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Monthly Wrap: Sore Throat

By Posted on 20 3 m read 1.3K views

I have the kind of voice that’s meant to whisper. Good for libraries and pillow talk. When I answer the phone, the first thing people tend to say is, Did I wake you up? They didn’t; I don’t even like to sleep. I just have one of those voices. It’s my father’s voice. The sound of someone who needs to clear his throat. The sound of someone who can’t raise his voice though he certainly has the temperament for it.

When I try to speak up – even enough to talk to someone across the table from me, my voice quickly gives out. I speak from that place you shouldn’t – the place Brian Johnson of AC/DC uses to sing. If I have a long conversation one day, I’ve got a sore throat the next.

Do I have an accent?

I never thought of myself as having one until I went to college, where I was teased for my southern twang. I worked hard to lose it by reading out loud to my Boston-bred roommate and letting her correct me. Now I’m not sure why I tried so hard to lose it. But my Virginia roots show when I’m tired – I get lazy with the vowels.

I was glad to hear your stories of stutters and loud laughs and nasal tape-recordings. For those of you I haven’t met in real life, it’s a nice way to sharpen the picture of you.


What I read this month: Joe Hill, HEART-SHAPED BOX (not my usual genre, but, wow, it’s a good ghost story, and I’ve been recommending it to everyone). I’ve also been knee-deep in a whole mess of research books for my new novel, but I’m not telling what the books are about.

Thanks to my guest, Attica Locke, for her courageous story of finding her voice, and to all of you who played here this month. Also, big thanks to those who linked to LitPark: The Thrill Begins, In Her Own Write, Rachel Kramer Bussel’s blog, Upstate Girl, Side Dish, Terry Bain’s blog, Rumbly in my Tumbly,, Kimberly Wetherell, Red Room Blogs, Rachel Kramer Bussel, EI Johnson, Tayari Jones, Tanya Egan Gibson (thank you for the book!), Neil Gaiman, Brad Listi, Alexander Chee, Robin Slick, kmwss2c, Urban Haiku, Trish Tha Dish, Tayari, Rachelle Gagne, Nick Belardes, Bella Vida Letty, th3maw, Spaced Lawyer, and to the mentions in Wikipedia pages for Josh Kilmer-Purcell, Maria Dahvana Headley, Daisuke Tsutsumi, Scott Snyder, Denis Johnson, Greg Downs, and Bruce Benderson. I appreciate those links!


One announcement before I go…

The Nervous Breakdown: Off The Blog!
A New Monthly Reading Series
Beginning June 9, 2009

The Nervous Breakdown is a creative non-fiction literary blog, written by published and emerging authors from around the world.

Come hear the writers of this award-winning collective as they read hilarious, journalistic, poignant and often salacious tales, as told on the pages of this engaging and highly interactive literary website.

The series kick-off includes readings from:

Jessica Anya Blau (The Summer of Naked Swim Parties)
Autumn Kindlespire (Random House Books)
Greg Olear (Totally Killer, coming Sept ’09)
Kimberly M. Wetherell (Filmmaker: Menage a trois, Why We Wax)
Todd Zuniga (Opium Magazine, Literary Death Match)

Tuesday, June 9
101 E 15th St, NYC
(downstairs from the Daryl Roth Theatre, Union Square)
$10.00 Cover

After party at Bar 119, 119 E. 15th St.

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  • Nathalie
    June 5, 2009

    Public readings must be hell for you! Have you tried exercising your voice?

  • SusanHenderson
    June 5, 2009

    It’s only a pain when people ask me to speak up, and it’s not possible. (What exercises??)

  • Nathalie
    June 5, 2009

    Opera singers exercise their voice, I was thinking something in that direction.

  • Lance Reynald
    June 5, 2009

    yup, wondertwins.

    if I have days when I’m expected to talk a lot, the voice gives out by the end of it. as a rule I like this voice best of all. reminds me of Brenda Vacarro, that voice all of us 70’s kids know that a generation before us might have attributed to excessive use of Lucky Strikes and Scotch.

    14 days until you get to hear it crack and wobble and possibly fail me all together in person. Perhaps we should meet up and add some Scotch to it early in the day? Actually, a certain filmaker around here did mention a bit of Limoncello that might just be the perfect vocal-aid.

    Once again, another fascinating week in the park that has made me step back and wonder what work I should be doing to improve myself and my craft. Thanks for bringing us the staggeringly beautiful Attica Locke and for opening your heart and your world to share that amazing voice of yours (lazy vowels and all).

    See ya in two weeks!


  • troutbum70
    June 5, 2009

    Lazy vowels. Yep, me too. My accent is not Virginia southern but more deep south with a western flavor. I love accents, they set us apart, give us a window into someone’s past and culture. Hearing a familier accent can trigger memories of the past that you may have never thought of again. My accent is part of my character or should I say persona. I don’t think I would be the same person without it.

  • SusanHenderson
    June 5, 2009

    Ooh, well then, we should ask the resident opera expert, huh? Hey, Kimberly…. !

  • SusanHenderson
    June 5, 2009

    Ha! Brenda Vacarro is pretty damn close:

    And, Limoncello is the prerequisite for your reading as far as I’m concerned. I can’t wait!!!

  • SusanHenderson
    June 5, 2009

    That’s so well said. And now I’m kind of sorry I lost my twang.

  • Aurelio
    June 5, 2009

    Another good series of posts, Susan.

    Sorry I’m late to comment on these until now – I had to go out of town and was off the net for most of the week.

    I don’t recall your voice having an accent or being particularly phlegmy-sounding – you do speak rather softly though.

    One odd thing that happened to me was when my thyroid levels went too low, due to illness, I suddenly had this rich, deep voice. I wish it would have stayed that way when they got me back to normal, but alas, I just went back to sounding like I’ve been sucking helium.

  • Kimberly
    June 5, 2009

    Woah! I’ve never been called out to solve TWO dilemmas in one piece before! Render me speechless!

    One of the primary reasons I stopped dating singers was that I never wanted to hear those noises coming out of my shower again! I promise to demonstrate one day…

    …perhaps after too much limoncello in Central Park? 🙂

    Yet one more superb week in the park, Susan! THANK YOU!

  • SusanHenderson
    June 5, 2009

    Yes on limoncello in Central Park!

    (Any word on the boy with the large musical instrument??)

  • SusanHenderson
    June 5, 2009

    You don’t have a high voice, not at all.

    Where did you go on your trip?

  • Aurelio
    June 6, 2009

    We went up to the Bay Area to see my dad. He’s in assisted living – he’ll be 90 in January – and we’ve been having some family issues regarding his care that I needed to at least try to solve.

    For some reason, the potential for insanity peaks when dealing with declining parents, and some of my sibs are losing it. It’s basically them wanting to be in charge, not being able to handle it, but not wanting to admit that or let anyone else take over. And Dad simply becomes a pawn in the chess-match that is my family.

    We did take an extra day to go to San Francisco and see the new California Academy of Sciences – WOW! That is absolutely the best science museum I’ve ever seen. Here’s a link (and I hope I can get it to work):

    California Academy of Sciences

  • SusanHenderson
    June 6, 2009

    Not easy stuff you’re dealing with. I’m glad you had a visit out there.

    I’m going to check out the link in a minute. Next weekend we’re going to what (with funding) might become the first math museum in the US. They’re doing an exhibit as part of the World Science Fair.

    Off in a bit to the Hamptons. The boys were just asked if they’d play out there for $, so we’re heading out in about a half an hour…

  • Brad Listi
    June 7, 2009

    Thanks so much, Sue!!!

  • SusanHenderson
    June 9, 2009

    My pleasure. Just tweeted your news, too.

  • SusanHenderson
    June 9, 2009

    Hey guys, I’m going to post a note from the remarkable Jeff Lependorf, a past guest of LitPark and probably THE biggest champion of indie publishing. Feel free to post his note wherever you can to help him keep the indies afloat during these tough economic times. Thanks so much.

    I am writing to you from the Council of Literary Magazines and
    Presses, the country’s only nonprofit organization devoted to helping the
    community of independent literary publishers. CLMP’s small presses
    and literary magazines represent the voices left out of the mainstream
    and document the literature of entire communities. They are motivated
    by their passion for literature, not the bottom line. However, passion
    alone cannot sustain a publisher. We help our publishers run better as
    businesses and help them reach new readers. We make it possible for
    them to keep publishing despite shrinking resources. We rely on
    readers like you to do this essential work.

    This is a particularly challenging time for CLMP and I hope we can
    count on your help. Please consider becoming a Friend of CLMP today.
    We help more than 500 independent publishers with support from Friends
    of CLMP! Despite the economy, we continue to serve our community and
    even launch new programs—we ask for your help now as we enter the
    cash-poor days of summer.

    You can become an active member of this community by making a fully
    tax-deductible contribution to CLMP. Click here to donate:

    Please keep America a country where literature matters by making a
    contribution to CLMP today. Our publishers need your help—and we
    will provide that help thanks to your support.

    Wishing you a spectacular summer!

    Warmest regards,


    P.S. Those able to give $100 or more will be thanked with a very
    special, limited edition, signed letterpress broadside printed by our
    friends at Coffee House Press!

  • Amy Wallen
    June 10, 2009

    I love your voice, Susan. I had my annual bout of laryngitis the other day and answered the phone to a woman who I thought had the same Rhodesian Boar flu that I was trying to survive, so I said, “Oh, sounds like you got what’s going around.” There was a long pause, and I said, “It sounds like you got that awful virus.” “No,” she said, sounding a little insulted. Then I had to quickly recover when I realized it was her real voice. If she only knew that I actually envied her raspiness. Instead, I’m sure I was written off as some insensitive bufoon, which I often am, but wasn’t at that particular moment.

    Anyway, loved hearing/reading the discussion.

  • SusanHenderson
    June 13, 2009

    Ha! I feel like I’ve lived this very conversation so many times!

  • SusanHenderson
    June 18, 2009

    Hope this link works:

    That’s where Lance Reynald will be reading on Tuesday, and Kimberly Wetherell and I will be escorting him there. No guarantees that we’ll get him there sober, but one way or another, it will be a fantastic evening. Hope to see many of you there!

Susan Henderson