Friday, September 25, 2015

On Interviews and Interviewing

    I count my lucky stars to have been mentored by the best when it comes to the art of interviewing. The number one trait of a good interviewer is the ability to listen and Teddy Bart was masterful at it. As his producer I was often asked (by potential guests) "What's he gonna ask me?" or "Can you get me a list of the questions?" (Believe it or not, when authors go on tour, most write their own questions FOR the host assuming most hosts don't have time to read the book.) Teddy never needed such "cheat sheets" nor did he pre-script his questions. My producer's reply to this type of question was "Teddy doesn't know what he's gonna ask you till you get here--He doesn't know what you're gonna say back." 


     Teddy's goal was to earn your confidence, then get you relaxed enough so that he might bring something out of you that others may have missed. The best interviewers are insatiably curious to start with and digging beneath the surface to find some new gem or better yet, something you (as the interviewee) are so passionate about, you open up yourself up and let 'er flow...that's when you've struck pay dirt.
     To get there involves a level of trust. There's a fine line between flowing and spewing. You don't get a "do over" if you got so comfy/cozy you slipped up and shared more than you should've. On the other hand, props to the question-asking soul who spots your sweet spot and hones in...Watch any good interviewer (and I had the honor of watching Teddy for 20 years) and you'll spot that listening is critical, but caring, really caring about what the other person is saying (provided it's not political "bumper sticker" speak) is key. And those who make it look easy...well, that speaks to how good they really are.
     It was a pleasant surprise to hear from Colleen Creamer, a successful writer, author and respected reporter whose bi-lines have ranged from the Tennessean to Nashville Arts to the New York Times. Most recently she's been writing for the Ledger, and when she reached out about doing a story on the farm, I was happy to oblige, though curious as to why someone coming OFF the beaten path seemed newsworthy. My life is pretty common fare these days compared the high-octane days of morning drive radio. What's more, farming's been around since the dawn of time and there are folks out there doing it far better than I'll ever hope to.
     Still, it was an opportunity to catch up...a chance to give credit where credit is due to folks like Thurman who are the salt of the earth. What's more, I'm all for sharing that life shifts can be done, and if gnawing at you, should be...While I haven't mastered a totally simplified life, it is a goal I recommit to each day and for those who (increasingly) reach out about considering some version of the same I'm as sincere as a heart attack when I say "Don't put it off too long."
     Whether considering a spot of land or a mapping a patio planter box, this garden thing is more than a food source. For me it's a metaphor on life: a living breathing reminder that "As we sow, so shall we reap." Planning and planting what you want to see happen in your life and then tending to it...until it appears, that's about as Beyond Reason as it gets. But the neat thing is, it's also about as real as it gets. I recall when I first ran across the word "Garden" (a word origin that made it into one of my books) it moved me. In case you didn't know, the word traces to early monastic times where these "guarded areas" (later the "guardeds" which evolved to "garden") were sacred plots, set aside in tribute to the original garden of Eden. They were there to provide physical sustenance for the entire monastery or Abbey, yes, but they were also a part of a monk's daily ritual......where they'd go to practice a more mindful communion with God via a physical meditation.
     Same thing happens today if you let it...There's something very mystical about seeing something spring forth out of nothing. Something otherworldly takes over If. You. Let it.
     While "Sustainable Living" is the all the buzz these days, I contend it's "meaningful living" that we're seeking...As with interviews...so with gardens...so with life, the best stuff comes from digging deeper. And for that, I give major props to Colleen Creamer and the Nashville Ledger for going for the root of the story... For that I also extend my heartfelt thanks.
   

   
   

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