March 2018

I hate Q&A style interviews

- by Alyson Shane

I find them meandering and too long and just a bore to read.

One of the habits I've picked up from reading Hemingway and dealing with clients from NYC is brevity.

I used to be verbose af but these days I can't handle articles that tell me they have facts in them but make me dig through a bunch of "Oh, so you think..." questions and long, meandering answers that circle around the actual answer.


I'm sitting a Barn Hammer on my second beer (Coffee Black Rye Pale Ale) and I just finished putting together questionnaires for this year's TEDxWinnipeg speakers.

One of my jobs as a volunteer on the Social Committee is to coordinate doing these Q&A's with our speakers and as I was sending them out I realized I couldn't remember the opposite of a "Q&A style interview" and remembered that back in the day when I wrote for Spill Magazine I had to do an interview with a local band that I really, really struggled with.

So I looked up the email thread from 2014 and remembered that "narrative style interview" is the name of the interview style that I prefer these days.

I also realized that when I wrote the article I hated narrative-style interviews because I still wasn't confident in my abilities as a writer.

At the time I pushed back at my editor, Stephen, who is a magnificent human being, and said that I was really struggling with doing an interview where I didn't just transcribe what the musicians had said verbatim during our chat.

He told me:

Alyson, you're selling yourself short. You are a great writer and what you put together makes for great music journalism. All I ask is that you don’t close this door on yourself just yet.

Which blew me away because the part I remember is how anxious the exchange made me feel, not what his response to my anxiety was.

(Ain't that always the way?)

I wrote for The Spill for several more years and did heaps of album reviews and interviews, including the time I interviewed Thomas Dolby from his houseboat The Nutmeg of Consolation where I was so nervous that I thought I would swallow my tongue during the interview.

It taught me that when you know good people who push you and support you, eventually you start to realize that you can do anything you put yr mind to.

And with some luck you, too, can be as concise as Hemingway.

Or at least you can give it the 'ol college try.


What's the thing you love most about your job?

- by Alyson Shane

a high school kid asked me that when I was speaking to his class the other day.

It's been a while since I've been in a high school or even around a lot of teenagers at once, and I was impressed by how smart and thoughtful they all were because I remember most of us being stupid af back in high school.

I was in there to talk to a senior math class about how I use math in my work which was weird to me at first because if there's one thing I really hate, it's math.

But when the math you do is wrapped up in something else that you like to do it's not so bad.

I spend a lot of time calculating acronyms like ROI and CAC and CPC and CLV and it's not my favourite thing but it helps me make informed decisions and become better at what I do.

And it's probably good to hear about math in a real-world context vs. only using it in school like most of us did growing up.

So yr girl put some slides together and we talked about the wonderful world of marketing formulas, which wound up getting more laughs than I'd expected, but not for the reasons that I'd anticipated.

(Don't ask.)

But overall it went well and when we'd wrapped the presentation we did a Q&A session. They asked me about my career, my degree, my plans for the future. One kid asked me how much I made which I sidestepped because it's none of his dang business.

But I did tell him that being a business owner has changed my earning potential, and that not relying on a single job snd paycheque wasn't as scary as I used to think it would be.

Which I hope some of them really heard, because I could have used hearing something like that at their age.

Mostly though we just talked about social media.

None of the kids use Facebook. Hardly anyone's on Twitter. Instagram is huge. Snapchat is dead

(and if high school kids are saying it, you know it must be true)

but everyone knows about LinkedIn all of a sudden even though it "used to be super lame" before.

They like the idea of using Vero but are worried that it's going to go the route of every social network and become monetized and ruined by changes to their algorithm, and then they'll have to move on to the next new app or social platform and go through it all over again.

Told you they're smart.

A few of them like writing but don't know how to be writers for a living, so I told them that in the age of the internet there are more ways to be a writer than being a journalist or trying to be the next Stephen King. We talked about copywriting and how my company works, what we do, how we help our clients.

I talked about how much I loved writing, and blogging, and rhetoric, and I feel super duper lucky that I stumbled my way into doing something for a living that allows me to do all of those things and then some.

And when that boy asked me what my favourite part about my job was it felt really nice to say

"doing stuff like this. Talking to you guys."

Because it's true.

Tags: Life Thoughts


I want to be a cat in my next life

- by Alyson Shane

If there's anything better in this world than being a well-loved house pet, I don't know what that is.

Yes as a human of course you get to eat amazing things. Mussels and oysters and lobster and sushi. Garlic toast and fresh sourdough and croissants. Spaghetti and meat balls. Fresh doughnuts.

And you get to drink coffee and beer and rum out of a coconut. You can make iced tea on a hot day or have a cup of Chai on a cold day. You can make hot toddies when you get sick.

As a human you get to ride your bike and marvel at the big trees in your neighbourhood. Or go fro a car ride and listen to Leonard Cohen on the radio. Or sit next to a big dam and watch the sun set and listen to the water roaring by.

You also get to read books and blogs and literature and if you're lucky you have a wifi connection thanks to the computer in your pocket that lets you look up any dang thing you want.

We have Wikipedia, for chrissakes!

But if I believed in reincarnation

(which I don't, but y'know)

I'd try to come back as a well-loved house pet.

Because food and alcohol and literature and adventure are great and all.

But on-demand belly rubs just can't be beat.