I’m Afraid to Read Ann Voskamp

“What are you hiding?” She asked.

I stared at her. “What do you mean?” (It probably really came out like “Whaddayamean?”)

I’d been transcribing reports for Heidi, a rehabilitation nurse, for several months.

“I tell you about my family, stuff I’m doing, but you never tell me anything about you. It’s like you’re in the Mafia or something.”

I was crushed. I’d tried to portray a gentle and quiet and sweet spirit.

I’d smile and nod. But I’d just turned off my voice.

Listened silent.

It didn’t produce the effect I thought it would.

I didn’t let me be me. I didn’t write my story for her or share my hope with her.

I didn’t show her that a quiet spirit can still spill in laughter and chopped sentences.

“Do you talk?” asks L.L. Barkat. “Listen to your own voice.” She goes on to say, “The truth is every writer has a voice. It is probably best heard by listening to oneself speak.

I noticed after a morning of helping out in preschool that my voice often changed to soft and lilting as I absorbed the way the teacher talked. That usually lasted about a whole day. And I still sometimes fall into a slight Southern drawl and an occasional ya’ll even more than 20 years after we lived in Georgia.

“While it is true that writers have distinctive voices, our voices are not entirely unique. The voices of others fill our minds,” L.L. says. “This is not a bad thing. It means we are in tune with the sounds others make. It might even mean we are showing love by taking these sounds into our bodies and making them our own by folding them into our writing.”

Someone told me once that my voice reminded him (her?) of Emily Dickinson. Since I hadn’t read much of her poetry (!), I went out the next day and snagged this book where I rediscovered short poems steeped in nature and God. Poems that seem simple. Poems that often end abruptly. Poems that deal with love and loss, with life and death. She had “passions and a sense of place.” And though I’m not sure what that commenter meant exactly, maybe I need to get to know Miss Emily better. Maybe I’d know myself better.

But I’m almost afraid to read Ann Voskamp any more.

“In my work as an online Managing Editor, I sometimes say things like this to the editors I work with: “Watch out for the Ann Voskamp state; almost everyone who reads Ann’s blog ends up dropping articles.”

I don’t want to sound like someone I’m not. I don’t want to fall into some state.

So when I go back to edit my own work, I try “to put the the’s and the an’s back in,” but not always. Because sometimes I’ve said it just how I feel it.

And almost always, I’ll go back and change two words to contractions because I know that’s (not that is) how I talk. Though I seldom write something like “whaddayamean.” I try to tell it in my kind of words.

Though sometimes I’m not sure I’m sure what those are lately.

But I can’t say I’d mind showing Ann a little love by absorbing some of her voice. Or L.L.’s.

We’re discussing Rumors of Water over at Tweetspeak Poetry, led by our poetic claims person, Lyla. Click over and read (and maybe hear) the voices of others.

And speaking of hearing voices. Lyla suggests we record a short piece we’ve written. So here is a short poem I wrote Monday, the day after Easter, as I thought about how my life moved on while others were roadblocked with heartache even as we celebrated the Resurrection.

Hard-Boiled Eggs
The weekend, it was holy, but
he lost his job on Friday and
her mother died on Saturday and
their house burned down on Sunday and
Christ the Lord is risen, alleluia!
My alarm went off at 7 and
today I will eat hard-boiled eggs
and do some laundry.



  1. says

    Sandy I loved this when you posted it on Facebook, just didn’t get there to say anything. It makes me smile here to listen to you reading it.

    We hear so many voices, you know? It’s hard to be sure sometimes that it’s us talking. I love how you’ve taken this past the writing and into how folks hear us in the flesh, too.
    Lyla Lindquist recently posted..Feeling a Little Hoarse?

    • Sandra says

      I suppose the mixing of our choices and experiences and all those who speak into our lives affect our voices. But it’d be nice to be sure it was all well blended.

  2. says

    I totally get this. (And the funny thing is, only Ann and a rare few can drop articles like that and it make sense!) I fought against this all last year with blogging- and got way too quiet and not myself. Two things changed: one, I helped another ‘big’ blogger out, and in the process heard her heart and her struggles- in the process of encouraging her to write from where she was at, I encouraged myself, too; and two, I had to choose the lenten Quiet this year, and finally hushed long enough to hear myself. And now, I feel the freedom to write from the center again. I really, really, really, need to get started on LL’s book. I’ve wanted to for months; I’m making it a priority today. Thank you for the ‘kick in the pants’ today, Sandra!
    Joy recently posted..I have conquered…

    • Sandra says

      I know you’ll be glad you got the book, Joy. And as far as quiet, I’ve been feeling the need for that. The noise around me and in my own head has been a bit deafening lately.

  3. says

    It’s so nice to hear your real voice added to your writing voice. :)

    That editor is probably right… we do tend to be influenced by our surroundings. But the result is still going to be tempered by who we are, even if we’re not quite sure who that is. I happen to like Ann Voskamp’s style, partly because I think we often use too many words to get to the message, but also because it suits her… it sounds like I expect her to sound. It’s HER voice, and I doubt it can ever become mine just by leaving out a few articles.
    Carol J. Garvin recently posted..Longevity in Antiques and Writing

    • Sandra says

      “I doubt it can ever become mine just by leaving out a few articles.” I expect you’re right about that, Carol. And I’m excited about the chance to hear Ann’s voice IRL in a couple of weeks.

      And now I wonder how she found her own voice and what it sounded like in the early days. :)

    • Sandra says

      I can’t even pretend that someone else read it cuz you’ve heard my voice for real.

      Thanks. :)

    • Sandra says

      I love seeing your face every time it’s here–or anywhere. And hearing your voice, too. :)

  4. says

    “But I can’t say I’d mind showing Ann a little love by absorbing some of her voice. Or L.L.’s” … I love this about reading others and being in relationships, we can’t help but pick up from each other. Iron sharpening iron. Or words sharpening words. Or hearts sharpening hearts.
    Amy @ themessymiddle recently posted..Not too late to join

  5. says

    The sad thing is how long I’ve had Rumors and haven’t had time to sit and read. My plate is clear now, so finally some time!

    As for Ann’s voice- as a reader from the early, early, early years- she’s always had a prose-etical style- but to my reading ‘ear’ as the years have passed the flow and cadence is much smoother now, like a quiet brook. Her earlier writing had a slightly more asymmetrical rhythm than it does now, like where a creek burbles and runs round rocks as it turns the corner into the quieter brook. That’s what I admire about Ann; I want to see that growth in my writing, too.

    • Sandra says

      So that’s just beautiful–how you described that, Joy. I’ve read it several times. Thank you! And I want it, too. In my writing and in my life.

  6. says

    So cool to hear your voice! Your poem certainly speaks out about life in all of its complexities. There again, it shows, all we can do is fall flat on our face before God and wait for His mercy and compassion.

    I am doing this myself this morning, flat on my face before God with a scared, broken heart. He will answer. I pray I can get my opinions out of the way in order to recognize it.
    Cecilia Marie Pulliam recently posted..It Happened On Easter