aqua fortis

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Abort, Retry, Fail

This morning I was interviewed for the local Capital Public Radio NPR program Insight, with Beth Ruyak. Since they had me drive into the studio this time for an in-person talk, that meant I had ample time on the 90-minute drive back home to reflect upon the many ways in which I sounded like a complete dork.

Instead of (or in addition to) thinking about how awesome it was that they invited me back, or how much less nervous I sounded than the last time I was on the radio, or even how cool it was that I just had 15 minutes MORE of fame, thus totaling approximately an hour of radio time in total, I spent most of the drive dissecting what I could have done better. Because THAT'S JUST ME! A barrel of laughs!

So, problem #1: the sound of my voice. In the green room beforehand, chatting with the guest who was to appear before me; talking to the producer of the show, Ellen; even meeting Beth Ruyak before the show for a few minutes--I sounded PERFECTLY NORMAL. Professional, even. Then, the minute I was sitting in front of the mic and had to talk--my first words, I believe, were "Hi, Beth!"--suddenly a frog appeared in my throat out of nowhere, as if by magic, and I was talking around a mucus impediment. LOVELY.

I should note, however, that I sounded just fine (in my own head, anyway...) when I read a passage from the book. Having been complimented on my reading during the book launch last week, I felt relatively confident that that part, at least, I could manage. And I think I did. However:

Problem #2: As I mentioned above, I did sound less nervous this time--and I'm happy to say, I didn't have that problem I had before of suddenly blanking out on what the host asked me while in the middle of a long-winded answer, thus forcing me to babble on until I reached a conclusion of some sort. But I did experience a similar mind-blankening panic issue: several times, I would be in the middle of my long-winded answer and then forget what in tarnation *I* had been saying and what my point was supposed to be.

The way I see it, there are a few possible solutions to this problem, all of which I found myself using today, and which I have likened to 1980s-era computer lingo for your amusement:
  1. ABORT! ABORT! Finish my sentence and rely on the host to finesse the transition if I stopped making sense.
  2. RETRY! Keep on blathering in the hope that I will remember what my initial point was and be able to bring it around to a reasonably coherent conclusion.
  3. FAIL! Trail off mid-sentence and mid-thought and look pleadingly at the host, while mentally banging head against the desk.
Fortunately, I *do* get a retry, an actual one--the host seemed potentially interested in inviting me back when I have a new book (yay!), and also, I have a chance to redeem myself with another radio appearance tonight, this one for Write On Radio, a program at KFAI Minneapolis. Wish me luck...


tanita✿davis said...

Are these things your PR sets up for you, or did you find them yourself?

I think it's great you're doing so much chatting! And, I, too, do that blanking thing - I try to keep my sentences short when speaking in public, because it happens a lot in groups when the room's focus is on me. Short, short sentences. I try for big words to make up for it. ;)

david elzey said...

let me tell ya, i did ten years in college radio (KALX berkeley) and i NEVER got used to the sound of my own voice in the headphones! i would make airchecks and would have to wait a MONTH before i could listen to them with any objectivity.

nervousness is a strange condition that, for me, never really went away. the moment the red on-air light went on (and i was the one turning it on!) was the moment the floor of the elevator dropped.

in the end listeners didn't know how nervous i was, they couldn't hear it even as i pointed it out to them after the fact.

my rule: plow through, my version of "retry" i guess.

Sarah Stevenson said...

@david - strangely, it does make me feel a bit better to know that for some people, the nervousness just doesn't entirely go away. I try to tell people--especially people who are natural teachers, of whom there seems to be an overabundance in my life--that it's just the way I am. Many of them assume that if only I torture myself with it long enough, over and over, it'll magically disappear...

@tanita - the publicist set this one up, but the Insight repeat appearances are all because ages ago (2006) I answered a call on the NaNoWriMo bulletin board for an Insight segment about NaNoWriMo. I was just one of a few people they interviewed, but I read a portion of what would become The Latte Rebellion, so when THAT actually was published, I thought it would be worth contacting them to see if they'd be interested. And they were. And apparently they were interested in my 2nd book, too, when the publicist got in touch with them.

The other radio appearance--the Minneapolis one--just happened to be a lucky thing. Someone I've known for years from the Welsh course, who is also a writer, recently became a producer for that show. That one was definitely a "who you know" sort of thing--inasmuch as you never know what cool things the people you know are going to end up doing!

Anonymous said...

These are great opportunities, Sarah, and I'm excited for you having them! I think there's some real skill in being able to talk in a radio environment, from the couple times I've done it. I kind of marvel at people like Terry Gross who seem to be able to think and respond quickly, elegantly, and intelligently no matter what's going on, because i can't do that reliably. I always feel like I sound like I just graduated from junior high or something. Anyway, even if you don't feel less nervous, the more you do it, you're probably going to get better at it. It's practice, like anything else.

Sarah Stevenson said...

I adore Terry Gross! She is my idol as far as interviewING (which I'm more comfortable with than being on the other end of the equation). :)