I’m very happy to share an excerpt of my new book, Raw Talent, about a girl who wants to be a pop star but suffers from stage fright, published by Orca in their Limelights performing arts series. CM magazine gave Raw Talent a 4**** Highly Recommended review and called it “A timely story, well written.”

Copyright © 2018 Jocelyn Shipley. All rights reserved. 

From Chapter Three:

I pour myself a glass of water from the pitcher next to the plate of cookies. Then I sit on the sofa and take a sip. It helps, so I take another.

“Always good to stay hydrated,” Maxine says, reaching for a cookie. “Mmm, so good. Craig is an amazing baker. And Sunita, well, she makes living here a real pleasure. Honestly, I don’t know how I’m going to leave when my home renovations are done.”

“Yeah, Riverside House is awesome.”

Maxine finishes her cookie. “Now, tell me about your singing. Ever had any lessons?”

I shake my head. “I thought about it once, but then, well, it just didn’t happen.” That awful audition. So humiliating.

Maxine shrugs. “It doesn’t necessarily matter. Lots of popular singers are self-taught and don’t even read music. Anyway, Jasmeer tells me you’re going to sing at Farmshine?”

“Well, I want to. But I have this problem with stage fright.”

Plus, I’m a total fraud for not signing up.

Maxine reaches for another cookie. “Okay, let’s talk about that. First, I want you to name it. Call it what it is—performance anxiety. Second, I want you to know that performance anxiety is common and manageable. You can learn to accept it as a challenge, rather than a threat, and channel it into performance energy.”

Wow. She makes it sound like there is hope after all. “But what if I can’t?”

“If you want to succeed in show business, you will.”

Her stern tone indicates she won’t tolerate me wimping out and feeling sorry for myself. “Okay,” I say. “But do you really think I can do this?”

“Of course. That’s why I agreed to coach you. Trust me—I’ve been there and know how hard it can be.”


“Yes. Performance anxiety can happen to the most experienced performers. Suddenly, out of the blue, you panic. Your mouth goes dry, your heart starts racing, and you think you’re going to die.”

Maxine pours herself some water and takes a long drink. “I’m going to tell you something you may find hard to believe. I actually found it hard to go from film, where you can always do a retake, back to live theater, where you can’t,” she says. “Things got so bad for me at one point that I almost quit.”

“Really? So what did you do?”

“I had to face my fear and admit I had a problem. And then I went back to basics.”

“And those would be?”

“It all starts with proper breathing.”

“You mean, like, just take a deep breath?” “As long as you’re doing it properly. Have

you ever heard of something called diaphragmatic breathing? It’s also called belly breathing or deep breathing.”

“Um, maybe? But not exactly, no.”

“Shallow breathing won’t help you relax, and it doesn’t help you sing well. But deep breathing will calm you and give you a supported sound.” Maxine stands and places one hand on her stomach. “Like this. First exhale with a big sigh to get rid of all your air. Then, when you breathe in, take air into your belly.”

“Shouldn’t the air go into my lungs?”

“It will, but focus on expanding the belly instead. Let it fill like a balloon. Breathe through your nose, not your mouth.” She demonstrates.

“In for a count of ten…then out for ten.” She smiles and says, “Okay, now you try. Stand up.”

I feel silly at first. But once I get going, I start to relax.

“You’re getting it,” Maxine says. “I want you to practice at home every day and come back next week.”

“That’s it? Just practice breathing?”

“Do five sets in a row, several times a day, and work your way up to ten.” Maxine slides onto the piano bench and starts playing softly again.

I guess the lesson is over. “Thanks so, so much!” I say, heading out the door.

“You’re welcome,” she calls after me. “And don’t worry. You’ll be fine.”

I happy-dance down the hall to the study. “Oh my god, that was fantastic!” I tell Jasmeer. “Maxine is sooooo awesome!”

“Yeah, I know,” Jasmeer says. “But my mom being celebrity obsessed is quite enough.”

“No worries. It’s not like she’s Denzi. But somehow Maxine made me feel like I can do anything!”

Like signing up to sing at Farmshine.

Want to read more? Raw Talent is available through online and independent bookstores and directly from the publisher.