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Confessions of an Auditory Learner

By Mary Lou Cheatham

I am an auditory learner. Not just any auditory learner, but one with ADHD. I’m a compulsive multitasker with the need to have some concurring physical motion in order for my brain to work creatively. Perhaps some other writers share such a mindset.

When I was forty, I returned to college and became an RN. It felt like boot camp. On the first day of each class, I asked the professor if I could record the lectures. No one ever refused my request.

Studying the sheaves of notes didn’t work. I slept with my notebook under my pillow. When I tried to read the tomes of technical material, my face fell into the opened books. My only effective method of learning was listening. The family always knew when I had to prepare for a big exam. At those times the house morphed into an uncluttered dwelling, and we had elaborate home-cooked meals. As I listened to tapes, I cleaned and cooked. And learned.

Now, as I indulge in my third career, writing, I’ve learned that a work of fiction is no good if it isn’t enjoyable in the spoken form. As you already know, a writer needs to polish any piece of work until it appears as though the writer didn’t make any effort at all. The words appear on the page as they should. I don’t need to remind you that the writing shouldn’t call attention to itself. The reader should dive into the story so deep that the words drown him. If the reader thinks, “How clever this writer is saying something,” instead of concentrating on the meaning of what is said, the writing is not as good as it could be.

Reading everything aloud helps, but such a practice is primitive and laborious. I’ve had good intentions, but soon I tire of listening to myself read.

My first Kindle was an essential tool. I recorded my manuscripts and listened to them while folding laundry or exercising. When something sounded stilted, I revised it on my computer. The Kindle also helped me proofread.

When I worked with critique partners, I sent their manuscripts to my Kindle. First I listened for the flow of the story. Then, I listened a second time for elements needing correction.

One day my dear old Kindle refused to work. Instead of useful documents, it displayed the black screen of death. I love my new Kindle Fire. The lady inside the flat box has an improved voice, less irritating than the old robot who existed inside my first Kindle.

I love to listen to talking books. Many authors allow their e-books to be changed from text to speech. When I served as a Carol judge, I purchased the Kindle versions so I could determine which books have superior quality with realistic dialogue and fluid narration.

(I don’t know whether other systems, such as Nook, have similar features.)

To proofread this blog entry, I decided to send it to my Kindle Fire, but the lady in the box wouldn’t read it aloud. The helper on the Amazon help line told me the feature of playing unpublished manuscripts is temporarily unavailable.

Not to be defeated, I discovered with the help of Apple technicians that my I-Pad will play any page of text. Here’s the path: Click Settings—General—Accessibility—Speech–Speak Screen. Go to the page you want to hear, such as Kindle or an email account.

Some writers may consider the process of listening to books a slow method, but I have discovered this steady tortoise method accomplishes more than reading in fast rabbit-like sprints.

Mary Lou Cheatham PhotoMary Lou Cheatham, who married John Cooke on December 26, 2015, and is now Mary Cooke, is the author of a series, The Covington Chronicles. Secret Promise, which begins as a Cinderella romance, shows social problems of the early twentieth century South. Next, The Courtship of Miss Loretta Larson pairs a romance with a depiction of underprivileged Italian immigrants. The Dream Bucket, third in the series and Mary’s most popular book, enters the home of a rural family coping with losses. Manuela Blayne, fourth in the series, is a novella readers find disturbing because of its realistic picture of a brutalized African American girl. In addition to the series, Mary has written Abi of Cyrene, a story of the wife of Simon who carried the cross for Jesus. In addition to writing, Mary has worked as a teacher and RN.

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