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Memoir interviewing is an integral piece of research. Although you may assume you can depend on your memory when you write your lifestories—memory isn’t always as reliable as you want it to be. Interviews with relevant family members and friends can supplement your memory and broaden the perspective of your memoir.
How To Prepare For Memoir Interviewing
1) Select whom you will interview.
If your time is limited, or your family is large and offers many choices, it will be all the more important to identify a manageable number of knowledgeable relatives and friends to interview.
For example, Aunt Mary tends to talk endlessly—all afternoon if you let her. Her conversation seems to have little content as she wanders from one topic to another. Aunt Jane, on the other hand, is an incisive person whose intuition is always informing her about what things mean. Her many observations and reminiscences are usually interestingly told. Furthermore, they are consonant with your other research.
Can there be any doubt whom you will interview first—Aunt Mary or Aunt Jane? (Being nice to lonely Aunt Mary is a work of charity and it should not be confused with collecting information to write your stories.)
Another example: Cousin Luigi married into your Irish family. He is a dear old man and you love him very much, but his tales about his Italian family are irrelevant to understanding the history of your Irish ancestors. Cousin Luigi’s are not the accounts you need to collect.
2) Ascertain who else is likely to want to participate in the interview—and decide whether that person may or may not sit in.
An unexpected, or inappropriate, person can blur the focus of your interview.
For instance, your aunt by marriage, sitting in on the interview, may find what you are doing so interesting she begins to talk about her life experiences and, in doing so, may not allow your uncle (your mother’s brother) much time to talk about his childhood relationship with your grandparents and your mother. Your aunt’s experience, however interesting, will not provide the information you need to understand your grandparents and parents.
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