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Listening: Key to Good relationships and good writing and performing

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Learning to Listen with Significant Others by Bob Bohlken, PhD
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Listening is the stock in trade of writers and performers. It is how we fill up with ideas, emotions and voices to use in our performances whether on stage or on paper. Unfortunately, this does not sometimes carry over into personal life–for me. So, when I received the copy of Learning to Listen, I was excited to see by the title that it is aimed at the personal. While the book is meant to be a workshop on paper for couples, I found it helpful as an individual.

Listening involves hearing and interpreting what is heard. Beyond that it means giving respect to the other person’s words and ideas. It is a necessary skill–hard enough to learn and practice in real life, but imperative if we are to truly communicate, the respond to the heart message that is being sent to us.
The exercises contained had the additional bonus of being helpful in my trade–both as a performer and a writer–ways to hone listening skills and bring voices and thoughts of others into my work. Using the exercises in the abstract that is working through them as if you are one of your characters offers many insights into the character and how to work out dialogue for the listeners. I particularly liked the section on non-verbal communication and the section on empathetic listening. The exercises accompanying that segment are rich with information for inspiration for writers.

For instance, this prompts or exercise: As an empathetic listener, what is your most effective non-verbal response to the 5th question in the exercises? “What physical element affects your empathetic listening situation the most?

Then Bohlken lists several examples including eye level, furniture or artifacts in the room, area space , use of absolute quantifiers and modifiers (presumably in the language used by the speaker).
These exercises are gems for a writer–helps to bring more depth to the conversations of your characters as well as wonderful aids to making communication more effective in your personal life. Bohlken is well qualified to direct us to better ways to listen. He has a PhD in interpersonal communication and is in the Hall of Fame in the International Listening Association. http://www.listen.org.

Listening is more than just hearing the words being spoken. Such listening to a lecture means simply taking in information. Listening to a person speaking to you is far more significant.
At times, listening means simply taking it upon ourselves to be still–in mind, body and spirit. Psalm 46:10 tells us that God Himself demands such listening. We cannot really hear Him unless we listen in that way focused on Him and not on ourselves. This is also true for listening to others, especially those we love. The focus needs to be on them, not on what we are going to say next. One of my faults, one this book tries to help me with–and in the process of doing that, also helps my characters on the page and stage to learn the same lesson.

Listen UP! Listen WELL!

Sorry I am one day late with this. We got back from Florida yesterday and with laundry et all, my blog post took a back seat. But I don’t want you to miss the wisdom of my guest blogger or wait another week for it, so….

I meant to be only one day late, but then got caught up with deciding how to change my blog. I think I am going to concentrate on the writing and performing and do the occasional Wednesday food blog still–I love writing about food!!!
The occasional book review will be posted on Tuesday or Thursday as before, but now I need to decide–Monday or Friday for the blog update?
Since I am so behind on my posting of Kim Ellis’ wisdom on listening for those of us who spew out words on stage or page, I am going ahead and sending it in today.
So, Listen up! Listen Well!

Who she is
My name is Kim Ellis. Hi. I live in Concord, NC and work as a billing clerk in Charlotte, NC. I am also a part-time professional actress on all levels, mostly improvisation and storytelling at different places. I occasionally perform in plays in and around the Charlotte and Concord area. I hope to re-hone my skills soon with theater and film through classes because I took a long break from it with improv.
My theatrical experience started early in junior high when I was in an 8th grade harvest festival at school. I was the mummy in this little mini horror play and my binding came undone. I was scaring people anyway and thought, “Hey, I like this.” I wasn’t in my first play until 10th grade, however and that was Agatha Christie’s “The Uninvited Guest”. I played what was originally a male role-Jan Warwick. The applause was addictive. I was hooked! I found I liked performing different personalities and it appealed to my schizophrenic nature. (Just kidding) I liked how I could bring a character to life from the playwright’s vision. I didn’t understand completely how this all worked but I knew performing gave me a rush I couldn’t get anywhere else.
How she started in Performing
I started performing for improv venues when I auditioned and landed a role as a street performer for the Carolina Renaissance Festival. What I like about improv is that you can play any character in the moment. Nothing is the same. It is different every performance. Now, in this case it was the same character but different things happened to this character every weekend day. Take my Apothecary for instance. She could be extracting a tooth from a royal guardsman one moment and the next running a debate with the patrons as to whether to leech a person or just merely remove a vexing organ from the body. When I was on stage with the Pink Turtles or the Chuckleheads, audience suggestion dictated how my character would speak, move and act with my scene partner. It is never boring. My training in improv can be traced to my 15 years with the festival and Scott Pacitti’s workshops for the Turtles and Chuckleheads. I have now taken quite a few of those characters and have them as storytelling characters. Improvisation has taught me how to incorporate voice, dialect and movement into my stories. It brings the character off the page or from my own created stories and makes them three dimensional.
Diving into story performance
I became a story performer when I was invited to attend the Charlotte Storyteller’s Guild Meeting. At the time I was already performing my unicorn character, Beatrice at Carolina Renaissance Festival. I started telling unicorn tales at the meetings and thought this would be something I would like to do and I could take the stories to the festival as a way for my unicorn character to expand and I had a little success with it.
I would say that storytelling and improvisation are similar due to the nature of being in the moment. A story can be embellished differently every time you tell it. You might find on a story you have told needs a different twist, a connection to another event and it presents itself in such a way where the audience feels they are right there in the moment-a moment in a story’s history is replayed as if it is happening for the first time. Improv Theater is much the same way. An example would be a character you play every chance you get like my Chinese cleaning lady. I would recall her for a scene in one show where she is the center of a huge murder investigation or in another show where she falls in love with the sanitation guy. It depends upon the improv scene and audience suggestion. You tell a story with your scene.
Listening, the importance of!
Listening is so important in improvisation. Listening is the key to moving a scene forward. It dictates what will happen in the scene from moment to moment. Not listening to your scene partner creates mistrust and can crash a scene in a blink of an eye. What if your scene partner throws you a nugget like a quirk they have and you miss it because you have your own agenda-oh no, you can’t speak now because what I have planned for us is sooo much better! No, it is usually not and you make yourself look stupid and selfish. Make your scene partner look good by listening and reacting to what they say is good improv.
I think listening is important in the world of storytelling. In listening we develop skill. We learn what works and what doesn’t by our exposure to other tellers. As far as an audience goes we need the feedback. Andy most recently told us it was laughter for him. It acknowledges for him that they are listening and he is doing his job in delivering the story to others. Some of that is stopping and listening for laughter, a grunt, a sigh, a comment, etc. that would indicate the audience is enjoying themselves and being entertained by your story.
I am fairly new to this art form and I hope to learn more. Definitely my theatrical experience has helped me with the confidence and skill in delivery that I need.
Contact information for Kim
Kim Ellis
719 Summerlake Dr. SW, Concord, NC 28025
704-619-7455
Kellis945756882388@att.net
My storytelling characters: Chin Tang Tang (stories from Chinese fortune cookie fortunes), Fiona the Wise(Irish folk tales, fairy tales, ghost tales, Celtic legend, Aesop’s fables), Beatrice the Unicorn(uses Fiona’s tales and some from Fairy, her homeland), Kiliope Kilpatrick (Captain Kiliope’s girl pirate adventures) and I tell my own stories about my family and growing up in SC.

Join the Party

Usually I post about performing and writing on Friday—this post is late, for a blog hop, but join the party anyway, if you can

Join the Party

There are times in the creative process, when I am putting a book together that I think of it like a party– I’ve invited some folks I’ll call characters and created games for them to play. We call that plot.

Some of the games may seem mean to you readers, but I try not to be too mean, since I do, truly come to love my characters. They are invited guests in my life, I have invited them in. The character traits I give them, well, I have to be able to deal with those for however long it takes me to write the book. For a continuing character, the traits have to be ones I can tolerate over time.

Sometimes the person is modeled on a friend, or a relative. The characters who are less desirable–well, they still have to have some reason for me to have them around long enough to carry through the plot–but then again we do invite some people who are not really good friends when we give a big party–the person in the office who simply has to come because you invited everyone else, the neighbor with the noisy dog, but then again all the neighbors are coming, etc.

How about you? Would you like to be invited to my next party? At present, book two of my Legacy of Honor Series with Desert Breeze Publishing is in production. It should be out in May.

Book One, Giulia Goes to War is for sale for 3.99 on www.amazon.com

Giulia is the story of a young woman who leaves her traditional Italian-American family in Western PA to work in the shipyards of Wilmington NC. There she finds adventure and true love–with a young engineer who is NOT Italian. Will her family accept him? Will the German spy trick them into revealing secret information?

The process is much the same for the characters I create for my performance programs. I think about them and craft folks I’d like to invite to my party–which in the case of a performance means they “live” onstage for about forty-five minutes and in my head for as long as it takes to create and learn the program–and whenever I recall that program to mind.

Naming the characters is a dance all its own. Names have to fit the characters and the times.

The third book in my Legacy of Honor Series will deal with Giulia’s daughter and the time and era is the Vietnam Era. The main character, Anna Maria will need friends around her own age (20s) on both sides of the Vietnam War support question. If you would like to come to the party, I’ll name one of the characters after you, first name or first and last name, as you wish. You can choose which side of the issue your character supports. I will choose one person–from the people who “like” my Facebook page Joan Leotta Author and Story Performer https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Joan-Leotta-Author-and-Story-Performer/188479350973

or purchase the book, Giulia Goes to War in the next two weeks.

Leave your email on my page so I can contact you!