Motherlode Book Club

Of COURSE I Can Interview Anne Lamott i/f/o the Whole Times Newsroom

Sunday, March 18th, 2012 | Connecting the Dots | 3 Comments

I’m beyond thrilled about the Motherlode Book Club reading Anne and Sam Lamott’s Some Assembly Required, and ditto for the opportunity to interview them both, for a short video to be posted on the Motherlode blog. I’ve always loved Anne Lamott’s work. This follow-up to Operating Instructions is fascinating: her son had a son. At nineteen.

There are so many questions to ask them both about that that the mind boggles. (The mind also notes repeated use of that in previous sentence, but that’s what made sense. Sorry.) I’d be thrilled–over coffee.

Now, doing it on the Times’ news set, which is smack dab in the middle of the Times newsroom…that makes me nervous. (Who are we kidding–interviewing Anne Lamott makes me a little nervous, but that I can wrangle.)

I know Times staffers don’t pay any attention to what goes on on the set. They just walk right by. But I’m distractible. Lots of people walking right by could easily just throw the end of my question right onto their lunch tray and walk off with it. I’ll be revved to ask the tough questions, you know, giving Terry Gross a run for her money, and all the sudden I’ll be all, hey, did you see? She had a Starbucks mocha! I want a Starbucks mocha!

Even with really good editing, this should be interesting. So, tune in next week (probably Wednesday, as this happens Tuesday) and see if you can tell that I am sitting there pretending very hard that oh, I just interview famous authors that I admire in the middle of the Times newsroom with people drifting by all. the. time. Because that’s just how cool I am. Also, poised. Really, and in control and on topic at all times.

Actually, I feel a whole lot better about my interviewing skills (which have improved dramatically in the past two years) since listening to the unedited interview Krista Tippet did with Nicolas Kristoff in February. (SO worth a download.) Edited, she sounds completely together: fast, with great recall and depth of knowledge, and the right follow-up questions every time.

Unedited, she still sounds great (On Being is one of my favorite shows–she should have Anne Lamott on), but with more, yanno, digression. More oh, hey, you said this one thing I wanted to ask about–wait, I wrote it down–and more conversation, which is always my downfall. I want to interview you, but it’s easier for me to express what I’m interested in by talking than in a perfectly worded question, and I often replay my interviews thinking oh, hey, when am I going to let her talk?

For this, I’ll be (very well) edited, and I’m confident it’s going to be great. I’m reasonably confident that I’ll find the balance between admiration and consternation, too–because the elephant in the room is that hers was in some sense the iconic-non-advice-baby-advice book, and her baby –well, can’t we love the resulting grandkid without pretending that this wasn’t the path anyone would have chosen for a beloved child? On some level they must each be mourning what wasn’t, but the book is about embracing what is. I’ll be doing my best to go there, and get talking about both.

Oh, and the Times’ video wizards can probably cover up the moments when my gaze drifts off because someone walked by with a box of donuts. But you’ll know.

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