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Interviews Using iPhone

I remember the “olden days” when conducting an interview required a small recorder. It was better than hand-written notes because there was no better option.

Now there is the smart phone. When my husband talked me into getting one, I was hesitant because I thought all I needed was a simple cell phone. Now my old cell phone is out-dated. I got spoiled by texting, and email ready at hand. Then I got spoiled by the GPS when we got lost on some country road. I use those features all the time.

I especially became addicted to the voice recorder for doing interviews. I still do written notes on my sheet of questions. It helps me stay organized. When I do the transcription back in my office, the written questions and notes keep me on track.  I do not ask the same questions and my notes help me keep up with those I did ask.  I have a copy of the questions as a document on my desktop which I use. I fill in the blanks using the recording and my notes. I highlight the asked questions for later ease of use.

The recording provides the emotion as answers are given. I also learn something each time, by the way I ask my questions. I do an evaluation to make improvements for the next interview.

I am working on a biography which is requiring multiple interviews. My subject is a very interesting person, well-known, but now deceased. When I listen to the recordings, I re-live the conversation with total pleasure. They would make an interesting audio book, if I chose that option.

When I get closer to the final draft, I will reveal my subject.

It would be interesting to know how other authors conduct interviews and also at what point the subject is revealed.

 

St. Patricks Day – a Brief History

  1. St Patricks Day was originally a Roman Catholic holiday celebrating Ireland’s patron saint in Ireland only.
  2. In the 1700s Irish people in the U.S. started the first St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City.
  3. The tradition of wearing a specific color on March 17th began with the color blue, but changed to green over time. It was in honor of Ireland’s nickname “The Emerald Isle”. The flag contains a green panel.
  4. The flag also contains white and orange panels. Catholics wear green and Protestants wear orange. The white in the middle represents peace between the two groups. There is a legend that wearing green makes the person invisible to leprechauns who like to pinch people. I posted a link to share more information. 
  5. Food is an important part of the celebrations. I posted a second link for some interesting recipes. Soda bread recipe is included. Irish potato cakes are there to remind us that the common white potato is an Irish potato which was an important food in Ireland.
  6. There is a green cake recipe made with green tea and coloring. It looks yummy. 1845-1852 marked a terrible time in Ireland. Poor farmers depended on potatoes as their staple food. A blight destroyed their harvest. Many people died of starvation. a web search reveals multiple causes with a variety of scientific data. I will not go into that in this post.
  7. What would it take to convince 400,000 people to stand on the banks of a river for five hours and oohing and aahing when there is no concert and no boat races for entertainment? 100 pounds of chemical turning the water green, that’s what.
  8. It is one of those things that begins for one reason and ends for another reason. In 1962 the city was concerned about the polluted water in the Chicago River. They wanted to discover where the pollution was being dumped. The test was to turn the water green. Over a period of years, the amount of chemical was reduced to 25 pounds. Environmentalists worried the dye was causing a bigger problem than the original pollution issue. Vegetable-based dye was substituted for the oil-based dye. This new dye was orange which turned green when it entered the water. The original dye kept the water green for a week. The new dye only lasts five hours.
  9. Now, five hours of green river has become part of the St. Patricks’ Day Parade on March 17th.

http://www.csmonitor.com/The-Culture/Food/Stir-It-Up/2012/0316/Recipes-for-St.-Patrick-s-Day

 

http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2010/0317/St.-Patrick-s-Day-Why-do-we-wear-green

 

 

 

Common Things in Life

My March calendar has a quote that became my writer’s prompt. No credit was given.

When you do the common things in life in an uncommon way,

you will command the attention of the world.

Think of all the common things we do each day.

  • prepare a meal
  • do the dishes
  • drive to work
  • talk on the phone
  • visit Facebook
  • do laundry
  • cleaning
  • filing
  • bookwork
  • read a book
  • post a blog

Wouldn’t it be interesting to create some interesting ways to do those things even without gaining the world’s attention? If we just choose one of those common things each day to do a little differently, it could make a nice difference in our personal lives and the lives of our families or co-workers.

Here goes:

Prepare a meal and set the table with a tablecloth the nice china and some flowers. It becomes a company dinner for one or the family.  Perhaps there could be some quiet music in the background.

Do the dishes to music and dancing. What a fun way to get some exercise. BTW: I often do that while I am tending food on the cook stove.

Drive to work with a cheerful music or book CD. Take a different route and pay attention to what you see. Be extra courteous to other drivers. That does not mean waving someone to take the right of way at four-way stops which is illegal. It could mean letting someone change lanes in front of you even if it slows you down.

Talk on the phone while doing your coloring project. Think more about the other person than about what you want to say next. Really listen. Ask questions to make it a shared conversation.

Visit Facebook and give friendly responses to Friends’ comments. Forget politics for a while – many people are up to their ears with that topic. Create your own group for a topic you would enjoy sharing and invite some friends to join. My group is Bookworms.

Do laundry. Make a game of it with the kids. Make up stories with them. Little ones can practice learning their colors while sorting. They can count and match socks. Don’t tell them they are also learning how to do the laundry.

Cleaning: music goes well with this chore too. Who said you can’t dance your way through the kitchen with a mop for your partner?  It is also a nice time to listen to a recorded book if you are not  using the vacuum.

Remember this?

He skipped school to go swimming. He got caught and was given the chore of whitewashing the fence. He made it look like fun and his friends wanted to help him. They had to pay for the privilege with their treasures.

Now, that was truly doing a common thing in an uncommon way and it did command the attention of the world.  

 

Long Days and Short Nights

This could be part two of my post about insomnia.

I’ve been having trouble sleeping for several nights. That comes from illness that keeps waking me up AND an overactive brain. Therefore, I’ve had more day than night, in pieces.

Daylight Savings Time, is a ridiculous notion in my mind. If someone wants a longer day, just set the alarm earlier. Why make everyone deal with re-setting the clock twice a year? So, there MyraSaidIt!

It was a very old idea introduced by George Hudson in New Zealand in 1895. It was not put into practice until April 30 1916 in the German Empire and Austria-Hungary. Other countries implemented it at various times since. It began use in the United States with the Ohio Clock (Senate Clock) at the US Capitol in 1918.

I’m glad I live in Arizona – no DST except on the Navajo Reservation. I Don’t need DST and I do not have chickens.

I’m reminded of when I was a child. My parents, especially my dad, wanted to go to bed as soon as it was dark. So, it was “to bed with the chickens”. We lived on a farm, with chickens, of course. We went to bed early and got up early, with no alarm needed beyond the sun and the rooster.

My sister’s big fluffy red hen had an interesting habit. Every evening at roosting time she walked around a huge tree in the front yard, looking here and there. As long as she knew we were watching her, she remained on the ground. When she decided she wasn’t observed, she flew up into that tree and nestled in a leafy spot and there she stayed until daylight. It was fun watching her up in that tree, peeking through the limbs, thinking she was hidden.

I was interested in “to bed with the chickens” and did a search. I found it listed in idioms.thefreedictionary.com,  just meaning to go to bed at the same time the chickens do. That led me to searching roosters who wake up the farm in the morning. I miss-remembered them crowing at daylight; They do their crowing before sun-up.  Following that plan makes for a very long day- DST not needed. Just get a rooster.

I discovered a bunch of Rooster products online:

  • a game called Wake the Rooster by Telling Time: help Tiny Chicken wake the rooster, a math game
  • there is a Little Rooster Store
  • a morning alarm wake-up alarm;
  • go to YouTube videos
  • Little Rooster Alarm Clock on Amazon
  • Wake Up, Henry Rooster a book by Margaret Ruurs
  • The Chicken Cat by Stephanie Simpson McLellan, this kitten thinks he is a chicken because a mother hen was perfectly willing to adopt him

Hens deserve equal attention, but there isn’t much.

My sister’s red hen could have been the model for The Little Red Hen’s mother published by Little Golden Books since the 1940s, if she had been in the story. It is an old folk tale, probably from Russia. Other versions have been written as well.

Thanks for visiting. I could serve chicken noodle soup and crackers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birthdays

Today is my birthday. Do you think I would be allowed to forget it? I mean, when I was a kid many years ago, I loved birthdays and wanted to hear “Happy Birthday”. But that was then and this is now. I had a second thought. Wanting to forget is akin to forgetting my Mother. After-all, she made my birthday possible. It was a day of birth for her, too. I actually considered that several years ago when I sent her a birthday card for my birthday. She was surprised and pleased.

It started early this morning. A friend traveling out of town took time to call me with a birthday.

When I was working on a story, A Facebook message flashed on my screen telling me someone had posted on my page. I checked it out and found more than one. This was repeated several times during the day. You guessed it. Birthday greetings. I had to smile. It was nice to be remembered. Everyone is busy, and yet, they took time to be thoughtful.

I admit, I have gone back and forth on this birthday thing. When I was teaching high school, it was common for birthdays of students, teachers, and office personnel to have their birthdays announced on the intercom. I didn’t want that, so I requested mine be omitted. I knew at least one of my students would surely ask, “How old are you”? I could do without that. Pride? or what?

So, when the morning announcements were given, I had escaped.  It didn’t last long. Just before lunch, my classroom door opened and in walked a couple of my friends. They were carrying a wrapped gift, a lunch and slice of cake!

My secret was out.

The room sounded like a beehive in my room with questions from every direction. They wanted to know why by birthday had not been announced. Birthday greetings were expressed with excitement. And, then there came THAT question from one of my male students. He was verbally pounced on by a couple of girls coming to my defense, “You don’t ask a lady that question”. Poor kid. He was embarrassed and said no more, except “Happy Birthday, Mrs. Larsen”. It spread from class and back again, even to those in previous classes. It lasted until the final bell. That proved none of my students hated me even when they didn’t always enjoy classwork.

When you really thing about it, a birthday  should be a happy day. I’ve had so many things to be grateful for all these years of my life. I have a wonderful family, my mother is 94 and she has her memory. I have hundreds of friends. I have a roof above my head and walls to keep me safe. I have plenty of food and more clothes than I need. I have faith and hope in the future. I can write stories and articles on my website and blog. I have the opportunity to write a couple of books. I’m included in a couple of writers’ groups writing an anthology.

My gratitude list could, like yours, go on and on. One thing leads to another and then another.

I hope I have many more birthdays. How else can I get to be 100? That would be wonderful, if I can hold onto my gratitude list and make it grow.

 

Conducting Interviews

I did my first interview on  Saturday using my iPhone as recorder.

Previous to this device, I used a small cassette recorder. The cassettes were about the size of two 9 volt batteries. It was ok until something better was developed. The iPhone.

I went to the “Extras” square and clicked on Voice Memos. I played around with that until I learned how it functioned.

When I was set up for the interview, it was a little unnerving because I couldn’t really see how it was doing its job. I decided to trust it.  But, as a backup I wrote the conversation as well as I could since I never learned shorthand.  That wasn’t too bad because I had my printed list as I will describe later in this article.

I was interviewing a couple about my biography subject whom they both knew very well. They were so relaxed and pleased to do the interview that it became very casual. They were very easy to visit with around their dining room table. T’wood every interview go that well!  In response to my questions, they shared story after story that were heartwarming and humorous. It was like visiting with old friends.

It was too easy to forget that it was an interview. I was a little sad about coming to the end of my questions. I had promised only an hour and he had to get back to work.

Back at my desk, I began my transcription. It was much easier than I expected. The one thing that really got my attention was my own voice! I had forgotten how different it sounds on a recording and every one is a little different. Aside from just the sound of my voice was the back and forth conversation. I could hear the laughter from all three of us.

As I did the transcription to my computer, I realized something I wish to share. Each interview has its own atmosphere from casual to serious to challenging.

It is important to consider the person being interviewed. What is known about the person? It the person likely to cooperate or be hesitant, friendly or antagonistic?  If for a biography, as my interview was, what was the relationship between the interviewee and the subject? If the interview is regarding a political or historical topic, do you know how the person feels about it?  If it is a skill related subject, what is the person likely to know about it? I think you, my reader, will understand the basic idea here and be able to adapt it to your needs. The answers to these questions will aide the interviewer in establishing the atmosphere.

Besides the answers to those questions will be the need to quickly evaluate the interviewee’s comfort level before getting into the question and answer period. That can be done with a brief get-acquainted time with a couple of casual questions. This will prevent any misunderstanding and wrong expectations. It will also help your interviewee to relax and get to know your personality.

A previous week I posted list of interview questions. It is helpful to print your questions with plenty of note taking space between each one. I make a copy for each time and simply check-mark those I plan to use. Having the full list available helps when the interviewee surprises you with information that fits an un-checked question.  These notes will help with transcription because you’ll be organized with the questions on paper as well.

Another concern to consider is the location of the interview. If it is the your place of business, you’ll will be in charge. That is important to consider if the interviewee is prone to be confrontational – he/she can pack up and leave if desired, perhaps spoiling the interview.

If it is in his location, you can call an end to the interview when it is time and leave.

If it’s held in a neutral location, such as a room at the library,  or a restaurant, the level of comfort will be more equal.  Consider how private the conversation needs to be.

I’ve had only one interview that I felt completely unhappy with. I was interviewing a couple of glass blowers for a magazine article. It wasn’t planned. It was a spur of the moment opportunity because I met them at a carnival. We could only talk at their display area and they would be gone the next day. There was no opportunity to plan a different time and place. It was before the days of email. They accepted my request to interview them during their break. It was a very noisy place. That little recorder I mentioned above was in my bag as usual. I recorded the interview as well as possible.  Back in my office, I discovered the recording was bad, really bad, unusable.  I might have saved the opportunity if I had merely asked for an address to send them my list of questions or arranged a phone interview. Hindsight does not replace foresight!

So, always be ready for the unexpected.  If you are not prepared, they will surely happen. It must be a Murphy’s law!

Everyone who has done an interview has a story to tell. It may be the worst or best, memorable in some way.  I would love to hear about yours.

Next week I will share ideas for other interview formats and any stories my readers wish to share.  It will be fun.

Interview Questions for Relative Biography Interview Questions to present to family member or friend of the subject of the biography.

NOTE: of course the relationship of the person being interviewed to the subject will need to be considered in choosing the questions.

When and where was _______________ born?

Are there any interesting stories surrounding the birth?

What is your earliest memory of this person?

In what way has this person influenced your life?

Did this person have a nickname? How did it happen to be given?

What was this person’s favorite game as a young child? Teen? Adult?

Did this person have a hobby? Sport?

Did this person like school?  A favorite or less favorite class?

How would you describe this person socially or academically?

Was this person involved it politics? How?

What would be the most surprising thing about this person most people would not know?

How would you introduce this person to your neighbor?

How would you describe this person to someone who needed to find him in a crowd?

Was this person afraid of anything?

Was this person ever in an accident?

What did this person do during free time?

What was this person’s career? More than one?

What was the funniest thing that ever happened involving this person?

The happiest thing?

Most embarrassing moment?

Frightening moment?

Talents and skills?

If this person is deceased, what would be important to share? Time? Place?     Circumstances?

How do you think this person would want to be remembered?

What special things did you do together?    Think of your own family or friend related questions. or friend of a biography subject.

   *****************

I’m writing the biography of a deceased gentleman. It will require interviews of multiple family members, friends and co-workers.

I searched online for suggested questions, to simplify the process. I only found questions appropriate for the subject of the biography. Therefore, I adapted the questions available to fit my needs.

Perhaps this article will be useful to another biographer. Thank you for visiting my site. I welcome any question suggestions.

Writers and Sleep

Do you wake up in the middle of the night with that story pestering you? I relate to that.

Do you wake up in the middle of the night because you just had a stupid dream and your mind keeps replaying it or re-arranging it so it will end according to your waking ideas? You were in the middle of an unpleasant situation and you want to edit it?

Do you simply go to bed and you are mentally writing or editing so you toss and turn for an hour or two?  I wish I could add  some humor, but the subject isn’t funny.

Any one of these or a variety of sleep-disturbing issues will leave a writer  unable to think clearly during daytime writing hours. You know that. Have you conquered the battle? Please share your methods.

Here are a few of mine:

  • Stop writing an hour or two before bedtime and let your mind think of other things.
  • Keep a notebook and pen on the nightstand. If your sleep is disturbed by a dream, don’t ignore it or “re-arrange it”. Make some notes in your notepad. Who know? It may develop into your next story. *
  • If you wake up with a thought about a story you are writing, write it in your notebook so it will not keep rotating in your mind.
  • If you go to bed and sleep is delayed with thoughts of your story, there is no point in tossing and turning. Get out of bed and make some notes and return to bed with a reminder you do not need to think about the story – it is time for sleep.
  • Treat yourself to some Sleepy Time herbal tea a short time before bedtime to help your body relax. Forget coffee or sweet tea. caffeine and sugar will stimulate your wakefulness.
  • You have probably already been encouraged to take a warm bath before hitting the sack. Add some relaxing herbs like chamomile to your bath water.
  • Stay away from TV and computer screens which will interfere with your pineal gland which is your wake and sleep clock. That includes middle of the night note jotting. The nightly news can also disturb rest.
  • Melatonin is helpful for insomnia.  It supports the pineal gland.
  • Read something boring just before you fall asleep. That’ll put you to sleep!

* Does anyone remember the Secret Life of Walter Mitty by  James Thurber? He was always having waking dreams at any time of the day and any place. The character escaped his boring life this way. It was turned into a movie which I never saw. Apparently it was edited for the screen by adding crude comments, language and action violence which I am not interested in.

Post your comments to share. Have you had success with any of these ideas? Have other methods been successful? As writers and readers, we all need a little help now and then.

Unacceptable Halloween costumes

Cherokee Hottie Indian Tribal Chief Women’s Adult Halloween Costume Outfit

Cherokee Mistress Indian Tribal Chief Women’s Adult Halloween Costume Outfit

one definition of mistress : a woman having an extramarital sexual relationship, especially with a married man. The costume certainly implies such a possibility.

These outfit and many others are being offered on eBay by a company called Rave Wonderland.  ravewonderland

I have expressed my opinion to eBay for allowing this to happen. I would like to hear from my readers on this topic.
The following information is posted on the internet for you to read and consider:

You may think it’s harmless dressing like a Native American this …

https://matadornetwork.com/…/may-think-harmless-dressing-like-nativeamerican-hall…

Oct 24, 2016 – This father was most likely unaware that it is disrespectful to dress his daughter and himself as Native American. I could shrug it off as cultural …

An Open Letter to Non-Natives in Headdresses | âpihtawikosisân

apihtawikosisan.com/hall-of-shame/an-open-letter-to-non-natives-in-headdresses/

If you choose to be disrespectful, please do not be surprised when people are offended… … “Native American” or “Indian” is such a vague label. ….. clear here is what exactly is specifically traditional to ONLY Native American head dresses.

Why It’s Disrespectful for Black Women to ‘Dress Up’ as Native …

blackgirllonghair.com/…/why-its-disrespectful-for-black-women-to-dress-up-as-nativ

Oct 14, 2016 – Native Americans are outright disrespected in retail stores. Right now at Spirit Halloween there is a costume called Reservation Royalty Adult Women’s Costume and they refuse to remove it. And it’s a safe bet no Native American profits financially off of their culture being ripped off and disrespected...