Friday, September 10, 2021

Don't Do This

 There are so many things they don't tell you about when you become a writer. Recently, I've had to side-step a situation that is very uncomfortable for me. That is telling friends they absolutely cannot come along on an interview.

This is a hard and fast rule that I've developed because of my first experience. I was working away on a historical book back when I lived in Kansas. A lady I hardly knew wanted to come with me to Atchison, Kansas and show me around. I could have shown myself around. It's not hard to find places in Kansas. But it was important to her to go that day, so I foolishly said yes.

I appreciated all the things she could tell me about the town and especially about the disappearance of Amelia Earhart.

But things fell apart when we went to a convent and I interviewed a nun who knew a great deal about her order. The lady I brought with me could not have been more insulting. An interview to collect an oral history is not an antagonistic interview.

I don't conduct an interview with the stance of a lawyer or a reporter from CNN. I want to gain the person's trust and evoke memories. I am interested in their opinion. That's all. Objectivity is a myth when it comes to family stories. Your own account of an event will differ widely and wildly from your sister's or brother's memories.

Sometimes it's easy to gain an interviewees trust. Sometimes not. However relationships change the moment someone new enters a room. Like throwing a rock in a pond. Ripples pulse. 

My companion that day obviously hated Catholics. I mean seriously. She challenged every statement. Her attitude ruined the interview.

Writing is such a learning process. There are so many things that are not written down.

"Helping" someone with their writing is another hidden land mine. No matter how congenial a person appears to be we writers are a touchy lot. Our books are our babies. No one wants to be told their baby is ugly. 

Learning the craft of writing (never mind theory) is a tedious process. Structure is rarely taught in creative writing classes. 

Recently, a nephew called and wanted me to "help" his granddaughter. I groaned. Softly. Even though I didn't know this person from Adam's off-ox, this kind of thing never goes well. But what I said was "sure, I'll be glad to." 

Surprise! Not only was she the most naturally talented person I've every worked with--she understood everything that need correcting and went to work. 

Now there's the hard work of finding an agent. And that's another story  

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