Last week, a high school student got in touch via email. Her teacher is requiring that students do a “Personal Project” that is meaningful to them. This particular student is interested in becoming an author illustrator. (Awww! How cool! She chose me to give insights and advice!) And she wanted me to answer seven questions.
That’s when I put the brakes on. I looked at the greeting again. It read, “Hello,”
The student didn’t address me specifically. Nothing in the email indicated that she knew anything about my books. Most of her questions were ones I had addressed in countless interviews, a Google click away. Ah! So was this a buckshot query to countless authors and illustrators? Or was this meant to be a survey of many authors, and she wasn’t explicit about this?
I am 100% behind encouraging and supporting students who are exploring writing as a career. I have spent hours responding to requests for email interviews. And I suppose I could’ve just cut-and-pasted from older interviews and filled in the blanks under each of her questions. But wait! Who’s the student here? Isn’t doing research her job? I’d be the one doing the homework!
I love that teachers are requiring students to have an interview component in their projects. These personal contacts can be enriching and memorable. But here are some tips (which, by the way, I passed along to the student who made that inquiry last week) to having happy and responsive authors:
- Read books about the industry first. Get the keywords and big concepts, then frame your questions.
- Personalize the greeting in the email.
- Show evidence that you are familiar with the author and his or her work.
- State whether this is a survey of many authors or an interview with one author.
- State when your project is due.
- Ask only those questions that you can’t find through research either on the author specifically or about the industry in general.
- Thank the author for any contributions they make.
- BONUS: Offer to give the author a copy of your final project.
Do any of you out there have other ways that you handle interview requests? I’d love to hear your suggestions!