About the presenter: Pamela Mertz is an active member of the stuttering community, including NSA and Friends. She is involved in Toastmasters, with membership in two clubs. Pam writes a blog called "Make Room For The Stuttering" and publishes the bi-monthly e-newsletter "Reaching Out" for Friends. She is a member of the Board of Directors for an agency that serves adults with disabilities, and is involved with a Story-Telling circle. Pam is the host of the newly launched podcast, "Women Who Stutter: Our Stories". In her spare time, Pam is a full-time high school career counselor. She lives in Albany, NY.
About the presenter: Stacey Fitzenrider resides in Seattle with her husband, Andy (who also stutters), and their six year old daughter, Ava. The Fitzenriders are long time members and supporters of the National Stuttering Association and FRIENDS. Stacey enjoys spending time with her family and friends. Living in Seattle her whole life, she loves all that the Pacific Northwest has to offer.
About the presenter: Samantha Gennuso has just received her Master's in (ironically enough!) Mass Communication from Boston University. Even though stuttering still presents its challenges, her time at various magazines in New York, including Rolling Stone and Cosmopolitan, has helped her tremendously in becoming more open about her stuttering. It was the American Institute for Stuttering that first introduced her to effective therapy in 2001, and she continues to share her adventures as a stutterer, presenting at the National Stuttering Association's annual conferences.
About the presenter: Lesley Kodom-Baah is twenty years old from London, England. Lesley is presently in college studying towards a BA degree in Sociology. She has stuttered from the time she could talk which was around three years of age. Lesley has been a covert stutterer from the age of twelve and finally made the decision to try and break the habits of hiding in November of 2009. It is still a struggle being open about her stuttering but she is hopeful for the future that big changes will come.

You can post Questions/comments to Pamela Mertz before October 22, 2010.

Women Who Stutter: Our Stories

by Pamela Mertz, Sheila Denny, Stacey Fitzenrider, Samantha Gennuso, and Lesley Kodom-Baah,
from the USA and England

Women who stutter are a minority within a minority. 1% of the general population stutters. Of that 1%, only 1 in 5 are female. We have a rarely heard voice. We are often not invited to share our stories. Women who stutter are occasionally depicted in the media, but generally only if famous and no longer stutter.

There are many ordinary women who stutter living meaningful, inspired lives. We just never hear these stories because no one asks. We are not invited on radio or TV because we are unknown, not famous.

Behind every person there is a story. Women just need to be invited to share. They tell. They tell gladly, with energy, enthusiasm and excitement.

This podcast began as a discussion between me and good friend Daniele Rossi (host of Stuttering is Cool podcast - http://www.stutteringiscool.com/). I had been a guest on his show a couple of times, and sometimes found myself discussing women and stuttering. Another female guest and I once monopolized a conversation and left Danny completely out!

He gladly bowed out, as we discussed the affect the menstrual cycle has on our stuttering. We were exploring whether menstrual tension created more tension with our stuttering. We also agreed that our confidence was lower during those times of the month, which of course can affect a woman's stuttering.

Danny suggested to me that I should start my own podcast for women who stutter. I was reluctant, for several reasons. I didn't think I had the skills or time needed to record and post audio files. I didn't have software and lacked money to invest in a project that might not have any appeal. And the biggest reason: I didn't think I would be able to persuade women to come on a public internet site about stuttering and share their story.

Well, none of my excuses held up. Danny agreed to mentor me through the process. I could use Skype, which I already used. And Skype has free software that records and saves conversation as an mp3 file. Through a marathon Skype session of our own, and using shared screen in Skype, Danny showed me how to import my recording into Audacity, an audio editing program, to trim and mix tracks. I figured out how to add music through a tutorial and trial and error. So now I knew how to do it and it wouldn't cost anything.

I asked a few women if they'd be interested and their response blew me away. Not only did they agree, but also said they would be honored. Women wanted to tell their stories. So I asked some more, and women said yes. Then people started commenting on my blog how they thought this was great, and asked if they could contribute, even women who had previously never talked publicly about their stuttering.

I was nervous starting out, not sure how to host. I stayed away from peppering anyone with questions, instead inviting people to just talk, which fostered dialogue. This seemed best. I received feedback that it was like listening in to two women chatting on the phone.

I have learned so much in the short time I have been producing this podcast. I have learned to be conscious of interrupting a speaker, thinking she is done, when actually she had been in a stuttering block. I have learned more patience.

I have learned that there is tremendous value in listening to women stutter. Due to isolation some women feel, some women may never have heard other women stutter. This podcast has helped women connect with other women who sound like them. That alone is huge for many women. It decreases the sense of being the only one. I actually had a comment from a male listener that since he had never heard a woman stutter, he never knew women stuttered.

And I have learned that this is something important, almost magical. It is a privilege to hear women share their stories, the good and the not-so-good. These are the stories of mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, teachers, professionals and role models. Women need a forum to share. Our spoken, stuttered words are passionate, purposeful and proud. And need to be heard.

Listen to the podcasts and read short articles by each of the women below

You can post Questions/comments to Pamela Mertz before October 22, 2010.

SUBMITTED: August 5, 2010
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