Sunday, July 17, 2016

Please move to my other blog.

Dear blog readers, I haven't posted in here for a long time. Here's why: Years back I kept two blogs going: one on writing and one on life. Well, life is writing and writing and creativity are my life and so I'm now only posting new material to Come on over. I post great stuff a couple of times a week. Hope to see you there. Jill

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Practicing as creatives

It takes a lot to be an active creative. There are time and money constraints, the need to learn things we're not good at (like marketing for some of us); there's a lot of self-doubt. But the longer I keep actively pursuing my creative life, one commitment has become the most important: how I practice.

A teacher of mine recently said, "We are what we practice, and we get to choose what we practice." We can practice going to the studio or practice staying home. We can practice writing every morning or we can practice sleeping in or reading the paper. We can practice making mistakes and trying new things or we can give up when something looks flawed and stay with what always works. We can practice being okay with rejection or we can practice being devastated by it.

It can be good to inventory our creative practices from time to time to see if we want to make any adjustments. About every four months, I'll sit down and write down what my creative practices currently are and then make a second list of what I'd like them to be and how I can get there. If you try this, let me know how it goes. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Audible Books, My Memoir, and Me

Before last fall, I never gave a thought to voice artists, those folks we hear in commercials or on audio books. I even know a Portland actor, Sharon Knorr, who does that work but I’d never asked her about it. Now I have great respect for them. I had no idea how hard they work, how exactingand exhaustingthe process is, until I did it myself. 

In late August, I pitched my self-published memoir, Sober Truths: The Making of an Honest Woman to Audible Books, amazon’s audio book arm. My memoir had been a finalist for the Oregon Book Award in 2008 and has sold pretty well. The Audible folks asked for the manuscript and in two weeks, I had a phone call with an offer. Because my book is “backlisted” (i.e., not new), the offer was for a flat sum and no royalties. But it was a nice sum ($1500) and it would cost me nothing to get an audio book made. The one stipulation I made in the contract was that I wanted to try out for the voice work. 

The audition turned out to be simple. I have a link on my website ( to my interviews with Jody Seay on her cable TV author show Back Page. That seemed to be all they needed to say yes. 

In early October, Audible told me that they were arranging for me to do the recording at Rex Studios in Portland. My book is 228 pages long and they estimated 10-14 hours of recording time. We set dates for early November, four afternoons in a row; consecutive reading days help ensure that the timbre of the voice remains the same; afternoons remove the morning “frogginess.” 

My sessions were recorded by Russ Gorsline at Rex. We worked from 1 pm to about 4 pm on those four days. That doesn’t sound too strenuous but it is. You have to sit absolutely still in a chair with a microphone in front of you and a tablet. The only movement you can make is to touch the tablet screen to move the pages. You need to stay the same distance from the microphone at all times and if you fidget, the microphone picks it up, like rubbing your hands on your pant leg as I found out. I began to understand why Russ had said not to wear clothing that rustles or jewelry that clinks. 

Russ sat in the control room and I was in a rather nondescript room facing him through a big window. I’d read a lot in public, to small groups and large, and I figured it would be like that, only into a microphone. In a sense, I was right. You need to be articulate, enunciate well, and read with feeling. But there’s no eye contact as there is with a live group, no facial expressions to aid your intent. Instead, your voice has to make the contact with the listener. Your voice has to create a cocoon of intimacy, as if you’re telling one person your story. And it’s not just the timbre of your voice that needs to be consistent: it’s also the speed, the pitch, the energy, and that intimacy. You have to sustain them for several hours at a stretch and replicate them from day to day.  

Russ is a great engineer. He followed my words on the paper copy and stopped me if I said the wrong word or made an extraneous noise or my voice dipped. He’d listen for signs of vocal fatigue and stop me for a break of warm tea or a chance to move around a bit. He was also a great coach, helping me refine my reading technique as I went along. I’m not sure I developed the highest level of intimacy with the reader but I sure tried. It’s a lot of things to keep in mind at once and I went home each night exhausted both mentally and physically. 

About two weeks later, I got an email requesting that I return to the studio for “pickups.” These are places in the recording where something glitched and it has to be re-recorded. Russ would play the preceding paragraph for me so we could match the timbre, energy, speed, and intimacy of the section. Some I could get right away and others I had to do several times. In another three weeks, I got notification of the launch of my audio book and I have to say it’s a thrill to see my name as author, narrator and to hear my voice in the sample. 

So consider approaching Audible with your book and see what happens. It’s worth a pitch and can be a real adventure.

Jill Kelly is a writer and freelance editor in Portland. Her latest novel is When Your Mother Doesn’t, launching April 7, from Skyhorse/Perseus. She is also the author of four ebooks on self-editing.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Creativity Run Wild: Moving out of some day

A friend came by the other day, a woman I don't know all that well. I had just received an advance reader's copy (ACR) of my next novel, When Your Mother Doesn't, which is coming out April 7. I was dancing around the room in excitement, and she congratulated me and then said, "I can't tell you how many people I run into (she's in the local theater scene) who all say they want to write. And they don't. And you do! I think that's amazing."

I thanked her and told her my secret was working on it every day, most days an hour but sometimes just five minutes. But it all adds up and I keep writing. I don't know if it's more than that. I've always been a pretty productive person. And I really enjoy writing; it's not something I put off because it's tedious or scary.

I think it boils down to one's desire to write or to have written. Perhaps people who say they want to write a book or a screenplay really just want the product. They want to have written the book, not to do the process of it. Writing is hard and sometimes frustrating but to me it's well worth it. What's your take on your own writing? Wanting to do it or wanting to have done it? Both are legitimate paths to take as long as you get on the path.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Creativity Run Wild: Permission to make crap

One of the most important lessons I learned from my drawing teacher, Phil Sylvester, was the importance of giving ourselves permission to make crap. He always talks about Picasso when he's giving this lecture. How Picasso made tons of crap all through his career. Of course, he got so famous that people paid a lot of money for that crappy work if he signed it and he was most generous about signing it.

If you're not willing to make crap, Phil says, then you're stuck with pretty and precious. And while that may be satisfying for a while, it's not a very long while and it's not very satisfying as we tend to just make the safe things, which is about product and not as much about creative self-expression.

Recently I was painting a landscape with pastels and tried an experiment with deep purples and blues in the sky. It seemed like a good idea at the time and they were all lovely colors, but when I got up and stepped back, I didn't much like it. I was tempted to stop and start over on a clean piece of paper. Instead, I just kept going, trying various things with the trees and the rod and the foliage.
Did it turn out well? Not so great. But it's interesting. And I learned a lot in the doing of it and painting is always fun for me, no matter what.

So give yourself permission to make crap. Something new and interesting might come of it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Creativity Run Wild

Hi everybody. It's been quite a few months since I posted there but I'm back. I had some difficulties with the Blogger folks when I changed the name of the blog from The Writing Wheel to Jill Kelly Creative. Because I'm passionate about so many aspects of creativity, I wanted my blog title to reflect that. So watch for some great creativity posts coming up. Best, Jill

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