Third Nebula Awards 2011 Post

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A highlights of any successful Nebula Awards Weekend is the range of workshops and day trips available to the attendees, and this year really drove that point home. There was quite an assortment to choose from, but ultimately I focused on some workshops to expand my skills.

The first of these was a trip out to the television studio where they film FastForward, a show that features interviews with authors and others in the science fiction and fantasy field. This particular workshop was limited to five participants. After a quick tour of the studio (and snacks in the Green Room) we were led to a lobby where we watched as one by one our comrades were taken onto the set and put through a live, two-minute interview. After the interviews we all returned to the studio. Our hosts, Tom Schaad, Mike Zipser, and Kathi Overton, treated us to the benefits of their experience, revealing behind-the-scenes info, techniques, and tips for improving our future television appearances. It was an amazing workshop, that went by far too quickly, and I’m still processing all the things I learned there.

The other workshop I attended was the two part session on Reading Aloud hosted by Campbell Award winning author (and SF vice president) Mary Robinette Kowal. The first portion of the workshop was a classroom style lecture with much audience participation. Mary walked us through some basics of public speaking and the fundamentals of creating accents. It was wonderfully informative, particularly in areas where I knew the basic mechanics (having taught articulatory phonetics myself) but had never applied the knowledge in this domain.

After a break for lunch, eight lucky attendees rejoined Mary in a smaller room and over the course of the next three hours received one-on-one instruction incorporating the material from the first workshop into our individual readings. Not only did we work on our own performances, we witnessed one another’s transformations as well. In the end, I was exhausted but deliriously happy with the experience.

So, what did I learn?

Going into the sessions, I was pretty cocky and cavalier. I’ve been on television dozens of times, and my decade of professoring has me very at ease speaking to an audience. Basically, I can wing it, and often as not, I have.

And that’s wrong.

These workshops culminated in a stupidly simple take-home message for me. Be Professional. Really, it’s that simple. Do the work, come prepared. Instead of winging it and doing a perfectly adequate job, why not put in the time, master the material (which, you know, is my material), and blow the doors off the room?

Preparation is the difference between getting by and being a professional. And, while it’s humiliating to realize and admit it, I’ve been mostly faking it all this time.

My most sincere appreciation to Tom and Mike and Kathi, and to Mary, for giving of their time and expertise to teach me things I needed to know. I’m humbled by your generosity, and I will use the gifts you’ve shared to behave as a professional going forward.

I’m not sure when my next TV interview may be, but if you want to see the results of my Nebula Awards Weekend experience, come to my next reading. Be sure to keep a tight grip on your socks, not that it will help.

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