Tag Archive for Faffcon

The Faffcon Community

I wrote this a while ago. By the time this posts, registration for Faff 9 will have already happened, but I wanted to share the love of my ‘tribe’ here on my blog. 

Every time Faffcon approaches, I can’t help but find myself thinking about my history with this unconference, and everything it has meant to me. Faffcon was the spark that started my business, the reason that I’m sitting here writing to you, and one of the catalysts that changed my life.

Six years ago, I was working in a grocery store chain in NC, living with my brother Eric Souer. To make a long story short, this was a store that put profits over people, and although I made okay money, I was never happy there. I’m not their ideal type of worker-physically fast and efficient-so it was not the best situation all around. Our Dad, Bob Souer came to visit, and he said, “Eric and Karen, you’re coming with me to Faffcon.”

I had no idea what this Faffcon thing was. And I remember feeling very uncertain about the whole situation, I was going to a place where I didn’t know anyone, had no idea what was going to happen, and Dad had just said that maybe people would hire me to do the sorts of things that I had always helped him with. (A little writing, a little editing, that kind of thing.)

My biggest memory from that first Faffcon (Faffcon 2 in Atlanta) was the kindness that people showed me. None of them knew who I was. (Some people had met Eric, but I’d never met any of them.) But all greeted me enthusiastically, and were interested in who I was and what I had to say. I remember going home from the event, on fire and excited to see where I could take this brainful of ideas that I had. Fast forward to the present day, and I am a different, much happier person, enjoying a reasonable amount of success.

But over the years, the thing that truly astonished me was the community that developed from the conference. Friendships were created, businesses grew one another, many people lifted one another up through challenges in both work and personal life. There are strong divisive, dividing elements in our society today, and it has been truly astonishing to see the kind of strong, communal vibe that has developed.

In 2012, after Faffcon 5, Lori Taylor created a Facebook group, Faffcon friends. This group has had a strong element in keeping the community together, and bringing folks together to tap group knowledge, share, or to ask questions. It gives people a place to talk to one another between events, and it’s been a pleasure to watch all the positive interaction. Lori eventually turned the administrator role in the group over to me, and it’s been an interesting job, to say the least!

I decided early on to limit the group to people that have already attended a Faffcon. The reason for that is the intensely personal stuff that is often shared in the group-health struggles, life issues, and the like. I wanted anyone in the group to understand the nature of a Faffcon, the lowering of barriers, to keep it unlike other groups, to folks that “get it”.

One of the phrases often used at Faffcon is ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’. The community is proof of that, and it has been a valuable experience to get to watch it grow over the last five years, and change with the addition of new members with new ideas. My hope for the future is that it can continue to be a place where the good of the group is a big part of what goes on. Through Amy and Lauren, Connie and Pam and everyone who’s ever attended, we have created something unique, in terms of the community, and that it should be nurtured and taken care of, even 2 years from now when the event is no longer happening. Our industry doesn’t have water coolers or company picnics, so what we have is something to hold on to. May it always endure, and continue to spread and bring in new people.

Pronounceology Interview

Hey guys! Adam Verner, a very fine audiobook narrator and a fellow Faffer has come up with a great tool for narrators called Pronounceology. As soon as I saw him post about it, I knew I had to get the lowdown on such a great idea and how he came up with it! Here’s all the details about this site, which will make your future research way easier!
1. Pronounceology! What is it? (And where did you come up with the name?)
In a nutshell, Pronounceology is a tool that hooks into the backend of major online dictionaries and pronunciation resources like Merriam Webster, Oxford, and ForVO to provide bulk pronunciations and definitions.  It also acts as a kind of “home base” for research on the web, allowing you to save reports or words you’re looking into, the source URL for pronunciation, phonetic spellings, and any research notes.  I’m hoping it will be kind of like a Swiss Army Knife for research, with as many import and export options as possible.  Right now you can import a spreadsheet or CSV with page numbers, simply paste in a list of words, or import notes from iAnnotate (it’ll pull out just your highlighted terms).  Other PDF sources can be supported in the future if they’re popular enough or in demand.  Other dictionaries can be added down the line, as long as they have an API (Application Program Interface), which is a way for programs to access databases.  Those will form the core functionality of the tool, since that’s the way to search for a whole list of terms at one time.  There are also prebuilt search links for you to go find an obscure pronunciation.  For example, a lot of proper names and places aren’t in standard dictionary databases, so I’ve included links to a search in YouGlish.com or YouTube interviews.  If you’re looking for how to pronounce Richard Cytowic’s last name, for example, clicking a link will take you to a YouTube search for “Richard Cytowic interview.”
The other cool component will be exporting just the phonetics you need back to you source PDF or manuscript.  I know all narrators work differently, and my hope is that the tool is flexible enough to cover many different types of workflows. I’ve always kept my research in a spreadsheet as it’s easy for a proof listener to follow along, but that’s meant I’ve had to cut and paste by hand every set of phonetics back into the appropriate page of the PDF for seamless narrating. Pronounceology will do that for me, though I may want or need to go back through the script to adjust the placing of the text.
As far as the name goes, “ology” means “the study of,” and I often find narrating challenging titles is almost like a study of pronunciation.  Other times, it’s like a Sherlock Holmesian tracking down of elusive vocabulary!
2. Where did you get the idea to create Pronounceology
Basically, I’m a total dork.  But really, I love words, automation, and optimization.  If there’s any way for me to save keystrokes and time and get back to what my true passion is – narrating books – I go for it.  I’m always writing macros on my computer to automate invoicing or perform repetitive tasks.  I’ve longed for something like this to exist for years, and finally decided I should just build it!  There are plenty of great resources out there for pronunciation, but as far as I could tell, no tool that allows you to import in bulk, or multiple terms at a time.  For some titles I would be spending hours and hours tracking down pronunciations, and not every publisher pays you for that time or helps you with it.
3. Are you running the back end yourself? 
No, I’m working with a great developer, formerly with HP.  After interviewing many, many different freelance programmers and full development firms I finally found a great fit, someone who “gets it,” and brings his own ideas to the table.  As of now we’re running in Node.js and totally boosting the runtime environment with a flux capacitor.
4. From what you’ve posted, I see that it’s primarily intended for audiobook narrators, but have you ever thought about elearning pronunciation?
Oh yes indeed!  I’m starting with the audio book industry since that’s my full time job and the community I know the best, but this tool could be useful for literally anyone that needs pronunciations.  eLearning, other voice over, and most importantly, the ESL and language learners market are next on the list.  I’m even hoping to partner with schools or universities to provide “enterprise” accounts for any students learning English.
5. Do you have a place where people can check back or sign up for updates about the site? 
I’m so glad you asked!  Check out the teaser video on Pronounceology.com and sign up for the email list to be notified of updates.  I’ll be releasing more videos with more details in the months to come, and I hope to launch later this year.  You can also contact me at [email protected] with questions or feature requests!  In addition, I’ll be at APAC (audio book conference) in New York City this week and can do live demonstrations if anyone is interested (assuming the pesky WiFi cooperates!).

The Deets on Faff 9

Have you ever wished you could learn things that are directly applicable to your life as a pro-VO? Are you tired of the famous talking heads that although they’re awesome, don’t always have the down and dirty for the daily grind?

You need to go to Faffcon.

What is Faffcon? From the website: “FaffCon: the voiceover unconference, is a participant-driven professional development event for working voiceover industry pros. Its highly-interactive, peer-to-peer learning environment is consistently credited with helping establish VO-industry pros take their careers to the next level. Prospective participants must meet certain criteria and apply to attend. FaffCon sells out very fast, every time. To be sure to get the registration alert, please join our low-volume email list! We’ve committed to producing a total of 10 FaffCon unconferences.”

Personally, I’ve been to every Faffcon since 2, and every experience has been both valuable in a career and a personal sense. I’ve made incredible business connections and amazing friendships over the last 5 years, and I’ve written about it in my blog a lot. I strongly believe it can and will be valuable to any talent that approaches it with an open mind. There is diverse content, ranging from performance based classes, to business classes, and ‘techie’ content as well. Plus, you’re welcome to ask questions, and even lead a session yourself!

The atmosphere is as singular as any event I’ve been to in my lifetime, and one of the best benefits to the conference. People are open, eager to learn, and it’s a cardinal rule to leave egos at the door. You can come and go from sessions as you need to, so that you can maximize your learning time amongst everything there is on offer. Plus there is always time with other VO’s after hours, and plenty of meal and break opportunities to get to know people-and trust me, they are a very welcoming bunch!

Faffcon 9 is a great opportunity to jump in and join our Faff-family. There will only be 10 events total, and this event will allow first or second time Faffers to register early. The event has sold out in literal seconds, so this registration has some new rules to make life easier for everyone. You can find all the info, and join the mailing list here on the website.

It’s Been a Year

Polar Bear Poking Credit Dailmail UKA few days ago, I was given the Facebook notification that my last blog post has been posted a year ago. That caught me by surprise, to say the least. I feel like both I’ve been stopped a lot longer, and a lot shorter periods of time. So I thought I’d poke my head in here and tell you all what I’ve been up to! I’ve been writing–I want to start a newsletter, so that I can still regularly write to people, but there’s not the pressure of a weekly blog. I know that I often have things to say, but my creative well tends to run dry if I feel like I’ve exhausted a topic.

I’m also wanting to do more with the idea of organization, time management, and goal setting. I’ve often had VO’s come to me and look for plans or tactics to help get themselves more together, and I figure-if people keep asking for it, why not right? I know as well as all of your how hard it can be to maintain and set a schedule and stay organized in our world. Not to mention, people’s circumstances differ so much, there really isn’t a ‘one size fits all plan’. Plus, I know that it’s something that can do a lot of genuine good in people’s lives. That has always been one of the huge benefits to my work, and one of the reason I keep doing what I’m doing–I get to make people’s lives better and easier! Anyways, I’ll be around with more news on that soon.

And lastly, I of course have been editing, proofing, and virtual assisting all over the place. This year I was able to  go to the annual audiobook conference, APAC in May in Chicago, and I had a great time, as well as learning a lot about the upper echelons of that very interesting and individual segment of our industry. I met lots of famous folks, and was greeted as ‘the famous Karen Souer’ which was not only very flattering, but also completely hilarious. Next month (ack! so soon?) I’ll be heading to Minnesota for the 8th edition of the voiceover unconference, Faffcon, and I am working on a session idea for that fine space.

So I’m still here, learning, growing, and working my tail off like usual. As always, I’d love to hear from anyone–feel free to email me at [email protected] If you’ve read this far, thanks so much for staying with me, and I am proud and grateful to continue to serve the voiceover industry, for the past 5 years!

Archive Thursdays: A Notebook’s Journey

2014-09-29 14.54.51This week’s Archive Thursday was originally published on October 30th, 2014.

At Faffcon 6 and 7, I’ve given out small notebooks with my name and tag line written on them. I felt like it was a useful thing to give as a swag item, and it fits in well with my brand (being helpful for your VO things.) They were very popular at Faff 6, and I ran out very quickly. At Faff 7 I had a sponsor table with these items, and handed out many more notebooks, but I quickly discovered something surprising about them and the ones I had handed out last time.

People had stories about their notebooks. They loved to tell me how useful they had been, and all the different things that they were helpful for. Many people had filled theirs at the previous Faffcon with notes. Someone had taken theirs for use as a ‘thoughts in the car’ notebook. A different person kept theirs next to their mic for easy in-session notes. More than one person had had their notebook appropriated by their spouse for different uses.

It was fascinating and wonderful to hear about all the places and uses that my notebooks had been helpful for. You really never do know how much a small thing can ripple into a bigger thing-these were mail order notebooks, and for Faffcon 6 they were very much a last minute idea. I was happy people liked them and took them quickly, but I didn’t really think anything more of it. Hearing all the stories at the next conference brought a huge smile to my face.

So, don’t hesitate to do something for someone else. Try and make your actions and thoughts in the world positive. You never know just how far those ripples will reach.

Archive Thursday: The Avalanche Killer

This week’s Archive Thursday was originally posted on December 17th, 2012.

Many folks who have been to Faffcon have heard my Dad speak on the topic of Inviting the Avalanche. For those who haven’t, the basic idea is to invite as much work as you can handle, then a little bit (or a lot!) more, and then figure out how you’re going to get it all done. Dad does this by outsourcing to myself and others.

What I want to talk about today however, is the single most deadly thing to finishing your avalanche, and indeed getting further ones. In order to explain, I’m going to use an illustration from my own work–and the reason I didn’t post last week. Recently, I invited the avalanche and took on 3 audiobooks and some other minor work at the same time. The narrators I was working with were new to me, but I’ve done a ton of audiobooks! I would be okay! Right?

Wrong. Every narrator is different, and it was a huge mistake for me to assume that I would be able to go through things at the same pace and in the same way as I have on other projects. Every book is different, and I made another mistake in not reviewing the book before I really got into the project. I discovered to my horror that the book was actually 45 chapters long!

I got the work done on that project and the two subsequent ones. However, this meant that I got something like 21 hours of sleep over the course of five days, and suffered some minor health problems at the same time. (Too many hours spent hunched over the computer!)

So what is the avalanche killer? Lack of planning! When you are sitting there in front of your mic as the snow begins to rumble down the work-mountain, look up a moment and assess what’s coming at you! Don’t get caught up in outside concerns and end up buried and miserable like I did. It’s vital to be sure that you are using your time in the most efficient and effective way possible when you are digging your way out of the snow pile. Too many mistakes in this arena can damage the quality of the work you turn out, and can of course hurt your chances of getting another one!

To finish this post I want to give a shout out to my new client Mark Nelson. He was very understanding of my crazy circumstances and was very willing to work with me in that I was trying to finish editing his book and proof another at the same time, with the same due date.

I was truly lucky in my circumstances to be working with understanding clients and to be able to push myself as hard as I needed to to get the work done, but I am very aware of how much worse the situation could have been, and how much damage I could have done to my own name and client relationships. Don’t make the mistake I did, and avoid the avalanche killer!

Next week I will be coming back to my Faffcon Session, Online Presence Part 2.

A Notebook’s Journey

2014-09-29 14.54.51At Faffcon 6 and 7, I’ve given out small notebooks with my name and tag line written on them. I felt like it was a useful thing to give as a swag item, and it fits in well with my brand (being helpful for your VO things.) They were very popular at Faff 6, and I ran out very quickly. At Faff 7 I had a sponsor table with these items, and handed out many more notebooks, but I quickly discovered something surprising about them and the ones I had handed out last time.

People had stories about their notebooks. They loved to tell me how useful they had been, and all the different things that they were helpful for. Many people had filled theirs at the previous Faffcon with notes. Someone had taken theirs for use as a ‘thoughts in the car’ notebook. A different person kept theirs next to their mic for easy in-session notes. More than one person had had their notebook appropriated by their spouse for different uses.

It was fascinating and wonderful to hear about all the places and uses that my notebooks had been helpful for. You really never do know how much a small thing can ripple into a bigger thing-these were mail order notebooks, and for Faffcon 6 they were very much a last minute idea. I was happy people liked them and took them quickly, but I didn’t really think anything more of it. Hearing all the stories at the next conference brought a huge smile to my face.

So, don’t hesitate to do something for someone else. Try and make your actions and thoughts in the world positive. You never know just how far those ripples will reach.

Book Review: More Than Just a Voice

courvo bookDave Courvoisier is a well known TV Anchor, voice talent, social media expert, and blogger. Recently, he authored a beefed up compilation of his thousands of blogs into a book. Courvo is known as an excellent, to the point blogger who has lots of information about tech stuff, performance and numerous other topics. He has literally written thousands of blogs, and is well regarded in the voice over community. I’ve written about him here.

At Faffcon 7, I made a point to pick up a paperback copy of his book, and got through it very quickly. Dave is as always, solid and informational, useful and well arranged in terms of chapters and material. The range of material is also excellent, you see everything from performance to productivity. From my perspective as a virtual assistant, I think Dave’s book is very excellent in terms of quality of material, almost an encyclopedia of things that you could use-and I like that he highlights organization strongly throughout the blog and the book. That’s the one area that I see over and over again that voice talent have a hard time taking it to the next level when it comes to getting the non performance side of the business. There are constantly new and better ways to organize, and if one method doesn’t suit you, there is probably one out there that would fit you like a glove if you just don’t give up!

My sole difficulty was the links written in the book. Obviously, with a quick Google search I could find whatever it was that Courvo linked to, but what would be ideal would be for a place on his site where I could reference the links and click through anything I was interested in. However, if you purchase a digital copy, that’s not a problem you’ll have. Plus, digital copies are cheaper. I can heartily recommend his book for an interesting read, and a great reference guide, a compendium of good ideas and helpful tips. Thanks Dave!

Faffcon 7 Retrospective

faffcon-logo-compact.gifFaffcon 7 was in Tuscon, Arizona from September 18-22nd. Personally, I have been to all but the first event, and I’ve written about the event a dozen times before.

The reason that I keep writing about the event is the same however: People don’t really understand why Faffcon is so important. They don’t understand why it’s valuable for everyone who attends, and since it’s such an organic event, each experience is different and worthwhile.

There are loads of Voiceover events, ranging from the bog standard meetup all the way up to shiny conferences hosted by people one can call ‘famous’, or at least are such in our industry. Most of them are in the ‘conference’ format, where you pay to listen to an expert talk about something that is listed on an agenda beforehand. Faffcon is an unconference, where the agenda and topics are all selected onsite by the attendees. There’s no selling, no product placement, no big names with courses that they want you to buy. It’s information sharing, individual expertise sharing, and it is (according to many testimonials I have both heard and read) career changing. There are three reasons I feel this event is so important.

Why is an unconference so exciting? So different and worthwhile? Because you never know what you will learn or what you will teach. I have seen expert top level pro folks who were startled and surprised by what they learned while at the event. A ‘golden nugget’, an angle of view or perspective, an idea that they would have never considered. I’ve seen the most raw beginner (still a working pro, as that is the conference requirement, but someone who feels as though they are a beginner nonetheless!) have more to teach than they ever thought they would. I’ve seen those first timers and beginners stand up to teach a class and the light in their eyes when they recall how that made them feel afterwards.

The second part of why this event is so important is the above mentioned pro requirement. Many of the other conferences that exist have content that, while worthwhile, may not answer all the questions that someone who’s been in the industry for a while might have. Faffcon is a place to ask and be answered.

And last is the community of friends and family that has developed from these events. Amy and Lauren have created something that is truly unique, truly special, and a wonderful powerful community of voice talent and associated persons. When you’re at Faffcon, you are in a place that’s safe enough to relate your greatest triumphs, and your worst fears. We leave our egos at the door, and in an industry that requires such isolation, we are truly together in a way that we aren’t anywhere else. People have started wonderful friendships at these events. I have seen people cry out their fears and dance to the Cupid Shuffle.

There are only three of these events left! Don’t miss out on the next one. More than career changing learning and teaching, you may miss out on a friendship that could change everything.

 

Anthony Gettig Interview

I ran across a post about Anthony that surprised me. He was starting a separate editing service! What made it interesting to me was that Anthony is a full time VO. I’ve done a number of ‘backstage‘ people interviews before, but I thought featuring Anthony’s different perspective might be an interesting read, and I was right! Hope you enjoy! (You can find his new editing service here.)

1. What makes a full time VO decide to branch out with an editing service?

I really enjoy production. Even in my radio days, I spent more time in the prod studio than anywhere else. To be honest, I would rather engineer and produce other talents than myself! With the seemingly ever-growing audiobook industry and more e-learning opportunities out there, editing audio for others seemed like a natural first step in the direction of growing a production business.

2. Is this a sideline for you, another income stream? Or are you shifting your business focus somewhat?

I wouldn’t say it’s a shift in focus; it’s more of taking the next step to grow the business. While I hope my voice holds out indefinitely, the reality is it may not. I have a lot of people under my roof counting on me! My hope is to grow it into something that someone else can manage; someone like my daughter Hannah.

3. What made you decide to include Hanna Westra in this business venture?

Hannah is my oldest daughter. She’s a rock star mother of two and is a great editor! I trained her to edit my audiobooks and long-form narration. She has worked on every audiobook I’ve produced. I also send her those really long e-learning courses that need to be split into dozens of files. She’s just a great editor all around. The opportunity to help my daughter get into business is one I am very grateful for. It reminds me of a certain Bob Souer guy actually… 😀

4. Do you have a background in audio production, or is this something you’ve learned along the way?

Yes I do, both for broadcast and as a musician. From the 4 track cassette recorders and 8 track reel machines of yester-year to Pro Tools and Twisted Wave today, the evolution of the tools for production has been nothing short of amazing. No more grease pencil and razor blade for editing! (Though I must confess, sometimes I miss those days.) I think my experience as a recording and gigging musician helps my ear for voiceover editing. There’s a certain cadence and sense of time to the spoken word. Really, all of us are learning along the way.

5. How did you get started in VO?

Like many of our colleagues, I started in radio. My high school had a 100 watt radio station that served the Kalamazoo community. Well, as far as 100 watts will go. J Over the years, I had freelanced by doing an occasional commercial, phone system, or video narration. I really got serious about it in 2007 and started working with a coach. By the end of 2009, I was in a grant funded position at my day job and needed to make a decision about what to do when my job expired. I decided it would be my opportunity to go full time with voiceover. By Spring break 2011, I was so busy with my “part-time” VO work that I couldn’t wait for the day job to end! That summer, I was going gangbusters and the VO business continues to grow. We currently live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan because we can! Not a day goes by that I don’t pause and give thanks for the ability to do what I do.

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