Tag Archives: speech

A to Z: Dig Deeper

Words cannot express the pride I feel for one of my speech students. Tonight at Family Night, she earned a scholarship for summer speech camp–a thing she loves more than anything. Instead of accepting it, she relegated herself to fundraising for her tuition and passed the scholarship on to a fellow speechie she thought deserved it more.

I have to agree.

This other young lady unexpectedly lost her duo partner two weeks ago. Instead of giving up and calling it a season, she dug deep and prepared a whole new speech. Her second performance with this new speech just happened to be subsections. And she just happened to earn Fourth Place and will be moving on to Sections next weekend.

Never once has this young lady complained about her situation or said anything negative or hurtful about her duo partner. She’s stronger than that. Better than that. Digging deep is what she does. Luckily for those blessed enough to be around her, she taps right into her heart of gold.

Both these young ladies dug deep, and both are coming out winners.

Sometimes people ask why I write for kids. The answer is easy. I love them. I love all their quirks and whimsy. I love their intelligence and dedication. I love their ability to live in a grown up world while still occupying that magical realm of childhood. They amaze me each and every day, and they never fail to remind me that life is so much more than what you see on the surface.

Breanna and Lexi, you rock my socks off. All forty-four of my speechies, you rock my world. Because of you, I am a better person.

What have you learned from a kid in your life? If you work with them on any level, why do you do so? How do they inspire you to dig deeper within yourself?

Curious minds want to know.

 

Proud to Be an American: Free Speech

I attended two Veteran’s Day programs today at our local middle and high school. I teared up both times. Taps nearly killed me with the haunting notes reverberating through the air in a reminder that our freedom has come at a steep price. (Thanks, ZP, you are a musical genius.)

We live in a country where we can openly express our opinions. Where we can actually talk with important people about important topics without fear of repercussions–physical, social or emotional. (Thanks, Mayor Ness, for the wonderful conversation between programs.)

I listened to two completely student-driven programs where students of all ages stood up and honored our troops of past and present with a passion, grace and articulation that would put many adults to shame.

Quite frankly, I am wowed by them.

Yet they didn’t succeed all on their own. Their freedom to speak openly was made possible by our veterans. I can only hope these youngsters will continue to honor these freedoms by exercising their right to speak loudly, honestly and passionately for the rest of their lives.

Thank you, Vets, for procuring this important freedom for your fellow citizens regardless of whether they support you or not.

And thank you, students, for supporting your hard-won freedoms by standing up and standing proud in an auditorium filled with your peers and community members. You truly rock!

And, of course, I couldn’t go through this whole spiel without asking every student of PAS who listened to the confidence of those speakers to consider joining speech.

Give voice to your passions, learn how to respect your rights and gain one of the most valuable life skills you can ever earn in your educational career. These courageous veterans fought so you could do just that.

See you at practice~

Dear readers, how do you feel about public speaking? Dear writers, are you comfortable enough in your skin to speak comfortably during book signings and interviews? If not, you may want to consider how to master this very important skill. If so, what tips can you share with fellow (potential) speakers to help ease their fears and set them on the path to verbal success?

Curious minds want to know!

Successes Not Our Own

Finalist SpeechiesIn the past few weeks, sub sections and then sections culled our speech team from twenty-eight to twelve to one.  Two of our speechies missed joining our sole, state-bound winner (at the top of the dog pile) by one place.

(As an aside, my DD is on the left.  She placed fourth last week with her persuasive speech on homosexual bullying within the school setting.  I’ve never been so proud of her and her absoulute confidence as I was watching her in final rounds.  She rocks my socks off and has way more courage than I ever had!  If you want to read her speech, you can find it under It’s Not about Sex on the Inspirations tab.)

At the tender ages of 13-17, those students who missed advancement to the next level already exhibit tremendous poise and grace.  They didn’t cry, spout angry expletives or pout.  Rather, they shook the hands of the winners and walked away vowing to try harder next year.  They cheered on the remaining speechies, wishing them luck and honestly celebrating their successes.

Speech is very personal. It challenges one’s abilities and confidence.  It builds character and hones life-long skills.  It can also be brutal, as contestants are critiqued and judged.  They are told each and every meet what they do right and what they do wrong.  They receive comments on anything from dress to poise, articulation to body language, pronunciation to speed, oral fluidity to memorization, and audience connection to their depth of emotion.

These kids have thick skin.

Remind you of anyone you know?

How do you handle the success of those who achieve your dreams?  Do you have the grace to honestly congratulate them and cheer them on, or do you feel compelled to complain and compare, wallowing in your unfair failures and their unfair success? 

 Do you have the thick skin it takes to be critiqued and judged and deemed less than worthy of a medal and advancement?  If not, why are you writing?  If so, what tips do you have to pursue this passionate, yet highly competitive, dream of publication? 

Curious minds want to know.

PS~ Keep your fingers crossed for our extemporaneous speaker.  He has 30 minutes to prepare a seven minute speech and then present it to a panel of judges.  The topics are current events, and with this being an election year, they are highly political.  Good training for future presidency!

Cheers to Healthy Writing

*pops cork and offers a toast*

We survived a week of unhealthy writing.  Now get busy with your healthy writing.  Set a goal and remember to hug your kids, dust your bunnies and feed your Significant Other as you work your way toward success.

What do you have planned this weekend to keep your personal life and your writing life in balance? 

Me, I’m coaching a speech meet.  It’s not exactly a break from the writing process, but rather it’s a different way to look at it hear the written word.  After hanging with the speechies, I find myself refreshed and motivated to write.

Hugs and have a great weekend~

I Speech: Tapping into Your “Writer’s Ear”

On Saturday, I judged a speech meet.  Over the course of the day, I listened to teens present on various topics.  Some speakers were confident.  Others were self-conscious.  Some students were articulate while others spoke haltingly.  Some presentations were filled with emotion and character, while others felt well-rehearsed, though disconnected.  Often, all these characteristics were present within one single speech alone.

Just like they can show up over the course of a single manuscript.  I’m firmly convinced that all writers should witness a speech meet.  It is a great place to tap into your Writer’s Ear.

So, what is Writer’s Ear?

Writer’s Ear is a condition that allows us to “hear” our words, not just read them.  Writing can be technically correct, yet sound stilted.  It can be filled with alliteration in a way that comes off as juvenile.  It can have misplaced rhymes, a word that doesn’t quite convey our intentions or sentences that are so similar in structure they could be used as sleeping pills.

The words we put on paper are more than their immediate dictionary meanings.  They are nuanced and emotion inducing.  Some are difficult to pronounce while others roll off the tongue.  The way we string them together can make us cringe in near-physical pain or sigh with pleasure.

Tapping into our Writer’s Ears is extremely important for children’s lit and books that might be read aloud in the classroom or as bedtime stories.  Each word must be well-chosen and serve a distinct purpose.  Above all else, it must “sound” exactly right.

By listening to our writing, we can tweak our manuscripts to go beyond a great plot.  We can make them a work of art.

How do you tap into your Writer’s Ear?

Curious mind want to know.

Reader Interpretation and the Impact on Writing.

Have you ever discussed a book with a fellow reader?  Ever felt like you read completely different books even though the titles and covers were exact replicas?  Even though the words contained within the pages were identical?

Welcome to the world of interpretation. 

We bring our life experiences to the stories we read.  These experiences, along with our moral compasses and our self-imposed belief systems, shape the way we interpret the written word. 

Last night, Dear Daughter and I discussed speech and the scores she’d received over the past year.  She wondered why her speeches seemed to fare worse than another competitor’s.

After exploring her topics, cuttings and judges’ critiques, we came up with a viable answer.  It was one we had discussed during her speech preps: her topics are just so dang difficult.

Nay, not the topics themselves, but the discrepancy between her interpretations and the judges’ comfort levels with the delivery.

Speech One: our narrator related the story of a fellow inmate at the mental hospital.  Inmate had tried to commit suicide by lighting herself on fire.  This is dark material by anybody’s standards.  However, nobody had an issue with the topic or even the vivid details of the scars the fire left behind.  Rather, it was the narrator’s admiration for her fellow inmate that triggered the judges’ disquiet. 

DD had accurately portrayed the narrator in that she admired the inmate for her ability to take charge of her own life and so concisely act on her impulses.  Instead of understanding this perspective, the judges felt sickened that anyone could admire the gruesome nature of another child’s attempt at ending her life. 

The gist of their comments were, “Don’t smile during this part.  Show grief.  It’s wrong to admire something so horrible.  You should feel sad and disgusted at what Fellow Inmate did.”

Speech Two: DD performed the life of an emotionally neglected teen.  While recounting her character’s vast sexual escapades, DD embraced one particular account with wonderment and warmth.  Her voice softened.  Her arms embraced herself as she retraced the images of her lover dressing her and gently placing her in a cab when the night was over.  The judges scribbled furiously over this. 

“She’s fourteen.  He’s in his late twenties.  Show her being ashamed of her actions.”

“But she’s not, Mom.”  DD’s pretty astute for such a young lady.  “It was the only time she felt loved.  This was a special memory for her.  It made her feel pretty and important.  Like someone finally cared.”

Fellow blogger, Eric Trant, touches on this topic with his post: Viscerality: What is too much?  In it, he explores which topics are taboo.  Or rather, which portrayals of said topics are taboo.

I guess we all want to know the answer to that question.  What is too much?  How much of the down and dirty are we allowed to show as writers?  At what point does our character’s truth upset the delicate sensibilities or our readers?  Should that matter?

Do you, dear writers, white-wash the emotional impact of your story to keep your potential readers from walking away?  Does reader interpretation even enter your mind when penning your prose?  If so, how do you balance the final product with the truth of your story?  Do you have a secret manuscript you’re afraid to unleash because you fear people will interpret your words differently than they are meant?

Do you think more credence is given to the actual words on a page and not enough thought goes into how or why those words were delivered?  Do we need to be more aware of this so our intent is clearly spelled out or does that blatant telling cheapen the story?

Sheesh, so many questions.  I can’t wait to hear your answers.

Novel Pitching Made Easy

*taps glass*

I have an announcement.  A discovery, actually.  An epiphany that will make pitching your novel easy peasy.

Dear Daughter has been away at speech camp.  Yeah, they actually have such a thing, and it’s more rigorous than one can imagine.  Just last night, she had a four-hour-long, one-on-one coaching session from 7 to 11 pm.  That’s coming off a 7am start and a jam-packed day of speech prep.  Day five.

After a midnight text exchange–with her bouncing intro ideas off me–and another text session beginning at five thirty this morning, we finally pinned down her introduction.

And guess what?  It’s an awful lot like pitching your novel.  In theory, anyway.

The pitch (aka, DD’s speech intro) has the sole purpose of intriguing our potential agents/editors/readers.  We have, like, twelve seconds to nab their attention.  Gnats live longer than the attention spans of those we are pitching to.

A dry summary of our book is not gonna do it.  Five words in and our potentials will be wondering who’s going to text them next, or what they’re going to eat for lunch, or why we’re wasting their air space with useless words. 

The pitch has to grab them from word one, pull them into the story and make them want to read.  The last thing we want them to think is, “So what?  Why should I care?”

 And that’s exactly what DD’s speech coaches said yesterday with every intro she brought to them.  “So what?  Why should I keep listening to you?”

Ouch.

But for me, it really hit home, and I learned a thing or two that could help you when writing your pitch–whether it’s for a pitch conference or the beginning hook of your query letter.

Here’s what I think I know about the elusive pitch.

  • A pitch has to stand out from the crowd.  At a speech tourney, the judges hear dozens of speeches throughout the day.  In the writing world, agents and editors receive dozens–if not hundreds–of queries a day.  If they all started exactly the same…well, I don’t need to expound on that.
  • A pitch has to make a personal connection, whether through content, voice or unique phrasing.  At a speech tourney, it’s easy to let your mind wander to the clock, the glass of water in front of you or what the speechie is wearing.  In the writing world, it’s even easier to hit the delete key and move on to the next query that doesn’t hold your attention.
  • A pitch has to flow.  Every word must roll together, like a wave drawing a swimmer away from the shore.  It must be fluid and lyrical, and above all else,  crystal clear.  The minute you leave a speech judge or an editor scratching his head, wondering what in the heck you just said, you’ve lost your forward momentum.

…and the things that might help when writing one.

  • Find a unique bent.  First, sum up your novel in a few words.  (DD’s speech novel: it’s about a girl who gets addicted to drugs, is depressed and struggles to find herself.)  This theme is tired.  Hibernate for the winter exhausted.  So, your next step is to absolutely pin down what makes your novel different. (The loss of morality and the ease in which we can lose our moral compass.  How easy it is to blur the lines until they are so wide we no longer see what is wrong.)
  • Make a connection.  Consider your audience.  Why are you pitching them?  What makes each agent a good fit for your book?  Why will your future readers want to read your novel?  Once you uncover the nature of your audience, you can begin to make your pitch relevant.  In the case of DD’s speech: we have all blurred our moral lines.  Even I swiped a cute little butter dish from a restaurant once because we forgot a water dish for our puppy.  Not a proud moment, but relevant in context of DD’s speech.  If I were an agent, editor or judge at a tourney, my attention would be grabbed by a pitch that brought to light my own guilt.  Suddenly, I have an interest in hearing about the downward spiral from a simple misstep to a life of addiction and pain.
  • Make your words sing.  For speeches and pitch conferences, we literally speak out loud to our audience.  Our words must be fluid and  fresh.  They must entice us with their rhythm and leave little doubt in our mind about the message we are presenting.  In queries, we must show potential readers that we are capable of creating solid prose on paper with no words wasted.  Our written voice must be as compelling as our spoken one.

Consider these two versions of DD’s intro.

We all make mistakes, and when we do, the consequences can be devestating.  Crossing a moral line can lead to drug use and alcohol addiction.  This is what happened to (insert author’s name) in (insert title here). 

versus

Have you ever felt your morals slip?  Taken one step to the left of the line when you should have gone right?  It starts innocently enough.  A kiss that lasts too long—who was that guy anyway?  One drink too many or a quick toke on a MaryJane—after all, pot’s not a gateway drug.  Or how about that super cool glass at the restaurant?  Yeah, you know the one.  It’s in your cupboard now. 

Have you ever felt your morals slip?  If you have, watch out for the downward spiral.  It happens.  Drugs, alcohol, theft and one bed too many.  Before you know it, you’re addicted, (insert title here that actually flows with the sentence), a memoir by (insert authorn).

See what a difference word choice makes?

Have you ever pitched your novel live?  If so, share your tips for success.  Query writers: have you ever taken your audience into consideration when writing your query?  I mean really paid attention to who they are and what they like so you can connect with them better?

Curious minds want to know.