Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Words weren't enough. Now I've got PICTURES.. Moving pictures. On YouTube.

One of the online retailers asked if I could make a short video of me, talking about Look Me in the Eye. “Of course I can,” I said, because I try my best to accommodate people. But I’d never made a tape by myself. As you blog readers know, I had the Today show here last week with three skilled cameramen and a million dollars worth of gear. Why didn’t they ask then, when I had trained professionals here at the house?

I even had Amy Robach here all day, to ask me questions. What a chance they missed.

My brother and I went to Sams Ready Cash Emporium and bought us a pawned VCR. Holding the hundred dollar marvel in his paws, my brother said, “This is easy. We don’t need professionals. We can do it ourselves.” In between passes, raking the meadow with my tractor.

And this video is the result:


Now, as if that’s not enough, I’ve got more.

You’ve all heard about the print version of Look Me in the Eye, and indeed it’s what’s garnering all the sales and attention right now. Look closer, though . . . there in the background, you’ll see my audio book.

It’s now in a box, halfway down, on the right side of my blog.

Those of you who read the blog back in July may recall my posts on recording Look Me in the Eye. I did it up here in the sticks, at a studio across the street from my house. A bears-and-moose kind of setting in the front yard, and Yamaha digital mastering gear in the basement.

When I decided to record my own book – read the words myself, that is – it was almost a vanity. It was MY story, and I felt I was the natural one to read it. Luckily, the folks at Random House Audio agreed, and the process went off smoothly, without a fight.

Back in July, I told you all how well things went, and I introduced all the players – Orli (my producer) Charles (my director) and Peter (my engineer). I was really happy with the result, and in the hurry to get ready to go on tour, I kind of forgot about it.

Then the audio book clip came in and we put it on the blog. And something happened. I’ve alluded to this before, but it’s important, so I’m going to allude some more here . . .

People with autistic and Aspergian children began writing me, telling me the voice on my audio clip “sounded like home,” “sounded warm,” and “sounded familiar.” I pondered the meaning of those comments, and I began to wonder . . . is there a “voice of Asperger’s?”

Together, we should answer that question. Those of you with autism or Asperger’s in the family . . . listen to the clip, and write and tell me if you recognize something in the voice. It’s a fascinating concept.

I think there is a whole ‘nother dimension of meaning to my reading of the audio book, one I did not anticipate at all. If it’s true there’s a distinct voice, it’s such a wonderful stroke of luck that I read the book myself and brought it to you, however unintentional it was.

All the online retailers and many brick and mortar stores will carry the adridged audio book, which I read. There is also a limited distribution unabridged work that I did not read. It’s mostly found in libraries. If you have autism in your family, and go to a library looking for my audio, pay attention to which version you get. If you don’t have autism in the family, the unabridged version has all my stories, all the extra stuff we had to cut to fit five CDs for the lighter version.

And before I go, I’d like to also mention that we’ll have a LARGE PRINT edition of Look Me in the Eye soon. I’ll let you know when it’s on sale.


46 comments:

Gina Pintar said...

John,
I just had my 6 yr old with autism listen to your audio clip. I think he liked it. He sat still and quiet to hear the whole piece.

I look forward to reading your book. I hope to get some insight to how he is feeling.

Thanks for writing it.

kevathens said...

Hi John and Augusten,

I'm very very much looking forward to the book, which I've pre-ordered. John, I get the sense that you understand AS quite a bit, and it makes me very happy to see clips like this.

To be truthful I'm thinking of writing a book too (I'm an aspiring writer with AS) but I have to wait to read yours to see if mine is even necessary.

Good luck, Mr. Robison!

John Elder Robison said...

Thanks for your note, kevathens. First, may I suggest you listen to the audio clip and tell me if it's "familiar" in any way?

As to writing your own book . . . of course you should do it! The insight into your own mind will prove priceless. When you read my book (hopefully next week) consider the careful thought I had to put into every explanation of my behaviour or thought process.

Now consider what such self knowledge should do for you! And it will come to you as you think about your own mind and thoughts to explain them on paper. It's a very valuable process of self discovery.

With that in mind, tomorrow could be too late! Start now!

kevathens said...

You read well - a good sign - but do they mean you have a good radio voice?

I find it interesting that they say that too, but I can't really explain why.

Thank you for the encouragement. I will take it to heart.

John Elder Robison said...

Kev, what they are referring to is not a "radio voice" but rather some pattern of speech or tone that identifies me as an Aspergian.

That's the familiarity I wonder about. Does it exist? Some Aspergian listeners say yes, some no.

Drama Mama said...

John,
As I've written before, my daughter is drawn to your voice.

She was even more drawn to your video.

I think it is the cadence of your voice. As a person who is somewhat schooled in vocal production, I also believe that it is because you do not used exaggerated inflections - you keep the up/down very steady, and I think that it is soothing on her (and other Aspergians') ears.

You are a star. Love you in that John Deere.

Piglet said...

this cracked me up, “This is easy. We don’t need professionals. We can do it ourselves.”

certainly you've learned not to trust augusten by now :)

kidding, you guys did an excellent job. i love that it's authentic.



good job!

Paula's Poetry said...

I love that you and your brother did this on your own. I love casual and candid.

You both should be proud of yourselves and each other for overcoming such obstacles and for doing it with such tenderness and grace...

Still waiting, haunting the mailman for the book to arrive..

Paula

The Writers' Group said...

The affection you and your brother have for each other brought tears to my eyes. Like Paula, I love the "casual and candid" style.

Yes, there's definitely an Aspergian voice. Drama Mama nailed the qualities.

Congratulations to both you and Augusten. Your intelligence and determination overcame all of the horrors of your childhoods.

Amy

Kanani said...

I love how you're trying to pull everyone together. It's really got a good vibe. Congratulations. Wish I could hop on the bus next week, but unless it swings by L.A., first, looks like I'll have to send good wishes from home.

Kanani said...

Crap! I was mispronouncing "Aspergian."

Well, ya learn something every day.

Nathan Bransford said...

Love the video! I can't wait to read LOOK ME IN THE EYE.

amanda said...

John,

I have worked with autistic students in various school settings for the past 8 years (since I was an 8th grader)...and I have to say, your audio clip does absolutely sound familiar and recognizably on the autism spectrum.

I'm not 100% sure if it's the voice, the content, or the combination. but I do love the clip and I'm waiting anxiously for the release of the book.

I, too, prefer not to look people in the eye when I talk to them...I have ADD and focusing on people's lips helps me to comprehend what they're saying and focus better, rather than getting lost in the background or my thoughts. So in some sense, I understand. I'm glad you're sharing your story, and I'm sure it will be a great success.

Kim Stagliano said...

Ooh, John, agents are coming into your blog! High praise! (Nathan B.) I'm going to have my girls listen to the clip this afternoon. Wouldn't it be cool if Bella had some speech issue forth while hearing your voice???

Trish Ryan said...

That video is pretty funny...nicely done.

I'm excited to meet you in person when you come to the eastern half of the state, even if you won't have the tractor :)

John Elder Robison said...

Trish, I promise to be enthralling and irresistable, even without my tractor.

Camille said...

Mr. Robison,

Kim Stagliano describes her daughter's autism as dog poop/ear wax/vomit flavored and she says that people with Asperger's who can write on blogs have the root beer and raspberry cream flavored autism.

What flavor would you say your autism/Asperger's is?
Is it closer to dog poop/earwax/vomit or root beer/raspberry cream, or are you like me and are offended by such a comparison?

Kim is saying that anyone who writes a blog doesn't have problems with autism, that they are all full of talents with no disablities or serious problems. She seems to agree with her friends on the EoHarm group that I (who have an Asperger's diagnosis, and am the mom of an ASD adult) am a poser. I'm a poser in their eyes because I say there hasn't been an autism epidemic and vaccines don't cause autism or Asperger's.

They said you must be have been exposed to toxins if you have Asperger's, do you agree?

Laura said...

John, I loved the line in the video that you'd give your wife up for a tractor or possibly for a freight locomotive! Too funny!

Can't wait for the book release next week!

John Elder Robison said...

Camille, you have asked a bunch of questions . . .

I would say that - as compared to Kim's girls - I have root beer/raspberry flavored autism. The concept does not offend me.

Now, to speak to your feelings about that as an Aspergian. . . Prior to writing my book, I thought autism was verying shades of "me."

Now that I've written Look Me in the Eye, though, and I've gone out and met many more autistic people, I see that many of those folks are profoundly impaired, much more so than I'd have imagined from looking at myself.

Even though I don't think I need medication or a cure, I now understand the feelings of a mom who seeks those things for her disabled child.

With respect to the mercury question . . . frankly, I have no idea. I did eat lead paint as a kid, and as a grownp I worked with lead auto body filler so there's no way to know where and how much metal I ingested, and if/how it affects me.

But I have a clue . . . I was born in rural Georgia, and country doctors didn't spend money on too many vaccines. And you can see the Aspergian frown and distant gaze in my eyes right from the beginning. I have photos that show it. So I'd guess I was born the way I am. I exhibited my symptoms right from age zero, though they went unrecognized at the time.

And Kim has never called me a poser, though that may just be because I am so much larger than she is.

And I'll tell you something else about me as an Aspergian poser . . . Kim can attest to this, too . . . autistic people "see" something in me, and some who watch my video or hear my voice "hear" it, as alluded to by Drama Mama and other posters on this blog.

Whatever attributes I have, some are shared by autistic people who see and hear me, and "normal" people don't have those attributes. I know that because they tell me.

Not knowing you, I cannot say if the same applies to you, but those experiences have put my mind as rest in terms of wondering if I and other autistic people share some kind of "mind similarity." We do.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

You two are brilliant. Woof!

momof3 said...

John,
Your voice sounds like a grown up version of Antonio. He's pretty monotone at times. All of the people I meet with Asperger's/autism seem to have that same voice quality. It IS very familiar. Your blog has been great......I don't write much, but follow it often. It's like a sneak peak into Antonio's world. Your story is very uplifting. I agree with what you said to your brother on the video......many people think Antonio wants to be alone and not socialize with people but I know that's wrong. His social ability and longing to be part of the whole picture is in there. He just has a hard time accessing it at times. He truly wants to be social, he just has to learn how. That's where I find your book as an inspiration. You put into words what we mother's feel it must be like for our kids with autism. I know there's more to him at the age of ~6 than most professionals do. It's just unlocking his potential that I find challenging. He is a beautiful boy. Thanks for all you write......we can't wait for the book signing in Amherst.
Maria

momof3 said...

Hi HJOn,
Your voice is like a grown ups version of Antonio's. Very straight and monotone. It's with little inflection, and little facial expression that connects all the aspergains and kids with autism. I love the sound of my boy's voice. It's definately unique to the spectrum. I don't write much, but read often and just want you to know you are a gift to the autism community. It's like getting a sneak peak into aspergian adulthood for me. I love that you say how some professionals think people on the spectrum don't want to socialize with others. That is not true at all. Antonio wants to be social, he really does! He just doesn't show it in a socially correct way at times. The other day he hosed down the neighbor's kids because he thought it was funny and that they'd laugh. Well, that backfired. He's got a lot of learning to do, but what your book gives is hope. Hope that he will eventually learn how to behave socially and maintain friendships. Anyway, Joe and I can't wait to go to the Amherst booksigning. We already know what all our family will be getting for Christmas this year.....your book!
Thanks for all that you do.
Maria (Antonio's mom)

Polly Kahl said...

The tone and inflections of your speaking voice, and your body language, are strikingly similar to that of the Aspergian in my life. When I had lunch with you the other week, it was amazing how similar you two are. Hugging you was just like hugging him. He'll have finished your book (I found another arc) before we see you in NYC next week, and from what he's read so far, he is also struck by the similarities of your voices.

Polly Kahl said...

p.s. god for you for removing the anonymous option. Way to go.

Polly Kahl said...

I mean "GOOD for you." (Just a little ocd here.)

John Elder Robison said...

Momof3 - Maria, you should go over to Kyra Anderson's blog - www.thismom.com - She is the one I told Joe about with an Aspergian kid the age of yours, and she just moved to Northampton. I told her and Joe I would introduce you two.

M. G. Tarquini said...

Hi Camille!

Gosh. Such strong feelings to express! If you're wondering what Kim thinks about autism and aspergers and whatnot, why don't you email her directly? I'm sure she'd be more than happy to tell you exactly what she thinks.

Hi John! I hope very much that you and I have opportunity to meet someday. I hear nothing but good things about your book and I look forward to reading it.

ORION said...

That's some tractor John.
Woof.
If you like that -- I got an engine room on my sailboat that will positively make you weep with joy -- I guess to keep up with you now I have to have my husband video tape me in there while talking about LOTTERY.
You really raise the bar for us other authors.
Holly at least can do something with bears in the background.
and Camille...
I think you misjudge Kim -- hers is not a literal comparison but a figurative one. Any issues you have with her are best done directly via email and not on another person's blog as MG suggests.

oh and john...I ordered a REAL lIVE LOOK ME IN THE EYE on amazon and it just shipped today!!!
I will bring it to New York when we meet up next.
I of course have my signed ARC well protected.
Your book is doing wonderfully - see what dragonflies will do?

Camille said...

Hi Mr. Robison,

I appreciate your thoughtful answers. My very disabled ASD adult child (can't support self with a job, can't live unassisted, not like you, no raspberry cream there) sees life through rose colored glasses much of the time. My kid is quite happy.

Now me, being a typical Asperger's adult, I have had tremendous problems with depression and anxiety. I have been bullied all my life (on and off) and only lately Kim Stagliano and her friends from EoHarm are bullying me again. Kim dedicated her most recent blog about how autistics smear feces to me. I mean she mentioned it on a listserv that she had written it with me in mind. Isn't that interesting? She meant it as a dig. :-) Yep, the bullying continues.

Anyway, so since I have had a really hard time in life, unemployed, underemployed, abused, misunderstood, much of the stuff you have experienced, am I supposed to say that my life is the dog poor/earwax/vomit flavor, and my much more impaired (non-employable) happy ASD kid has the raspberry cream and rootbeer flavor ASD?

See what I mean? Kim is trying to say that I'm not on the autism spectrum essentially, that my life is all roses, or maybe that I'm a poser because I have a job and blog, and that her kids are really on the autism spectrum. I don't know what she'd say about my kid. My kid won't have a blog, not interested, not able, really...

I'm probably bigger than Kim, I'm about 5' 10" maybe almost as tall as you. Kim and her good friends think it's funny to mock people like me who want respect for people all across the autism spectrum, and who don't think it's right to compare any autistic person to dog poop flavor anything.

See. If we were in the Deaf community, there wouldn't be a beloved and "funny" mom saying that her kids had the dog poop flavored deafness, while others had the raspberry cream flavored deafness. Also the same for CP, you wouldn't have "sexy, funny" moms saying "my kid has the vomit flavored CP, you have the root beer flavored CP."

I hope you will join in discussions with other autistic adult advocates and learn that many "low functioning" adults are happy without a cure. :-)

I don't want a cure for my "middle functioning kid" my kid is a blessing and a wonderful person as is.

Kanani said...

Hi John,
I ordered the audio version of your book. My son watched you & Augusten today on You Tube. He was thrilled and started laughing.

I love Augusten's video.
Do you know, for all that I've read, I've never read ANY of his books?
Oh dear.

Which one should I start with?
...and if I don't like it, can I mail it back? --ha ha.

John Elder Robison said...

ORION - Pat, I agree. You absolutely should make a video of you and Holly talking about your book while you work on the engine of the boat.

And tell Holly I don't know if bears are the right background for her video. After all, she's got the Canadian Pacific railway, and the spiral tunnels are world famous examples of railroad engineering.

As you can see, I've got Martha wearing that dragonfly all the time and it's us bringing good luck, too, as it's done for you all.

John Elder Robison said...

ORION - Pat, I agree. You absolutely should make a video of you and Holly talking about your book while you work on the engine of the boat.

And tell Holly I don't know if bears are the right background for her video. After all, she's got the Canadian Pacific railway, and the spiral tunnels are world famous examples of railroad engineering.

As you can see, I've got Martha wearing that dragonfly all the time and it's us bringing good luck, too, as it's done for you all.

John Elder Robison said...

Camille, I am sorry to hear you've had a rough time in life. Many us us Aspergians share that part of the story.

My description of my own Asperger's severity as compared to that of Kims's kids is just what it is. If you find such comparisions offensive, don't use them yourself.

I believe your other issues regarding people's treatment of you on other boards should be addressed in those places. I don't know them.

I heara you about being happy the way you are and not wanting a cure. In my book, I say the same thing. For myself, I say, "I don't need a cure, just tolerance and understanding." Perhaps that statement applies to you, too.

I hope you enjoy my book, and I hope you and your son can take some hope and inspiration from it.

John Elder Robison said...

Kanani, if you want to read one of my brother's books I suggest DRY, which tells the story of his overcoming liquor and drug addictions ten years ago.

amysue said...

Heh.
Noah was more impressed by you being on YouTube than he was by you writing the book. he's only 9 though and can hopefully be forgiven.

Kim Stagliano said...

Kanani, I read Augusten's "Possible Side Effects" and had to have a box of tissues to wipe the tears of laughter from my eyes. Check it out!

John Elder Robison said...

Amysue, Noah should be impressed. The technology behind YouTube, and indeed even the video recording technology, is amazing. He should study it.

And the tractor in the video . . . the John Deere Ten series is one of the most popular compact tractors ever developed. So he's right to be impressed at that, too.

Play him the audio clip and them go back in my blog to July and show him how we made it.

The Anti-Wife said...

John,
Woof back at you!
And thanks!

Really looking forward to reading your book.

Michelle O'Neil said...

I LOVE this video. You guys did a great job.

Love that you are debunking so many assumptions.

I am so happy for you and grateful to you and I've yet to get my hands on the darned book!

Polly Kahl said...

Kim, you have to get Agusten's PSE on CD. He reads it himself and it's great. You'll need more of the kleenex.

Kailah said...

Hi John, I am so happy I fell across your site. My son is a great deal like an Aspie, but right now at four years old they will only call him PDD. They are too afraid to label him for life until he gets older. I look forward to the book because you are so right - we need some kind of hope that what is going on with our children and family members isn't so much a "problem", but something to work with and look forward to in life. I wish you all the luck in the world and much success! I hope you will continue to write - we need more authors like you!

Camille said...

Mr. Robison, Thank you again for responding.

You wrote:
"Camille, I am sorry to hear you've had a rough time in life. Many us us Aspergians share that part of the story."

My guess is that nearly all autistic people, of all sorts, everywhere experience really vicious bullying of the sort that might cause that person to want to kill him or herself. Depression is very common among ASD folks and the suiced rate is higher, though I don't know the figures on that.

I should point out that I'm 48 and just got a degree in Psych, biopsychology emphasis from UC Davis. So I've had access to a lot of the recent (and old) autism research in peer reviewed papers, this informs some of what I say.

"My description of my own Asperger's severity as compared to that of Kims's kids is just what it is. If you find such comparisions offensive, don't use them yourself."

I don't. The thing is, even if you don't use the "n word" to describe black people, you might get really offended and comment on it when other people use it deliberately to hurt black people.

This is what Kim S has been doing, mocking autistic adults who she doesn't agree with on Huffingtonpost. She seems to be getting a kick out of getting a rise from ASD people like me. I think that's particularly sick, but then, maybe I'm just a tad sensitive about these things. Kim, if I read her correctly, would say my middle functioning ASD kid must be full of toxins and in need of a good chelation or at least a trip to a DAN! doctor for some form of quack based therapy. I find her insistance that most or all children are made autistic by toxins offensive and without any basis in fact at all.

I find her insistance that people like you and me are rare, as opposed to there being a million of us out there in the US, very offensive.

By denying that autistic adults exist at a rate of 1 in 150 or thereabouts, the same as in kids today, people like Kim condemn needy autistic adults to getting no help, or to getting help under the wrong label.

If you think that's fine, then I won't be buying your book. If you think there's been an epidemic of autism, I think you will lose a great deal of credibility among the ASD community.

You might want to read, "Unstrange Minds:" by Dr. Roy Grinker for some perspective on the "epidemic".

I just think, it's a guess, that some mercury moms have ulterior motives in cuddling up to you as she has. Being as ASD person I know how it can happen that we don't always see what people are up to when they want to exploit some aspect of a friendship.

Kim Stagilano has expressed utter disdain of the autistic adult advocates (read what she has on Huffingtonpost) and parents who don't buy the "biomed" thang, she mocks us. If that's ok with you. Then fine. That's you're right.

Best wishes on your book tour.

John Elder Robison said...

Camille, I don't know enough about the mercury medication controversy to take an informed side and I have not done so anywhere at any time.

I have not seen Kim mock anyone though my principal exposure to her posts is here. I don't read Huffington Post regularly and I am not a part of the email group you made reference to earlier.

I have read Unstrange Minds.

I will be interested to hear what you think of my book once you have read it.

It may surprise you to hear that I knew nothing of this whole medication/treatment controversy until after I'd written Look Me in the Eye and people like you began writing me.

My story is really about how I think and feel, how I grew up, and what I did in life. Medication and treatment - beyond my own self exploration - has not been a part of the story, nor will it be in the forseeable future.

With respect to the 1-in-150 comment. . . I have heard that same number, and it is both shocking and alarming. I don't have any idea what percentage of those people are low functioning, and what percentage may be higher functioning like us. I don't even know how similar you and I might be. One thing I do know is that "autistic spectrum" encompasses a huge range of conditions.

As you expressed, I too think high functioning Aspergians are more common than even those numbers indicate, and I agree that it's an "invisible handicap." I hope my book brings that into the limelight.

As a high functioning Aspergian, I've come to see that we may have very different challenges to overcome than the lower functioning autistic folks. Kim's children's issues may well be totally different from yours or mine. So why fight? If our answers work for us, who are we to say it's wrong for them to choose a different road?

As an aside, and apropos of nothing, let me say that Kim might say your description of her as a "mercury mom" might be just as offensive as "raspberry autism" is to you.

When you read my book, I hope you'll agree that my call for increased tolerance and understanding of folks like us - whatever we are - is something we can all benefit from. With respect to that, may I refer you to my new blog post from three o'clock today.

best wishes
John

Kanani said...

Kim's approach to enlightening the masses is her own. She can speak only for herself.

However, being on HuffPo does mean she will reach a huge audience. And this alone carries a lot of responsibility and clarity of purpose.

I encourage Camille, to start your own blog.
You are articulate, educated, and furthermore, you have Asperger's.
Your voice is important. And because of this, you absolutely cannot get caught up in sniping with anyone you disagree with, because the stakes are just too high. Much needs to be changed.

This movement for Aspergians will and should be led by they themselves.

Best wishes, and I think your heart is in the right place.

jenny gardiner said...

Camille--perhaps you are not gleaning the nuance in Kim Stagliano's very heartfelt and profound observations. It's really unkind of you to disparage her--particularly on another person's blog, which is in extremely bad taste.

If you have issues with her, take it up with her personally. But because you have certain opinions about and certain experiences with autism does not preclude Kim from having her own as well.

She's a very smart, savvy woman who has her work cut out for her. That she can deal with such serious issues with levity is a GOOD thing for her and for many people who are also negotiating a world with children with autism.

If you disagree with Kim, then fine, disagree with her. But don't trash her. It's just not good form.

jenny gardiner said...

p.s. John--Go John Go!!! Can't wait to read your book! It's a LOT of fun watching you go through this fabulous experience!