Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

Tying together poetry, parenting, and advertising in a neat little package

Archive for the tag “voiceover”

National Poetry Month: How voiceover websites helped me write poetry

NPM-2005-WhiteI’m not usually a big fan of “found poetry.” That is, poetry created by words and lines lifted from other sources – books, magazines, advertisements. I feel like the poet needs to hunt for the message through others’ words, rather than writing the poet’s own message through his/her own words.

However, I’ve learned that the more I attempt to write found poetry, the more I enjoy the hunt!

The other day, I was thinking about what to write for today’s blog post. Since this is National Poetry Month, I knew I wanted to write about poetry (all my posts this month deal with poetry in one form or another) but I wasn’t sure what angle to take. I had been feeling bad about not being able to write as much as I’d like due to my recuperation from ACL surgery – being on crutches, I’m a lot slower at taking care of the kids than I used to be – and I also felt a little guilty for not writing more about voiceover work, as I often do.

Then it occurred to me:  do both!

How to find “found poetry”

I decided I would write a found poem using material I culled from voiceover websites. Now, to those of you who don’t write poetry, that may seem like a rather odd idea. But writers know good material and inspiration can come from anywhere at anytime…and sure enough, it wasn’t long before I realized I might be onto something.

After simply Googling “voiceover,” I started searching through the first couple of pages of results, opening up webpages and copying sections of text I thought could be potentially useful.

I read, I searched, I compiled.

Eventually, I had a list of lines and phrases that seemed to have some common associations, beyond the obvious ‘voiceover’ theme; associations with which all of us as humans might be able to identify.

My definition of good found poetry

I think one of the reasons I don’t often like found poetry is because it only makes sense, or can only be fully appreciated, if the reader knows it’s found poetry. In other words, the lines of a found poem might not be as strong as if they been originally written from the mind of the poet.

With found poetry, the poet is at the mercy of the lines he/she uses – and often I wonder if the found poems I come across would be able to stand on their own merits, had they not been “found.” Maybe this is crazy talk, but in my mind, found poetry should read just as smoothly, as intelligently, and as originally as any other poetry.

Which brings me to my found poem. Is it as smooth, intelligent, or original as something I would have crafted out of thin air? I don’t know – I suppose that’s for you to decide. But I think I was able to capture something beyond a repetition of lines, beyond an amalgam of disparate thoughts, and certainly beyond voiceover.

But like I said….I’ll let you be the judge of that.
.

Voice

Expressing unspoken thoughts
and burning desire,
a voice that is not part of the narrative
pauses for a breath;
the essential commands
and
extreme situations
still seem confusing.
Don’t get discouraged.
Slow down,
evaluate your work,
and take your time
through talent,
steely focus,
and faith
to change the world.

- © 2014, Matt Forrest Esenwine


 (You can hear my reading the poem here.)

Not that you need to know this, but just as background information, each line of this poem is a different line from the text of one of the websites I visited:  Wikipedia.com, Voice123.com, Apple.com, Voices.com, Merriam-webster.com, IMDB.com, and webaim.com.

Why not try it yourself? Look through a magazine and pull lines from the articles or advertisements. Scan your library and see if the titles of the books lend themselves to a few poetic lines (some folks refer to this as “book spine poetry’).

Poetry is, after all, all around us – and is waiting to be found!

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2014kidlit_progpoemNational Poetry Month is keeping me extra-busy! Irene Latham’s 2014 Progressive Poem is continuing full-steam ahead…a different poet adds a line to the poem each day, and by the end of April we’ll have a complete poem!

Last week, I added my line and today the poem heads to Tamera at The Writer’s Whimsy. You can follow along by checking in with each of the following contributors:

1 Charles at Poetry Time
2 Joy at Joy Acey
3 Donna at Mainely Write
4 Anastasia at Poet! Poet!
5 Carrie at Story Patch
6 Sheila at Sheila Renfro
7 Pat at Writer on a Horse
8 Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme
9 Diane at Random Noodling
10 Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference
11 Linda at Write Time
12 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
13 Janet at Live Your Poem
14 Deborah at Show–Not Tell
15 Tamera at The Writer’s Whimsy
16 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge
17 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
18 Irene at Live Your Poem
19 Julie at The Drift Record
20 Buffy at Buffy Silverman
21 Renee at No Water River
22 Laura at Author Amok
23 Amy at The Poem Farm
24 Linda at TeacherDance
25 Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty
26 Lisa at Lisa Schroeder Books
27 Kate at Live Your Poem
28 Caroline at Caroline Starr Rose
29 Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town
30 Tara at A Teaching Life

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RhyPiBoMo banner

I’m very happy to be part of Angie Karcher’s RhyPiBoMo event this month (Rhyming Picture Book Month). All month, she’s encouraging writers to create rhyming picture books and I’ll be guest blogging on April 26, discussing the benefits of collaboration – so please be sure to join me then!

To see all the posts and learn more, click the calendar below for the daily schedule:
RhyPiBoMo calendar - updated

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30Days52-2014-128ltThe day after I guest-blog at Angie’s, I’ll be interviewing writer and poet Gerald So, the editor of the 5-2: Crime Poetry Weekly. I interviewed Gerald last year as part of my National Poetry Month celebration, and I thought it might be nice to check in with him a year later to see how things have been progressing.

You may not think crime and poetry have much to do with each other…but read a few of the poems that Gerald has published on his site as well as in one of his eBooks, and you just might change your mind.

I’m also honored that Gerald has chosen a poem of mine to publish in May, so I’ll be sure to share that link once it is posted!

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week - on Tues. and Fri. - so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

 

What to do when you lose your balloon

My heart sank as I watched my 4-year-old’s new blue, Mylar balloon fly out of my truck and up, up into the sky.

He had just gotten it at my chiropractor’s office, and after stopping at a local Dunkin Donuts, I had forgotten it was in my pickup when we came out. All it took was me opening the passenger door, and zoom! – the thing took off like a rocket in the wind and shot skyward.

“That’s my balloon, daddy,” the little dude said, eyes fixated on his rapidly disappearing reward for being a good boy.

“I know,” I said, “I’m so sorry. I’m really, really sorry.”

Then, after a short pause, he said, “I’m gonna miss my blue balloon, daddy.”

ID-10055026 (balloons)“I know you will, Bub.”

“That was a nice balloon.”

“Yes, it was nice.”

“Maybe I’ll get another one sometime?”

I smiled. “Yes, you will. I’ll make sure you get another one.” Then I looked at him once he was sitting in his car seat. “You’re a good little dude, you know.”

He returned my smile with one of his own. “Yeah, I am a good little dude.”

Perspective envy

I wish I had the attitude my son had today. Granted, there are a multitude of instances when he can be a frustratingly demanding little man – like most 4-year-old boys – but there are plenty of times when he has such a good grasp on handling adversity that he makes me wonder if we actually share DNA.

I like that he makes me think.

You see, I’m the type of person who needs things to go the way they’re supposed to go. I wouldn’t say I’m a type-A kind of person, but I do take comfort in consistency, in predictability, in the familiar. If I’m planning a trip to the beach, I don’t want it to rain. If I’m preparing for a project, I don’t want the specs to change.

(This is why I dislike winter so much; in the summer, no one ever has to cancel dinner plans because 12 inches of snow is expected, and no one is ever late to work because they can’t drive faster than 20 mph.)

So when I see this little fellow dealing with life the way he does, he makes me wonder why I can’t be more like him (the thoughtful, pleasant ‘him,’ not the screaming, I-want-it-now ‘him’).

ID-10056952 (soccer ball)Making the best of a situation

It’s one thing to say we must learn to smile in the face of adversity – it’s another to actually be able to do it. When I tore my ACL last year, I tried to be positive even though the negative thoughts deluged my brain:

How am I going to take  care of the kids?
How am I going to help my wife?
How am I going to run my voiceover business?

Over the course of several weeks, I learned how to balance these things, and the injury turned out to not be as earth-shattering as I thought it was when it first happened. I still need surgery (March  28 is the date!) and have no idea how I’ll do anything for 2 weeks following (I’ll be on crutches with no weight-bearing), but I figure I’ll get by. I’m trying not to be as anxious as I was the first time around.

Note that I didn’t say I’m not anxious. I’m still anxious as all get-out…but at least I’m trying not to be.

Putting adversity to good use

As I was thinking about my son and his balloon, and wondering how I might tie the incident in with a blog post, I came across a news article about a Subaru dealer that decided to take advantage of a union protest.

Now, whether you are pro-union or not, you have to admit – what they did is ingenious. Did they think they would get more customers in the door by using the protest sign as advertising? Probably not. Did they think it would make a good chuckle and perhaps get people talking? Most definitely.

Did they expect it to end up on Yahoo! and have their dealership name be spread across the entire country? Doubt it…but now look what happened when they tried to make the best out of a situation!

We all lose our balloons sometime

I’ve recorded auditions and then forgot to email them. I’ve submitted auditions I thought I was perfect for and have gotten completely passed over.

I’ve had multiple plans this winter that had to be cancelled due to weather issues, as mentioned earlier.

I’ve dropped a log on my foot shortly before my indoor soccer season was to begin, so I decided to play goalie, only to snap a tendon in my finger, so I end up on the field, only to tear my ACL, and subsequently find out I won’t be able to play again for a year.

All these things annoy me and can ruin my day if I let them - but if I’m paying attention, they don’t always get the better of me.

A few days ago, my wife crashed her car sliding on some ice in the road (did I mention I hate winter?). She was only going 20 mph, but managed to do $3000+ worth of damage. We now have to find $500 for the insurance deductible, we have to pay for a rental car for possibly two weeks, and we also have to shell out money for two new car seats for the kids, since they can no longer use the ones that were in the accident.

But at least my wife suffered no injuries and is alive and well. At least the kids weren’t in the car at the time. At least we had more family time this weekend because my wife was out of work.

I may lose lots of balloons – literally and figuratively. It’s knowing how to let them go and hold onto what’s important that really matters.

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week - on Tues. and Fri. - so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

One busy night

I’m a day late. Sorry.

Once upon a time, not too long ago, I had blog posts written a week or more in advance. But with a right knee still recuperating from a torn ACL, stay-at-home dad duties for a 4-year-old and 6-month-old, AND my voiceover business…getting a blog post done can sometimes be challenging.

I had planned on writing the post Mon. night, in advance of Tue. publication. Thing is, priorities take – well, priority. And I had a bunch of ‘em…

Business before pleasure

AC pic

A small section of the interior of American Cottage Rugs’ showroom

Once the kids were in bed, I had to get hopping. First up: radio commercial production. A good client of mine, American Cottage Rugs, needed four :30 commercials edited down from four :60s we had produced last fall. While there was no new voicework involved in these new spots, there was a BUNCH of editing, which takes time to do correctly. I figured if I could get them edited, I could fine-tune and mix them down on Tue., which is what I did.

I also needed to get a voiceover audition submitted before the end of the night, so I took care of that, as well.

And wouldn’t ya know – more auditions came in while I was working, so I had to sift through them to see if there was anything appropriate for me. Having completed my studio work for the evening, I set to work on my other pursuit.

Those manuscripts aren’t going to write themselves

As you may know, I write children’s literature. For the past week or so, I’ve been working on a rhyming picture book manuscript that I really want to see completed. Sometimes it feels like I’m flying through it - and then I get stonewalled by a rhyme or plot issue and the process draaaaags. Keep in mind, I’m used to writing poetry, so anything longer than 16 or 32 lines is a tremendous challenge for a brain like mine. I needed to work on this, because I need to get the first draft done to see if what I’ve written is worth polishing.

But…

I also had to help a fellow writer and friend edit another picture book manuscript that we co-wrote over the past year, so that came first. I think it’s gone through 17 drafts at this point (I’ve lost count, honestly) but I’m pretty sure we’ve finally nailed it. I will admit I’m afraid to check the Google Drive for fear she’s made another tweak. We seem to do that to each other. A LOT.

Speaking of poetry…

A poem of mine has been accepted for publication at the online journal, The 5-2 : Crime Poetry Weekly. In addition to the text of the poem, the editor, Gerald So, likes to include readings of each poem he publishes, so I wanted to record my audio and email it to him in time.

So guess what I did before I went to bed?

DSCF2068 (Mic - Katie)Interestingly, the fact that I was so tired at that point helped my recording. I wanted the reading of the poem to exude a tired, run-down kind of emotion to it, and that’s precisely what I got!

Funny how if you put yourself in the position of where your character is, you can often nail the read. I once had to voice the part of an aerobics attendee who was out of breath, so I jumped up & down in the studio for a few minutes; when I opened the mic, my read was spot-on.

But wait, there’s more!

Did I mention our 6-month-old woke up at least three times while I was doing all of this? She normally sleeps through the night, but the poor little thing is teething like crazy and has a hard time staying comfortable. Her first tooth came in a week ago, and there’s at least one more trying to push its way up; needless to say, she’s not pleased with that. Life is pretty rough when you’re a baby.

I couldn’t wait to fall into bed around midnight. Until, that is, I remembered I still needed to do my second set of “prehab” exercises in advance of my ACL surgery later this month. Half an hour later, I was finally sleeping. As I think about it, I don’t know if I even completed the exercises – but at least I was on the bed when unconsciousness hit me.

So my Mon. night, as you can see, was a bit…full. I managed to get some of my blog post prepped, but didn’t write it until now. I’m very happy with my responsibilities – dad, hubby, voice talent, children’s writer, poet, blogger – but cramming all of those responsibilities into a 4-hour time frame can wear a person out.

Now, then…time to get working on that picture book.

Did I just hear the baby?

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PoetsGarage-badgeDid you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it!  To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week - on Tues. and Fri. - so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

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Careers, hobbies, and knowing the difference

My baby!I know several people who record voiceovers from home. They don’t consider themselves professional voice actors and don’t have professional soundproof studios. They’re not bad at what they do, but will doubtful end up voicing the trailer for the next Transformers movie. They record local radio commercials here and there, perhaps a phone greeting now and then, and that’s it.

And they’re happy with that. To them, it’s not a career; it’s a hobby, a past-time, a side gig.

That’s fine.

Others I know love writing children’s stories. They write and write and write, but don’t spend much time revising, editing, or learning how to write.  They might send a manuscript out to a publisher once or twice; when the rejection note comes back, they don’t send anything else out for the rest of the year.

And they’re happy with that. To them, it’s a hobby, a diversion, a creative outlet.

That’s ok, too!

But what happens when you start treating your voice acting, writing, or other career as if it’s a leisurely pursuit?

Chances are, it won’t stay a career.

A lesson in health & beauty products

arbonne-logoMy wife recently became an independent consultant for Arbonne Skin and Body Care. As a health care professional, she tries to eat well, live sustainably, and be as healthy as possible. Since Arbonne products are all-natural, botanically-based, vegan, and gluten-free, she fell in love with them. In addition to skin care, hair care, bath & body, and cosmetic products, they also offer nutritional supplements and protein shakes (which I have to admit, are surprisingly good).

Consequently, when the woman she was buying them from suggested she sell them, too, my wife decided to take the plunge and go into business for herself.

The reason I mention all of this is because of the training the Arbonne folks give their consultants. They have conference calls, Skype sessions, and all kinds of one-on-one discussions. And in one of the very first training conference calls my wife participated in, the speaker shared this little nugget of wisdom:

“Don’t expect to make money if you treat this as a hobby.”

Now, she wasn’t trying to turn anyone away from selling the products. If someone wanted to simply sell some products on the side, maybe try some samples, and get a percentage off their orders, that was fine. She just didn’t want them to be disillusioned.

They wouldn’t be making the money that a career offers.

Rather, the speaker suggested, treat your position as an Arbonne representative seriously: get your business cards made up and pass them out proudly, talk to local businesses and other groups who might be interested in the product, and approach your conversations about Arbonne with the same attitude you would if you were working for someone who wasn’t you!

Because when you are your own boss, as many of us have learned, it’s easy to cut yourself slack and not work as hard as you should. You can make up excuses for why you didn’t have time to do this or that. You can find all sorts of reasons why it was OK to do something you shouldn’t have – or not do something you needed to.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

photo courtesy Roman Milert, Dreamstime

Businesses grow; hobbies don’t

Last year, I shared a post about things worth doing, worth trying, and not worth your effort - in other words, knowing what you like, what you’re good at, and what you’d rather not do, and embracing that knowledge. Likewise, if you’re going to take up a hobby, do it for the enjoyment of it! Learn it, practice it, and have fun.

If you’re going to begin a career, then learning, practicing, and having fun are also important steps…but so is taking it seriously.

For example, I’m a voiceover professional; I audition every chance I get, I provide clients with quality service, and market myself to the best of my ability. I also write children’s literature, and although I have yet to get that elusive book deal, I do have a poem being included in an upcoming children’s anthology. I am constantly sending manuscripts and cover letters out, going to workshops and conferences, and trying to improve my writing.

I have a lot of fun, but I take what I do seriously.

A business grows; as you develop skills, contacts, and clients, you strive to get better, meet more people, and work with more clients. A hobby, on the other hand, exists for your enjoyment and nothing else. Sure, you hear about people who had a hobby that they built into a business – but the only reason that happened is because they started treating the hobby like a business.

They got serious.

Are you serious?

Are you auditioning for everything you’re qualified for? Are you making an effort to learn how to write better? No matter what your pursuit, are you putting everything into it?

If not, then what you’re doing is a hobby…and if that’s all you want it to be, that’s fine. We all need hobbies, and to each his own.

But if it’s not supposed to be a hobby, then ask yourself what you can do differently. What you can do more efficiently. What you can do better.

After all, if you don’t take your career seriously, you shouldn’t expect anyone else to.

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week - on Tues. and Fri. - so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

How much are you worth? More than you realize…

Whether you are voiceover talent, a children’s writer, photographer – or do any type of freelance work at all – you have, at one time or another, probably had to explain your rates to someone.

ID-10084724 (Mic)You’ve had to explain why you charge what you charge.

Or explain why you can’t do something for free.

At my monthly SCBWI critique group meeting, one of our members, an illustrator, was telling us how frustrating it can be when she tells prospective clients her rates, then has to explain why she charges those rates and why she can’t accept low or no-budget projects.

“We can’t pay much, but it’ll be great for your portfolio!”

That’s one of the lines she’s hears all too often. She also gets this:

“We expect this will lead to more work!”

Or this one:

“You charge how much? But it’s just drawing.”

(Voiceover friends, do these ring any bells??)

shutterstock_55511725 (woman-camera)

“You charge HOW much? C’mon, you’re just taking pictures…”

I told her I get that all the time – and nearly every voice artist has. It can be frustrating, indeed. (I even wrote what became a popular blog post about rates and the value of one’s work last year, detailing why some rates are high and others are low.)

We talked about attitudes and expectations of clients and how to find a balance between keeping clients happy, attracting new ones, and maintaining rate integrity.

Then, following our meeting, one of our other group members shared a video that helped really put things in perspective.

Knitting: it’s a lot like voiceover

And a lot like writing. And illustrating. And photography. And teaching music. And any other kind of skilled work.

The video our fellow member shared was recorded by a woman named Jess who does “knit-for-hire.” That is, people pay her to knit sweaters, afghans, and other items - and Jess states in the video that she loses a lot of people when she tells them the cost of a custom-made, hand-knitted sweater.

Just like voiceovers and children’s publishing, there is more to the craft than simply “reading” or “writing.” As Jess explains, there are a number of factors which can determine the price of a knitted sweater: type of yarn, type of stitch, patterns, sizes, swatches, etc.

I encourage you to watch this video and, if you are a skilled worker, see if you immediately feel a kinship with her, as I did! And if you are in the business of hiring skilled workers, perhaps this will provide you with some insight as to how much is involved in something that might seem simple:

Surprised, aren’t you? I have to admit, even though I didn’t know a thing about knitting, I knew exactly what Jess was saying and why she felt the need to post the video.

So be proud of your craft! Be proud of your rates! And if you’re looking for someone to voice or produce a project for you, or write something, illustrate something, or knit something…please understand, we’re not trying to make more money than we need.

We’re just trying to earn what we’re worth.

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week - on Tues. and Fri. - so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

My Christmas card to you…

Christmas-Luke_Matt Forrest

Merry Christmas to all, and to all…a good night.

Blog hiatus: A jerked-knee reaction

There comes a time when one realizes one can only do so much; that there is only enough time in each day to do a few things well, rather than doing a dozen things poorly.

For me, that time has come.

Last Tue. night, while playing an indoor soccer game with my Men’s Over-30 team, I took one wrong step with my right foot and possibly tore my ACL or meniscus (cartilage in and around the knee). It was the strangest feeling – like my leg bones just ‘popped’ out of my knee – and I sunk to the turf.

A lot of things start flooding into one’s mind at that point.  My immediate thought was, “Good Lord, I can’t believe I broke my leg!”

But then it occurred to me, “Wait, if I broke a bone, I should be in more pain than I am…so what the hell did I just do?!?”

I knew I couldn’t bear any weight on the leg, and it was sore and swelling, so I just lay there, thinking over and over, “My wife’s gonna kill me!”

Of course, I knew she wouldn’t – but honestly, my main concern right then and there was that there were so many things I needed to do before Christmas and winter, and now I wasn’t going to be able to do any of them.  I work from home and am a stay-at-home dad to my 3-year-old and 3-month-old, so not being able to get around is not an option for me.; I didn’t know what to do! Plus, I had to get the snow blower fixed, I had to patch the roof, I had to finish raking all the leaves, I had to put away the extension ladder…

And the list went on and on.

And I’m still not sure how I’m going to get any of these things done.

What I do know is that with the full-leg brace the doctors gave me, I can at least walk, albeit slowly.  And I also know that everything I do is now done at a fraction of the speed I’m used to doing it.  Which means I have less time to do everything I had been doing a week ago.

So between taking care of the baby, spending time with my son, taking care of the house, running my voiceover business, working on my children’s writing, helping my wife, getting ready for Christmas, and all the other responsibilities I have…something(s) aren’t going to fit into my schedule anymore. Since I can’t even sit at a desk for very long without my leg becoming painfully sore, computer work is taking a back seat in my life for the time being.

I still need the computer of course, to submit voiceover auditions and check emails and such…but the less time I’m online, the more time I can spend with the kids – and right now, at my current speed, I need all the time I can get. Heck, it takes me 5 minutes just to walk up the stairs and 10 minutes just to put the dogs outside to their kennel. You can only imagine the energy and time it takes me to keep up with a 3-year-old son who lives every day of his entire life at lightning speed.

I hate to put my blog on hold, but I have no choice – there are only so many hours in the day, as they say, and one has to set priorities.  For me, with time at a premium, being able to focus on myself and my kids without blog posts and status updates and whatnot is the best thing I can do.

Now and then I may occasionally post something here, but for the most part, I plan on keeping stress at a minimum.  Once I know if I need surgery, how long it will take to recuperate, and what I need to do to rehabilitate my knee, then I’ll have a better idea of how to organize the time in my life.

But before all of that, I need to get the most out of the time I have.

Time flies when you’re a husband and parent.

And I’m a husband and parent before I’m anything else.

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PoetsGarage-badgeDid you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it!  To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week - on Tues. and Fri. - so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Are you doing your best – or everything else?

Yesterday, I read an article about McDonald’s Corp. that got me thinking about how I approach my voiceover business – and life in general.

ID-100188772 (burger)It appears that the burger chain is losing customers. Why? Because people aren’t eating burgers anymore? Nope. Because people are eating healthier these days? Not really.

The reason Mickey D’s is losing customers – particularly at lunch – is because they have been working aggressively at building up their beverage offerings to compete with Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks.  The article explains that while the fast food giant has been creating multiple beverage stations, hot and cold coffees, latte’s, frappés, milkshakes, and smoothies…beverages are not the reason McDonald’s core customers patronize them.  In other words…

Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks are not your competition, McDonald’s.

Know your competition

It should come as no surprise to anyone (other than the company’s execs, apparently) that McDonald’s’ competition is other burger joints:  Burger King, which is offering the Angry Whopper, BBQ Pulled Pork sandwich, and sweet potato fries; Wendy’s, which has a huge hit with their Pretzel Bun Burger; or even Taco Bell and their Doritos tacos. What new product is McDonald’s promoting right now?

Chicken wings.

News flash: KFC is not your competition, either, folks.

So what does this mean to the rest of us?

Know your strengths

Whether you’re a restaurateur, a salesperson, a voice artist, or a writer – whatever you do for a living – you have to know your strengths.  You need to know what it is you do best and who it is you need to do it for; otherwise, you’ll be trying to attract the wrong customers and giving the customers you do get a likely inferior product. (Did I mention McDonald’s is serving chicken wings?)

Personally, I would love to voice movie trailers. Unfortunately for me, my voice lacks the gritty, hard-edged quality that most movie trailer voice actors have. So I’m content to voice commercials, corporate narration, and on-hold messaging. Having started out acting, I have voiced a number of characters over the years – from a pre-Colonial American soldier to a lumbering, digital super-villain – so I’m happy to lend my talents to documentaries, museum recordings, and audio dramas.

But movie trailers…I’m just not seeing it happening.

DSCF2068 (Mic - Katie)That’s ok, though, because I’m not wasting my time auditioning for gigs I have no chance of winning. Being a voice actor, children’s writer, and stay-at-home dad to two kids under the age of 4, time is precious to me.

Trying to make myself appear to be something I’m not by offering something I’m not 100% capable of doing well does a disservice to the prospective client as well as to myself.

Know your limits

When I was younger, I auditioned for everything: trailers, audio books, TV commercials. I never sent in auditions I thought were sub-par, but looking back on it now I realize many of those auditions were probably tossed after 5 seconds of listening; I just wasn’t cut out for many of those gigs!

Likewise, as a children’s writer, I specialize in poetry. I like the compact, succinct little vignettes and stories that poetry allows me to create.  I’ve written about a half-dozen picture book manuscripts, but for now, I do not see myself writing any middle-grade novels or YA (Young Adult) fiction.

For one thing, I can’t imagine being able to sit still long enough to write that many pages just to get my story out. For another, I don’t think I’d be able to keep the plot, characters, or settings straight.  Some people have told me writing poetry is a lot harder than writing a chapter book. I have no idea if that is true.

I also have no intention of finding out!

Know when to stretch yourself

When I say we need to play to our strengths, I’m not implying that we shouldn’t step outside our comfort zone(s) now and then. Otherwise, how would we grow?

There’s nothing wrong with testing the waters now and then.  If you’re a voice actor, try auditioning for a role that might be a stretch, if you think you can pull it off. If you’re a prose writer, see what happens if you try to write some poetry. Maybe it’ll be awful…maybe it won’t be half bad. But at least you’ve pushed yourself and can learn from the experience.

It’s when you start spending an inordinate amount of time outside your area of expertise that things may start to falter.  It’s great to develop new clients and new things to offer…but not at the expense of losing your old clients.

Unless you don’t mind losing your old clients.

Sometimes growth requires pruning

ID-10079994 (cellphone)Just like cutting the branches off a large tree helps it to grow and be healthy, the same might be said about your business.

Verizon, which started off as a landline telephone company, realized there were less headaches and more money in wireless communications. So they eventually sold all their landline services and became a strictly wireless provider. In this case, they expanded what they were doing, realized there was a more profitable way of doing it, and totally changed the focus of the company.

But you’ll notice, they didn’t start selling computers, TVs, and all sorts of other equipment. They continued offering phone service – just a different type of phone service.

They knew their strength was communications service, not communication devices - and they knew their competition was AT&T and Sprint, not Apple and Samsung.

Assessing my life

As previously mentioned, I’m a voice actor, children’s writer, and stay-at-home dad. I’m also a husband, neighbor, friend, indoor soccer player, and parishioner. How am doing with these? I’m not sure.

There’s more I could do to build up my business. I don’t write as much as I’d like. I never feel like I spend enough time with the family - even though I’m with the kids all day long. And those other responsibilities? I wish I could be better at those, too.

Sure, it’s a juggling act. But it’s also a juggling act I created myself. I do the best I can, and if the day comes when I find I’m just not fulfilling my obligations in one of those areas, something will have to go.  I can tell you, it certainly won’t be the family.

For now, I’m doing my best, playing to my strengths.  If I ever get to the point where I’m not doing my best, I’ll need to reassess my life.

Although, for the record, I still don’t see any movie trailers or chapter books in my future!

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PoetsGarage-badgeDid you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it!  To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week - on Tues. and Fri. - so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

From torn tendons to tenderloin: a week’s worth of life lessons

This past week has been another crazy-busy one. I know everyone has more and more responsibilities weighing them down these days, but for me, sometimes it’s hard just keeping those responsibilities straight – much less actually accomplishing them.

As a stay-at-home dad to my 3-year-old son and 10-week-old daughter, it’s a constant struggle trying to take care of them while running my voiceover business, writing my children’s poetry and picture book manuscripts, being a supportive hubby to my lovely bride, and trying to find a few spare minutes for myself to be able to recharge.

Grey - baking 4

My sous chef, working on the pizza dough

Oh, but first, I need to get a load of laundry in.  Hang on…

Ok, now as I was saying, I — oh, dang, wait a sec – I forgot to load the dishwasher…

Anyway, my point is – ugh, I just realized I was supposed to vacuum the house today! Oh, well, it’ll have to wait…

Before I try to write anything else, let me just put the dogs outside in their kennel and give the baby some milk so she can nap. I’ll have to pay these bills later today.

Let’s stick with bullet points

Indeed, that may be the best way to put this post together, all things considered. You see, although it’s been a stressful and challenging week, there are always rays of sunshine peeking through here and there – little glimmers of inspiration or encouragement that you might miss if you’re too busy trying to just get through the day. Here’s what my past week has been like:

- My Men’s Over-30 Indoor Soccer team’s first game of the season was last Tuesday night, and although we lost, it was to a team that has been playing far longer than we have. We held our own and did an admirable job. Of course, I would have preferred not to have torn a tendon in my left middle finger, but it happens. My finger will be in a brace for the next 6 weeks, but I’m not letting the injury stop me. I won’t be goal-keeping for half the season, but I don’t need fingers to play defense, halfback, or forward!
Lesson learned: Don’t let adversity stop you!

finger

Like I would let THAT stop me!

- A good client of mine asked me to produce a new series of radio commercials for her. We met at a recording studio and, as we have in the past, talked about her business and the various points she wanted to focus on.  I then had the audio (about an hour, total) sent to me, and I’m in the process of cutting up all her good parts into testimonial- style commercials. It’s a major project, and I anticipate being able to produce about 14 or 15 commercials, which she’ll be able to use throughout the rest of this year and next. Why so many? Because there many angles to her business, and I don’t just ask her questions when we’re recording; I listen to her answers. We converse. And that sense of comfort comes through.
Lesson learned: Talk less, listen more!

- One day last week, the baby started crying and wouldn’t stop. She had been changed, fed, held, rocked, changed again, held again, and nothing I was doing was altering her decibel level. Knowing that babies cry because – well, that’s just what they do - I tried not to let it get to me. Eventually, after holding her for what seemed like 182 hours (I’m pretty sure it was less than that, but my arm felt like it had been 182 hours), I decided to try putting her in her baby swing. She immediately stopped crying, closed her eyes, and fell asleep for 2 hours, allowing daddy to finally get some work done. At that point, all I really wanted was a really quiet massage – but since that was out of the question, I decided to work on those commercials.
Lesson learned: Patience, patience, patience!

Best Green Bean Casserole

I could buy 2 pounds for $50, or make twice that for $6. Let me think about that…

- I received a mail-order food catalogue over the weekend from a company I’d never heard of, but which tried tempting me with photos of succulent tenderloin beef, sirloin steaks, and filet mignon. I really wasn’t interested in anything that cost $48 per pound – I kid you not! – but I figured I’d continue to peruse the catalogue and see what else they offered. Then I came across the Green Bean Casserole. Yes, that’s right…the dish your grandmother used to make for Thanksgiving was available by mail-order, for only $25 a pound! Green beans, cream of mushroom soup, and cheap fried onion-things on top, and I could have a 2-pound package sent directly to my door for only FIFTY DOLLARS.
Lesson learned: If I ever have so much money that a $50 Green Bean Casserole sounds like a deal…slap me.

Pay attention to Life!

We don’t always have to be hit with disaster or suffer a major traumatic experience to recognize when Life (or God) is trying to teach us something. Really, there’s something we can learn in everything we experience, if we’re willing to look.

Like you, I get busy, I get stressed, I get uplifted, I get shot down. But in each circumstance, there’s wisdom to be gleaned. I’ve lost out on voiceover gigs; perhaps that’s Life teaching me tenacity. I’ve had numerous children’s writers tell me how much they love some of my poetry; perhaps that’s Life encouraging me to keep writing.

I have four projects I need to work on right now; perhaps that’s Life’s way of teaching me time management.

Or, maybe Life is just telling me everything’s going to be OK.

Either way, I’m listening.

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PoetsGarage-badgeDid you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it!  To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week - on Tues. and Fri. - so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest,

When soccer, voice-acting, and poetry collide

Well, maybe not “collide” – but perhaps “rub elbows”…

ID-10056952 (soccer ball)My Men’s Over-30 Indoor Soccer league plays its first game tonight, and as I’ve been getting ready the last few weeks, it has occurred to me how important preparation is – for anything you do.

Practicing things like ball control, passing, and, in my case, goal-keeping, helps one to not only become better at those particular skills, but to more easily focus on other things important to the game. If you don’t have to think about how to move the ball from one place to the next, you have more time to survey the field to determine your next move. If you’re not worrying about touching the ball with your hands, as many new players do, you’ll have more confidence when the ball comes your way.

Likewise, prepping for the other things you do in life can be helpful, as well. As a voice actor, preparation takes many forms for me. I prep scripts by reading them over first, correcting for spelling, punctuation, or syntax, and noting where to pause, where to add emphasis, and where to change inflection. I prep my voice by drinking lots of water all the time and making sure not to drink caffeinated beverages or eat salty foods or dairy if I know I’m going to be recording in a little while.

And of course, I constantly prep my abilities by auditioning, auditioning, auditioning.

Every gig I don’t get was practice for the gig I will get

Some folks complain about auditioning for gigs and not getting them.  The way I look at it, auditioning is the main part of my job (marketing is a close second) and actually recording the gigs – doing the “fun stuff,” so to speak – is a much smaller piece of my career pie. Yes, it’s the part that makes me money, but I still spend more time auditioning and marketing.

Do I like being passed over for gigs? Of course not.

However, I do try to find the good in everything. And believe me…for some high-profile, well-paying auditions I lose out on, it’s really hard to find the good.  But if I don’t, where does that leave me? Grumpy and disagreeable is no way to live your life.

We all know what practicing means and we all understand that “practice makes perfect” - but how often are we practicing something and not even realizing it?

ID-10068993 (sound mixer)

Poetic practice, practice, practice…

As you probably know, I do a lot of writing. For the past several years, I’ve been trying to become a published children’s writer, and it hasn’t been easy. Getting a book published these days through conventional means (agents, editors, contracts, etc.) is hard to do. Getting a children’s book published is even harder.

And getting a children’s book of poetry, which Is what I primarily write, is about the hardest thing there is.

Publishers and agents claim the market isn’t very big, even though every kid in school from kindergarten to 12th grade can recite nursery rhymes, favourite songs, and hip-hop lyrics. My 3-year-old already knows many of the poems in David Elliott’s book, In the Wild, fer cryin’ out loud. But “poetry doesn’t sell” is the mantra we’re repeatedly given.

That’s a whole other blog post, my friend.

My point in mentioning this is, I write and write and write…with no guarantees of success.  Some of my poems are pretty good (I think) and some not so good. The ones I like I either post here or submit to independent anthologies and the ones I don’t like never see the light of day. At least, that is, until I get them to the point where I do like them – through revising and rewriting.

Here again, every poem is practice for the next. If I want to learn to write a poem in a particular form, I’ll work at it and work at it until I get to the point where the form feels comfortable. At that point, I can focus on other elements of the poem like internal rhyme and such. If I’m not focused on the rules of the form because they come more naturally to me, my mind is free to create. (Remember what I was saying about soccer practice?)

If only we could practice life

How cool would that be? You get to go through puberty once, you figure it all out and learn what to do and what not to do and what to say and not to say…then once you’re ready, you get a do-over! That time when you talked back to your dad a little too much? You’d now know when to shut up. That girl you wanted to ask out in high school, but didn’t know if you could? You’d get to actually ask her out.

Alas, we only get one life. That doesn’t mean we still can’t keep practicing to improve ourselves - or at least recognize our failures as practice for success.  Personally speaking, I used to be the biggest introvert on the planet. But I wanted to be more gregarious, so I began acting as if I was. Seriously! I pretended to be outgoing, and although it was extremely difficult at first, over the years it became much easier.

ID-10016199 (soccer mic)I didn’t realize I was practicing gregariousness (is that a word?) – but that’s exactly what I was doing. And I’m a much happier, more sociable fellow these days than I was 25 years ago. Which probably explains my mindset when it comes to failure. As former U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis said, “Nothing succeeds like failure.”

Each gig I don’t win or manuscript that is rejected gets me that much closer to a gig I will get or a book I will sell.  Maybe it’s determination. Maybe it’s delusion.

I’m good at both, you know.

I practice.

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PoetsGarage-badgeDid you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it!  To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week - on Tues. and Fri. - so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter , Facebook, Pinterest, and SoundCloud!

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