacher.

Yesterday, in my peripheral vision, I caught a glimpse of something grey in my backyard. It turned out to be the neighbor’s cat who often visits, but for a split second I thought of Diamond. Then I thought, “I wonder whatever happened to Miss V.” So I did what we all do these days: I Googled her.

I first saw an image that I recognized as her staff yearbook photo from my years in middle school. Next, I noticed she had married, as she had another last name tacked on to the end of the one I knew her by. Then, a horrible discovery: Just a few lines down was her obituary.

The vibrant, young, strong teacher who I loved so many years ago had battled several rounds of cancer and lost. She passed away in 2010 in a small Oregon town.

A flood of emotions came over me: disbelief, curiosity, grief and guilt. Why guilt? Because I hadn’t thought about her in over 25 years. Because although I know I was a good student for her, I don’t know if I ever conveyed how much her kindness meant to me during those tough years. I’m not sure she ever knew I succeeded as a writer—or even just as an adult in the work force. Many of my classmates in our low-income neighborhood most certainly did not.

Then I thought about why I was getting so upset about it. Why this cat in my backyard triggered a memory that sent me spiraling back in time and seeking out a ghost from my youth. I’m a firm believer that we’re all here to learn how to be better people, so I knew there was a reason.

This memory reminded me to make sure that the people in my life know how much they mean to me. That because of social media, there’s really no excuse for not reconnecting or staying in touch. That I should make more of an effort to learn more about the people I care about; not just what they do for a living or other things I could find out by looking at their profile pages. That I let them get to know me as much as I hope to know them. It’s not something I’ve always been good at, but I’m making a conscious effort to be better about.

Memories matter.

Unfortunately Trending

There are a lot of patterns in our lives. Behaviors, careers, romantic partners, financial habits, health — everything has a rhythm.

Unfortunately, not all of them are positive. One such pattern in my life is that of loving people who get breast cancer.

When I was young, my aunt had it (and survived it), then my best friend’s aunt got it (she didn’t survive it), then my hair stylist (survived), my former boss (survived), two of my mom’s friends (one survived; one didn’t) and one of my good friends now is currently battling it.

That’s not counting the dozens of “scares” in my friends and family, where women had a mammogram that showed something that turned out to be nothing (yet scared the heck out of them in the meantime).

Though I’ve never personally had it, I’ve hurt for each of these people in my life (and those close to them who suffered, regardless of the outcome). Breast cancer changes everything.

My dear friend Debbie (the former boss, listed above) fought the good fight and won, emerging strong and determined to help other women who experienced breast cancer at a young age. Even with wonderful support from her family, she quickly learned what it was like to juggle treatments and still manage to run a household.

She founded The Pink Daisy Project to alleviate the financial burden for young women battling breast cancer. I’m proud to be a volunteer for this organization and thrilled that we’ve launched a new campaign that helps drive donations and lets contributors have a little fun on social media in the process.

As you can see in my photo above, I’m sporting a temporary “pink daisy” tattoo. A $2 donation to the cause will get you the same one; all that we ask is that you snap a selfie of yourself wearing yours and use the hashtag #2fortat when you share it out.

Every little bit helps, and so does making both women who need help — and those with the power to help them — aware of the Pink Daisy resource.

We want breast cancer to stop trending in the lives of amazing people, but if it doesn’t, let’s confront the trend with help and hope and compassion.

On Grief

I recently lost a member of my immediate family. It was the first time that’s ever happened to me, and considering my immediate family consists of just four people (including me), it predictably turned my world upside down.

Now that I’ve had some time to reflect, the only way I know to cope is to put some thoughts down on paper (or on the inviting screen of a MacBook Pro, in this case). So here goes.

On Witnessing. I had the fortunate (or unfortunate) luck of being able to sit with my loved one as he passed. At first I was horrified by the suffering he was enduring, then relieved when the nurses “made him comfortable” with his final cocktail of medicines. We felt right about respecting his Do Not Resuscitate wishes, but no part of it was easy. For hours we waited, by his side, as he grew quieter and thankfully, more peaceful. Throughout the day, small signs of normalcy infuriated me. The pleasant cleaning lady mopping the floor under his bed; the large family in the waiting room giggling at the television overhead; the cafeteria staff ringing up our tiny bowls of vegetable soup as if it was just another day at work. Of course, my loved one was oblivious, but I resented the fact that life was going on around us when such despair was imminent. I made several trips to the brightly lit, bubblegum-scented restroom either to cry or try to throw up. I was always too hot or too cold; never in between. The nurses couldn’t have been more wonderful, checking on all of us, ensuring his comfort right up to the very end. I kept watching him, thinking his final breath would be some sort of morbid announcement that he was gone, that it would be noticeable and obvious, but it wasn’t. In fact, he lived on several minutes after he took his final breath — the nurses informed us he still had a pulse. When they returned to check again moments later, one on each side of him to be absolutely sure, they behaved just as the hospital staff on Days of our Lives always does. One said to the other “I’m calling it,” as she looked at the clock and noted the time. And then they hugged us and left us alone for a final goodbye before the nursing supervisor came in to walk us through the next steps. It was nothing short of surreal.

On the Next Steps. Thank God for Six Feet Under. I interviewed Alan Ball once for my podcast years ago, and I know I told him I was a fan of the show, but it can’t be understated how much watching it helped prepare me for my first-ever visit to a funeral home. It happened just as it used to for the fictional Fishers and I’m grateful I knew what to expect. Every interaction was very compassionate, yet matter-of-fact; dark, yet calm. As the associate went to print out paperwork, I absorbed my surroundings, wondering how they chose the odd artwork on the walls. The Kleenex on the table begged for us to break down and at one point while we were alone, we did, but thankfully the meeting took less than an hour, because we knew exactly what the deceased wanted.

On Processing. Different people grieve in different ways. Some people collapse into dramatic sobs; others lash out in unprovoked fits of anger. People like me, however, quietly shrink in disbelief and struggle to form sentences when necessary. All I know is that no matter the reaction, no grieving person should ever be held responsible or accountable for anything they say or do in the weeks following a tragedy.

On Condolences. It’s very nice to let someone who has suffered a loss know that you love them and are there for them. I was incredibly moved by the flowers and cards that arrived once we announced our sad news.

On Condolences, Part 2. One of the things that was hard for us in the early days was the fact that many friends didn’t have my parents’ current address (though I had told folks to message me privately on social media for it). Instead of simply asking me, they went ahead and sent the flowers, etc. to the address where my parents had lived in 2009, so it inconvenienced the people who currently live there, and it made for some logistical juggling for us to retrieve the items. We were grateful for the gesture, but stuff like that isn’t what we wanted to be focusing on while we were still adjusting to the shock. For future reference, if you don’t absolutely know for sure where to send something, please do the bereaved the courtesy of asking.

On The Tradition of Food. One of the most customary things to do for those in mourning is to deliver hot meals. We received everything from creamy soups to grilled cheese sandwiches and cookies the weekend after our tragedy. We appreciated all of it and ate nearly none of it. We just weren’t hungry and couldn’t force our bodies to cooperate. That said, the frozen items are beginning to be thawed out and enjoyed now, so if your heart tells you to prepare food, make it something that can be preserved for later.

On Unconventional Gifts. Personally, these things helped me most. The pal that sent me a funny clip from one of our mutual favorite shows; the couple that had their young children draw pictures for me; the friend that treated me to a relaxing pedicure; my former colleagues who sent a customized care package complete with chocolate and a bottle of whiskey. All of these things made me feel loved and treasured because I felt like the givers really knew me. They realized that I would need to laugh, feel comfort and allow myself to indulge because I’d been purposely depriving myself of all of those things.

On Survivors’ Guilt. Even though I was several decades younger than my family member who passed, I felt guilty for my healthy body and mind. I didn’t think I had permission to continue enjoying life. I didn’t feel right about reading the lighthearted book I brought with me or going to a movie (always my greatest escape) because I knew he couldn’t do those things anymore. It may not have been rational, but it was real.

On Social Media. I’m thankful for it. Unlike decades past, I didn’t have to make 30 phone calls or sit down and write a dozen letters letting people know of my loved one’s passing — I simply posted it once to a carefully curated list of friends and family on Facebook and let the Internet take it from there. It was a great relief to only have to write those words once.

On Privacy. Despite the fact his obituary was only in a few local newspapers, I still received very personal condolences from acquaintances that never knew of or met the deceased, and barely know me. I couldn’t help but feel awkward about this — their hearts were in the right place (I hope), but somehow it didn’t feel quite right. A message via Twitter would have sufficed if they felt moved to respond. I just took this as a lesson to myself that if I see someone grieving from a distance that I don’t know very well, I will most likely say a silent prayer for them and just give them space.

On Prayer. Whatever your religion or lack thereof, there have been studies done that imply that those who are prayed for (whether they know it or not) are more likely to heal faster from trauma — mental or physical. I can safely say, having been the recipient of a mountain of prayers these past few weeks, that in my case it’s true. The positive energy our family received was almost tangible and I’m certain those moments of calm we would feel, where we realized the sun would again someday shine, were a credit to those who kept us in their thoughts and meditations.

On Messaging. It’s natural to want to be there for someone who you care for in their time of need, and many of my friends and family expressed this via the quickest way they knew to reach me: text message. I can’t say I blame them, for I’ve done the same thing. But what happened was this: every time I would hear the ping of my phone going off, I was right back to my most raw point of grief, no matter what progress I’d made on composure that day. I knew that the instant I read whatever sweet message they’d written, I’d collapse into another puddle of tears. It became so exhausting, I quit responding at some point and turned the phone to vibrate, hiding it under pillows so I wouldn’t even hear the buzz. I hope I didn’t offend anyone with my silence.

On Emails. I felt very comforted by emails. The thoughtful, personal messages and offers for help were perfect because I could tend to them whenever I felt strong enough to read them. And I did read and respond to all of them at my own pace, unlike texts, which I felt obligated to answer immediately.

On Breathing. In the fog of grief, it’s sometimes hard to remember to breathe. With everyone hovering around the first few days, I felt very suffocated by the attention. Again, it’s not that I didn’t appreciate the sentiment; it’s just that I wanted some distance while I adjusted to my ‘new normal.’ Perhaps other people are different, but I’m used to solitude so that’s my quickest path to healing.

On Friendship. The saying is true: you really do find out who your friends are in times of trouble. My heart is swollen with love by the amount of people from every stage of my life who have stepped up to support me and my family as we grieve. My high school BFF telling me to call her anytime — day or night —and knowing she meant it, despite the fact she has two young children to look after; my Seattle BFF offering to join me for a hike or whatever I need to make me feel better, though she also has two small children to parent; my ex-boyfriends that reached out though I haven’t spoken with them in months (or years, in one case); the atU2 staff that I’ve considered family for the past decade that sent me lyrics or quotes to accompany the flowers… the list goes on. I’m so incredibly blessed to have such compassionate people in my life.

On Kindness. From my longtime hairstylist who refused to charge me for my haircut to colleagues I’ve only known for a month sending me messages of hope and help, I’ve learned there is a deep well of kindness in human beings. No matter how many horrible things are happening in our individual lives or the greater world, the good really does outweigh the bad.

On the Cost of Death. Insurance doesn’t cover everything. From hospital bills to arrangements for the deceased to obituaries to death certificates to transportation for errands, death is really expensive. I will need to take a break from my social life for a few months, not just to heal mentally, but to recover financially. I hope everyone understands why I’m denying their well-intentioned invites.

On Paying Respects. One of the best ways we felt to pay tribute to my loved one was to request donations for a cause he was passionate about. Since he was always feeding the hungry (whether it be driving meals to families in the inner city around the holidays or taking a hot plate of food to a neighbor less fortunate), we felt it best to honor him by asking for contributions to the Oregon Food Bank. If you’re moved to do so, they (and we) would appreciate the donation.

Show Some Respect

I traveled to New York last week, and was blessed to be able to take time to visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum at Ground Zero.

The grounds are simple and beautiful: Two reflecting pools; a list of names representing the lives that were lost; and greenery and trees that quietly remind us of nature’s comeback. This is in the shadow of the new Freedom Tower, a majestic skyscraper that glistens in the New York sun.

Amidst all of this peace, though, there is an undeniable vibe of despair.

I actually wasn’t sure how to get to the memorial from where I began Friday morning in SoHo, so I began walking in the direction of the Freedom Tower, which I caught glimpses of as I made my way down the narrow streets.

I had a good morning — I’d just acted like a silly fangirl at the temporary Central Perk that has been constructed in honor of the 20th anniversary of the show Friends. I snapped photos, talked with other fans, sipped free coffee and sat on the original couch from the set. That night I had plans to have dinner with a friend I hadn’t seen in over two years. My mood was nothing short of jovial.

But the closer I got to the site of the tragedy, the more nauseous I began to feel. Without glancing up or looking at street signs, I knew exactly when I had arrived at Ground Zero from the sick feeling I got, which was like an energy physically pulling the joy from my body.

A little dizzy and a lot haunted, I began to survey they area. The construction currently going on gave me flashbacks of the hundreds of news reports I watched of workers looking for survivors amidst the horrible smoldering pile of death and debris. The well-dressed business people making their way to and from lunch sent me into a memory of office workers that day in their professional attire, running in horror from their soon-to-be-former workplace. The visitors openly weeping at the reflecting pools reminded me that some tragedies will never truly end.

I walked from the memorial across the street to a beautiful little park along the marina and took a breath of fresh air before returning to the space where I had to purchase a museum ticket. I needed the break.

When I decided I would run out of time to go in unless I returned, I quietly stood in line, listening to the British accents behind me and the French speaking friends in front of me. I thought about how lovely it was that they cared enough to visit.

My timed entrance was over an hour from when I bought the ticket, so I walked as far away from the site as I could to get the vibe off of me, bought and wrote some postcards to friends, and people watched.

When I returned, about 20 minutes before I was due to be admitted, I unfortunately got in line just ahead of one of the most obnoxious children I have ever encountered.

She was a skinny, brown-haired, freckle-faced brat that I would suppose was in the neighborhood of 12 years old. She was with her father and another female family member (but it couldn’t have been mom, because any mom would have told her to shut up).

In her high-pitched voice, she proceeded to loudly complain about the fact she was standing in “another” line and though our tickets were stamped for 1:30, we would surely not be out of there until 5:00. This whining drew looks from the people in front of me and the people behind them, and everyone to our left and right, English-speaking or otherwise.

Due to a complete lack of self-awareness, the girl continued.

Next on her list was verbally scripting a show, starring her and her dad (who was coaching her along and laughing with her). I forget what the plot was intended to be, but several times I heard her joke and giggle about being killed, killing, dying, etc.

People became uncomfortable, the looks shot in her direction were scathing and at one point I turned around and made direct eye contact with a look that screamed “please shut the fuck up.” None of this even phased her. She kept going, getting louder and louder with her stupid story.

By the time I had rehearsed the lecture I was going to deliver to her and her father about how inappropriate her behavior was at such a sacred site, it was our turn to go in, so I bit my tongue and got as far away from them as possible once I was inside.

I heard a couple with an indistinguishable accent speaking in hushed tones about how out of control the behavior of American children is, and I’m certain they were referencing her.

Of course kids get antsy as they sightsee with their parents. I get that. And I cut some slack to the toddlers, but adolescents???

I remember being less than thrilled about being dragged from one art museum to another when I was seven and we lived in Greece, but I never would have dreamed about joking and carrying on about an inappropriate subject matter outside any memorial or place of solemn reflection. And if I had, my parents would have quickly silenced me.

We were standing upon hallowed ground at the 9/11 Museum, an area where so many lost their lives and their loved ones grieved for them. I was witnessing our American history with people who had no connection to the site and people who were a part of it that day. The level of grief on display varied from silent acknowledgement to outright sobs of pain. It is still September, after all.

The girl (and her dad) should be horribly ashamed of her behavior and should serve as a lesson to the rest of us: To truly honor the victims of this horrible act, behave with reverence in the presence of their lost souls.

And if the site doesn’t mean anything to you, please don’t waste anyone’s time by visiting.

Voiceover Diaries

The Finish Line

The book is done! The book is done!

I’m pleased to report that Schooled is now available for purchase at Amazon and Audible.com. Interested in hearing how it turned out?

The link is here.

I’m excited/thrilled/terrified/anxious to know what you all think of it.

It was so much fun to be a part of, and I find myself missing the alter egos from time to time. In fact, when I went to see A Brony Tale this weekend, I found myself hanging on every word of the voiceover artist featured in the film.

I was thrilled to see that some of the things she does with her arms and hands while she’s narrating are the same things I do, and even more excited to learn she also often models her characters on famous celebrities like I do.

I can’t wait to get better equipment and dive in to more projects.

Voiceover Diaries

Chapter 5: Top 5 Words That I Hate

  1. Ankh
  2. Wildebeest
  3. Benzodiazepines
  4. Sheepish
  5. Seashell

2 days until deadline; 2 more chapters + closing credits to go.

Voiceover Diaries

Chapter 4: Number 9

John Lennon had an obsession with it. Unfortunately, I’m developing one.

The number 9.

When I recorded Chapter 9 of Schooled over a week ago, I was in a really good mood. The sun was shining, something good had happened to me that day and I couldn’t have been happier to morph into Lexy and all of her cohorts to deliver the story goods.

What I didn’t realize until I began editing on Monday night was my tendency to be louder when I’m happy. Just like the Pharrell song, I suppose I felt like a room without a roof. I sure sounded like one.

Trouble is, for the audio files to all line up nicely and become one book, the sound levels have to be exactly, precisely the same.

Think of it like this: It’s what happens when you’re laying in bed, half dozing, half listening to/watching a show. Its comforting din almost drifts you off to sleep until… a commercial comes BLARING ON and you’re jolted out of your peaceful state, scrambling for the remote to make it stop.

I don’t want to do that to Schooled’s readers, but once the file is there, without being in a state-of-the-art, $1000 per hour studio, it’s very hard to equalize those sound levels.

I employed a few of my best podcast editing tricks (my partner and I are never the same volume, so I typically put us on separate tracks), but separating out my “happy” voice from my normal voice was unsuccessful. The drop was too noticeable, and my enthusiasm within the reading too uneven.

I could choke my happy self.

So tomorrow I can only do one thing: scrap the happy file and start fresh. Make a new recording of Chapter 9 and forget it ever happened.

13 days until deadline.

Voiceover Diaries

Chapter 3: Half-way There

I turned the draft of chapter 7 into the author last night. There are 14 total chapters in Schooled, so I’m technically half-way done.

Important things I’ve learned along the way:

  • Don’t edit when there will be known interruptions (i.e. landlord stopping by to make repairs to the house; the oven beeping when it reaches its preheated temperature). You will kick yourself later for not catching duplicate pieces of dialog.
  • Don’t record on an especially sunny day. The birds will be chirping and the pitch of their shrill songs will be picked up by the almighty USB microphone. Edit in daylight and wait until the sun goes down for the performance time.
  • Don’t wear anything with a zipper while recording. When you get physically animated reading scenes back, the pull of the said zipper will make itself known by clinking against itself, causing you to re-record four pages.
  • When in doubt, look it up. I probably saved myself at least five re-records because when I was unsure about a product or celebrity name pronunciation, I simply looked it up. For brands I searched for commercials where someone spoke the product name; for celebrities, I searched for interviews where people introduced them.
  • Know when to take a break. If I’ve recorded for over an hour, my voice is probably beginning to sound like it, and my laptop fan will kick on because it’s too hot. Both of those situations make for bad quality recordings, so now I keep a book close by and read a few chapters while everything rests.
  • Watching a marathon of Inside Amy Schumer on breaks also helps. Amy’s hilarious, but she’s also a hottie, badass, voluptuous woman, just like Schooled’s Lexy. I think they’d be friends in real life if they knew one another.
  • Know your audience. I’ve never been a gaming sort of girl (unless you count my passion for Ms. Pac-Man and Centipede in the 80s), and gaming is a huge part of the Lexy Cooper series, so I’ve been reading up on that culture, watching old Xbox videos and lurking in some forums to see what it’s like. Realizing the nuances of the community is very helpful when developing voices meant to represent them.

I also just finished the second book in the series, Pwned, because I’m starting to feel so connected to Lexy, I just had to see where her life went next.

I’m a lucky girl to get the privilege of voicing her.

Voiceover Diaries

Chapter 2: Wait. There’s an Aussie in Redmond?

Of course I knew that Reg was an Aussie—I read Schooled twice before I auditioned to become its audiobook narrator.

What had escaped my brain was the fact that I’d be responsible for speaking a few pages of male dialogue in an Australian accent.

I’ve always been good at mimicking people. I can nail the pitch of someone’s voice after listening to them for just a short time and replicate their intonations to sound uncannily like their authentic selves. I can karaoke with the best of them. I’m also pretty solid at various American dialects because I’ve lived in three distinctive parts of our country. And of course, if anyone wants to know what a real Greek accent sounds like, I channel my own immigrant father.

But Australian? Yikes.

Absolute fear came over me when I came to the first stretch of conversation featuring the Aussie character. Would I just sound too cheesy?

When I’m preparing to speak in a new voice, I summon the sonic textures of someone I know close to their persona and pretend I’m them. This also helps with mannerisms, expressions, etc. that pepper the performance (though thankfully you’ll never actually see those since this is just an audiobook).

In some cases, it’s close friends I’m picturing; others are celebrities with distinctive twangs. For the Aussie, I could think of several female actresses (Toni Collette, Rachel Griffiths, etc.), but not so many men. And it’s important for me to picture a man while I’m allegedly speaking like one.

I finally exercised my Google right (though that felt like cheating), and arrived at Hugh Jackman—this helped a lot since I’ve seen many of his films, and of course, his appearances on Oprah.

I started saying the lines and they sounded okay, and the more I got into the rhythm of it, the less self-conscious I felt. But I still wasn’t happy with it, so I re-recorded it about eight times until I finally began watching YouTube videos with Australian dialect coaches, etc. for more help. Those were wonderful too, but I kept getting stuck on single words that they weren’t necessarily demonstrating.

After another half an hour of Google mining I finally arrived at the solution: Forvo. This is a genius site that allows you to type in a word and hear it spoken in several different (real) voices from around the world. There’s almost always an Australian contribution, so I simply write it out on my script phonetically how I hear it played back and then mimic the pronunciation.

If I could hug the Internet, I would.

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