Saturday, September 17, 2016

How To Interview A Stranger, Part One

Ginny Owens is an expert at asking questions - she’s even written a blog about it. Perhaps I should have asked her for tips before I interviewed her.

You see, I’m not a professional question-asker. I didn’t study journalism. The first time I interviewed someone, I sent them a list of questions via email, and they typed up their responses. The second time I interviewed someone, it was my brother. Ginny Owens was my third interview.

What was I thinking?

If you follow me anywhere other than this blog,* you know that I am organizing a Ginny Owens concert.  It’s the first big event of the arts ministry I recently started at my church, and – horror of all horrors – it’s in one week. As part of my publicity efforts, I set up an interview for Ms. Owens with Ashley Larkin. Then I thought, “I could interview her, too! We could talk about the intersection of faith and the arts!”** Since I was already in touch with her management, it was easy to ask, and a time and date were set.

I was pretty stoked.^ I was going to interview one of my artistic heroes-of-the-faith. I had already done my research before asking my church’s elder board for permission to invite her out here, but I went back and reviewed a few things, anyway. I remembered, for example, that she’d studied creative writing while she lived in New York City, but not that she’d taken her classes at Columbia University.

So I reviewed my bank of Ginny Owens trivia. I spent some time thinking about her songs. I re-watched her How I See It videos and re-read a few blog posts. I got all my CDs out and reviewed the track lists to see if anything suggested a question. In the end, I came up with a list of topics to discuss and made short, outline-style notes so I would remember them. For instance:

Currently impactful Bible verse?
Her faith journey; how she came to know the Lord, etc.
Her vocational journey? I know some of that story…
The role of the artist in society.
The role of the artist in the Body of Christ and the local church.
Her role in particular?

I felt pretty prepared.

The day of the interview arrived. I had tested out my headset-with-microphone, webcam, and Skype connection via a test call to my Mom the day before, so I knew that was all set. I reviewed my ‘Topics to Discuss with Ginny Owens’ list. I watched the clock tick down. I started to get nervous.

Ugh. Not good. If I felt nervous when the call connected, would I babble? Would I stumble over my questions? You just never can tell what you’re going to do when interacting with someone whose work you admire. I remember meeting Sara Groves in February. She was lovely. I was ... awkward.

The time came. I let a few seconds pass by, because calling exactly as the clock struck 1:00 seemed a bit excessive. I considered letting a whole minute go by, but what if she was sitting there, waiting, and started wondering if I was late? I couldn’t be late! I was the interviewer – the person because of whom she was sitting there waiting. I pressed the button to start the call.

I got her voicemail.

To be continued…

*Like Twitter.

**What makes you think I’m a nerd?

^Enough that I just used the word stoked for possibly the first time.

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