Talking with Stephen Foehr (page 3)
Talking with Stephen Foehr
page 1, page 2, page 3
  Do you write from a journal? notes? tape recorder?
  I take copious research notes (200 pages for the Cuban book). I organize these into categories and cross-reference. So, if I want to check about the colonial history, I have a file of notes at hand. I read these booklets many times and know exactly where the information can be found. I want to know what I’m looking for before I actually go to the place. I have lines
of inquires thought out and contacts I need to make. Yet, perhaps 80 percent of the work happens spontaneously once I’m on location.
     I always tape formal interviews. I always carry a notebook to record impressions, snatches of dialogue, facts, ideas. I try to write daily about what happened on location, even if it’s just street scenes. These are often only extended notes. I check my research, assumptions, facts, and impressions with first-hand sources. I immerse myself in the information and in the place so I can make connections, see links, see new directions of inquiry, find insights.
 
  If some young RPCV were starting out, wanting a career as a writer, what would you suggest?
  On a practical level, get a byline, even if its in the hometown paper, and build on that. The short upfront pieces are the easiest way to break into magazines. Ask a magazine for its editorial calendar so you can see what
they are planning six months ahead, and then find ideas to fit. (If the editor won’t send you the calendar, ask marketing.) Study the publication’s style, but always work on developing your own writer’s voice. That is what editors will eventually buy.
     On a person level, work hard to control the multi-techniques of the writing craft; and work hard to surrender control to the art of your writing. In this, writing is a life philosophy. Be in control yet lose control. Be in the dance of discipline and freedom within the tune you create.
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