On Repeat: N M Browne

Face to face in Athens for the British Council

 I am really bored of the sound of my own voice. Not just my writing voice, which I’ve barely exercised recently, more my actual physical  chatting into a camera voice. The new term is coming up and my face to face course on ‘writing for children’ has been put online.  I’ve been asked to record a series of ten lectures for online delivery: it is so much harder than I’d expected.

    I don’t mind imagining an audience – I’m a writer after all and I can imagine most things – a chamber full of orcs, a classroom buzzing with sentient story telling bees, even a diverse group of adults peering into their screens from anywhere in the world (which is actually what is supposed to happen.) In my mind these virtual students, even the orcs, are attentive and impressed. We will see what happens when my fantasies come up against reality in due course.

    I hope these imaginary students are less bored by my voice than I am, but then they only have to listen to me once. I have had to record each lecture so many times I have taken to playing the recordings back at twice normal speed, so that at least they are over quicker.

    The problem isn’t the lecturing. I enjoy that: it’s the recording process. It turns out my house is incredibly noisy. Mobile phones ring, people laugh ( outrageous) sirens blare on the main road and we seem to be the national hub for amazon deliveries. No one can enter or leave the building without slamming the front door, stomping through the hall and often shouting a greeting and then, just when I think all is going well, Siri pipes up on my computer to challenge my latest remarks. On really good days  my broad band fails when I’m just talking through the last slide. I can see why recording is best done in a sound proofed studio. By other people and with an editing suite. I suddenly have a lot of sympathy for journalists and programme makers working from home; it is a technical nightmare

  In spite of the technical hitches though, I am looking forward to the virtual teaching bit. I quite like the online chats, the intimacy of seeing people in their natural habitats, the suspicion that from the waist down they are probably wearing pyjamas and drinking God knows what from their mug of ‘tea’. I don’t think I have worn anything without an elasticated waist since March and my go-to footwear since the weather turned has been furry slippers. Bliss.

  The poetry ‘stanza’ group of which I’m a member have been meeting fortnightly online since the beginning of lockdown. Somehow it has ended up being every bit as useful and entertaining as when we used to meet down the pub (and the drinks are considerably cheaper.) I miss the casual chat, the buzz of getting out of the house, of breathing the same air and sharing the same space, the same experience, but as breathing the same air is the problem I am grateful that technology has given us this new way of  working together. 

 Anyway, if you know anyone who wishes to do an online class in writing for children from the comfort of their own home, there may still be spaces available and I will endeavour not to be boring. 


The link is here: https://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/courses/writing-for-children?code=O20P847CRW


Umberto Tosi said…
COVID is making all of us sound engineers in our own homes. You're right to meet the new challenges head-on. We're going to be Zooming long after the pandemic (we pray) is over, now that we humans have gotten used to this no-longer emerging set of technologies. Thanks for your thought-provoking post!
We also have carers, cats going in and out, and people delivering prescriptions, although sometimes, worryingly, they leave packets of pills on the doorstep. During the lockdown I've decided at least to try and record a short story but as you say, I would rather it was done in a proper recording studio! I did enjoy this post.
Peter Leyland said…
That’s a really interesting piece. I too have had to move from face-to-face to online teaching and am a still unsure how it will work. However, four of us got together on Zoom and like you describe Had some great sessions sharing poetry. Good luck with the new term.
Sandra Horn said…
I've never heard your voice, but I am willing to bet it's a delight to listen to. More power to you!
I can't do this online group meeting thing - it's so disconcerting that people are there but yet, strangely, not. It gives me the willies. I like the one-to-one talks though - I don't know why it's different. I'm sure your course will be a huge benefit to aspiring writers; your feedback on the poetry course was ace.
Eden Baylee said…
Hi Nicky,

I can relate to your thoughts on this. I write for a podcast monthly, and the most frustrating part is the recording. As a perfectionist, I record parts numerous times to make the entire story sound seamless. Sometimes, my words just don't sound right when I hear them spoken back to me!

Have fun with your classes!


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