Ah! She Recorded Me…I Didn’t Recognize My Own Voice

The audiobook for Multiple Exposure is available for purchase: Go to iBooks or iTunes and type in Shana Thornton, you’ll see the book. Also, buy on Amazon, Audible
I said that I wouldn’t read Ellen’s book again. Technically, I’m the author, but to me, the story in Multiple Exposure belongs to the narrator, Ellen Masters, and I read it so many times while writing it that I told myself I wouldn’t again, not cover to cover, for years… decades. Maybe never again.

I told an audience recently, “I think writing this book gave me post traumatic stress disorder.” No one was laughing. I was serious.

Then, I had an opportunity to record an audiobook version with recording artist, musician, technician, and producer, Gwendy Joysen, who gave me a reason to read the book cover-to-cover again and in the best voice I’ve used, and all while making it a better book. Gwendy has many more skills, but these were the talents that helped me record my audiobook–technical and creative skills combined with openness, psychological vulnerability and wisdom, and positive praise–suddenly, Gwendy was helping me into a new phase of my life that I wasn’t even fully engaging.
Walking into her recording space, the big mic waiting for my voice, waiting for the story, I was intimated to read the book again. When I flipped open the first page, I shuddered and cleared my throat. Faltered. When I heard that first line played back in my voice, I heard a flat tone. I closed my eyes and imagined an audience. Gwendy said the same thing when I thought it–to imagine telling my story to people. Don’t focus on the headphones and microphone, on the wires and levels and controls that I knew were there, just make the story come to life from the words on the pages.

As soon as that began, the need to shift and adjust became clear which lent the story extra clarity and tighter prose. Little clean ups: tags, words that just sound weird when said aloud together, verb shifts, and more. All those editing chores, considered “boring” by many but like tilling and weeding to me, were happening again. Ugh, I was exhausted after our first session. My legs were swollen and my lungs hurt. I found new admiration for singers and the physical demands and challenges required for singing and vocal performance. I was feeling how fragile I was when I wrote the story. I saw my own past pains and stresses reflected in the words.

When I least expected it, Gwendy asked me to sing–first, “You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby,” and then, “Precious Memories.” Only the title of the former and a couple of lines from the latter, but I was recording my singing voice–oh, geez, while this lightened our recording time (Multiple Exposure is a heavy book), I’ve only considered myself a road trip crooner and fireside accompaniment, as far as singing goes. Gwendy volunteered to be my vocal coach, too, for those little bits of song. First, we listened to a couple different versions of each song until we found the one that seemed right. Gwendy quickly chose one and then, she sang and sang, instructing me to blend in with her voice. We sang the lines over until she dropped out when I captured it enough times to record my solo voice with the correct tone and melody.

My diaphragm and abdominal muscles were sore after reading for 4+ hours, and this showed me how taxing it can be for singers and musicians when they are in the recording studio. My feet ached from standing. Gwendy insisted on breaks and drinking water. I sipped coffee most of the time to soothe my sore throat.

During our breaks, we naturally learned about each other, and Gwendy connected to my character’s PTSD struggles, since Gwendy recently emerged from a traumatic and abusive relationship that lasted a few years. I finally felt like Ellen received some validation, and that I did as an author.

We shared stories about overcoming anxiety issues and allowing art to carry us through the highs and lows in life. That ever-changing landscape, the sand painting of living the life of an artist and trying to make a living, looking for validation for your artwork and not wanting to need it but needing it, and the moments of being swept up in the exhilaration and escape of the creative process–we shared all those experiences in life. By being her own open, honest self, Gwendy helped with the inspiration for a new book and creative project that’s currently in the works.

Multiple Exposure was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Gwendy Joysen. I highly recommend her services! Her website: http://www.gwendyjoysen.com
I narrated. Recorded in Tennessee, spring 2014. Please, buy a copy: Go to iBooks or iTunes and type in Shana Thornton, you’ll see the book. Also, buy on Amazon, Audible

Cover Design by Steven Walker, http://www.stevenMwalkerImages.com

Cover Design by Steven Walker, http://www.stevenMwalkerImages.com

The Path of Selfish Giving & Meditative Techniques: Part 5 to What is Service? What is Generosity?

Photo by Felipe Hadler

Photo by Felipe Hadler

Last week, my daughter and I continued our service exploration, and I had the opportunity to contribute to some national organization about which I previously knew nothing.

Like many women enlisted as a bridesmaid, I had a champagne pink formal from a wedding, with 6-inch heels to match, hanging in my baby’s closet. I was never wearing any of that again. I googled, “prom dress donations to girls” and discovered Becca’s Closet. Plenty of girls gaga over pink would love this one-shouldered satin dress with Vince Camuto heels. I also let my friends and family members know that I would deliver dresses, accessories, and jewelry. I picked up dresses and jewelry (Days 15 & 17). My husband even picked up some dresses when I lost my car keys. And that was the biggest lesson Zoe learned from those prom dresses, keep giving and asking for help because many people will help you to give. Then I showed her the photographs of girls in dresses, and she asked, “When can I get a pair of high heels?”
Uh, yeah, lesson learned :-/

Cue the discussion about selfish giving. “I participate in it all of the time,” I admit to her. “It’s kind of the easiest type of giving for a lot of people because you get something in return and you know that you’re getting it.” I explained that I enjoy supporting the arts because I so often receive a performance or free tickets to something for giving to theater, dance, and music companies. I also explained that many of those programs receive less and less federal funding, so sponsoring the arts ensures that artists have jobs. It goes beyond that, but it’s difficult to retain a 7-year old’s attention about federal funding and such for more than 7 minutes (if that).

So, I explained by example that her Dad and I were going to a benefit concert (Day 18), and while it benefitted Nashville-area veterans and at-risk children, I wanted to go because I would get the opportunity to see some of my favorite musicians (Brendan Benson & Jack White) play music at one of my favorite venues (Ryman Auditorium). Totally selfish giving.

And in that moment of selfishness, I learned about the David Lynch Foundation and transcendental meditation.

What Brendan Benson said about transcendental meditation during the concert: “I believe it’s addressing the source. I believe If you can achieve inner peace, you can achieve outer peace.”

For one summer ten years ago, I taught literature to high school students who were planning to become first-generation college students. They were participating in a university-preparatory program. At first, we didn’t connect at all, and then I just followed my gut, took a major leap, and had them practice a meditative technique in order to try to convey the concept of symbolism to them. I had practiced meditative techniques for about five years, and I was a grad student who had been teaching writing in a developmental writing course. I teetered on the edge, waiting, when they opened their eyes. Would they call me crazy? Were they asleep? Amazingly, it worked, and they wouldn’t shut up about symbols and meaning, metaphor, hyperbole…you name it–they did get the concept. I began to teach a variety of meditative techniques in connection with literature. Every day we met, the students asked me if we would be meditating. I was in shock. They read, they wrote, they arrived early. I’ve never taught that way again, but I always knew something exceptional happened in those classes that I’ve never been able to recreate by other traditional classroom means. While I haven’t been trained in transcendental meditation yet, I do know that the practice of meditation changed my life.

The David Lynch Foundation puts transcendental meditative programs into public school as well as working with the Wounded Warrior Program and many local organizations. Meditation in schools and helping veterans–that gave me a greater feeling than rockin out at the Ryman.

And don’t read my stuff anymore right now, read theirs, read about transcendental meditation and the David Lynch Foundation.

From the David Lynch Foundation website:
Operation Warrior Wellness:
building resilience and healing the
hidden wounds of war
The nightmare of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Over half a million U.S. troops deployed since 2001 suffer from PTSD. Yet less than 20% will receive adequate care due to lack of effective treatments, fear of stigma or insufficient government resources. Half of those with PTSD won’t receive any care at all.
Left untreated, PTSD cripples functioning and places veterans at great risk for violent and self-destructive behavior, including:
Alcoholism or drug abuse
Severe depression, anxiety or emotional numbness
Family and employment problems
Suicide—today, more than 6,500 vets die by suicide every year
Creating resilient warriors
Operation Warrior Wellness (OWW), a division of the David Lynch Foundation, offers the Transcendental Meditation-based Resilient Warrior Program, a simple, easy-to-learn, evidence-based approach to relieving symptoms of PTSD and major depression and developing greater resilience to stress.
Since its initial launch in 2010, the OWW initiative has partnered with leading veterans service organizations, Army and Marine bases and VA medical centers across the country to deliver the Resilient Warrior Program to veterans, active-duty personnel and military families in need. The initiative also partners with military colleges to create a new generation of more resilient officers.
Evidence-based relief from the epidemic of mental injury
The TM-based Resilient Warrior Program has been extensively researched by over 340 peer-reviewed studies, including over $26 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health to study the program’s effectiveness for reducing heart disease. Key findings include:
40-55% reduction in symptoms of PTSD and depression
42% decrease in insomnia
30% improvement in satisfaction with quality of life
25% reduction in plasma cortisol levels
Decreased high blood pressure–on par with first-line antihypertensives
47% reduced risk of cardiovascular-related mortality
View references for these findings