March 2007 - May 2007: Issue 22

From the Editor

Real Life

By far my favorite chore to do for Opening Stages is interviews. Now that we've gained a certain maturity, other writers sometimes offer to write them. And we have an excellent example of the genre from Kari Pope: a portrait of David Roche that is full of exuberant energy. So, this seems like as good a time as any to celebrate the form. A viewpoint seldom mentioned is the writer's perspective.

Surely the interviewer's lot is a happy one. He gets to spend time conversing with accomplished, articulate people and then transmit the wonder of human communication to the reading public. He is both the receiver and safe-guarder.

Interviews should be smooth-flowing and insightful. They should seem like good conversation, textured with interesting ideas and phrasing. To a large extent, your task as an interviewer is to get your subject to open up to you. To accomplish this goal, it's wise to learn something about that individual, who will respond to a knowledgeable interviewer with more gratification, more respect, and more consideration, all of which translates into access. You can write out questions and refine the order you will ask them to get them to move coherently.

But the one thing that's most important is to listen, there in the moment, to your subject. It is a great exercise in keeping your attention freed up outside you. The opposite would be to hold it locked in anxiety about how you appear. You have to get past that, no matter how famous the person is you are talking to. Once freed, really listen to feelings and ideas and respond to them with further questions.

And often, if you've done your homework well and practiced your listening skills, something special happens: your subject stops going through the motions of talking with you, gets interested, and starts to have a real conversation.

And you have the satisfaction of making that one little piece of life happen... and afterward preserving it.

Paul Kahn