On many occasions, I’ve found myself sitting in my driveway (often with tears in my eyes), listening to StoryCorp on WGBH radio. These real interviews among friends and loved ones – sharing life’s pains and pleasures, challenges and triumphs and love and passion – are often motivating, inspiring and humbling.
So, a few years ago, when I heard about the Ted Talk from StoryCorp founder, Dave Isay, I had to listen. Aside from sharing the story behind the organization, he also introduced the StoryCorp app. And, immediately I downloaded it.
A few weeks later, while at my in-law’s home in Albany, NY for Thanksgiving, my then 11-yr-old daughter and 14-yr-old niece used it to interview their grandfather. Julia and Arielle were able to get Grandpa Warren (not one for talking about himself), to share stories that none of us had heard before – from his early years growing up in Buffalo NY, meeting his lovely bride and serving in WWII to working in the clothing industry and raising three wonderful children. I remember Julia and her cousin, Arielle, walking out of the “interview room” with him – big smiles on their faces – satisfied with their mission.
One year later, Grandpa Warren passed away. But, today, we are fortunate to have the StoryCorp interview – and will forever cherish it. It’s also now part of their public archives. I only wish I did the same before my mom passed away.
So, today, as we prepare to be with our families for Thanksgiving, I encourage you to do something more fun and meaningful than complaining about lumpy gravy, eating string bean casserole and debating politics over the dinner table:
- Download the StoryCorp App – Do it NOW. Just search “StoryCorp” from the Apple or Google App Store.
- Assign interviewers and interviewees – Kids are great interviewers (often because they never stop asking “why?”). But, anyone can do it. Just determine who will be interviewing who.
- Prepare – The app is loaded with many questions to help you create the most appropriate interview guide. Help the interviewers create the questionnaire ahead of time so they are prepared. Of course, they can go off-script at any time. You may also want to share the questions with the interviewee ahead of time, although I personally prefer more authentic “unprepared” responses.
- Find a quiet room and record – Let the interviewer(s) and interviewee do the interview in private. There will be less pressure on them and it will feel more conversational. You’ll have the opportunity too listen to it later.
- Enjoy it forever – Upon completing the interview you will have it to listen to and share forever. You can also upload it to the public archive if you’d like.
I hope you have a very happy Thanksgiving, and come back with stories that you will cherish forever.