Teaching the stuff nobody teaches you

Twice 5 Miles Aims to enlighten you on everything from speech-making to gargoyles

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Your name is called. Stunned, you make your way to the stage, applauded by your peers. The Oscar statuette is handed to you by last year's winner. You turn to the microphone to give your acceptance speech and start babbling like Renée Zellweger channeling Bridget Jones (if you don't get the reference, Google it). Once you are safely backstage, desperately looking for the nearest full bottle of alcohol, you wonder how you're ever going to live that one down.

Along with a zombie apocalypse and being abducted by aliens, one of the top fears people have is public speaking, even actors. The ability to deliver an effective speech or sales pitch and to read from a novel in a way that engages an audience are believed to be talents one is born with.

Twice 5 Miles, a publishing company founded two years ago by longtime Taos residents Allegra Huston and James Navé, is here to spread the news that those communication skills can be learned.

"How to Read for an Audience" is the result of Huston coaxing Navé for years to write a book on the subject because he had taught her how to do it. "I was really bad at it," Huston confesses. "Everyone thinks I must feel really comfortable in front of an audience. It must come really naturally to be me. It doesn't come naturally to me at all."

Her first experiences in public speaking were as a publisher presenting books to sales reps. "My hands were shaking, my throat was dry, my voice was cracking. I was so nervous." When she knew she would be going on tour to promote her first book, Huston consulted Navé on techniques to build her confidence and for connecting fully with the material so that the words she had written made a powerful impact on her audience. Reading a poem, or from one's novel, or giving a speech is more than just reading the words - it is a performance, whether we like it or not, and requires preparation and rehearsal.

Huston's experience with a novice editor and a first-time author led to the second of the two titles currently available, "How to Edit and Be Edited." Huston was sent a book for copyediting and the first five chapters of it were a mess. She asked the editor, "Really? Copyediting?" The editor told her the author refused to change anything. Huston offered to have a go at the problem chapters and sent the changes to the author, who was delighted. He had known something was wrong but could not see how to fix it.

Confused, Huston said she had heard he had nixed any changes. The author replied he never even knew the editor liked his book. Huston found herself defending the young woman: No one teaches you how to edit. It is not taught at universities. The author, who was a professor, laughed and added that no one teaches you how to teach either. He suggested Huston write a book on how to be an editor.

There was room on the shelf for a book on editing, Huston says, because while there are books on copyediting there was not one on how to frame the collaborative process between editor and author, or between the writer's creative mind and their critical mind, with the goal of making the writer's work the best it could be. That was when Huston realized that that book could be part of a series with the book she had been trying to get Navé to write.

The goal of Twice 5 Miles is to offer guides on an array of subjects to help people communicate better. Titles to be released this year are "How to Make a Speech," "How to Produce a Workshop" and "How to Tell a Story," and there are more in the pipeline. A newsletter will also be initiated in the coming weeks, which will include links to two-minute audio files where listeners can learn The Stuff Nobody Tells You. Topics run the gamut from falconry to being a champion strongman to gargoyles.

Navé and Huston offer decades of combined experience. Navé has coached poets and writers in public speaking for more than 30 years. He also founded a poetry performance theater company and is the director of the Taos Storytelling Festival. Huston has published two acclaimed books, "Love Child," a memoir, and "A Stolen Summer," a novel, and has worked as an editor for 30 years. Both have taught countless creativity and creative writing workshops around the world.

Twice 5 Miles books are available from their website twice5miles.com and from Amazon, and as ebooks on Kindle and iTunes. They are actively seeking submissions, via their website, for The Stuff Nobody Tells You and for guidebooks. The audio files can be on anything, while guidebooks must be about interpersonal communications.

Visit twice5miles.com.

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