Howdy gang! Trust you've all survived the life sledgehammer we call Monday? I'm still counting toes, but I think I made it through mostly intact.
I'm smiling at the title of this post, because it was my long-dead deaf grandmother's catchphrase. She lost her hearing early in life, and I never knew her any other way. So I was an unusually patient kid when it came to people explaining things.
Why? Because a conversation with grandma would take twice as long as any normal conversation. I'd often have to write things down (learned a lot about reading and writing in that way) for her to understand what I was trying to say. Or I'd have to find what I was talking about to show her. As I got older, I learned to speak slowly so she could read my lips, which she was aces at.
As for the catchphrase, you'd be surprised at how adept we are at making conversation without actually looking at who we're talking and listening to. The reason is simple: We can hear.
It's why telephones work. We can say, 'mmm hmmm' and 'uh huh' and 'sure' and the person on the other end of the conversation knows we're listening.
Granny didn't have that luxury. So if she were telling you something important, she'd often qualify it with, "Are ye listening?" That was your cue to turnaround and give her your face-front full attention.
I'm a pretty good listener. I owe part of that to my counseling background, but I owe a lot to granny too. I learned good listening skills long before I knew what they were: Eye contact. Use lots of non-verbal affirmations (nod, more pronounced facial expressions, etc.). Frequently check for understanding, and so on.
But enough of the memory lane. Let's play a game!
Here's how it works: I'm going to ask you a question. Then, because I'm a lonely writer who doesn't ask questions to people who can actually hear and talk to him, I'm going to answer for you as well.
Wait, that doesn't sound like a fun game? (Asks the bossy five year old me.) Well we're going to play it anyway! (Says the bossy five year old me.) Here goes:
Me Question: Do you listen to podcasts?
You Answer: I should.
Wasn't that fantastic fun? I won by the way...
I know, you're busy. You've got 8 kids, 14 dogs, a lion cub, a flooding basement, 6 jobs, a 9th child you call your spouse and dinner won't fix itself. Who has the time to listen to podcasts, especially when it cuts into your LMFAO time? (You know you sing along when it comes on the radio. It's OK, this is a judgment free zone when it comes to music ... well, except for the Bieber.)
That's exactly why you need to listen to podcasts. You can put them on in the background while cleaning, driving and cooking. The best part is there are some truly awesome writing related ones out there. And unlike reading a book on craft, you can listen to them while you're pulling your child out of the trash compactor.
As I mentioned, there are lots of them out there, and they cover every imaginable writing subject. Some focus on genre, some talk about the industry, some give tips on publishing independently, some talk marketing and some are craft related.
Most are run by authors, but there are plenty done by editors and other book people. The two I'm going to pass on to you are some of the best I've found. They're short and exceedingly useful to your writing endeavors.
The first is the Writing Excuses podcast. It's run by four authors whose backgrounds range from science fiction and fantasy to young adult horror. Each episode is (to quote their tagline), "15 minutes long, because you're in a hurry, we're not that smart." They cram a ton of useful information into each cast, have lots of great guests and cover everything from plotting to movie formulas. THEIR WEBSITE.
The second is the Grammar Girl podcast. This is seriously like listening to a style guide, and a must for those who struggle with the finer details of writing and language (read - me). Even if you don't struggle, there's still plenty to learn. Grammar Girl covers things like how/when to use a dash, colon or comma and if using sentence fragments is an OK tactic in fiction. The best part is that she rarely strays over six or seven minutes for each topic--her tagline is, "Quick and Dirty Tips"--and you'll know tons more by the end. HER WEBSITE.
HOW TO LISTEN
There are lots of ways to listen to podcasts. If you own a smart phone, there are numerous apps you can download that will manage your podcasts, allow you to add new ones, etc. If you're an iTune user, just go to the iTunes store and click on the "Podcasts" drop down list. You can search by whatever subject, download and listen. I think most if not all of them are free.
You can also go to the specific website. If you click the links above, each podcast episode has a link to listen right there on the page.
I'm going to do a followup post this week with a couple of tips for listening via your iTunes, iPhone, etc.
Do you listen to any writing related podcasts?