The interview tightrope

I’ve been work­ing on and off for years on a biog­ra­phy for kids. It’s get­ting real­ly close, but there’s still some­thing miss­ing. In a few weeks, though, I final­ly get to meet and inter­view the sub­ject, Emmanuel Oso­fu Yeboah, in per­son! No, I’m not fly­ing to his home in Ghana (bum­mer), but he’ll be in San Diego this month after rid­ing in the Chal­lenged Ath­lete’s Foun­da­tion Mil­lion Dol­lar Chal­lenge (a sev­en-day, 620-mile bike ride down the Cal­i­for­nia coast­line from San Fran­cis­co to San Diego). The meet­ing is sched­uled, and the plane tick­ets are pur­chased. Yay!
On one hand I’m shak­ing with excite­ment about meet­ing him sim­ply because he’s a per­son­al hero of mine. I find him to be so inter­est­ing and his sto­ry to be so inspi­ra­tional. In the five years since I first heard of him and his accom­plish­ments, I’ve not grown tired of read­ing, talk­ing, or writ­ing about him.
And I’m absolute­ly thrilled to get the chance to inter­view him in per­son. The phone and email inter­views haven’t been as pro­duc­tive as I’d like; they always feel way too for­mal. An in-per­son inter­view will hope­ful­ly allow me to final­ly fill in some of the gaps in my research. Even more impor­tant­ly, I want my read­ers to real­ly get to know him. If I have got­ten to know him myself, I’ll have a much bet­ter chance of shar­ing his char­ac­ter with my readers.
I also want to reas­sure him that I’m seri­ous about this project, and not a dream­er or a freak. (Okay, so it may be fair to say I’m both of those things, but not about this project!) An in-per­son inter­view feels like the piece that’s been miss­ing all along. I believe it will allow me to, final­ly, make this man­u­script into a book.

Pho­to used with per­mis­sion from’s foxtongue

That’s where the nerves come in, though. What if he does think I’m too much of a dream­er or a freak? What if go all fan-girl on him and can’t think straight? What if I go too far the oth­er way and come off as too force­ful, too seri­ous? What if I can’t estab­lish the con­nec­tion I’m look­ing for or don’t get the answers I need? What­ev­er the rea­son, if I can’t take the man­u­script to the next step after this inter­view, will I ever be able to get it there? It’s feel­ing a bit like do or die time.
So, I’m feel­ing all the excite­ment and nerves of a tightrope walk­er before the big event. I want to be pre­pared to get all that I need as an inter­view­er (because I might not get anoth­er chance), but I don’t want to get so focused that I miss the oppor­tu­ni­ty to make a human con­nec­tion with an amaz­ing individual.
Any tips on strik­ing the right balance?

2 thoughts on “The interview tightrope”

  1. You’ll do great! Let him choose the loca­tion, if you can (he’ll be more com­fort­able there); take a dig­i­tal recorder (and extra bat­tery!) so you can focus on him (and think­ing straight), not on notes (but take a notepad, too, with your impor­tant Qs writ­ten out in advance — also a good way to jot ques­tions that occur to you in the mid­dle of him talk­ing so you don’t for­get them as the con­vo moves on.) Take the ms so you can show him “so far” (if you want). Have pics of your kids to show him (if they won’t be there) and try to get him to remem­ber a few details about his life at each of their ages… ask for a pho­to of him and you togeth­er (book jack­et!! and mar­ket­ing)… take him a small gift (super com­mon in most oth­er cul­tures, but you could research that first as need be)… and HAVE FUN!!

    • Thanks, Joni! Some of those I’d already planned on doing, but there are lots of great ideas in there that I would nev­er have thought of but am def­i­nite­ly going to use! You rock!! =D


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