A little less action, a little more conversation…

After being postponed by a few weeks for scheduling conflicts, I’m finally getting ready to sit down on Thursday with the interviewee I first mentioned two months ago. Out of all of the people I’ve talked with, he is actually the only one who re-enlisted. After finishing his time in Iraq, he spend time in the National Guard, and is now back as a full time member of the U.S. Army.

Which is why he’s been so hard to get to sit down and talk with me.

Fortunately our schedules have now coalesced, and Thursday Sgt. A.S. and I are sitting down for a conversation. Also at the table will be former Pvt. T.B., who enlisted at the same time as did A.S., but who was discharged shortly after his return from Iraq.

I’ve known both of these guys for some time. I knew them before they enlisted, and I’ve been able to see the changes in them over the years. They both had the thousand-yard stare for years. Even now it’s there sometimes, when they think nobody’s looking. It’ll probably never go away.

I’ve always been hesitant to ask about what they saw when they were overseas. What it was that changed them. I never really felt like I had the right to ask, since I myself have never served. So it is with no small amount of gratitude that I’ll be sitting with these two gentlemen, sucking down coffee cup after coffee cup, and listening. Just listening.

You may, by now, have realized that I’ve been relying rather heavily on Postmodern Interviewing to help me. There’s good reason for that: I want more than just the standard, back-and-forth Q&A model that I used for years when I was a newspaper man. It doesn’t really allow for much leeway, or for new avenues of conversation to open up. One of the repeated points in Postmodern Interviewing, though, is that interviews, particularly in person, should act as a more organic conversation than anything else. Naturally, you should have talking points you want to cover, but don’t feel beholden to them like they’re Gospel. Try to cover them, sure, but if the conversation goes in another direction and it is germane to the topic, by all means follow the lead.

And that’s what I intend to do on Thursday. When A.S. and T.B. and I sit down, we’re just going to talk. Like the old days. I’ll steer the conversation this way or that, but I’ll let them take the lead, and tell me the story they want to tell me.

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About Joseph F. Berenato

Joseph F. Berenato obtained a B.A. in English and spent four years as the entertainment editor of The Hammonton Gazette before returning to his roots at his family's blueberry farm in Hammonton, NJ. In 2014, Joe conceived, edited, and contributed to New Life and New Civilizations: Exploring Star Trek Comics. He also co-edited three books examining Star Wars and two books examining Planet of the Apes for Sequart with Rich Handley. Joe wrote the introduction for IDW Publishing's Star Trek: Gold Key Archives Volume 3 as well as retrospective essays for that company’s Star Trek #50 and their Star Trek Gold Key 100-Page Spectacular. He also contributed to ATB Publishing's Star Trek anthology Outside In Boldly Goes. He holds a Master of Arts in Writing from Rowan University, and is an adjunct professor with Atlantic Cape Community College in Mays Landing, NJ, where he teaches freshman composition and serves as advisor for the school’s student-run newspaper, the Atlantic Cape Review. You can find Joe at jfberenato.wordpress.com or at www.dinernation.com, and on Twitter at @JFBerenato.
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4 Responses to A little less action, a little more conversation…

  1. You get mad writer props for using the word “germane” in a sentence in appropriate context.

  2. Pingback: Coffee Talk | Joseph F. Berenato

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