Posted in Audio, hope chest

Third Coast 2018: Folding an Audio Quilt Into a Hope Chest


About three weeks before this year’s Third Coast International Audio Festival, two of its organizers (shout-out to Maya Goldberg-Safir and Emily Kennedy) asked if I might want to attend and deliver a Late Night Provocation, one several opening-night, rapid-fire talks meant to challenge, inspire, and ignite the hundreds of audio-makers who converge on the city of Chicago for the festival each year. I waited a couple of days, because even with their offer to waive the cost of registration, I still wasn’t sure I could pull off the flight and the hotel costs. In fact, I was certain I couldn’t. This year has been the most financially unstable of the last five. Hopefully this won’t still be true when the year wraps in December. But it’s very much so in October. I mentioned the offer to my aunt on a phone call a few days after I received it, and as she has done at more times in my adult life than I can count, she told me I shouldn’t miss it, then paid my way there.

Securing professional development opportunities is challenging for freelancers, even more so for single parents. Even we can afford them — and sometimes we can, though rarely without sacrificing something else — it’s hard to attend them if they’re multi-day, out-of-town, and we can’t bring our kids (bringing them compounds the expense and makes it trickier to maximize the learning and networking experiences, since your attention is constantly divided between caring for them and attempt to participate in anything else).

Third Coast, while warm and fuzzy in many ways, is first and foremost a professional development opportunity. I’ve attended once before, back in 2015, and the only in-office audio production job I’ve ever had is one I attained as a direct result of a connection I made at a lunch table there. Just attending and talking to people and exchanging information is deeply valuable, but to be a participant, in any way, can be even more of a game-changer. (I think that will prove to be true for me in the upcoming months, but only time will tell.) I always find myself in the company of people who leave me awestruck. That was no less the case as I rehearsed and waited on line with the rest of the provocateurs.

So with about two weeks from the time I accepted the offer to the opening night of the festival, I started prepping my talk and planning the trip. I was also juggling writing and audio production deadlines (I’m starting to write about culture again. Check here and here.) and parenting and personal stuff.

About a day before the conference, we found out our host hotel was in the throes of a month-long strike and the union and the hotel chain had yet to strike a fair and acceptable agreement. The fate of the festival hung in the balance, as the organizers made the choice to divest from the host hotel as its venue and the hundreds of us who were in route kept refreshing our email to figure out where we would be headed on arrival. New provisions were evolving hourly and for a time, it seemed that the fate of the Late Night Provocations hung in the balance. I didn’t really have time let myself feel anything about that; I’d barely had time to brace myself for the travel and the stage fright. If it wound up not happening, I’d still be there, attending.

For anyone with an ounce of awareness or empathy, it would’ve been difficult to feel disappointment about the conferencing inconvenience while looking into the face of a protesting worker or into the face of a non-union worker who couldn’t afford to forgo the four weeks of wages they’d have to sacrifice to negotiate future gains. For my part, I just kept an ear out for updates. In the end, the Provocations happened after all, but not in the hotel where they’d been originally scheduled. They took place in the cavernous event space where the annual opening night party is held.

There’s no guarantee that I would’ve nailed the onstage sound mix, even if conditions were as favorable as planned. But I definitely flubbed it in the cavern. I think they’re still going to make everyone’s provocations available in podcast form, so if you’re curious about the real-time reading and delivery, you’ll likely be able to hear it then.

But I decided to make a clean version, mixing it the way I heard it in my head. It seemed a fitting move, since my talk, titled, “Folding an Audio Quilt into a Hope Chest,” was all about recreating a world, just as you’d want it to be, for an audience of one. Here it is:

The union and the hotel reached an agreement hours before the festival began. Then, on the first full day, Friday, October 5, a jury delivered a verdict in the LaQuan McDonald murder case. On Saturday, the last official day of the conference, Congress voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. I feel like I’ve never attended a conference or festival at a time when stories like these weren’t breaking, but I can’t recall attending one where life-altering national stories broke back-to-back over the course of a weekend. Stakes seem to be piling high atop one another. Wandering through a convocation of journalists and storytellers is an ideal experience in times like these. You are among people whose ideas and intentions are quick and powerful. You are among people who are awake. You are among those who know enough to be terrified and too much to be histrionic. Even so, it’s still hard to catch our breath, and all I can say, all I can encourage anyone to do, is to find ways to keep themselves and others from fracturing. If the message of the provocation holds any meaning for you, whether you’re an audio-maker or not, I hope it’s that.

Posted in Nonfiction, Writing Craft

My Writing Process: Living Better.

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I have no idea why I included this photo. I don’t really make this face before or during my writing process. Honest. lol

Oh, man. I really forgot I was supposed to do this by today. Nicole D. Collier graciously, generously, thoughtfully asked me to participate in the blog tour almost two weeks ago, and had I not seen my good friend Joshunda’s insightful response this morning, I would’ve likely gone on forgetting. Nicole is a really lovely writer and a singularly insightful thinker. She writes about things I wouldn’t readily consider. And sometimes when I’m reading Joshunda, I feel like she’s been reading my mind. I’m honored to be in their writerly company.

Apologies, y’all. I’ll try to be both brief and interesting.

1. What are you working on?

Becoming a better, more experienced, more observant, more interesting person. I’m 34 and inward to a real fault. I think my writing tends to suffer because of it. Social media, where I’m very active both for work and leisure, hasn’t always helped; my networks give me more reason to tune out of the world around me and to neglect the very necessary craft-observation of the people I encounter. I’m earbuds-in, head-down a lot of the time and I’m working most on being less invested in what’s going on in the palm of my hand and more invested in what lies without.

Writing people and places and experiences is only as authentic or credible as your witness. Imagination relies on what we can already access; no matter how little the worlds you build in your work resemble the one where we live, those worlds will be populated with ideas and people and experiences that draw on what you’ve seen and done and survived. Sometimes I feel like I’ve exhausted all my observation/experience and need to go out and acquire more… life. But every day is rife with potential, if you’re paying attention. I’m really working on that.

The less abstract answer is: I’m working on a collection of essays, having abandoned a novel manuscript. 🙂

2. How does your work differ from others’ work in the same genre?

Like a ton of writers/artists have already said: I don’t know that it does. I try to infuse a bit of the voice I use here at my blog — which is poetic and purple, at times — in the film, TV, culture commentary I write. These days, I feel like a lot of people are leaning more on a distinct personal creative nonfiction voice for commentary. It breaks up the “think-piece” monotony.

3. Why do you write what you do?

It’s all I’ve got. For whatever reason, I can’t access fiction, despite the fact that my MFA is in fiction writing. It’s just not something I can do quickly or well. It’s one of the most mysterious, elusive genres in which I’ve tried to write, second only to playwriting in my difficulty with it.

So I write what I can do fast and fairly well because I have a toddler and I’m her primary caregiver — which is to say I no longer have the luxury of struggling for months and years with no finished product to show for it. I can turn around an essay in four hours or less a lot of the time. It’s far more gratifying.

4. How does your writing process work?

These days I just write when, where and what I can. If it requires research, I open Google and do a cursory search. I go down the rabbit hole of long and short-form reporting both on the issue at hand and any tertiary issues that should also be considered. In the reading, I wait for the angle to become clear to me. It usually does after I’ve read between 4-6 strong, investigative pieces.

For blog entries, which I consider to be short personal essays that usually don’t require reporting, I just try to find quiet space to reflect or recollect details. Voice is very important to me here so silence, if I can swing it, is pretty important, as I need to hear the voice I’ll be using. I read aloud for flow (or try to) before hitting send or publish. If I don’t like the flow, I reword until I do.

Up until about a year ago, I was composing almost entirely on my iPhone and pen/paper. I have a particular brand of pen I prefer to use and I favor spiral notebooks. Now I have a Chromebook, and I’m using that to type this. But I still find that my iPhone-writing habit is a bit hard to break. It’s with me everywhere; this Chromebook isn’t.

That’s pretty much it for me.

I’ve asked my good friends Syreeta McFadden and Terryn aka DopeReads to do this next, but since I’m so late asking, I can’t guarantee it’ll be them. If it is, though, expect their installments on June 11.



Posted in Uncategorized

Excavating Emotion with Stacia L. Brown.

One of the most consistent bits of positive feedback I receive about my blog is that it has the ability to make people feel. Not all writing connects with the reader’s emotions. Not all writing is meant to. But there is perhaps no greater frustration for the aspiring writer than to intend for readers to feel her work and to get the sense that she has not quite succeeded.

If that’s you — whether you’re writing creative nonfiction, fiction, an op-ed or even an academic essay (yes, academic papers can convey intense emotion) — I’d like to help you.

To convey the emotions of others, be they fictional or real, you must be in touch with your own. You must become a projector. Think of your feelings as light. You cannot build a lively world of moving images if you are unwilling to let a flash of wild rage; a burst of ecstatic joy, a confession of secret jealousy, a surrender to impregnable sorrow, a yielding to devastating, life-altering love and an equal acquiescence to devastating life-altering heartbreak flow through you.

If the words you need feel trapped under the rubble of denial or self-protection, and somehow, in spite of yourself, you want them on the page to be read by friends and strangers anyway, I can take through a series of exercises, readings and discussions that may help you unearth them.

This summer, I’d like to work one-on-one with writers from all levels of experience who are interested in exploring emotion on the written page. Each writer will work with me individually  to design four hour-long sessions over a four-week period. The dates and times will be scheduled according to each writer’s availability. Sessions will be conducted online via Skype, Facetime, or Google Hangout+, and the content of each client’s sessions will be tailored to his/her writerly needs.

If this is of interest to you, contact me here to initiate the process. Sessions will be booked on a first come, first serve basis.