Courage

by Neeks

I did  it.  Did what?  Well.. .now there’s the story. I write feature articles for a local magazine where I live.  It’s a nice publication and I’m very blessed to be associated with it.  I’ve been writing for them for about 4 years now.  They print 4 times a year with a distribution of about 10,000.  Here is a the very first article I did for them.

I write about the county I live in for the most part (there is one issue coming up with a story about my vacation in Oregon a few years back).  The deep south has a lot of history to tell, so many things about our area in particular are simply no longer here – reclaimed by the tall pines and scrub oaks.  Entire towns.  A way of life that is no more, turpentine towns that grew up in the woods and then declined – eventually disappearing when the demand dwindled and dried up.  My family has lived in the area for several generations, and there are lots of stories to tell about all of these things.

I get to be creative in my descriptions in these articles (it’s one of the reasons I like doing them), this is not straight journalism.  I’ve never done an interview, thought I’m told to stay away from politics and religion, as a rule.  I will soon get to test this out.  I need tips on interviewing people and I’m hoping some of your responses here will help me with that.

I’ve thought and wondered for some time now, about what I could do to get my own column with the magazine.  I fretted and worried about this for over a year now.  How could I talk them into it?  Should I talk to the owner or the editor?  How do I present it?  What would I call it?  Augh!

Some of you may know that I work at an airport.  Well my editor and his wife came in one day a few weeks ago to fly out and I just…I  just did it!  On the spur of the moment I just walked over to where he was sitting.  I knew that if I thought about it I would never ever do it so I just left the counter and walked over to sit with him.  I explained that I had a proposal I wanted him to consider.  Then I spilled.  I told him everything I had hoped for this, a column of my own, the title I had picked, what I wanted to do.  You see, I just wanted to move my articles out of the ‘featured” space and into the “regular” column space.  Entirely for my ego, of course.  I wouldn’t change what I’m doing, it would just be in a different place.  I asked him to think about it.  He wisely told me to work on the idea and then submit an article so that he could show the publisher and discuss it with him.

We discussed ideas back and forth by email, and finally decided that this column would be in addition to the feature articles that I already did.  This would put me in the magazine twice an issue if they did it (frantically chewing nails please oh please, lol).  I got an email from the editor last week, asking for an introductory column and some suggestions about what it should cover (dancing, singing, yea!).  He wants me to write about the surrounding counties as well as my own, and some other things we discussed.

Someone who has a regular column opted out of contributing for the summer issue, leaving space for my trial run.  I am praying that it will be well received, that the public as well as the publisher will like it.  I count all of my work, all of it good and bad; as a gift given by the Lord and I am thankful.  Thankful!

What tips do you have for interviewing people?  Do you have any tricks or ideas for getting people to talk?  Thanks in advance for any help!

~ Neeks

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43 Comments to “Courage”

  1. Congratulations Neeks! You go girl, so proud of you for being so brave and just going for it. My tips for interviewing people is to have a rough idea of what you want to say, but always listen to what their answers are. Don’t just reel off your questions, because they might give you something that will lead to something even more awesome. Try and relate to them, relax (as much as possible) and just be you. Good luck, I’m looking forward to reading your (two) pieces! 😉 B

    • Thanks Beth! I’m nervous! I submitted the “column” to the editor, but have not heard yet whether or not it will run. I won’t know until the magazine comes out at the end of June :/

  2. I agree! Congrats, and listen to what they have to say and go where the conversation takes you.
    Always, always have a list of prepared background questions to fall back on and be prepared to listen, not just nod and smile.
    My lifetime highlight was interviewing a musician who said ‘oh? Are you sure there isn’t anything else?’ at the end of one of our interviews. D–ream!

    • What a compliment, for the interviewee to want to continue to talk with you! I have prepared a list of questions, I’ve gotten that far 🙂

  3. That’s fantastic news Neeks, well done! Funnily enough, it was almost exactly a year ago that I wrote a piece right here on Limebird about interviewing people for magazine articles! – http://limebirdwriters.co.uk/2012/05/22/interviewing-for-magazine-articles/

    Another tip I would say is to do a good search online to see if they have been interviewed elsewhere, and then it can give you an idea of things to pick up on, and also things to avoid if they’ve already been asked the same question loads of times! And as the other two have said up there ^^ listen and be responsive to their answers; e.g. don’t ask something that’s on your list of questions if it’s now become irrelevant because of one of their other answers! Also, at the end, I always like to say “Is there anything else that you would like covered which I haven’t asked you about?”.

    • Thank you for the wonderful tips Vanessa, my subject is a young exchange student from Norway. I watched her graduate last night with my daughter. I wanted to get an interview with her before she leaves to go home. Her parents are here and I’ve asked if they would like to join us, I introduced myself to them last night. Lovely people, just lovely.

      Great idea, about is there anything else you would like to say? I had planned on ending the article by having her tell us how to say “Welcome back, we missed you!” in her native tongue, so that we would know how to say it when we see her again. 🙂

    • Excellent points in your article. #5 and 6 were things I hadn’t thought of, thank you so much!

  4. Neeks, I love what you did, woohoo! Interviewing, I did so for different purpose, several thousand. Something leads you to the interview, start there, and go with the flow once you satisfy the first reason. People will veer off on interesting tangents, no matter the interview purpose. Best wishes!

    • Thanks Nelle! I still can’t believe I just walked over there and did that! EXcellent point, to satisfy the reason for the interview. Very perceptive and it leads me to realize that I haven’t developed a reason for it. I guess that I want our readers to know her, and know how she feels about us. So I will go at it from a more personal angle, and less of the actual proceedings of how to become an exchange student. THANK YOU!

  5. The key is to go into the interview knowing which points you wish to cover — and then make sure you cover those points before you say goodbye.

    The conversation needs to flow, of course (a relaxed interviewee is a candid interviewee) but it can’t flow too too much or you’ll end up with too much useless stream-of-consciousness gobbledygook. Conversational tangents are fine (and may lead to something wonderful), but you also need to direct the conversation to places where it’ll be journalistically useful.

    To put it another way, if Mr. Interview Subject glosses over a key point too quickly or vaguely, it is your responsibility to jump in and say something like, “You intrigued me when you said [whatever]. Can you elaborate on that a little?” Mr. Interview Subject will be happy to backtrack because, well, you found his words intriguing.

    Way to stroke his ego, Neeks!

    That’s the most important thing to know about interviewing, really: most people love to talk about themselves. They will be happy to know that someone finds them interesting.

    So don’t worry and have fun!

  6. Ohh I just thought of something else! If you can, get a voice recorder and record it, so you’re not just sitting there taking notes and not engaging with them. (double and triple check that it’s capturing the words properly and that the mic is close enough to hear them!) B

  7. All of these ideas are wonderful, thank you all so much for helping! Limebirds and Limebird fans – YOU ROCK!

  8. Sounds like you’ve already established rapport with them, so you won’t need to do this as much, but it’s always good to do a little of this before you just jump in with questions. i always record my interviews so I can quote accurately. And it sounds like you’ve got that covered, too. Take a look at your questions to make sure they’re all open-ended. Nothing kills a conversation like a “yes” or “no” answer. And the question: “Could you tell me a little bit more about that/why you feel that way/why you think that?” is always nice to enlist when an interviewee is less than forthcoming.

    And always think of an interivew as a conversation. rather than a grilling. :o)

    Congratulations on taking action! I’m sure you will be successful!

  9. Congratulations! I used to interview people for a local newspaper and I often interview people for my blog. What helps me is NOT knowing too much about the subject or person beforehand and not writing down questions. (I do think of a few to start with.) I treat the interview like I would a conversation with someone I’m getting to know. I listen a lot and try not to jump in too soon. Sometimes when I think a person has stopped, they’re just pausing to think more, and the next thing they say is usually touching or intriguing.

    • You sound like a pro Jessica, I am too nervous and had to write down some questions so that I would remember what I wanted to say, lol. My problem is that I get to talking and then later it’s like, um, what a sweet girl, oh no, I forgot my questions! Hehehe

  10. Many congratulations and best wishes for success!

  11. Good for you! That did take courage and it worked out. Congratulations!

  12. Good for you! I’m glad you took the initiative. Best wishes. It’s exciting to see a writer expand his “turf.”

  13. I just found out that they did not use my article for the column this month. He is keeping it though, and it will get used sooner or later. Auggh! All of that suspense for nothing.

  14. Fab news, Neeks! Congratulations. 😀

    I have no tips on interviews, though I’m certain other posters here can fill that void. However, I do know – as I’m certain you do, as well – that the best way to get other people to talk is to listen. And to give them free food. Free food helps a lot. 🙂

  15. Congrats Neeks. The best thing to do is ask questions you already know the answer to. That way you are getting their take on it, but you have the knowledge to dig deeper into their responses. Be friendly and charming, people love to talk about themselves and be experts. 🙂

    • Thanks Kourtney, good points. I thought I had responded to this already but don’t see it on the page. Sorry!
      People do love to talk about themselves, that’s true!

  16. Congratulations! Talk about guts and the end result. Yay.
    I don’t know about interviewing, but I know about exchange students. Depends how long she lived in your country before graduating might inform some of your questions: Maybe ask about the hardest / easiest transition on arrival / in the interim? What did he or she like or hate in this new country? How does transit / housing / teaching style compare between the two countries.

    I suppose the questions will depend on the theme of your piece. Hope I have stirred up the pot a little–in a helpful way.

    I’m new here and have enjoyed your post.

    • Thank you, I actually already had your first two questions written down! The third one would bring a good perspective too. I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and all of us Limebirds are very happy to have you here!

  17. Well done for plucking up the courage. Good luck with the new column 🙂

  18. Wonderful news! I’m sure you’ll do a great job–especially with all the wonderful advice you’ve already been given.

    I’ve found that people love to talk about themselves (not in an egotistical way, but because most people rarely listen to each other any more). A great technique is to summarize what you heard them say. They will either tell you that you heard them accurately, or they will dig deeper into what they really want you to know–and that’s where the real heart of the story lies.

    • I know just what you mean Lorna, we all do like to talk about ourselves (guilty, see above. Hehe) Summarizing is an EXCELLENT idea, thanks!!

  19. That’s awesome news, Neeks! Good for you for having the courage to ask. I bet you’ll do an awesome job with the articles. Would you be interviewing over the phone or in person? Are you allowed to let them look at your questions first? I think if you can do it in person, meeting up at a cafe or a park would be a great ice breaker. It also takes the focus off the “interview” and helps give a feeling of chatting with someone you just met. Good luck!

    • Thanks Kate, I do know the girl, she’s the exchange student our school hosted this past year. She left to go home to Norway a few days ago. We’ve “friended” one another on FB, and have agreed to do the interview there. I can’t get her into the June issue anyhow, so will try for the fall issue in September.

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