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Looking in the Mirror-How To

So when you decide it’s time to slow down, to do that self-examination, how do you go about it? For me, it starts with picking up a pen, and writing. Personally, writing on paper has always helped untangle my mind. I love making lists and writing out my thoughts to help me get myself in order. I often discover numerous things about whatever I’m working on while I’m writing. Other methods may include sitting down on the computer and doing research, or typing as opposed to writing out your thoughts. Whatever works for you, as long as you’re taking time and taking a good look at where you’re at, that’s the important thing. I’ve talked to a lot of people who have a hard time with recording their thoughts, or even just stopping long enough to do so. I believe this is important though–even if it’s a pad and pen on your counter you scribble on as you move through your day. Or an app on your phone, whatever works!

While you’re here, ask yourself some questions. Where do you want to go with your business? What is your ‘big’ goal? How are you going to get there? Do you have an infrastructure in place to handle a greater amount of work? Do you have a business plan, and if you don’t, when will you make one? And don’t get overwhelmed because something seems big or far away, when it comes to your goals. Make the goal, but then look at what the first step is. The goal is important, but after that, it’s only the step in front of you that matters. For right now, just get down as much as you can. You can fine tune later.

When you’re looking at guides and how-to’s, make sure you’re considering how they can work with your specific life circumstances. Kids, outside jobs, and many other factors influence how we make organizational plans fit our lives. It’s easy to give up on getting more organized or evaluating things if we feel like we’re failing whatever plan or guru we’ve found. Don’t let someone else’s idea of how you should be running your business make you feel like you’re not good enough.

The important thing is to take a solid look at where you are, where you’re going, and how far you’ve come. To make plans, and consider new things. To admit things you could have done better, but also to celebrate your successes. The mirror may be uncomfortable sometimes, but we all need to take a good long look to be sure we’re going where we want to, and we know how to get there!

Looking in the Mirror

In my recent series, I discussed many of the lessons I learned after having been in the hospital with heart failure at 36. One of the major ones was the need to stop and asses where you are from time to time. In these next few posts, I’ll be looking into that concept more in depth.

Like many people in our line of work, I’m often very busy between career and real life concerns. There’s the work itself, which takes up a fair bit of time. There’s marketing, client management, and looking for new leads. You’ve got to make sure you have enough work, pay the bills, and try and tuck some away for a rainy day. (Not to mention taxes.)

Then there’s plain old life needs. I don’t have kids, but I have a number of personal concerns I have to deal with regularly. I try to get out once in a while and have fun, as well as work on outside projects, and try and diversify my income. I have some down-the-road plans, as I’ve always wanted to grow what I do and be able to not have to rely heavily on audiobooks for my income. (I do love them! Don’t get me wrong, I just don’t want all my eggs to be in one financial/business basket.)

But what I’ve found I have to take time for, and is sometimes pretty difficult, are those moments of looking in the mirror. Evaluating where I am and what I’m dealing with, not just with my business, but with how business and life balance and interconnect. It can be easy to just work and work and work, and worry only about what’s right in front of me. Then I find myself weeks or even months down the road with no notion of how I got there, and behind on numerous ‘office’ aspects of my business. There’s always more that I ‘mean’ to do, things I ‘should’ do to get more organized, or other vague ideas like that.

For me, making the effort to do these things is about staying mindful, staying present, and not just letting life sweep me along. It’s also about having people to keep me accountable, and making the effort to do the needed things even when I don’t want to. I’ve taken a little time off this week to sit down and consider where my business and life are going. I’ve been working with voice talent since 2011, and I’ve been very lucky to have had as much success as I have. I’m very grateful to everyone I’ve developed a relationship with, and how much goodwill I’ve found throughout the community. I hope sharing some of my journey to business accountability can help you consider your own mirror, to see where you are, how far you’ve come, and where you want to be.

Blogger Profile: Bob Souer – Rerun

bob_souer_professional_story_tellerThis series came to mind before the new year, and I knew one of the first people I wanted to feature was my father–and not just because he’s my Dad! I can’t count the number of people over the years who have mentioned Dad’s blog and how much they’ve enjoyed it, learned from it, and valued his words. They usually start out by telling me how awesome my Dad is, and then mention the blog, but still… 🙂

Dad has been blogging since May of 2005. He doesn’t post on a regular schedule, but I know that his readers find him worth the wait. His posts cover a pretty wide range of topics, but one of the first things he told me when he and I were discussing blogging, online content, and how you should present yourself was that he made a point of featuring other people whenever possible. Not only does it generate goodwill, and make you look good, there is also a lot of cool stuff going on out there that people should know about! In that vein, Dad also keeps a pretty lengthy blogroll of everyone he’s ever been able to find who blogs about voice over in some fashion.

In short, I would venture that my Dad is one of the mainstays of the voice over blogging world, and someone that is always interesting and valuable to read.

Pronounceology Interview – Rerun

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 Year (I was as sick as a) Dog Part 5

So as I was writing my series here, I got another indicator that my brains are still recovering a bit. See, I forgot to mention the fundraiser when I was telling my story! This was such an important thing to leave out, and something that was so important to this journey.

So, like many people, I’ve had trouble paying the costs of health insurance premiums. As a single woman with a freelance job, it doesn’t always work out for me to be able to hit them every month for a year and sure enough, this year my coverage had lapsed.

At the end of October, when my friends Laura Bealko, Jen Reilly, and Lauren McCullough realized I was doing very poorly, the three of them came to me with the idea of doing a fundraiser for enough money to cover my thyroid surgery. (Remember, this was before I found out it was my heart, not my thyroid.) I was a little reluctant. I was raised in a good old ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ type of household, and I hated the idea of asking for money from people I didn’t know. But I had to face facts. I was declining and just living was getting harder and harder every day. So I said yes, and these three angels put things together for me.

And then the proverbial heavenly choir descended. So, so many people donated, and so quickly! I was funded, and more, in less than a single day. I still don’t have words for how amazing everyone who contributed or passed on info is. I’ve spent the past 7 years serving the community to the best of my ability, trying to be a good smile and creative people connector, but this was the first time I had really seen (other than people who hire me, of course.) just how much people cared for me as a person, and the kind of impact I was able to create.

My friends, when I was a little girl, my mom died at the age of 37. When I turned 30 a few years ago, I took stock of my life and considered than in 8 years, I’d be older than my mother ever would be. That was quite sobering. Then I thought about the fact that despite how long she’s been gone (More than 30 years, she died in 1988) people still remember her, still speak well of her, talk about how much of a delight and a light she was as a person. I decided that was my life goal. Regardless of what you believe, the only real immortality we have in this world is in the memories of others. I wanted to leave memories behind like my mother did. That fundraiser was the first (and quite stunning) indication that I’d proceeded a bit of the way to my goal!

Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who participated in the fundraiser, and thank you to everyone who sent me a check, a paypal payment, or by whatever means. You are all angels in my eyes and although I needed it for a different reason, every penny has been more needed than I realized at the time it would be!

Thank you to my parents and brothers, for your love, hospital visits, much gas and parking and gummy bears spent upon. You were more of a comfort than you know.

And last but not least, thank you to my three archangels. You are beautiful people, and I quite literally owe you my life. Thank you for everything.

The Year (I was sick as a) Dog Part 4

Life lessons learned on the cardiology floor, continued!

Don’t take your life or health for granted. Period: This one hit me two ways. I heard so many codes called on that floor at all hours, and saw some seriously shaken nurses when someone didn’t make it. Life and death were all around me, and it’s times like that when you realize how fragile it is. The second way this one hit me was far more personal. Once I had started on my Pee Marathon, I had my eyes opened to just how sick I had been. My head was so much clearer once all the water started to come off that I realized just how much my mental function had suffered along the way and how much that had probably influenced my decision making and everything else. The truth was, I’d been slipping up on project deadlines and many other things for a long time, and it was only the kindness of others that saved me from disaster more than once. I’m going to make next year my year to work on my leg and numerous other issues!

Take Time Off: Some of us in this business are better than others and regularly schedule vacations and weekends. I’ve always tried to give myself nights and weekends off, but as I’m sure you can imagine, it doesn’t always work out that way. I’ve found more than once that if I have only one task during a day, if I’m not careful I can make that task last the whoooooooole day! I (and you, yes, you) need time off to reflect, consider your business and your life, and appreciate where you are. If I could rewind, I’d’ve made myself take more than one pause, and hopefully I would have had time to realize how I was feeling, and how different it was from how I should be!

Gratitude: It’s in every silly meme on Facebook, and is touted all over the place, I know. You’re probably sick of seeing the very word. I know I am sometimes. But it’s also very true if you ignore the gnat cloud of sugary meme nonsense and think about what it really means. People will stand by you in a crisis in ways that you didn’t think were possible, and I think it’s vital to take the time to feel that presence, and what it means for your life. This can be your blood family, or the family that you make for yourself. Yes you could have more, or different, but there’s always something to be grateful for, even the tiniest of things. And when it’s a solid presence when you’re scared and alone, that’s no small thing.

Next post will be my last entry in this series, telling one more story, and shelling out some serious thank yous.

The Year (I was sick as a) Dog Part 3

So what did I learn from being in the hospital at 36 for heart failure? Plenty!

Periodically assess yourself: Many of the changes in my body and health were small things that accumulated over time. In the business and rush of my daily life it was really easy to ignore just how much I had changed, how low my energy had gotten, and how much I was suffering needlessly. I needed to stop, take a long step back, and really consider just where I was and what I was doing, instead of dismissing my own instincts and the words of others. (which leads to-)

Don’t dismiss the things you don’t want to hear: More times than I would like to admit along the way friends and loved ones told me that I was in danger, that my health was starting to spiral, and I needed to take stronger action. I pushed this aside for a lot of reasons, most of them things that didn’t matter in the long run, and certainly didn’t stack up when measured against how close I was to having a far less happy ending to this health saga of mine. Listen to the people who love and know you. You don’t have to do what they say, but if they’re good people, really stop and consider their point of view whether you like it or not. If it twinges, it’s often something that’s uncomfortably true.

Fix it now, not later: This is one I struggle with and have most of my life, as much as I try to fight it. If I’d paid attention and dealt with the problem sooner, it would not have taken me quite so long to beat it, and probably would have been easier to do in the bargain. Don’t let the needed things go, if you can fix it now, do it and get it over with. I can’t tell you the number of things in my life this has applied to, work or otherwise, and I bet many of you can think of the same kind of examples.

Take risks, even at the worst times: It’s a long, complicated personal story, but during this time, I gave my trust to someone close to me who had lost it a long time ago, and was astounded to find out how much that person had matured. They were willing to put aside some things that had kept us apart, and to see and help me as a person who needed it badly. (and not just the physical help of driving places but the emotional support of holy crap hospitals are scary!)

I’ll be delving into some more lessons learned in my next post!

 

The Year (I was sick as a) Dog Part 2

I was 36! Congestive heart failure was something that happened to old people! What on earth could be causing this?

Bewildered, but still very sick, over the next couple days I endured. The local hospital did their best to run some tests and figure out what was going on.

The real cause of my swelling, my exhaustion, and my trouble breathing, and this reality of heart trouble had nothing to do with my thyroid. It was an old, complicated medical condition I’ve had for a very long time called an Arteriovenous Malformation. (I’ve linked an article if you want to find out what it is in more detail.) My AVM is a sizeable growth on my left thigh that has been there for about 25+ years. After some searching and attempts at treatment in my mid 20’s, I had kind of given up doing anything about it, other than enduring the regular pain. My treatments hadn’t been covered, and were expensive and difficult to manage on a grocery store job insurance/paycheck.

But as the local hospital was bundling me up and sending me to the big city hospital, I was discovering that all this time, the bad connections in my growth had been putting strain on my heart, and this was what was sending me into heart failure.

I settled into my new room, with the cascade of doctors and residents that comes from being in a teaching hospital, and began the long road back to some semblance of health. The first thing I had to do was pee.

A lot.

Seriously. Apparently all this swelling on my body was not fat as I had thought, but as often goes along with heart failure, it was water. With lots of medicine, I ended up 64 pounds lighter! And at this slimmer, svelter size I was finally able to undergo the definitive testing that would allow the doctors to take measurements and do scans that would pinpoint what they needed to do and where to go next. The scans and relevant indignities undergone, they sent me home just in time for thanksgiving. (And oh was I thankful.)

But those 13 days in 2 hospitals gave me a lot of time to think, and I wanted to share some of these thoughts with my friends, colleagues, clients, and dear readers in general–you’ll find some of those in the next post!

The Year (I was sick as a) Dog

It began like any other year. 2018 was going to be another great year for my life and my business, and I had so many plans to bring forth of things I wanted to do, words I wanted to write, and conventions to sponsor and go to. I was excited to begin another year and see where it took me and my little business.

My illness didn’t start out in any big ways. Around February I noticed that I felt more tired than normal, and that my throat was kind of swollen. I went to my regular doc, and she told me that I was having thyroid troubles, that there was a growth on my throat. It was kind of an ironic diagnosis, as I have a scar along the base of my throat from a nodule removal 25 years earlier! It seemed that my thyroid had decided enough was enough, and it was time to kick it in.

Over the next few months, I struggled through a mish mash of misdiagnosis, poor choice in doctors, long waits to get in to see the right doctors, and many other errors. What I didn’t notice so much while all this was going on was my continually lowering energy level, and my continually swelling size. When I did become conscious of these things, I dismissed the tired from the thyroid, and my swelling size as being part of an unfortunate natural tendency to gain weight, since I didn’t have the energy for exercise any more either. Once I had finally seen the right doctor, I set up thyroid surgery for the source of all my problems.

Or so I thought. As the weeks went by, my body swelled further, and I began to have a continual cough and significant trouble breathing. I continued to believe it was all my thyroid, but at the urging of my friends and family, I finally went back to my regular doc to get checked out. My hope was that she would clear me for surgery. She took one look at me and sent me to the ER.

At that point, I was too tired to care. My mom drove me to the hospital where my thyroid doc had an office, and I quietly waited through the considerable waiting for anyone who doesn’t have a life threatening injury in the ER.

My initial diagnosis stunned me. Congestive heart failure.

Audiobook Narrators need Narratic!

I try not to write posts that are too restricted in content, but when I saw the neat tool that Craig had developed for narrators, I knew I had to sit down with him and capture the details and story behind what Narratic was and how he came up with it. I love to connect with innovators and see how they do what they do. If you’re a narrator and interested in your reviews, this is a great aggregate service! Hope you enjoy!

1. Narratic! What does it do? 

Narratic tracks your audiobook ratings and reviews automatically. New reviews are sent in a daily (or weekly) email digest, or you can view all your recent ratings and reviews on one page on the site. No more sorting through all your titles individually on Audible! Narratic can also notify you of new releases, and report detailed statistics on your titles (e.g., how many five star reviews you have total). Besides checking in on listener feedback, it’s a great tool to compile review quotes for marketing.

2. How did you come up with the idea?

As a narrator myself, I’m a compulsive review-checker. As my list of titles grew, it became really time-consuming to look through all my titles and search for new ratings and reviews. I have a tech background so I decided to make my computer do the hard work. I’ve been using a simpler version of Narratic just for myself for a couple years. When I mentioned my system to other narrators, they expressed interest in using it. So I worked on and off for a year to fully develop it into a website and make it public.

3. Do you run the back end yourself?

Yes! I’m a one man band. I’ve always been a bit of a hobby software engineer.

4. You’ve got quite a good array of features already, do you have any plans for expansion?

Yes, absolutely! The next big feature is adding Audiofile review notifications to the site. More features are also in the works.
5. A lot of your fellow narrators have mentioned marketing to authors, is that in the works?
Narratic is definitely aimed toward narrators and other audiobook industry folks, since it only tracks audiobooks, but authors who have a strong audiobook presence would absolutely find it useful.
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