Westwind

interview

Post by Jessica Humphrey

Originally from Wisconsin, Mona Simpson is a novelist and short story writer, as well as an English and creative writing professor at UCLA. As an undergraduate, she studied poetry at UC Berkeley then pursued an MFA in writing at Columbia University and served as an editor for the literary magazine The Paris Review. Her acclaimed 1987 debut novel, Anywhere But Here, follows a dissatisfied mother and reluctant daughter on their ambitious trip to California. Her most recent novel, Casebook, depicts a young boy’s tumultuous journey into the depths of the adult world as he seeks to understand his parents.

How would you describe your writing to someone who has never read it?

Hmmm. That’s a good question. It would be a useful skill for any writer on a book tour who goes onto a radio show. The first question the DJ asks is, “So you’ve written a book. What’s it about?” In a way, that’s kind of a nonfiction question. It works really well if you’ve happened to write about your year covering ISIS recruits, or the current state of forensic mental health facilities, if the excavation of the story is really the most interesting and important thing, but with novels, the story isn’t always what matters. I could be describing either a great novel, a mediocre novel or a bad novel. Job’s story in the old testament is pretty much the same as The Perils of Pauline. Many 19th century novels could be described as “an orphan grows up” or “a young woman without a dowry is wooed by a cad and then gets married.”

I ask because I see that writers often feel pressure to develop a unique writing style, so that they can stand out when pitching themselves. For example, a professor once told me that I should have a mini bio of myself and a logline of my most recent story memorized just in case I run into some publisher in the elevator.

I’ve heard people say this, but if you could compress the story into one line, you wouldn’t have needed to write the novel. Also, that’s sort of other people’s job. I’d make a poor publicist, clearly. In terms of a writing style, I think we each do have a personal style, but I don’t know if we develop it so much as get out of its way.

Since you’re a novelist and a short story writer, in your opinion, what is special about the short story form?

It’s transporting and very unforgiving. A short story really has to take your breath away. As a reader, you live with a novel because you’re together much longer. The novel is more congenial if you tend to believe in incremental change, whereas a short story really requires revelation.

In terms of writing a short story?

Well, I’ve never certainly sat down and written out a first draft of a novel in one sitting, but you can do that with a short story, and that’s thrilling.

That reminds me of a quote from T.C. Boyle where he says, “The joy of the novel is that you know what you’re going to do tomorrow.”

Exactly. [Short story writing] is a much more high-wire act. A virtuosic performance.

What do you find to be the most difficult part of the overall writing process?

Really the most difficult part of writing is the most difficult part of life—that is to remain hopeful despite innumerable obstacles, including the seeming cruelty of fate, the randomness of luck, the disappointments of beloved people. To write a book, a great amount of faith is required to sustain one through days of completely hidden work, invisible to the world and even perhaps to one’s own friends. All that keeps it together is a fragile vision only occasionally glimpsed.

Because a lot of Westwind’s readers are college-aged, do you have any advice for aspiring writers that you think they haven’t heard before?

You know, you’re coming to me, as it happens, the day after Philip Roth died, so I’ve been thinking a lot about Philip Roth and his life as a beautiful example of work. If this is what you want to do, then put it at the center of your life and just do it every day, for years and years. However, you choose to get better, if you choose to go to graduate school or if you choose not to, none of those choices really matter nearly as much as just doing it every day. There’s no such thing as a writer who’s not an autodidact. You teach yourself what you need to know ultimately, you read the books you need to read to write the books you want to write. I hope you’ll also find a way to be happy. There are different kinds of writers; some people will find success in the world and some people have fewer readers, less success, but if what you mean to do is die with a shelf of books that you’ve given your life to, then you’ll want to find a way to live among people who will understand that impulse and mission.

That’s a beautiful answer.

Aww, thank you.

If I’m correct, you have been teaching short fiction at UCLA since 2001. Because I know you’ve taught elsewhere, how has that experience been for you? Is there anything specific about UCLA students that you’ve learned?

One thing I like about teaching writing is that fiction is not a competitive sport. The best story Jessica can write is not the same story as the best story Abraham or Jodi can write. I mean I went to UC Berkeley, so I was a UC student, I’m familiar with UC students, I love teaching UC students, and that’s not to say that there aren’t talented students at other places too, but I think what distinguishes UCLA students, to me, is that we’re a very diverse group. You’re going to meet people who have very different backgrounds. There’s always been—in my classes when I was a student and in my classes as I teach—there’s always somebody who’s living at home, helping out their parents with their produce store and then commuting into UCLA, and there’s always a rich girl who drives her own convertible, and everything in between. You have a great variety of life.

You mention often in class that you hope we form bonds with the other writers. What else do you hope students get from your workshops?

I would recommend staying in touch with the teachers you love. But if there’s one thing they could take away from my class, well, I’ll say three things. You have to find the books you love to read and read them every day, you need to write every day, and you will want to keep yourself in a state to write every day—you can’t let yourself become depressed, overly critical or self-destructive. You need to have some fun with it. Make some friends, start a magazine, organize a student reading series, fall in love with a poet, make this your world.

caro3(post by Libby Hsieh)

Originally from Minnesota, musician and songwriter Caroline Smith splits her time between Los Angeles and Minneapolis. After the positive reception of her album “Half About Being A Woman” in 2013, Caroline continues now to work on her upcoming album in anticipation for her latest single, which comes out in next month. Her music can be described in one word: honest. Her songs often feature many different messages that empower women with a soulful and groovy vibe. Ever since the release of her last album, Caroline has been such a big influence in my music style and writing as her art is extremely relatable and all-encompassing. In light of her upcoming tour, I wanted to get the inside word about her journey in the music industry. As you can imagine, talking to her was a delight.

First things first, how would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it?
I would say like women-centric, honest, alternative soul.

What was the first concert you attended/record you bought and how did affect your musical journey?
The first concert I attended was N*SYNC. I was wearing this American Eagle tube top but I didn’t have any breasts so it was hard to keep it up. The first album I ever bought was TLC. Performing on a bigger level, like N’Sync or Beyonce, has always been fascinating to me. Maybe just bringing that level of care and production to a smaller stage. TLC I listened to over and over and over again. Massively obsessed with TLC. I think that definitely molded by song writing. I was listening to folk music like Jewel. So in writing, I kind of had the poeticism of Jewel but with the TLC swag.

Who are your musical influences now as you have evolved as an artist?
Beyonce is obviously one of them. That’s really typical but whatever she’s doing I’m like, “Oh God, I have to be doing that.” I guess women who are really in control of their own brand like Grimes. I’m a huge Aretha Franklin and Carol King fan. I guess women who are really in control of their own music. Women like HAIM, Lorde, Grimes, people that write their own music and really brand themselves. It’s easy to be like “Ah, I’ll just have someone else do it. Selena Gomez looks great, I’ll just do that route”. At the end of the day, those women inspire me to keep going.

Yeah, there is more honesty in that as well. Being able to write from your own experience and taking over your own brand. Do you write solely from specific experiences?
The songs that translate best are the ones from my own personal experience. But I have a really tight knit group of girlfriends. I found that writing from their experiences also works well. I’m sure you’ve had a girlfriend who had a guy break her heart and she tries to go back to her and you just want to shake her and be like, “AHHH!” Those emotions are super real too. Songs about my friends relationships. You can take it into first person or have a message to her. They can universally translate to all people—including men.

How did you decide you were going to pursue music?
It just happened. I was in school and my band really wanted to tour so they were like “lets just book a tour. lets go on tour.” It was during winter break. And that tour turned into another tour and that one turned into a mother tour. We just started touring so I had to stop going to school. I always said I would go back to finish my degree but I never did. It just started working. I never did the scary “I’ll just quit everything and do music.” I’m very a pragmatic person. It just worked out. I always just follow the path that’s in front of me.

So, what inspired you to go your own route rather than choose the conventional route that many people try to take?
I honestly feel like I just never had an option. Whenever I try to do the other thing, cause I’ve tried, It just doesn’t feel right and I feel really unhappy because I’m not saying what I need to say. Going down the independent or alternative way was just what made me happy and fulfilled.

If you were ever to leave the industry, what would be the catalyst to that?
I think creative people often use a number of outlets to practice their creativity. For me, music is just one of them. If I felt like music wasn’t fulfilling me creatively anymore, I would find something else like writing, fashion design, music video production, you know, whatever. Something that I could practice and explore as a new creative medium. You know, people like Kanye West. He’s so creative. He’s just brimming with creativity. He want’s to work with everything and act on everything. Thats great and I think sometimes in the music industry it can move so slow and you can get locked up in that because that’s just the way the world works. There’s nothing you can do about it. That’s when you get interested in something else like, I don’t know, fucking shoe design.

What are some of the biggest obstacles for upcoming artists?
The hardest thing for people is just releasing the music. People get stuck in their own head and get worried because the music doesn’t sound perfect or doesn’t sound finish. Just giving yourself a cut off point is really healthy. I watch a lot of people get stuck in feedback loops and get too scared to release something. A lot of my musician friends and I talk about the idea of recklessness. You just have to be brave. You have to be reckless. You have to release things. Try things that might not work. You won’t know unless you try it. You’re not gonna know if your music is good or bad unless you release it. If it’s bad and everyone hates it, you’ll grow from it. That would be my advice to people. Just do it. Don’t wait. Don’t wait for people to do something for you. Get out of your own way. If you find a team of people who believe in what you’re doing, that’s important. Keep them happy. If you find a team that love you, care about you, and support you, keep those people close to you. Those are the people who are gonna tell you that your shit is bad.

(post by Dylan Karlsson)
Fred-DAguiar-001
Fred D’Aguiar is a British-Guyanese poet, novelist and playwright, and now UCLA’s Director of Creative Writing. In preparation for his reading at the Hammer Museum with Justin Torres, Assistant Professor of English, Westwind, UCLA’s Journal of the Arts, chatted with him on his writing, his plans and his process.

How do you prioritize your own work as a writer, being it poetry or prose or particular projects you’re working on?

My first love as a writer was poetry, I began as a poet. Whenever a poem comes along I do kind of herd them like sheep into a safe pen, away from the wolves. I do feel grateful for each poem. Novels take much longer, and you can leave them and come back to them in a way that that is interesting.

After I finish one, I don’t want to start another for quite a while, so doing poems and essays and radio plays are really good ways to be renewed as a novelist, and then you can come across a new project, a new tone, a new way of doing it. I like each book to be very different from the last. Novels are all different in terms of shape, content, viewpoint, location… Not just as different rooms in a building, but probably different buildings.

I understand your next novel is centered on the Virginia Tech Shooting, which happened while you were teaching there. In the past your had written a series of elegies directed toward that experience. Now that you are looking back at the experience, do you find yourself also looking back to those poems?

No. When I did the poems, I was trying to speak as a poet present at the site. The novel will be a total work of fiction, it won’t be trying to say, “Who are the dead? When did I pass them in the corridor? Who did I last see?” Those kind of questions are about grieving, and memorializing, and elegizing an event. They are products of grief.

The novel is much more of a designed thing, which is going to broaden out to ideas of catastrophe around mental illness, the availability of weapons, and some of what we do when we get angry and upset. Then the response to that by the immediate community, then the government, then the country at large. I’m interested in the fiction, and the larger questions to do with something that is no longer breathing.

I’m interested in questions that have to do with society, which the rag-bag of the novel can contain in a way that isn’t an elegy. No loyalty to people, and events… this is not a historical document anymore, it is a work of fiction and contemplation… The Virginia Tech’s Shooting is an opportunity to take something that is well-known, well documented. Google it and the records are all there, the phone calls and everything… Well after that, the psychology of the individual is still up for grabs. It’s still to be charted, and fiction is the best place for doing that. For putting together a lightly interiority based on detail, sense, memory, excavating all that stuff. So I’m looking forward to doing that.

Since you are writing and imparting this experience, as the reading at the Hammer Museum approaches, what do you look forward to when reading your work for an audience?

I’m looking forward to having a conversation across generations with my new colleague [Justin Torres]. Because I think that’s always a dialogue I’m happy to have with an audience, posing questions. So for me, outside their isolation, and quiet, and benefit from writing a novel, and growing from that process through self-discovery and surprise––after that rush when time is suspended and squandered––there is then the next most beneficial thing: having that book in conversation with a set of readers, with a fellow writer. It has an equal sense of excitement, discovery and reward. So I look forward to the Hammer, it’s the next best thing.

(post by Natalie Green)
justin torres
Justin Torres came to Los Angeles after living in New York and Paris. To put it simply, he’s adjusting.

With short fiction in The New Yorker and a best-selling debut novel currently being adapted for the big screen, Torres now spends his time reading the fiction of his students as an Assistant Professor of English at UCLA.

In anticipation of Torres’ reading with UCLA’s Director of Creative Writing Fred D’Aguiar on Tuesday, February 23rd at the Hammer Museum, Westwind, UCLA’s Journal of the Arts, chatted with Torres about his own writing and that of his favorite authors.

How and when did you begin writing?

I started taking myself seriously pretty late. I didn’t come out of the womb with the first few pages of my novel.

I wrote but didn’t know. I didn’t have that consciousness of calling myself a writer. But then in my late twenties I started writing again. It was just time. I’d been carrying the language with me for a long time.

What’s the most exciting thing you’ve written recently?

I’m frantically working on a story for a magazine, where I’m in the running for a short fiction contest with a deadline.

But it’s kind of exciting to write without a moment to compose—it feels revelatory.

What’s the most exciting thing you’ve read recently?

Besides my students’ stories?

I’m currently reading The Complete Stories by Clarice Lispector. I’m late to the game, but she’s really a writer’s writer. It’s thrilling—she tries on so many different styles but there’s also a coherence to her own style.

If you were to have dinner with any writer, dead or alive, who would It be and why?

My first impulse is (James) Baldwin because I have watched so many videos of him speaking. But he’s kind of an obvious choice.

So Derek Jarman, who I think is a very provocative, fascinating writer.

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Source: luisjrodriguez.com

 

On Monday, May 18th Los Angeles Poet Laureate Luis J. Rodriguez joined Westwind, UCLA’s literary journal, at the Powell Rotunda for a reading of his work. Joining him on stage was his wife Trini, a poet, and his son Ruben, a fouth-year at UCLA and co-prose editor of Westwind.

Although Rodriguez began his writing career as a poet, he has written in many other genres, including journalism, memoir, fiction, and literary criticism to name a few. He is recognized as a major figure in contemporary Chicano literature. Rodriguez’s best-known work is Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A., which received much literary recognition, including the Carl Sandburg Literary Award.

Mayor Eric Garcetti appointed Rodriguez as the poet laureate of Los Angeles in October of 2014; Rodriguez will serve a two-year term as official ambassador of L.A.’s vibrant culture, promoting the city’s rich literary community and celebrating the written word.

Since his appointment, Rodriguez has been traversing the city to conduct readings at venues like the Hammer Museum, where he read a poem in Nahuatl (the Aztec language,), the Grand Park Book Fest, the L.A. Times Festival of Books, and The Big Read. He has also read poems in front of the Los Angeles City Council twice, conducted writing workshops with youth for Urban Word, read a poem by Henry Dumas in acknowledgement of the “Black Lives Matter” movement, and in Leimert Park commemorated the legacy of the unofficial poet laureate Wanda Coleman, who recently passed away.

Right now, Rodriguez is calling out to Los Angeles poets to submit to an anthology that he is publishing through Tia Chucha Press next year. The deadline is July 2015. Ten poems are requested from each poet, from which Rodriguez will pick one or two for publication. The submission email is TCPress@tiachuha.org

To complement the reading hosted at UCLA, we at Westwind asked Rodriguez to answer some questions about his work as a poet, journalist, social activist, and publisher.

W: Thank you very much for joining Westwind for a reading of your work. It’s even more special because your wife Trini Rodriguez and your son Ruben will be reading their work as well. Have you read your work together as a family before?

 R: This is special. Of course, we’ve done similar things as a family—for example, I did a keynote talk at Ruben’s high school graduation where he also played guitar. My son Ramiro and I have read in Chicago, San Francisco, and L.A. And Trini and I have read together before, in particular a couples’ Valentine’s Day reading at the Malibu Poetry Reading Series. But this is a first for us three—I’m moved by this opportunity to share with my wife and son. Everyone in my immediate family are powerful writers. This may seem odd, but they learn being around me how vital it is to have language, to know one’s story, to express powerfully with pen and heart.

W: Talk about your background. How did your experiences shape your outlook on the world? How did it shape your writing?

R: My best-selling memoir, Always Running, covers a period in my teen life when I was in gangs, on heavy drugs, including heroin, and in and out of jails. A circle was completed when Mayor Garcetti presented me as poet laureate in the Central Library. This was the very library I used as a refuge when I was briefly homeless in downtown LA at 15. I finally left the “Crazy Life” by age twenty, holding my first son in my arms, helped by mentors, teachers, and a cause.

All these experiences—including getting politically active; working in a steel mill, foundry, paper mill, chemical refinery, and in construction; having kids; becoming a journalist and poet; working with gang and other troubled youth in the U.S. and other countries; the healing work I do with Native American spiritual practices—informs all my writing.

W: Can you please talk about your work as a journalist?

R: I became a journalist at age 25, first as a writer/photographer for weekly newspapers in East LA, covering murders, mudslides, and car accidents (although I also had a boxing column). I then worked as a daily crime-and-disaster reporter for the San Bernardino Sun when that city had the second-highest murder rate in the country. As a freelancer, I covered uprisings in Mexico, the Contra War in Nicaragua and Honduras, labor battles, as well as the trials and tribulations of Mexican and other Latino immigrants. One piece I did on the plight of the undocumented for the LA Weekly won a Western State’s Journalism award in the early 1980s.

I’ve also written extensively about gang life and solutions, including from all over the U.S, Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala. In Chicago, I also worked as editor of a weekly political newspaper—which took me around the country covering many fronts of struggle for social justice, against poverty, immigrant rights.

W: You’ve also done extensive activism around literacy awareness in prisons. Did you conduct writing classes, workshops? What were those experiences like?

R: I began doing prison workshops in Chino Prison in 1980, mentored by the leading Chicano poet doing this work at the time, Manuel “Manazar” Gamboa (who was also an ex-prisoner and ex-heroin addict). I’ve been doing these ever since, speaking and reading in San Quentin, Soledad, Folsom, Lancaster, as well as prisons, homeless shelters, migrant camps, Native American reservations, and juvenile facilities around the country. In addition, I’ve visited prisons in Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Argentina, and England. I generally tell my story, read poetry, and talk about going from trauma to transformation. My workshops are healing circles mostly, but include writing as healing and renewal. Almost always, the prisoners and wards are attentive, respectful and full of poetry.

The only time things got rough was at an Arizona youth facility that rioted soon after my talk (although this had nothing to do with me—tensions had been shimmering for a long time among the Chicano and Native youth wards). I was pepper sprayed that time as guards tried to subdue the inmates and bring back order.

But again, my prison experiences have been the best, even in terrible inhumane prisons in places like El Salvador or Mexico.

W: Talk about Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural and Bookstore, and the press you run under the same name. Why did you open this organization? What kind of work do you publish?

R: I began Tia Chucha Press in Chicago in 1989 to publish my first book, “Poems across the Pavement.” A mixed Native American/white artist named Jane Brunette designed the book when we both worked for the Archdiocese of Chicago’s publishing wing. The book did so well that others came to me to publish their works. Then I also solicited manuscripts of poets I loved—and I’ve been doing this ever since. For more than 25 years now—and Jane has been my only designer.

When Trini, my two youngest boys, and I moved back to LA in 2000 (my oldest son was in prison, and my daughter and her child eventually joined us later). We moved to the northeast San Fernando Valley, the mostly Mexican and Central American section of the Valley where Trini grew up. Unfortunately, the northeast Valley had become culturally barren. A year later, we took out mortgages, credit cards, and royalties from sales of Always Running to create Tia Chucha’s Cultural Center & Bookstore—the only bookstore, art gallery, and decent performance space for 500,000 people. We’ve now been in existence 15 years. For the past 10 years I’ve not had to put my own money in there, although both Trini—who is Interim Executive Director—and myself have never been paid for creating and sustaining this center. It’s our gift to community.

W: Based on your experience, what are some of the challenges in getting published today? Do writers of color face experience additional challenges when it comes to publishing their work? What are some of the challenges publishing as a Latino publisher? What do you look for as a publisher?

R: Writers of color have only recently been recognized, beginning in the 1960s. Yet, despite many wonderful Chicano, Puerto Rican, African American, Native American, and Asian writers, we are still highly marginalized in the publishing world. Tia Chucha Press is now known as one of the leading cross-cultural small presses. But it is hard to compete in a world with corporate publishing houses controlling the market and most distribution and also during the developing shift to digital books. But I still edit and publish books—I believe in the printed book. I believe in the new voices often not wanted by others. This is a business, of course; the bottom line’s important. But we do this for the love of literature, compelling writing, the unheard voices. Yes, many good literature and poetry gets published in the general trade, but for the most part it’s about the blockbusters and popular fare.

Personally, I’ve been fortunate to have wonderful publishers for my books such as Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Seven Stories, Lee & Low, Curbstone, and Open Road Integrated Media. But this is not true for the vast majority of writers of color. It’s a struggle even though people of color have become a quarter of the U.S. population. By 2050 it’s estimated the majority of the population will be from communities of color. As everyone is saying now, we need more diversity in books as well as movies, TV, radio, the Internet, all media. That’s an area I plan to keep remedying as long as I can.

W: What has your experience been in getting published with large publishing houses? What are the advantages about getting a small press to publish your work?

R: The larger publishers have the distribution power. My books with major publishing houses can appear most everywhere. In Barnes & Noble, independent bookstores, airports, Staples Stores, and more. Also whatever major media writers can get, it’s usually because of the big publishers and their marketing budgets. You generally need an agent to represent you with these publishers—one that knows the market but also the individual editors.

Although book tours in cities with media appointments are mostly not budgeted for anymore—except for blockbusters—I have made a living reading everywhere: universities, colleges, conference, libraries, schools, even bookstores, as much as I can. My books therefore are constantly being promoted. It’s a natural part of the “hustle” required to be an independent sole proprietor as a writer/lecturer/reader.

As for small presses, you don’t need an agent. You can send to various publishers, especially if you’ve done the homework. There are Literary Marketplace reference books (often in the various genres) you should consult. There are magazines and conferences you should turn to. Once a small publisher shows interest in your work, they also put their heart and soul behind each book. For example, Tia Chucha Press only does two books a year, but we design them beautifully and individually (although there is a Tia Chucha Press “look” that we’ve acquired over the years). We have a distributor among one of the most prestigious university presses, Northwestern University out of Chicago. Small presses don’t sell anywhere near as many books as the big publishers. But each sell is organized for, fought for, and valued.

There are other ways to go—self-publishing, print-on-demand, vanity presses, etc. All can be legitimate. But for me, even with less percentage of each book price for royalties, it’s best to get a long-standing and hardworking publisher behind my books.

W: What advice would you give young writers trying to find their voice and then getting their work out there?

R: The first and most important advice is: “don’t give up.” There is no surefire path to publishing, but you can pretty much make this a plausible fait accompli by getting the writing skills—compelling, powerful, unique (don’t write like anyone else) in the genre or genres you are passionate about. This requires adequate schooling but also ongoing self-study.

Next read many books, all the time, even books you don’t like (figure out why you don’t like them).

Third is write all the time. It’s an artistic practice. Any sportsperson, painter, musician, mechanic… what have you… get better the more they do their craft. Same with writing. Experiment perhaps. Try different forms. Discover new ones.

Writing like any art is an inexhaustible power once you’ve reached deep and draw from your own internal creative reservoir.

W: How important is it for writers to know how the publishing industry works?

R: It’s important to know the ins and outs of any professional field you’re interested in. Writing is a rigorous and demanding career. It’s highly competitive and hard to negotiate. Knowing the markets, the publishing houses, what they publish and don’t (so you don’t waste time sending manuscripts to people who don’t publish what you write), and aspects like agents, contracts, and copyright laws are all necessary. You can go to professional bodies like the Associated Writing and Writing Programs conferences every year (they also have a magazine with jobs listing, writing tips, interviews, and teaching positions in Masters in Fine Arts programs in writing).

I have a lecture agency, a literary agent, and a Hollywood lawyer to help me with all this. They are paid by the work I do, and so far I’ve made a decent living, although it’s a year-by-year proposition (some years are better than others).

The main thing again is your writing. Concentrate on that and then let the world revolve around this. Make time for your art.

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Source: storycorps.org

 

I recently discovered an amazing app called StoryCorps, which is designed to assist you in interviewing others.  I’m not talking about your white-collar job interrogations;  rather, I’m talking about personal interviews between you and those closest to you. A personal interview differentiates itself from any other form of biography, such as the written word or even a movie, because of the simplicity of its nature. In a personal interview, you are holding a conversation with a friend–except you can ask questions that you wouldn’t usually ask. These interviews are unique because they are built off of and upon relationships, which is apparent when you listen to them.

StoryCorps is a nonprofit organization that built an easily functional app in order to help you with this whole interviewing process. Their goal is “to provide people of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share and preserve the stories of our lives. We [the organization] do this to remind one another of our shared humanity, to strengthen and build the connections between people, to teach the value of listening, and to weave into the fabric of our culture the understanding that everyone’s story matters.”

While it may be terrifying to sit down and ask your mom what her hardest moments were while raising you, or asking your grandfather what one of his biggest regrets are, you may discover some fascinating stories about them that you have never known. If you don’t know where to start, try going on their website and listen to a few of the interviews that are posted. You’ll be amazed at hearing the raw emotions from every person, from the pure joy of people being accepted after coming out in the 1950s, to the shame and frustration of army veterans not being able to cope after returning from war. Whether you want to get to know your friend a little bit be tter, or whether you just want to listen to a good story, interview a friend and be a part of preserving the stories of our lives.

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