November 4, 2010 by Felix Mayerhofer

After some good advice about two and a half years ago from Susan Christiansen, a composer with Disney, my wife, Shirley, our son, David, and I decided to promote my children’s stories and my published books. As David began creating and building a website for my stories, Shirley and I edited each of my 38 stories for about the fifth time to improve them, find typos and update them. As David neared completion of the site, he suggested I hire a narrator to record eight or ten of my stories. He also said that children love to hear the authors recite their stories, so I should record two or three.

I began practicing for about six weeks with a small mic on my iMac and I was terrible. My wife bought me a professional mic and interface for Christmas, so now I knew there was no turning back and had to record a story or two. I finally emailed the first recording to David and he said to try again because of a variety of reasons, I was still terrible. After a couple of more weeks I sent the story again and he returned it. I was not one to give up, so I continued practicing and again sent it to him. His answer was, “Fantastic!” About two weeks later I sent another, and I got the same positive answer. After sending a third with the same results, David, “Dad, I don’t think you need to hire a narrator, you can do them yourself.”

Naturally with practice I was getting better, and after I completed the first ten, I did ten more. Not being content my new goal was to do the last 18. The whole process took about 10 months of daily work…it was rough but inspiring. I used GarageBand to record them on my Mac.

David downloaded as many into my website as he could because he was busy himself. Every story had a beautiful cover illustrated by Disney-Spielberg illustrator John MacFarlane, with whom I had collaborated on my four published children’s books.

A short while later Shirley broke the femur bone of her leg in two places on Christmas morning. She spent seven weeks in a convalescent hospital where I spent every day with her.

My writing had come to a halt. I had begun a novel but stopped after the accident, my creative juices stopped working. After seven weeks she came home and I wrote a Nativity story that I had created and completed in my mind before her accident. Even though she was in terrible pain she wanted to edit it for me as she had done with all 37 before that. Her insight was invaluable; a word here, or a slight change of a sentence and my stories were ready for production.

Shirley died a few months later and I no longer had the desire to write. I realized I had written all my stories for her; I loved hearing her praise that was sincere. When something was not good or needed improvement she told me. Of course I was slightly annoyed over her critique and didn’t agree with her, but after a good night’s sleep and a review of her corrections the following morning made me realize she was right…she was always right.

A few months later I felt I needed something to stop me from thinking of Shirley, so I pulled out my old trombone. For three months I tried playing it for hours every day. Just having that piece of brass, my old friend in my hands again, felt wonderful. But the area surrounding my lip had been so badly damaged 50 years earlier, it wouldn’t respond, so I sadly placed it back in its case. I had to do something, and for some strange reason I decided to buy a chromatic harmonica (harp) with a lever. I haven’t the slightest idea why I chose that instrument, but it was a wise decision. Right from the beginning the harp had many built-in obstacles that I never realized existed even with the best ones. This was going to be a true challenge. The instrument with three octaves is incredibly difficult to play well. After having played it for a few months, I now have more respect for the great players. I read up as much as possible about the instrument and now have a lot more knowledge about it. I’m learning to overcome the built-in obstacles one at a time after many hours of practice. I talk to Shirley as I’m practicing to get her opinion as I did during my professional years playing trombone, while she sat a few feet away reading, knitting, or working in the kitchen in our studio apartment. She was my biggest fan.

Six months have gone by with progress going slowly but with definite improvement. I should be a pretty good player in a couple of years. I’ll keep you informed of my progress.

I find the instrument more fascinating by the day.

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