Four Reasons We Use a Q&A Format to Interview Artists & The Exception We Made for Emily Saliers

 

We like Q&A’s. Read our archive here (and the AMPLIFY archive here.)

Recently, more than a few of our potential interviewees just didn’t return their Q&A so we were not able to promote their event/performance/activity. They also didn’t benefit from the SEO and outgoing links and all that lovely Interwebs magic. And there’s a lingering hint of disappointment from unkept promises and unspoken expectations.

So I’m inspired to compose a brief post about why we use the written Q&A format.

First, we want to center and amplify voices, usually queer voices or women’s voices or the voices of people of color. This means using this platform and all the credibility we’ve built over the last 13 years, but getting our own voice and filter out of the way.

Yes, the questions do frame the conversation. But I invite interviewees to go any direction that they want. I will lightly edit responses upon request, but otherwise I share what is shared with me. You have plenty of opportunities to read what *I* think or feel.

The written Q&A format gives the interviewee control over their responses. They have receipts of what they submitted. They can take their time to think about their answers, and I do take the time to craft questions that are tied to their individual identities. I do my homework.

Amplifying and centering the voices of people whom I support and want to ally myself with is also a very specific tool that’s come out of the Ferguson activism after the shooting death of Michal Brown. It is about intentionally signal boosting the voices of artists and others whose responses I believe our readers will find interesting.

Second, I’ve got some wonky hands. It might be carpal tunnel, it might be something else. The doctor has to run more tests to figure it all out. Wonky is a fitting word because sometimes they are weak, sometimes I have unexpected twitches, and sometimes they just fucking hurt. I also have a permanent tremor as a result of a longterm medication I take. So transcribing interviews is quite literally painful, often impossible. It can take hours. Writing a promotional blog post for free is not worth that much time and energy.

Most of the time when I mention that I have a disability, people are more than willing to accommodate. But I understand that it might take longer to answer written questions than to do a 15 minute phone interview. You don’t typically edit your phone interview, but you might linger over a written question a bit longer.

So most of the time, the written Q&A is the only format that works for me. I have made exceptions, but … well, actually the only exception we made to that rule was a Q&A we did with Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls in 2017. Laura did a phone interview in our kitchen and transcribed it for me because there was NO WAY we were not going to interview Emily Saliers for this lesbian blog.

I suspect Emily Saliers is the sort of star who would be gracious about my request for an accommodation. But Ledcat can’t do those interviews often and its a lot of work for again, no revenue. We don’t get Emily Saliers level requests very often.

If it helps, Rick Springfield* thought my questions were stupid and a waste of time so there’s that.

Third, it is our thing. The Q&A. We have an entire public art project devoted to Q&A’s with LGBTQ people (AMPLIFY), nearly 300 entries. There’s something quite humbling and universal about asking every single person, regardless of fame or fortune, to describe their own identity and tell us about the first LGBTQ person that they met. It creates a tie that binds throughout the blog.

Finally, we can be flexible if the interviewee is flexible. I have a simplified version I can send if the performer is genuinely overextended and negotiates this with me. I’ve even published a “Quick Q&A” format with performers who are kind and busy and respect my time. I don’t publish partially completed Q&A’s that arrive three days late. I’m not okay if the go-between (the marketing/pr folks usually) eliminates controversial questions.  That’s annoying especially after I spend quite a bit of time doing my research on the performance, the production, the artist, etc to ask solid and unique questions.

At the end of the day, I use a format that reflects our priorities on this blog and best suits my own constraints. If we are not a good fit, that’s fine. But please don’t try to force a traditional ten minute phone interview format into an online Q&A sized hole. There are plenty of other local outlets that will suit your needs.

If you agree to answer the Q&A and then don’t follow through, you are wasting my time which of course I don’t like. You also waste the time of the local promoter or your own promotional team who set it up and usually handle the back and forth. I get that things happen, but at least be professional enough to bow out with grace and honesty rather than slinking into the night.

If you’d like to take advantage of our Q&A format to promote your event, activity, production or whatnot, contact us via email pghlesbian at gmail.com.  Of course we want to read what you have to share.

*Updated to reflect that Rick Springfield dissed our Q&A, not Rick Springsteen who I believe is a perfectly nice man living somewhere in New Jersey and the 3x cousin 2x removed of Bruce. My apologies.