The Ability to Listen
The ability to listen is a storyteller’s greatest asset. Sure, you also need an understanding of the subject and the ability to do solid research. Curiosity is important too, as is a good grasp of language rules. It helps to know how to conduct an interview and find just the right questions to ask. By listening to not only the answers, but to what the person is really trying to say, you can find that thread on which to hang an interesting and inspiring story. There’s a story in everything, if you trouble yourself to look.
Over the years, I’ve been given many tough writing assignments. Sometimes, I think the editors are smirking behind their screens. I know that some of them gave me assignments when they had no idea how to make the subject work.
I learned long ago that through careful listening you always find a point of connection (perhaps many) on which to hang a story. Plain facts are never enough, you need to find the right words that spark the imagination and inspire readers. In that sense, non-fiction writing is no different from fiction writing, both hang on the thread of story. And story hangs from the ear, even when it’s read on paper or screen.
Here’s a look at some of the stories I’ve crafted. Samples and links are provided.
1990: M.A. in Anthropology, minor in Scientific Illustration, University of Arizona
1986: B.A. in Anthropology, Bryn Mawr College