Sparkle, Shirley, Sparkle …

I have finally gotten used to hearing my voice on the radio.  But video is still an untamed animal, as far as I’m concerned.  I can only watch myself on TV after I’ve been heavily sedated.

But it’s the 21st century and I’m trying to be with-it and modern when it comes to promoting my new novel, WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKTHROUGH.  (Subliminal message:  It’s a wonderful, funny, touching novel about mother-daughter relationships.  Pre-order it now!  Buy it many times!)

So, anyway, my friend Alisa Bowman, who also has a new book coming out, PROJECT HAPPILY EVER AFTER, has done a great film trailer and I was inspired.  Why not try it myself?  All I had to lose was money.  And self-respect.

So, I called my good friends Chris Elley and Cile Spelce Elley, who own the documentary film company Electro-Fish Films.  I know them very well, since we traveled together producing a TV series while they were courting each other.  I knew Chris was smitten, since he laughed at Cile’s God-awful puns.  Except for the aforementioned puns, I had a great time with them; they’re smart and funny and incredibly good at what they do.

Plus, they know me and have a dim appreciation of how I — how shall I put it? — am not completely at ease around a camera.  They set up their cameras and lights and pinned a mike on me and made me run through my little spiel.

“You’re using your radio voice,” Cile said bossily.  “Remember, this is TV.”

She told me a “radio voice” was way too mellow.  I needed to ham it up, pep it up a lot.  I felt like Shirley Temple, whose mother used to tell her, “Sparkle, Shirley, sparkle!”  (And look at what happened to little Shirley: She grew up to become a Republican.)

I tried to act peppier.  Shirley’s mother would have disinherited me.  I didn’t even sparkle and I still got exhausted.

It made me think of the whole stunt double idea — which started when my friend Martha was scheduled for a bilateral mastectomy.  All the doctors were standing around, grimly, about to put her under, when she said, “Wait a minute!  Isn’t it time for my stunt double to come in?”

After that, Martha and I used to spend time coming up with ideas about when, precisely, we required stunt doubles — not limiting ourselves to major surgery.  We also needed stunt doubles, we decided, for housecleaning, dental appointments, stomach viruses, colonoscopies, and boring dinner parties.

Anyway, that very moment was clearly a good time for my (younger, better-looking, sparkling) stunt double to show up.  I suggested Cile take my place, since she loves being the center of attention so much it’s dangerous to get between her and a camera.

“Cut out the jokes,” Cile said, going into her Eva Braun persona.  “Run through it again.  That last time was your best.”

I talked, they filmed, nobody sparkled.  Check it out here.  As I mentioned, when it comes to video, I’m headed to the medicine chest.

(Copyright 2010 by Ruth Pennebaker)

See one of my favorite posts about how TV broke my heart

22 comments… add one
  • Great trailer. Your book sounds excellent. I’ve got to read it–I’ve got three girls myself.

  • Sheryl Link

    I cannot even imagine pulling this off. People make it look so much easier than it really is. I tried to load the video (I’m SO anxious to see it now!) but was not able to. Cannot wait to dig into your book, Ruth!

  • Congrats! Clearly, word nerds will enjoy the conjugation joke. :o)

  • Great job! You seemed very confident and friendly

  • Linda Link

    Wonderful! Can’t wait to read it. Great job on the video. I loved hearing and seeing you explain the characters, etc. Thanks for giving us a glimpse of what’s inside!

  • I love your radio voice… if that was your radio voice? I read books because they calm me. Your voice calms me. Therefore I know your book will be the perfect escape. And who doesn’t have a complicated mother-daughter relationship? It’s a universal theme!

  • Donna Link

    Your video is delightful, Ruth. I even got to hoot aloud – at the “…an albino” line. I love the way you keeping putting one foot in front of the other and doing new things that seem daunting.
    The book cover is stunning too. Can’t wait to get some copies.

  • I love your radio voice and I’m really looking forward to reading your book. What a pleasure to get to see the person behind the written words on this blog at last!

  • Beautiful radio voice, beautiful video presence, great haircut, adorable red teakettle thing in the background… and I can’t wait to read the book!

  • Ruth, I think the trailer turned out beautifully! But I totally get the nerves. I write from behind a computer screen where I can hide. 😉

  • I think I caught some sparkle when you were talking about the high school crush! I thought you looked great on camera, Ruth.

  • You seemed full of sparkle to me. Great video and the book sounds wonderful. My research is on mother-daughter relationships so it should be right up my alley.

  • You had me at: “I can only watch myself on TV after being heavily sedated.” You crack me up, Ruth (and I can so relate!)

  • That was an unbelievably brave thing to do. Of course I immediately ordered the book. But, you know I would have anyhow. How could I not want to read a book about the mother-daughter relationship?

  • I’m so excited to read your book. Watched the video trailer (you look wonderful and sound wonderful too!) and have pre-ordered my copy today. Mothers and Daughters…oh, my. Half of my blog posts have that as a tag line.


  • Okay, Ruth. I watched it. You were fabulous – natural, calm and composed. I could never pull off what you made look so effortless.

  • Terry Link

    I have pre-purchased your book on Amazon….can’t wait.

  • Steve Link

    I can only say two things about this: 1. The trailer makes me interested in the book, as an observer of the mother-daughter relationship between the two women I most love in the world. 2. I also remain smitten with Cile.

  • Craig Link

    Ruth that was terrific. It makes me want to buy a case of books and give them out at Christmas instead of the fruicakes.

  • ruthpennebaker Link

    Do not resist that urge, Craig.

  • Love it, Ruth. You speak so fluidly. And so subtly bring the world into your audience. Bravo.

  • You had me at, “It’s kind of a horror story, if you know what I mean.”

    Most intriguing hook: “…whom Joanie suspects of being an albino.”

    Yes, Sparkle, Ruthie, Sparkle! If we have to call out the stunt doubles and understudies, they might have a sparkle or two, then they’d get the seven year contract and you… well, you’d never do lunch in this town again!

    You’re so brave! If I had to do a video, I’d have to wear a kangaroo costume and a George Washington mask to survive it.

    Are you really smitten with Cile– or maybe Eva Braun?

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