In a recent interview, actress Michelle Pfeiffer admitted that she regrets not getting her father’s life’s story written down before he died.
I don’t know about you, but that’s one particular regret I would like to avoid. Which got me to thinking about how I could help my parents write their stories. One possibility, of course, is to do the work for them. In that case, I would need to start with an interview, following these how-to’s:
Choose your moment…and your space. Pick a quiet spot that’s free of distractions, especially is you’re planning to capture your Q&A on video or audio as well–which is also recommended.
Remember your nonverbals. Encourage your subject by smiling, nodding, maintaining eye contact. If your interviewee is hard of hearing, speak loudly and clearly.
Use visual prompts–old photo albums, souvenirs or favorite mementos. My dad, for example, has a wall of plaques acquired from his 25 years of service in the Navy. I could start by asking him to choose two of his favorites and tell me the stories behind them.
Do your homework. It may be helpful to work through your parent’s life chronologically. Prepare an outline of questions beforehand–but then follow it loosely. If the stories seem to be flowing in a different direction than what you’d planned, go with it. You can always circle back around to fill in any missing gaps.
Don’t procrastinate. Everyone has a story to tell, and delaying too long might mean that you lose precious, one-of-a-kind stories forever.
And personally, that precisely what I’m working to avoid.