Posts by Georgia Fisher

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    • Georgia Fisher
    • Staff Writer
    • Georgia Fisher is a reporter for Park Cities People, and an occasional contributor to D Magazine and D CEO. For about a year, she's had a company-style reminder — "serial comma" — scrawled in large letters and taped to her computer monitor. Some people think it's a prison nickname.
  • Voiceover Artists Serve as Sounding Boards at Meetings

    Turns out pregnant women, the solar system, and the Mount St. Helens eruption have a thing or two in common. And it’s not a one-liner about spacey mood swings.

    All such subjects were fodder at the June 13 meeting of the University Park Dallas Voiceovers — a group of seasoned and aspiring audio actors whose monthly gatherings have evolved into practice sessions at La Madeleine on Lemmon Avenue. Mock commercials for maternity and orthopedic hospitals made their list, as did documentary-style sound bites about classical music, natural wonders, and a factoid about kissing. Even a character from a fledgling movie script had a cameo.

    “I’ve always been healthy and active,” David Medford said when he took his turn at the mic, his voice dropping from normal-guy tenor to something rich and clear and velvety smooth. “And eventually the pain in my knee became more than I could stand.”

    Medford’s knees look fine, but that’s not the point. “The Azalea Clinic” helped him, or rather the character he was conjuring, and group leader Bettye Zoller approved.

    “Do you believe him?” she asked members, who murmured their yesses. “I believe him.”

    A longtime pro, Zoller had her first acting and radio spots at age 6, and later sang for a jazz band in Chicago.

    Her musical gigs gave way to studio vocals for big-name musicians, then commercial jingles around 40 years ago, and finally to spoken scripts — work that paid far more than Zoller ever could have imagined.

    Her voice has since lilted into cars and living rooms as far away as Japan, and for clients as varied as Mary Kay and Verizon.

    “I charged myself around and got professional,” she said, “and it’s a good thing I did, because as you may have noticed, jingles have gone the way of the dodo bird.”

    Her reel isn’t just ads, though, and as she often tells the Voiceovers group, commercials are just a sliver of the pie. Corporate training videos make for a regular if perhaps unsexy gig. Audiobooks are another source of income for many voice actors. And don’t forget about the canned voices who put your phone calls on hold, or the speaking roles in video games.

    “It’s not a get-rich-quick scheme,” Zoller cautioned. “It takes sales. It takes getting yourself and your demo out there in the world. It takes meeting producers and going to places where producers gather.”

    And sometimes it takes networking. Hence the Voiceovers club, which she founded in 2009 on The group  has since grown to around 150 members — many of whom hail from University Park, added Zoller, who lives due west of Highland Park — but it’s a dedicated handful who seem to attend the monthly meetings, learning business tips and how to bring products, textbooks, novels, and other vocal miscellanies to life. Some are retirees, including Rik Hess, a jovial, market-savvy sort who says he got involved so he could supplement his Social Security payments.

    “I did it,” Zoller likes to say, “and you can do it, too.”

    La Madeleine at 3906 Lemmon Ave. hosts the University Park Dallas Voiceovers for meetings at 6:30 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month.

    By Georgia Fisher Jun. 27, 2013 | 9:43 am | 1 Comment | Comments RSS
  • Highland Park’s Top Scholars Found Joy in Schoolwork

    Arya McCarthy and Ellie Reynolds are Highland Park's valedictorian and salutatorian. (Staff photo: Chris McGathey)

    Arya McCarthy and Ellie Reynolds are Highland Park’s valedictorian and salutatorian. (Staff photo: Chris McGathey)

    Arya McCarthy and Ellie Reynolds, Highland Park High School’s 2013 valedictorian and salutatorian, have known each other since their academic careers began — way back in kindergarten, at Christ the King Catholic School.

    McCarthy has been named a President’s Scholar at SMU, where he’ll study computer science and applied mathematics. Reynolds, an engineering major, is off to Vanderbilt.

    Leading a class of nearly 500 students at a top-flight high school is obviously no small task, and McCarthy and Reynolds managed GPAs of 4.64 and 4.624, respectively.

    So how does one do it?

    “The strategy behind it is not to be meticulous about grades and how you do on the assignments,” McCarthy said. “It’s about finding what you like in each subject that you take. From the passion in it, performance follows, because you will want to do well — to show that you understand [the material] and want to do more.”

    Reynolds “personally enjoyed high school a lot,” having headed up the Academic Decathlon team, the women’s service organization ASTRA, and Highland Park’s student paper, The Bagpipe.

    “Finding that balance” — that sweet spot between having a life in high school and doing well academically — “is probably the most difficult part of getting here,” she explained.

    By his own description, McCarthy has captained “the three nerdiest UIL teams” — math, computer science, and science — and this month led the latter to its eighth consecutive state championship. He’s also been pipe major in the school’s bagpipe corps.

    “He’s unassuming. He’s humble,” AP computer science and Oracle Academy teacher Brenda McGurgan said of McCarthy, whose high-school programming work included an online study guide for his classmates. “He’s one who I would learn from every day as well. The learning went two ways with us.”

    Calculus and pre-calculus teacher Melynda Wright described Reynolds as a focused, inquisitive, ever-organized learner.

    “She’s never turned in anything late,” Wright added. “Never ‘my dog ate it’ or ‘my computer crashed’ — never. She’s always early or on time. And she’s just a fantastic young lady.”

    By Georgia Fisher May. 31, 2013 | 1:25 pm | 6 Comments | Comments RSS
  • Publishing Vet Richard Lena Begins to Dabble in Fiction

    Richard Lena mug

    The first fiction title from Highland Park resident Richard Lena’s Brattle Publishing Group is a fantasy novel for children called “The Last Akaway.”

    Richard Lena knows a thing or two about the publishing world. The Highland Park resident has headed instructional technology and curriculum departments at top-of-the-heap publishing company Houghton Mifflin, for instance, and worked in the industry for more than two decades.

    Now he’s running Brattle, his own educational-publishing outfit, and offering a range of digital and hard-copy products that include math and textbooks for children in Africa — some of whom he’s made a point of meeting in person.

    These days, Lena and his family are celebrating the recent launch of Brattle’s first fiction title, The Last Akaway — a fantasy-adventure story for children and young adults by Virginia-based author and journalist Gary Karton.

    After so much time spent researching the many things that make young learners tick — including a given textbook’s syntax and tone — “I really wanted to create a series of books that would inspire kids to pick them up,” explained the father of twins. The 9-to-13 age range is an especially ideal target, he added, because “that’s when students start to really drop off [in terms of] motivation.”

    But The Last Akaway could easily appeal to sci-fi buffs of any age, he added, and even his 72-year-old mother is tearing through a copy.

    One look at the manuscript, and Lena saw the potential for a series (which Karton already had in mind) that would grip readers and also shake them from the blandness of consumer culture.

    In Karton’s world, children connect with spirit animals that transmit magical powers. The story’s villain, a purveyor of video games, is symbolic and also true-to-life in some ways.

    Lena’s 8-year-old twins, Elijah and Simone, usually don’t hesitate to give their two cents about their dad’s endeavor. Kay Jones, Simone’s second-grade teacher at Bradfield Elementary, even began reading The Last Akaway to her class after the twins’ mother, Barbra, popped in one day and shared a few chapters.

    “The kids kept saying, ‘Noooo, don’t go,’ ” when Barbra finally made her way toward the door, Jones remembers. “It is absolutely one of those books that you cannot put down. I think it’s going to rank right up there with the Percy Jackson and Harry Potter books.”

    For Lena, a maiden voyage into the fiction world was “a very conscious decision.” In short, he wants to impact children’s literacy rates.

    “If we can’t motivate a child to pick up a book,” he said gently, “they’re over.”

    By Georgia Fisher May. 30, 2013 | 3:45 pm | No Comments | Comments RSS
  • City Council OKs Ursuline’s Request For Lighted Field

    UrsulineThe Ursuline community scored a big goal on Wednesday. After hearing emotional input from neighbors, City Council members finally and unanimously approved the school’s request for a lighted athletic field.

    “I understand how sensitive this is, and I’ve listened to both sides,” departing District 13 City Councilwoman Ann Margolin said during the meeting, which was packed to the point of overflow. But she said Ursuline’s many compromises — including lessened glare and a 20-night limit on the number of times the lights will actually be used at games each year — clearly “minimize the impact of the athletic field on the neighborhood.”

    Proponents in the crowd wore T-shirts emblazoned with the words “Support the Ursuline Athletic Field,” or stickers to the same effect. A Facebook page dedicated to the field proposal had upwards of 700 fans as of Wednesday, and supporters also spread word about the hearing through Twitter, Instagram, and Ursuline’s website.

    The all-girls school has never had a real field, despite having a soccer team that won its 23rd consecutive state championship this spring. Players often motor through rush-hour traffic en route to Jesuit, the University of Dallas, and elsewhere for home games and early-morning practices.

    Wednesday’s win didn’t come without a fight, however.

    More than half of nearby homeowners notified by the city have opposed a specific-use permit for the field, which they say will be a blight to the area in terms of noise, lights, and even driver safety.

    “If Ursuline Academy had consulted me to design a sports field at this location, I wouldn’t have done it,” said Carrollton engineer Dale Caffey, speaking on behalf of certain neighbors. By his calculations, which school spokespeople quickly refuted, the glare from the field lights will violate city code.

    The council denied an earlier version of Ursuline’s application in 2001. The revised one — approved 14-1 by the City Plan Commission in February — has many caveats, including guarantees that the light poles will be relatively short (45 feet) and that games will end by 9 p.m. Several events will be audited to ensure lighting is as targeted and subtle as engineers have promised.

    The roughly 2-acre field on the southwest corner of Walnut Hill and Inwood Road also must go without loudspeakers, a concession stand, or new parking slabs.

    “Ask yourselves if we would even be having this conversation if it were a boys’ football field,” Strait Lane resident Karen Pollock said, questioning the “number of concessions” the school has made to appease others in the last year. “We believe the school has worked tirelessly to listen to us — their neighbors — and to create a solution that’s amenable to all parties.”

    By Georgia Fisher May. 22, 2013 | 5:05 pm | No Comments | Comments RSS
  • Highland Park ISD Preps For Severe Weather

    By all accounts, tonight’s storm could get big.

    HPISD just sent out a note about the possibility of a tornado warning (we’re currently just in “watch” status), in which case doors will be locked and students won’t be able to leave for the time being. Seems like standard protocol for a school district, but it’s worth a heads-up.

    Per the email:

    If the tornado watch is upgraded to a tornado warning, our campuses will shelter in place. If that occurs, doors will be locked and staff members and students will be situated away from windows and doors, so parents and others authorized to pick up students will not be able to do so while the warning is in place. Due to the dangerous conditions during a tornado warning and because the doors will be locked, we ask that parents not come to campus until the warning is lifted. Instead, please find shelter until the dangerous conditions have passed.

    If a tornado warning occurs, we will communicate with parents and staff using our emergency text and e-mail notification system. We will also send a follow-up announcement when the warning is no longer in effect and children are cleared to leave campus.




    By Georgia Fisher May. 21, 2013 | 12:07 pm | No Comments | Comments RSS
  • Train This Weekend for Komen 3-Day

    The Susan G. Komen 3-Day walk won’t come to Dallas until early November, but event organizers suggest participants begin training for the 60-mile trek well in advance — as in, now.

    At 7 a.m. Saturday, New Balance on Northwest Parkway will host an hour-long training walk followed by a “Get Trained Workshop” to discuss proper shoes, clothes, and preparation for the big event (with product pitches worked into the mix, one figures). A seasoned 3-Day walker will also take questions from the crowd.



    By Georgia Fisher May. 16, 2013 | 7:09 am | No Comments | Comments RSS
  • ‘Twilight’ Star Debuts Jewelry Line at NorthPark

    Nikki Reed Starry Knight

    Reed models her Starry Knight necklace and earrings.

    Parish Episcopal senior Claire Criss is shadowing me this week for her senior project, and wrote this post about actress Nikki Reed’s new jewelry line. 

    Walk through NorthPark’s 7 For All Mankind, and it is abundantly clear why Nikki Reed’s jewelry was chosen for the store.  Best known for her part as Rosalie in the Twilight saga, Reed has now added jewelry-designer to her chain of talents.  Launching this week in Dallas, Mattlin Era — Reed’s label — is a great addition for all jewelry lovers.  With a unique look and a price point of less than $100, the collection is sure to be a hit.

    Reed agreed to lend her name to the five-piece line just a few months ago, and the day her manager called about the opportunity, she put twelve sketches together in a matter of hours. The Starry Knight necklace and matching earrings are inspired by 7 For All Mankind’s Photo Real jeans, which are embellished with Swarovski crystals. The pieces really compliment the jeans, making the collection even more appropriate for the store.

    Reed credits her grandmother, Laurie, as her biggest inspiration, and even used her maiden name to title the collection. The Hollywood-muralist’s aquatic works influenced many of Reed’s pieces. “She’s a very strong, very beautiful, glamorous … very spirited woman,” Reed says.

    Reed also looks to her husband, former American Idol contestant Paul McDonald, for inspiration.  Jewelry-making has always been a part of their relationship, stemming from the wedding rings the couple designed themselves through Tacori.  While spending time with her new husband, Reed took a cue from his wardrobe, making denim shirts her signature look.

    “I designed…[the Starry Knight] necklace in particular because I have been wearing denim,” she says, fingering the series of spikes around her neck. “It makes you feel a little bit masculine, and I couldn’t find a necklace to go under a denim shirt, so I kind of selfishly designed this piece.” McDonald occasionally wears Reed’s jewelry too, proving the collection to truly be unisex.

    Whether it’s the long Humility necklace with a gold honeycomb pendant and matching earrings, the dark silver daggers of the Starry Knight combination, or the tri-metal Story Telling bangle set, Nikki Reed’s Mattlin Era jewelry will stand out in a crowd and complete any look.

    — Claire Criss

    By Georgia Fisher May. 15, 2013 | 3:10 pm | 2 Comments | Comments RSS
  • SMU Was on Lockdown This Morning

    The university campus was “locked down briefly,” according to a press release, “in response to a potential threat.”

    Here’s the rest:

    After learning at approximately 8:35 a.m. about a potentially armed man in the vicinity near Greenville and SMU Boulevard, the SMU campus began emergency actions. As the suspect’s location was being tracked via cellphone signal, SMU began locking exterior doors to campus facilities and notifying building managers of the possible threat.

    At 9:06 a.m., the campus locked down. Students, faculty and staff were notified by alerts via text, phone, e-mail, social media and website. The lockdown ended at 9:16 a.m. after Dallas Police arrested the man on Mockingbird Lane east of US 75 (Central Expressway). The campus was informed to return to normal activities.

    There is no indication that the suspect ever entered the SMU campus, west of Central Expressway. The university acted out of an abundance of caution based on information provided regarding the possible proximity of the suspect to campus.

    Classes have ended for the semester but final exams are in progress. SMU is making arrangements for students whose exams were interrupted to have them rescheduled. SMU Counseling services also are available.  SMU appreciates the fast action of Dallas Police in apprehending the suspect.

    Update: Because of its proximity to SMU, McCulloch Intermediate School/Highland Park Middle School were also briefly on lockdown, with all of HPISD on high alert. Fortunately, the crisis was quickly averted, and classes have continued accordingly.

    By Georgia Fisher May. 10, 2013 | 1:20 pm | 1 Comment | Comments RSS
  • HPHS Ranks No. 9 in Nonprofit’s Survey

    Highland Park ranked No. 9 overall and No. 5 in math and science among North Texas high schools on this year’s Children at Risk list — which makes for a good thing, despite the effective misnomer.

    Per the organization’s website, schools are selected via “a compilation of factors that indicate the degree to which a campus has prepared students for secondary and post-secondary success.”

    By Georgia Fisher May. 9, 2013 | 7:30 am | No Comments | Comments RSS
  • ‘Cornhole Extravaganza’ Benefits UP Sport Court

    Meet the muse.

    University Park Elementary dad Robb Flint reached out about an event today called Cornhole Extravaganza for Make Benefit Glorious Sport Court UP — and yup, that’s the actual title, inspired by Borat-speak. It’s open to all UP parents and supporters of the school, and starts at 5 p.m. at 3319 Hanover St.

    The UP Dads Club fundraiser is a tournament (Flint figures at least 100 people will show), with proceeds to go toward installation of the school’s first real athletics court. Event sponsors have already stepped in line, for the record, and include Anhauser-Busch distributor Ben E. Keith, clothing company J. Hilburn, and Snider Plaza’s Love Tennis.

    Their goal? To raise $50,000.

    “We like to say that it will be the largest cornhole tournament ever held in University Park,” Flint tells us.

    I believe the man.

    By Georgia Fisher May. 9, 2013 | 7:01 am | 2 Comments | Comments RSS
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