Monday, October 30, 2023

Q&A with Jessica Doyle-Mekkes




Jessica Doyle-Mekkes is the author of the new book I'm Speaking: Every Woman's Guide to Finding Your Voice and Using It Fearlessly. She is the Head of Musical Theatre at East Carolina University. 


Q: What inspired you to write I'm Speaking?


A: I'm Speaking was inspired by the women in my life: educated, brilliant, strong women who found themselves needing to speak up, and not knowing how. The canon of books on public speaking is huge, as is the canon on female empowerment; however, there was very little crossover.


I wanted to write a book telling women how to use their voices to change their lives and the lives of those in their family, their community, and the world.


Your voice is with you each and every day of your life. I like to say, "If the eyes are the windows to the soul, the voice is its hype-woman," and yet most women aren't aware of how it works, how to care for it, how to make positive changes to the way they sound, and the enormous impact those changes can have on their lives personally and professionally. 

Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: I owe the title to the Peloton Mom's Book Club on Facebook! I'm a Peloton lover and an active member of the group, so when I was trying to narrow down titles I gave the group a brief synopsis and asked for ideas. They came flooding in!


I'm Speaking: Every Woman's Guide to Finding Your Voice and Using It Fearlessly is a combination of their ideas and also an ode to our Vice President Kamala Harris during the debate when Mike Pence repeatedly talked over her. I don't know a woman, regardless of political affiliation, who can't relate to that moment. I know I can. 


Q: You begin the book's introduction by saying, "This is not a book on public speaking. Public speaking is a middle-aged white guy standing in front of a podium, telling you details you don't need to know about a topic you're not all that interested in...This is a book about finding your voice and using it fearlessly." Can you say more about the contexts in which you hope readers will use their voice?


A: First of all, I need to say that that quote, which ends with "He thinks he's funny, his mustache is funny," was taken from a student feedback form my dad got once when teaching that I, as a fellow professor, found hilarious. I adore my father (and his mustache) and his work on how the brain learns is integral to this book. 


The book gives readers the exact tools necessary to first, realize how their voice sounds to others, and second, make positive changes to their voice in terms of pitch, pace, resonance, volume, etc., so they love the way they sound.


The exercises that correspond to these changes are specific, they're effective, and they're incredibly efficient. Real, lasting change is possible in less than 20 minutes per day if you commit to putting in the work during those minutes consistently. 


The book also gives real world examples of how to speak up personally and professionally. Publishers Weekly called the final chapter, which takes everything learned throughout the book and puts it to use, "a bible in standing your ground without trepidation."


I can best summarize how I hope my readers will use their voices in these five points, inspired by Dr. Tracy Brower's 5 Types of Courage


Speak with authenticity. Speak with a voice that is clear and full of life. Speak with power and poise. Speak with the confidence that your words deserve to be heard.


Speak up when you see someone wronged. Speak up against toxicity in all its forms. Speak up for those who are still too afraid to speak for themselves.


Speak for yourself. Ask for what you want and get what you need.


Listen. Listen to your family, your friends, your colleagues, and your community. Listen to the women in your life, especially women of color. Know when it’s time to speak and when it’s time to create space so others’ voices can be heard.


Still speaking. Skill up on resilience. Skill up on commitment.


I often ask my students when they’re working on a solo song, “If this was real—if you really were this person, and you were really saying these things—why doesn’t anyone cut you off?”


The answer must be that what you have to say is so important, and you are saying it with such passion and conviction, that you don’t give them the chance to. Why don’t they cut me off? Because I’m speaking.


Q: What impact did it have on you to write the book?


A: Writing a book was a goal of mine for a long time. Writing this book was an idea I had that I pursued without much knowledge of how beyond what I found in a Google search.


I like to say that my superpower is "action." I want to do something, so I do it. Writing this wasn't nearly that simple and wouldn't have been possible without the support of so many people, first and foremost my incredible agent Katharine Sands, who took a chance on a new author with a big idea, but that's where it started.


The biggest impact this had had on me, other than making me a morning person—as the working mom of two little girls I did most of my writing between 5am and 7am—is that it helped me find my voice as an author.


I knew the information in this book really well. A lot of the information on anatomy and the vocal exercises I took directly from courses I've been teaching for years.


Making that information sound less academic and more, not only available but also enjoyable, for readers was my goal and I think I achieved it. The book is educational, it's actionable, but it's also a really fun read. 

Q: What are you working on now?


A: I recently inked a deal with Broader Horizon Entertainment to write a female-centric documentary. I can't say much beyond that in terms of content, but I'm working with Broader Horizon CEO Anna Wilding, who is a legend in that space, and I'm really excited about what we're putting together. Hopefully I'll be able to say more about it soon. Stay tuned. 


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: You can find me on my website: and also please connect on LinkedIn where I'm very active. I'd love to connect. Cheers!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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