Since 2007 I have written the Leslie K. Tarr Award speech, the prestigious award given for a major career contribution to Christian writing and usually presented in June at The Word Awards. It is an honour to make this small contribution to the work of The Word Guild, an organization that helped give me the courage to define myself as a writer. I love researching the winner's writing and the challenge of capturing the essence of their unique contribution to Canadian writing in only 500 words. I am always immeasurably enriched in the process.
The speech has previously been delivered by a series of distinguished looking men in tuxes, but this year the conference coordinator asked me to deliver the speech, as well as the acceptance speech for the winner, who was unable to attend! The prospect was as exciting and scary as riding an old fashioned roller coaster.
Once the speech was written, and rewritten, and I began to practice it, my insecurities surfaced. As a child I was so shy that could barely speak above a squeaky whisper. My voice is still quiet. Oh, how I envy people with strong, confident voices!
The night before the Awards Gala, I scanned You Tube to find tutorials on voice. I found a video clip of a silver haired man with compelling eyes and a rich, deep, resonant voice. His name was Jay Miller and he had what I wanted--well, the female version of it at least. :)
I bought his MP3 lessons "Your Confident Voice," and the next afternoon--the day of the speech--I began to practice. This felt a little like starting piano lessons the afternoon of an evening concert performance. The lessons were meant to be taken and practiced at the rate of one a month--but I needed help as fast as I could get it. I got through 3 of the 5 lessons that afternoon!
Three of my grandchildren dropped by; I could hear them downstairs as I practiced up in our loft room. I couldn't bear to miss a chance to see them so I went and told them what I was doing and said, "Come and help!"
Some day they may look back and howl with laughter about the day they did lip flutters and belly breathing with their crazy Omie, who sounded like a cow giving birth as she practiced "sighing out" various vowels! It was hilarious but it helped! When the time came to give the speech, I focused on breathing properly and felt grounded and relaxed.
My friend Claire Alexander sent me off with a wonderful memory of Lesley K. Tarr:
"Make a wonderful Tarr speech! I took an early writers' conference or two at the old Ontario Bible College on Spadina (under Billy Graham's School of Christian Writing, I imagine), when Les Tarr was very visible, and such a quiet, wise Canadian! He reached us far more than the first New York editor I ever saw in person, and understood what we really meant in our questions, and not just what we asked!"
With thanks to Susan Stewart, who took the photos, here are some glimpses of the evening.
Here I am with my friend; writer, teacher and speaker Carolyn J. Morris.
I'm going to keep practicing the voice exercises. For who knows what my voice may find to do--now that I've found it?