Friday, August 16, 2019

Nina G on Why She Is The Comedian Who Almost Didn't Happen | Stutterer Interrupted

In this interview, Nina G talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by, about her book, Stutterer Interrupted: The Comedian Who Almost Didn’t Happen.

“It’s always interesting to me that we [stutterers] are the ones who have a communication disorder, while everyone else is trying to interrupt us and not communicating very well to us.” ~Nina G

Nina began to stutter when she was eight, and prior to that she was in speech therapy; in addition, she was also diagnosed as being dyslexic at the same time. She admits that kids did pick on her because she stuttered, but also that some children did back her up, with her telling a story of a peer who stood up for her in such a way that Nina developed a crush on him for a full year. For Nina, how adults - specifically, her teachers - treated her was a point of concern, particularly since she was in a Catholic school, with one example being her getting an A- for the same report and presentation that her partner got an A on.

Becoming a comedian was something Nina considered at the age of eleven, and over the years she loved writing out jokes. Her dream died during her early adulthood, as she didn’t see any role models in stand-up comedy who stuttered. The dream was revived when she was 35 and attended a conference of stutterers, and six months later she began doing stand-up comedy, which is now a dream that she has been doing for ten years as of this interview. Her first time at stand-up was “surreal” to her, and her embarrassment didn’t come from her stuttering but from her wanting everyone to know how funny she was. She initially didn’t tell a lot of people she was doing this, and Nina notes that doing comedy is “a more authentic voice to myself,” one which is different from her previous environment of being in academia, where the voice she uses isn’t her own. That said, the message she likes to deliver is that of equality and telling others what the experience of stutterers is like to those who don’t have it.

Nina’s topics are essentially those of things which annoy her, and having a funny take on things. Not all of the things which annoy her are ones she will use, with Nina giving the example of seeing a rat, which seemed rather relaxed rather than scared, and while she found it interesting, she doesn’t know if she can turn it into a joke. Nina notes that people treat comedians like the latter can be told anything, which means that she gets such strange comments as people telling her that certain sex acts will cure her stuttering. She also remarks that people ask her to “tell a joke” right on the spot, with the rejoinder that she’s not asking people to do their job right on the spot.

Stuttering, which is defined as prolongations and repetitions of speech in blocks, isn’t known to be permanent until adolescence, and 3% of all children stutter, while 1% of adults doing so, with 1 in 4 stutterers being females. Nina’s stuttering is a mild to moderate version of the condition, with the condition’s intensity varying from day to day. Rather than being a result of trauma or low intelligence, stuttering is a neurological condition due to some difference in the brain’s left hemisphere near Broca’s area (the expressive part of the brain, which is where speech begins), and it possibly has a genetic link, as sixty percent of children who stutter have a relative who also stutters. Singing and changing intonation are part of the brain’s right hemisphere, which is why stutterers can sing without doing so; and Nina also notes that Marilyn Monroe was a stutterer, which was why she adopted the way of speaking that she was known for, as doing so enabled her to use the right hemisphere of her brain to keep herself from stuttering. Different people thus use different speech tools, such as creating an accent, but Nina chooses to communicate without using such tools.

The most frustrating thing Nina and other stutterers face from dealing with “normal” people is micro-aggressions, which are the everyday, unintentional things that occur which are slights to the person concerned, which give the latter stress and annoyance. For Nina, some of these micro-aggressions are when people interrupt her, such as people trying to guess her name or comment on it, and with people trying to help her out by finishing a word or a sentence for her.

Nina had always wanted to write a book to share the lessons she had learned about her condition, and becoming a comedian enabled her to be able to communicate that in book form. She also notes that her book is a calling card for her as a speaker, and the book has helped her get good speaking engagements, as well as on the news and on TedX, as well as in colleges. Nina also remarks that being a comedian gave her a venue to speak about her experiences as well as to educate others.

To those who have been diagnosed as being stutterers, Nina recommends that they get into a community of stutterers, which would enable children to see role models for what they could grow up into as well as learn and adopt such things as the way they would feel most comfortable communicating in. She is particularly concerned about girls who are diagnosed as being stutterers, as there are fewer females who stutter than males, so getting a suitable role model would be very important for their growth as a person.

Purchase from Amazon: Stutterer Interrupted: The Comedian Who Almost Didn’t Happen by Nina G

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Monica Burch on Her Children's Book, Candma Goes to Heaven, a Story about Grief and Loss

In this interview, Monica Burch talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by, about her book, Candma Goes to Heaven.

“It’s okay to be upset.” ~Monica Burch

In the three years since Monica has last been on AuthorStory, she has continued working with children on robotics and STEM. She is also presently a self-professed “empty nester,” as one of her two sons is presently taking up engineering and the other has graduated and is presently working. 

Candma Goes to Heaven began when the grandmother - the mother of her husband - her older son, then two, passed away. Monica began the book at that time, one which essentially describes the approach she used to explain to her son about his grandmother’s death, but it was only after some two decades and several revisions that she finally published it. Along the way, she also dealt with some children whose loved ones had passed away, and it was in those times when she figured she needed to publish the book, as it would help out those who had experienced such a loss.

Finding an illustrator proved to be challenging. Monica contacted four different illustrators before finally settling on Emily Zeiroth, remarking that she wanted her characters to be African-American to reflect her heritage, and that she also had particular ideas of how particular people to appear. Getting the character of Candma was particularly important to Monica, and it wasn’t until she worked with Emily, whom she contacted through Upwork, that an illustrator finally produced what Monica had in mind. Monica notes that all of her correspondence and meetings with all of the illustrators she contacted were online, and it was after Emily produced the illustration that would appear on the book’s cover page that Monica hired her.

Monica did research for the book, to make sure she did justice to the subject, and the additional experiences she had over the decades also made her tweak the book to make it more reflective of what she had learned. What surprised her was that parents had a hard time talking to kids about death, dying and what had happened, with the children not even attending the funeral of a loved one.

It’s important for Monica to let her children know how she and her husband feel about the loss of a loved one, as doing so tells the child that it’s okay to be upset by the loss, as the death of a loved one is part of life. Letting children know and understand all that was something that Monica felt strongly about, and given the resistance some parents have about the subject, Monica remarks that Candma Goes to Heaven is a book talks about to parents first, before the parents introduce it to their children. That said, she doesn’t want to interfere with how parents introduce the subject of death to their children, citing her own background where “passed away” is used as a euphemism for someone dying, as well as pointing out that such a euphemism would confuse children.

Monica believes that it is better for a child to be told what happens so that he or she can deal with it, as every last person is eventually going to die and that a child’s loved one is eventually going to die while the child is still alive. She remarks that she had read some children’s books where the deaths involved weren’t family or where the family involved wasn’t human, and that she wanted her book to be as realistic as possible.

For parents, Monica opines that they should find a place where everyone is comfortable, and then talk about something good about the person first off. Once that is done, the child can then be told what happened, and then let the child know how the parent feels about the situation, to let the child know that it’s okay to be upset. To a child, Monica would say that it’s okay to be upset, and that the person who passed away loved them and that it’s okay to always remember that. “It’s something that you have to talk about, and you want to still remember the person,” she muses, adding that children will have memories and feelings about that person who passed, memories and feelings which need to be acknowledged. She also remarks that she and her family mention things about people who have already passed on as a way of helping to deal with the loss, giving the example of how she speaks about her father and how her boys likewise speak about him.

In addition to working on some technical books, Monica is also working on a story where Candma and Alex, the main protagonist of Candma Goes to Heaven, go to church, as well as two more sequels of Speedy’s Strength

Purchase from Amazon: 
Candma Goes to Heaven by Monica Burch 

Speedy’s Strength interview on YouTube

Speedy's Strength interview recap

Inside ROBOTIX interview on YouTube 

Inside ROBOTIX interview recap