On Voice, Autism, and Parrot-Ear.


HERE is an article I recently wrote for Disability in Kidlit. It starts:

I am with my teenage sons in the grocery store. The cashier has a thick Eastern European accent. “So much rain, today!” she says. I smile and start to respond.

My son’s foot nudges me. “Mom!” he whispers. “Watch your voice!”

That’s because I have this annoying problem I call “parrot-ear.” When in conversation with a new person, I unconsciously adopt their vocal patterns, their accent. I know. It’s strange. I don’t mean to do it. The last thing I want to be is disrespectful. It’s just that I’m a bit socially anxious, so in order to get social interactions right, I concentrate extremely hard. Too hard.

I bring this up because I think it translates into how hard we authors quest for authentic voice in our fictional characters. We often struggle, on the page, to “hear…”

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