Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Interviewing Part 2

When I began writing and interviewing, I didn’t understand the benefit of asking different types of questions to get different types of information. It’s not always easy for someone to open up to a stranger, so I’m listing one strategy and five types of questions you can use to improve your interviewing skills.

One strategy
Start with simple questions to make the person you are interviewing more comfortable. You may be able to build rapport through the information shared in those early answers. The person may begin to relax, which may help him or her open up to you and begin talking like a friend as you progress to difficult or complex topics.

Five types of questions 
1)      Closed-ended questions. These are questions that can be answered with a simple “yes,” or “no.” These types of questions are a good way to get the interviewee warmed up. An example would be to ask “Is it true you graduated from ABC College with a degree in unicornology?” Closed-ended questions can also serve as fact-checking devices, ensuring the subject that you are interested in getting the facts straight.

2)      Open-ended questions. These are opposite of closed-ended questions, and cannot be answered with a simple “yes,” or “no.” An example would be to ask why the person decided to major in unicornology, which may provide insight into personality, or what drives him or her.

3)      Primary questions. These questions introduce a topic. An example would be “What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?”

4)      Secondary questions. These are follow-up questions that provide insight into motivation, preparation or lessons learned. If the subject answered the primary question listed above by saying “Climbing to the top of Mt. Everest,” then a follow-up question could be “What did you learn from that experience that changed the way you live your life?”

5)      Hypothetical questions. The answers to these questions may provide insight into character and behavior. “If you had all the money in the world, what would you do?” “If you could change one thing about the way your company works, what would it be?”

Well-prepared questions can make or break an interview. Ask a variety of these types of questions to increase the likelihood of a successful interview.

Write soon,

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Interviewing Part 1

Regardless of whether you write fiction or nonfiction, interviews can play a crucial role in gathering information. The first professional interview I did was with several members of a children’s theater group. I hope they didn’t realize how nervous I was, but they were gracious and kind and appreciated any publicity they could get, so were more than accommodating when I had to call back a few times to make sure I had written the information correctly. I was grateful for their patience, and appreciated it more as I gained experience and realized not everyone was so generous with their time. 

Many years, and several hundred interviews later, I've learned a few tricks. First and foremost, do not go to an interview unprepared, because well-prepared questions can make or break an interview. The best way to increase your chances of success is to research your topic and/or subject, and prepare a variety of questions designed to uncover as much information as possible. Conducting thorough research before the interview shows you care about your work, and respect the person you are interviewing by not wasting his or her valuable interview time explaining information that could have been found online or through other sources.

I have a friend whose father was a state senator, who said that every time a new reporter was assigned to cover the capital, he had to explain to him or her how a bill was passed. That information is easily accessible through other sources. Why waste face time with someone who has much more interesting and pertinent information that could make a great story?

Next time, I’ll cover different types of questions you can use to get the most out of your interviews.

Write soon,

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A little endorsement can do wonders

Do you sometimes wonder about the benefits of connections? Do you think it’s worth the time and effort? For most of us, these connections may not pay off immediately, but you never know when someone might read something you wrote, love it and tell the world.

According to, Emily Bronte’s book, Wuthering Heights, was neither successful nor popular when it first appeared. The second edition was published in 1850, and offered a little something extra in terms of an endorsement. Her sister, Charlotte, wrote in the preface that the book was actually better than her own book, Jane Eyre. The rest, as they say, is literary history – my favorite kind.

Write soon,

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Consistency equals professionalism

As a book editor, I’ve recently encountered several technological terms that I see every day, but wasn’t sure how to capitalize. I’m sad to say that I spent more time than I would like to admit researching whether or not to capitalize “Internet.”

I looked at several online resources, including blogs, web sites and forums. A couple of resources compared it to other forms of mass communication, including radio, television, etc., which are not capitalized. That argument made sense, and I thought I had my answer.

Then I decided to go to one of my favorite sources of grammar and writing information, the Online Writing Lab (OWL) of Purdue University. I love that site. It’s a great resource, and it listed the correct spelling and capitalization for technological terms from the AP Stylebook, which stated that it should be capitalized. OK, so now I have another answer!

Which one did I choose? In this case, I’m going with AP.  I’ve used AP style for years, and find the information contained in that resource simple and easy to follow. By using one standard guide, then I can maintain a consistent style based on a credible source. Consistency is an important aspect of professionalism. If there’s no single right or wrong answer, be consistent.

What do you do when you find conflicting information on style or grammar? What’s your go-to-source?

Write soon,


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Promote your e-books

Check out this link from GalleyCat to promote your e-books. Thanks, Jan Marler Morrill  for sharing this valuable information on FB. (Check out her book, The Red Kimono!)

Write soon,