When I was asked to write the "Giving Back" section for the August/September issue of Santa Barbara Magazine back in May, I was ecstatic. My editor approached me with a question, asking if it was something I would like to do. As if I'd say no! It was, at that point, the longest assignment I had been given (500 words). The subject, Kathleen Rafiq, had built a hospital in Afghanistan – and was still living there. I went through the entire process communicating with her solely via e-mail. It was a challenging way to write an article.
Flashback to CASA, where I learned to do phone interviews. A little about me: despite being an introvert through much of my youth, I now prefer conversing with people in person. Especially during interviews, it is easier to get across that you are interested in what they're saying and would like to hear more (in my process, excess information is always preferable to not enough). It is easier to build rapport. I was daunted at first, when my editor at CASA told me to conduct interviews only over the phone. She preferred phone interviews because they were succinct (necessary in that publication’s weekly pace). I learned how to make people feel comfortable over the phone, which turned out to be a very useful skill when I went to SBMag and was asked to do the same thing, more often than not. E-mail is completely different.
I am part of the generation that texts rather than calls and, in the face of e-mail, has forgotten that USPS even exists. I am familiar with the usual dilemmas, including how to sound the way you want to sound when you have nothing but letters to convey it. And emoticons – but I opted out of sending a happy face to Afghanistan. I asked if we might try Skype, but her Internet connection was poor.
Kathleen, it turns out, was very easy to e-mail. She was gregarious and sent me tons of pictures and information. I had a terrifying moment just before the issue went to press: my editor asked me to request caption info for photos from Kathleen, but Kathleen didn't like the pictures. When she emailed me back, asking that the article not be printed with the given photos, I almost died of worry. The art department and my editors chose the photos, I had no say in the matter, and the thing was going to press in the morning. Luckily that was just a momentary scare and now, at well over 600 words, the article has been published. Catch Giving Back in the SBMag Aug/Sept 2010 issue, on page 68, which hits stands next week.