Category: On publishing


Tips for authors: interviews, part I

By Midge Raymond,

These next two posts on interviews feature Elizabeth Austen and Wendy Call, both of whom have vast, invaluable experience as both interviewer and interviewee.

Today’s Q&A is with Elizabeth Austen, who has interviewed dozens of writers over the past ten years years for KUOW, 94.9, one of Seattle’s NPR affiliates. She is also a poet, performer, and teacher who has been interviewed countless times herself — and she has a lot to share about how to give your very best in a live interview. (Click here to find some of Elizabeth’s interviews.)

 

 

What are some of the best ways an author can prepare for a live interview?

The most important thing is to spend some time beforehand thinking about what you want to say about your work. Imagine the interview is already over: What do you want to have said? What would you regret NOT saying?

Often, the person interviewing you will not have had time to read your book. So you need to be prepared with a short description of it. What’s your book about? Why did you write it, and why did you write it this way? How is it different from your previous work? Is there an interesting story about how it got published? Also think about what you want to say about how you got started writing and why you continue to do it. You’re essentially interviewer-proofing yourself. Hopefully you’ll get an interviewer who is genuinely interested in you and your book, and will talk with you briefly before the interview starts about what he/she wants to discuss, but you can’t depend on that.

Also, choose a couple of short excerpts or a few short poems that you might read aloud. What would provide a good introduction to the book? Practice reading aloud, and practice giving a concise introduction to what you’re going to read.

If you have time, I recommend listening online to an example or two of your interviewer’s program, so that you’ll have a sense of what to expect in terms of tone and approach. Does this interviewer tend to ask more about craft and process, or about the backstory of the book or individual poems? Is the interviewer looking for anecdotes and stories? Does it seem like the interviewer has actually read the book?

I’m a great believer in preparing for anything, and then letting go of the preparation during the interview so you can respond to what’s actually happening in the conversation. The most important thing is to be present. In the moment, approach it like you would any conversation with someone you care about — by listening and responding as honestly and generously as you can.

What if you’re asked a question you can’t (or don’t wish to) answer?

If there are topics that you consider off-limits for the interview, try to come to an understanding about that with your interviewer beforehand. Remember that it’s perfectly fine to admit that you don’t know the answer to
a question. Maybe the interviewer is suggesting something you’ve never considered before — just say so, and answer as fully as you can in the moment.

And if the question seems intrusive or inappropriate to you, then take a deep breath and pose a different question to yourself, and the answer. Perhaps something like this: “For me, the real question is….”  or “Well, I’m more interested in why…”

Do you have any broadcasting secrets for how to sound your best on the radio?

Well, they’re not really secrets, but here are a couple of things to keep in mind. Try to get a good night’s sleep, but don’t freak out if you don’t. For a variety of reasons that I won’t go into here, I got less than four hours of sleep the night before I was interviewed on KUOW along with former poet laureate Billy Collins. I think I was actually too sleep-deprived to be
nervous. However, I don’t recommend this as a tactic, in general! [Editor’s note: One would never guess that Elizabeth didn’t sleep 8 hours that night. It was an amazing interview and discussion.]

Of course, avoid dairy products for a few hours before and don’t drink so much caffeine that you’re twitchy. Keep your feet on the ground, remember to breathe, and most of all, treat the interview like you would a conversation — that means listening as well as speaking.

And on a technical note —  before the interview starts, try to get a chance to talk into the microphone to make sure you’re not too close or too far away.

Do you have advice for writers who get nervous before interviews?

Does anybody not get nervous before interviews? I know I do — whether I’m the interviewer or the interviewee. I have a mantra that I tell myself before I perform, and it’s equally true when I’m interviewing or being interviewed: “The performance requires me, but it’s not about me.” In other words, I need to show up and be present, but the focus is on the work, not on me or my ego (even if I’m talking about my process or any autobiographical connection to the material). The point — whether in a performance or an interview–is to help the reader connect to the work. When I keep my focus on that, my anxiety is much less likely to take over. Another thing to remember is that the nervousness is a kind of necessary fuel.

What if you make a mistake on the air — is there any way to overcome that?

The fact is that the best radio is made when people are actually talking to each other — so that means they’re going to make mistakes sometimes. If you mis-state something and realize it on the air, just correct yourself. If the interview is being recorded, and you stumble while reading an excerpt from your book, just back up to the beginning of a sentence — they can correct it in the editing room. If you’re reading live, just go with it, like you would at a live reading. You don’t have to be perfect. You just have to be you (hmmm — and maybe that’s the scarier prospect!)

Tomorrow, come back for a Q&A with Wendy Call, with more interviewing advice for writers…

And for more on author interviews, check out Everyday Book Marketing, in which you’ll find more advice from Elizabeth and many others.

Artists have power, and with power comes responsibility

By John Yunker,

Guernica

Every artist has power. This is something I didn’t realize when I was younger.

I didn’t realize that ideas are powerful and artists wield this power — even if they don’t realize it.

Even if they’re at home struggling over a novel that they think may never see the light of day.

There is an inherent power in all of these stories that we tell.

As artists, the stories we choose to tell come at the expense of the stories we choose not to tell.

Every struggling artist wrestles with this choice between telling the story he or she wants to tell and telling the story he or she thinks will sell.

Sometimes the stars align and one story achieves both goals.

But you can’t know that when you’re staring at a blank piece of paper or impatiently blinking cursor. You can’t know what story will sell. Don’t kid yourself. Nobody could have predicted Harry Potter. Nobody could have predicted Twilight.

Publishers took a chance on these works and, in doing so, won the lottery.

But before the publishers could take that risk writers had to tell the stories they wanted to tell, stories that they wanted to hear.

As a writer, I have to remind myself every so often that the only thing that matters is that I write something that I want to read. Nothing else matters.

And if the story you want to read means taking the path less traveled, so be it.

If a friend or partner or teacher tells you that you’ll never get that story published, ignore them.

After all, you can always self-publish.

More important, you have a responsibility to tell your story.

“We just give people what they want,” is a common refrain in the entertainment industry.

It’s a lie.

In truth, producers and publishers give people what they think they will like, based on previous blockbusters and bestsellers, which often has very little do with what people really want. And for these we must also blame artists.

Some artists tell the stories they want to hear. Others tell the stories they think the public wants to hear.

As an artist, I urge you to tell the stories that you want to hear.

An early review of Jacki Skole’s DOGLAND…

By Midge Raymond,

A review of Jacki Skole’s DOGLAND: A Journey to the Heart of America’s Dog Problem

by Kimberly Spanjol, Ph.D., BCBA-D, LMHC, Humane Education Learning Programs (H.E.L.P.)

It’s time to wake up, America.

Americans love dogs. I woke up watching Good Morning America on May 20, 2015. At the time I was about halfway into reading Jacki Skole’s seminal book, Dogland.

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The story that played out on my television screen was of two Colombian National Police Officers who performed a daring rescue of a dog who was caught in rapid waters. The dog was moving fast and bobbing and disappearing under the waves. The two brave officers, clearly risking their own lives, finally intercepted the struggling pooch and pulled him to safety. They performed CPR on the riverbank as the camera caught the dog’s limp and nearly lifeless body as it revived. The newscasters were celebrating and rightfully commended the police officers on a dangerous rescue well done. I was also incredibly grateful to witness the compassion and kindness displayed by these officers.

It left me wondering why we Americans who love dogs so much, who are so happy when we see feel-good stories like these and who spend billions of dollars yearly on our pets, continue to allow the mass euthanization of thousands of healthy, adoptable pets every day in our nation’s shelters.

Read Dogland to understand why. We will never adopt our way out of the killing. Companion animal overpopulation is a multi-faceted problem that requires multi-faceted solutions. Most of all, it requires that we all become educated and do our part to eliminate the senseless suffering and death of countless sentient beings. Suffering that extends to both animals and people. As Dogland rightfully points out, non-human animals can’t thrive if people aren’t thriving, too.

The first way out of the problem in our nation’s shelters is to know the plight of homeless pets. Thank you to Jacki Skole for taking the steps to understand this complex issue and for writing this important book to inform the rest of us. The question is what we, as a nation of animal lovers, will now do with this information. My hope is that Dogland compels us all to truly work together to stop this senseless problem. Animal protection is one of the most pressing social justice issues of our time. Once you are aware of the daily suffering animals endure, you can’t not know. Not looking at animal suffering doesn’t make it go away. Education and compassionate, informed action is what makes it go away. We all need to do our part. We all need to wake up, America.

Ms. Skole’s dog Galen was the inspiration for Dogland. I hope that, just as Galen wakes up the author’s daughters every day with licks and love, Galen will also wake up our nation through this seminal work.

 

Kimberly Spanjol, Ph.D., BCBA, LMHC, is a forensic psychologist, doctoral level Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA-D), and New York State Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) with more than 20 years of experience working with children. She is also a founder of Youth Animal Protectors (YAP) in New York City, an organization that teaches children and teens empathy, compassion, problem solving, and related social emotional skills through learning about animal protection issues. YAP Club empowers young people by raising awareness and developing a greater understanding of others’ perspectives – both animal and human – in exploring how choices impact local and global communities.

To learn more about DOGLAND, coming in August, click here

A Q&A with Strays author Jennifer Caloyeras

By Midge Raymond,

A Q&A with Strays author Jennifer Caloyeras

Q: How did you come up with the idea for this book?

A: I had been working as the dog columnist for the Los Feliz Ledger for about seven years. Over the course of my research, I wrote a column about K-9 connection, a program that pairs at-risk teens with shelter dogs. I absolutely loved this program and thought the premise would make a great young adult novel. I also had my own experience with a very challenging rescue pit bull. He was my inspiration for writing the character of Roman.

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Q: Tell us more about the dog who inspired Roman.

A: Roman was inspired by our own rescue pit bull, Willie. We didn’t know Willie was a pit bull when we adopted him—he was only eight weeks old, and we were told he was a “shepherd mix.” His strong personality began to come out in the following weeks. He went through almost a year of intensive training with over five Los Angeles-based trainers (including the famous Dog Whisperer.) Unlike with Roman, we weren’t able to redirect Willie’s behavior and, in a heartbreaking decision, we made a plan to relinquish the dog to Brandon Fouche, an amazing dog behavioralist in Los Angeles who rehabilitates homeless people’s dogs. Imagine my surprise a few years later when I was conducting research for my column when I came across a front page photo of Willie and an accompanying article describing how he is instrumental in helping to rehabilitate these dogs. He had a bigger calling in life, and I’m so glad he found it.

Q: Why did you choose Santa Cruz as the backdrop to this story?

A: I went to college at UC Santa Cruz, and I was so struck its dramatic cliffs, beaches, redwood forests, and gorgeous trees. There’s an inherently laid-back feel about this city that I thought would make a nice juxtaposition to all of the tension happening in Iris’s life. There’s a pervasive feeling of people striving for social justice in Santa Cruz, which supports Iris’s metamorphosis from self-centered teen to animal-rights activist.

Q: Tell us about Angela Carter and your choice to include her in the story. 

A: I first learned about British writer Angela Carter when I was in graduate school at Cal State Los Angeles, working towards my MA in literature. I struck by the ways in which she completely re-interpolated familiar fairy tales, rejecting gender stereotypes and adding a feminist edge to these stories that had been controlled by men for hundreds of years. The Bloody Chamber was published in 1979 and was just so ahead of its time.

Q: Did you have kind, supportive teachers like Iris’s teacher Perry in high school? 

A: Yes! I was very lucky to attend a progressive high school in Santa Monica. We called our teachers by their first names, and we always sat in a circle instead of in prescribed rows. The teachers there were amazing listeners, whether they were hearing our ideas about a particular concept or listening to us vent about our daily lives. I felt particularly connected with my English, theater, and music teachers, and the character of Perry is an amalgam of all of these wonderful people.

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Click here to learn more about Strays and to get your own copy. And visit Jennifer’s website for the latest news and events.

A Q&A with Earth Joy Writing author Cassie Premo Steele

By Midge Raymond,

A Q&A with Earth Joy Writing author Cassie Premo Steele

Q: What is Earth Joy Writing?

A: It is a way of interacting with the natural world that brings about empowerment, healing, and personal change. Nature has always been a source of comfort, inspiration, and wisdom for me. I wanted to be able to share that—teach that—to others.

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Q: How the book come into being?

A: I started writing Earth Joy Writing in 2008 while teaching classes in ecopoetry and ecofeminism at the University of South Carolina’s Green Quad for Sustainable Futures. I continued working on it over the next few years and presenting workshops with exercises from the book to various groups, including more than a year’s worth of monthly workshops at Saluda Shoals Park in South Carolina. The book is very much a balance of theory and practice, tested in university and community settings, and accessible to a wide audience.

One of the best experiences I had while writing the book was being in Short Hills Mall in New Jersey, and a saleswoman asked me how I liked living in South Carolina. I responded, “I like it a lot. We have nature there.” She looked around, thinking, and then said, “Oh, yes, we used to have that store here, but it closed.”

I think we are feeling an increasing anxiety about the natural world, and we’re not sure what to do about it. We listen to news reports, and we can feel helpless. I wrote this book to help with our fears. I truly believe that when we begin to see nature not as a “thing” that can be bought and sold but as a living being in relationship with us, we begin to heal not only the Earth, but ourselves.

Q: How would you describe the book to readers and aspiring writers? 

A: Earth Joy Writing is a new version of The Artist’s Way for the green generation. In the years since the hugely successful Artist’s Way hit the market, three important changes have occurred. First, our lives are much more interconnected on a daily basis through the Internet and social marketing networks. Second, we are highly aware of the grave dangers our environment faces. Third, we can sense a surge in a collective desire for community. This book addresses all these needs for readers—to live a harmonious and balanced life despite the vast changes happening around them, and to connect with others and the earth in meaningfully creative ways.

It is a hopeful book. It is practical. It has been tested. It leads to healing. It is not just for writers or naturalists. It is for the person who wants to live life more meaningfully.

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