Demo: Conducting a Killer Interview - Part 3


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Demo: Conducting a Killer Interview - Part 3

So yeah, so, so where, like, so I think, if I could just talk very sort of like, you know, Go ahead. clinically about your incredibly emotional moment. That's fine. That is what we call great tape also and sort of like, it was very unexpected, and you were able to, like, articulate the feeling that you were having really well. One of the things that I'm gonna talk about tomorrow that I actually had to try to do right now, and it's really hard, remember I was talking about shutting up? I was trying very consciously to shut up, and that is a really hard thing to do when somebody is talking and you wanna comfort. You wanna sort of say it's okay. You wanna sort of say, like, "We don't need to talk about this if you don't want to." And these are all these feelings that you sort of have. But, and I don't know, I think to the person who is experiencing the emotion though, you, it wasn't like you wanted me to say those things necessarily. Was I making you uncomfortable or were you okay...

, like just talking? No, you're really nice. Yeah, well good. (audience laughing) Like you wanted, and it was like, to me I felt like it helped to sort of like ... If I'm honest, like I was like, oh there's something here in this relationship, but I can sort of, I felt like there was something here, like the moment you started talking about it, and, and, and so I wasn't, it was, it was, and it felt like once it actually came out, it felt like it was easier for you to talk in a certain way. Is that true, is that how it felt, or not, or not really, I don't know. I don't know, I don't know ... yeah, I mean I can be like that's gonna be bullshit. (both laughing) Yeah, no, I, I, I'm just kind of going with it. I'm just, you know, I've done interview before and I've always just, I've never had any preparation for it, and I've just always said if I tell the truth then that's the best thing I can do 'cause I can't do any better than that. Right. So, I'm just, right. if you ask me a question I'm gonna answer it. Right, yeah. But I thought that it was also very helpful, like I felt like you did a really good job of just sort of like talking about like the feelings that were under, like giving voice to the feelings that you were feeling. You know, and that was really, like I feel like that's really, that was really, it's hard, takes presence of mind to do that. And I thought, hmm, that was really, really, really good, and, and, the advantage of shutting up when you're the interviewer is it gives the person the ability to do that and the time to do that. And to, the time to sort of like express what they're feeling, yeah. Yeah? So, thank you Ann for opening up and being so honest. This has been really interesting and a great learning experience, but I think, Alex, you sensed something at the very beginning when you started talking about her parents and she didn't go there and she just started talking about her neighbors and talking very fondly about her neighbors, and then you tried to go there, but she didn't go there with you and then you started making small talk again and then you, and then it got deeper again. Did you consciously move away from the topic, knowing that there might be more there, or were you just kind of trying to move on because you had some ideas in your mind about the storyline? 'Cause I could chop it up to great instinct, like, I'm like wow he's got great instinct I don't think I've got great instinct or anything. I think it was when I ... I wasn't, I wasn't sure whether we wanted to go, you know, whether I wanted to sort of like go, go down the road of like tell me about your parents, and tell me about, like, you know, like when you say there was, you know, there was alcohol and, and, and abuse, what are you talking about? Like all that stuff, like I just felt like, like it felt like if it was gonna come out, I guess I did sort of feel like if it, if it was gonna be part of the story that we're telling today that it, that it would come out some other way, but it felt like too much of a distraction to go down that road. You know, like and it felt like, and I didn't wanna be like, you know, there's a difference between sort of like telling a story and having the, the, you know, sort of like an emotional moment occur naturally and organically to the story, versus diving into every single, sort of like, moment, of sort of like, you know, dysfunction that you come across. You're always gonna come across that stuff when you're talking to people and like you can, you know that's not your job. You know, like I wanna tell, I wanna tell the story that we set out to tell, and this is part of that story. So, yeah. I think that's what I was doing. So, where do we go though, like that's what I'm tying to figure out. So, now, like, so in, in my, like sort of in my, my world what I'm thinking right now is we've got a big moment that has happened in the middle of our story that is, that is, that is very, quite compelling, and sort of very honest, and very, you know, brave, and interesting to hear, and sort of all these things that you're looking for. And where do we, where are we gonna go now? Like what are we gonna, where are we gonna go for now. So I feel like, so I sense a sort of like we wanna speed through to sort of some of the, some of these later moments and get, you know, sort of get on, right? Yeah I haven't made any art in a while Exactly, exactly. So, but, yeah, you know, yeah? We found out she was a victim of emotional and physical violence at home, and we found out that she was a victim of sexism at Ross Perot's stupid computer company, (crowd and panel laughs) but when she was describing Ross Perot's company, she did this throw back to a liberated time that she remembered at art school, and I'm wondering if that would be a hook to, because she has that reference point, I'm wondering if that would be a way to propel her forwards to what she knows she could look forward to? Yeah, let me try, lets see, lets, see. Alright, moving on, putting headphone back on. OK. So, lets, I think I'm gonna do it this way. I think this is how I would actually do it. In an interview is what I would say is like OK, so let's fast forward OK (laughs) it's sort of what I ... fine by me (laughs). So, so, so, you've had this experience working in disaster relief, you've moved on, you're in a new place right now, you're back in Sacramento? Yeah, I'm in Davis now Uh huh. And I've, I haven't, but I haven't painted or drawn anything. So, I'm suffering from chronic anxiety, depression and insomnia, and I'm taking lots of pharmaceuticals for it. I'm a member of the walking dead pretty much. So, I'm basically medicating myself to get to work. And work was where? Well, at that point I was back in a cubicle I was working in, as a project management type in high tech. Uh huh. Yeah, so-- And this was not Ross Perot's company? No, it was a different company, it was actually a much better company that no longer, no longer exists called Valley Media. So, I was trying all these drugs and therapy and it wasn't working and so a friend of mine, I went to visit a friend of mine in Ohio, outside of Cincinnati. And she said, actually before, backup, before that I went to a self-development workshop. I saw this, I met this author who had writers block, and I thought oh I guess I kinda have writers block too. And I forgot the conversation, one week later I went to go visit my friend and she said you know what your problem is, your problem is you're depressed because you're not creating anything, you're not doing any, you're not making any art. And I said yeah well I've given that up. I'm not doing that any more. And she said well that's, that would help you. So, I went to a coffee shop, wait, no, I went to an art gallery with her. And we saw this painting, I started tearing up, it was this beautiful luminous landscape painting, and I looked at her and she's kinda tearing up and I thought, and then I started laughing 'cause she was crying and she started laughing 'cause I was crying, and then we started crying again (laughs) and started laughing. And it was just weird and, so then, I said wow, well that hell was that? Like that was a crazy moment. I've never had a piece of art inspire me like that, ever, and then we sat on the park bench in this town square and I said, alright I know you hid that water color set in your car, so why don't you get it out and I will paint, OK I'll paint. And this sounds like, this sounds like a lie right now, but I'm telling you it's actually true. So what happened was I, I made this statement lets go ahead and paint, and I looked up and 10 feet in front of me was the author who I'd met in San Francisco 2,500 miles away one week earlier. And it felt like I was struck by a lightening bolt. So, yeah, it's true. And I went up to him and I said will you still have writers block? Remember me? And he said yeah, and I thought yeah 'cause you're not frigging writing. (interviewer and crowd laugh lightly) This is all bullshit, like this is all like lets just go paint. And so I did this watercolor. I sat in this flower garden by the art museum with my friend and I did this watercolor and it just flowed out of me, it was just easy. And that's the one painting I still have that I won't sell. And that's when I started painting again 'cause I felt like that moment was so profoundly strange and there's no way I could ever ignore that. So, I had to start painting again. That's so interesting, that's so crazy. It was crazy. yeah. And but, what I, then I realized that maybe she's right, it would help my anxiety, and 'cause none of this other stuff's working, and so I would, decided to paint again just to use it like an active meditation and I thought my focus will be color, which is light. So, if I just focus on light and still my mind, then it will help and it did help. And then I didn't, I didn't wanna show any of the paintings, or sell any paintings. I just wanted to like get all of my anxiety. And so I, eventually, started to show my paintings and I eventually met Wayne Thiebaud and I, yeah, so I started selling my paintings and then I met Gregory Kondos who's also a really well known painter and I was working in a cubicle still, selling a little bit on the side, and I went to study in the south of France with him, but before I signed up for that study We all got laid off at my company. And I thought how am I going to afford this? So I wrote a letter to everyone I knew and I said, you know, if you'll give me x number of dollar, hundred of dollars, I'll bring you back a small canvas from the south of France. And I put in a, this was before Kickstarter, and I put in a self-addressed envelope and I not only funded my trip to France, I funded my trip to England to see my family and I made a profit, and I was like oh never mind this galleries (laughs) I like this. So that was when I got the taste of business and I loved it. Wow, so you, you, you kick started a project before there was even Kickstarter. Yeah, I guess I did. But it was, I didn't really know that many people. You know, that's the thing with Kickstarter you have to a big, you know, social media presence or a very very compelling pitch and this was just people who I knew. And I was, there were people who were getting laid off along with me who were writing me checks to bring them back a canvas, and I had a box of chocolate that said send a kid to France, you know, everyone's doing that anyway, you know, selling girl scout cookies. I was like I'm selling my chocolate, and I put a stupid high price on it and I sold out all my chocolate from my coworkers who were also getting laid off, so if you're listening, thank you, still I so appreciate that. They sent me to France and I, it was great. And I was like there's no reason to beg to get into a gallery, this is, you know, I don't need to go that route, I just got the inkling, like, this is just, this is how artists used to do it. And all those people, I had them in mind when I made each canvas, and there was a connection that we had. And like this is how art used to be sold. This is, I gotta learn something about marketing and that's what happened. So, that was the dream of your, so that was the thing that got you, wow, so much happened, so how far, how long after that, after sort of like, after making your first painting again were you going to France? What was the timeline there? Just a couple years. Yeah, just a couple years and, and then when I met Wayne, Wayne Thiebaud, you know, his canvases were starting to sell over a million at that point, they're much more now. And he had a retrospective at the New York Metropolitan, it was touring the nation, and I had an epiphany when I asked, he said, you know, you're really good and he's not shy about telling you, you know, don't quit your day job. But he said you're really good and I said oh that's great and I felt like oh that's great. How will I make a living? And his words like burned into my memory 'cause he said I don't know, I'm not a businessman, and I thought the IRS thinks he's a businessman. Like, he has a, his son runs a gallery here in San Francisco, his canvases are selling for, that's business, that's business. And I just witnessed this very odd disconnect between artist and business and money and I just saw through all the BS of it because when I brought those canvases back to my friends and collectors they were thrilled with that business. They loved it and I loved it. It served everyone, so that was a real turning point, that conversation with Wayne Thiebaud. A turning point in that, how? Because the way, the prescribed way, like if you're gonna be a painter, well then you'll be a painter, you'll go to art school, and you'll work with a gallery, and a gallery will represent you and someone will come and save you from all that business mumbo jumbo and you'll be free and ... That's not the way it works. It's, if you're, as soon as you slap a price tag on your painting you're in business. You're in business, by legal definition you're in business, but there is this odd disconnect, and it's not just painters, it's a lot of the creative community has this odd disconnect. My favorite quote is from my friend Dr Elliot McGucken, Dr E, is that every artist is an entrepreneur and every entrepreneur is an artist. And I had a, like that's what I realized, like this, that's true. And I, I, anyway, that started a whole other journey, Uh huh. that moment. Right. So, alright, producers, we have one more, how do we, how do we tie this all together? I've actually gotten lost, I'm like I'm outta Oh my, I lost you, oh my Gosh yeah, yeah. That's saying something (laughs). I mean, which is good, this is great. But what do you think, what's a way of sort of like getting back to, where do I go from here? We got 10 more, 10 minutes left. What do you guys want to hear about, where are, where as some, what do we wanna? I'd like to hear about the art businesses business plan and kinda wrapping it up to feel, and get the sense of your success. Like it feels like you've gone through all of this, now I wanna hear the crescendo of your life and what happened. Excellent, alright, good. Everybody on board with that? OK, good, anything, OK, alright. OK, so, so you have this epiphany, you have this, Wayne Thiebaud gives you sort of like, this like, it's almost like a, it's like sort of like, it's a funny, it's a funny, it's a funny moment of inspiration, you know, that moment of inspiration 'cause he was like, it is. it was sort of like, it was like, it reminds me a little bit of like, do you remember that movie Breaking Away? The biking movie? No. It was like old, it was like from the 70s. Yeah it was like a great, it was this, anyway there was this kid who pretends to speak Italian, he's really into bike racing and then he meets his Italian heroes and he's on a bike race with them and he's doing really really really well, and then one of them at the very end, they knock him off his bike and he's out of the race, and his, like, heroes have betrayed him a little bit. But it, and that's where the movie ends, but it sort of sounds like you sort of met this hero and he gave you this, He was my hero Yeah and he threw sort of cold water on you in a weird way. Not intentionally No, no, no I he, he, yeah Not intentionally, yeah. He was speaking the truth of his experience, but, you know, I just didn't, he did very well, but I just didn't wanna wait that long. Like I wanted to do it now, I didn't wanna wait that long. And I didn't wanna teach painting Right. There's plenty of people who do that much better than me. So, then I'd say another turning point was when I was working away in my cubicle and I was selling art on the side and I had this conversation with two of my workmates who were both in recovery from stage four breast cancer, and one was the same age as me, we're only 30 days apart, and we were kinda just bitching and moaning about the politics and about work and about, and I thought this is negative conversation, it's not good for them. So, I'm gonna change the tone of this conversation, and just, you know, get out of that grumbling mode 'cause we could complain about our bosses all day long. So, I said, you know, alright, lets just pretend we all have a magic wand and we can do anything we want, and I asked one, Maria, is her name, and I said what would you do if you could do anything and be assured of success? And she said I don't know, and I was like you don't know? Well think about it, I just gave you a magic wand. (laughs) So, so anyway she was thinking about it while I asked Angela and Angela said well, I would be an interior designer. I'm like get the hell out of here and go be an interior designer, like you don't have kids, you have a nice husband, he makes good money, like money's not a barrier, children, like, go. And she said no I can't. I'm like yeah you can, why aren't you? And like her hair was just starting to grow back in, right, and she said I'm too scared. I said hold on, so you just went through treatment for stage four breast cancer and your hairs just growing back, you're really more afraid of being an interior designer? That's so messed up. So-- (some of the audience laugh) I realize well, you know, I'm afraid too. So, I can't judge her, so I need to face it. I need to like learn what I need to learn, so I'd like sneak in Seth Godin's books and read them on the down low when I was done with my project work and I just thought there has to be a way, Wayne, Wayne doesn't have the answer, Gregory Kondos doesn't have the answer, there's gotta be an answer. So, I'm gonna-- The answer being, the answer to the question How can I make a living doing, making art I'm proud of and that I wanna make and that gives value to people, it makes people, you know, gives, is good value for them, and that I can make money. Like how can I, I went to art school for five years, like, I don't wanna be here anymore. I'm, I've got to stop bitching about it, I have to do something about it. So that was another really crystallizing moment, that conversation, they, that conversation was very crystallizing. Mm Hmm And so, so when, how did you find, what was the, the reality that you settled on? So it sounds like you, so it was like, and the kick starter thing had already happened. It happened and it worked and I was like oh this is cool, I like this a lot. So when, how did you put that, so the conversation of, sort of like, oh hey I gotta get out of here, I gotta figure out this something to, you know, support myself Yeah. What did you do then, what were the next steps? Well I would say there was another time, there was a, there was an architect in Davis who collected a number of my works, and frankly she couldn't afford them, and she would find the money anyway. And she would just say you're so talented and then I, I had a friend who's passed away now, his name is Yon Nash-in-bay-ni, he's a very famous illustrator. And those two would just encourage me, and they'd say lets just, and then one time Carol, the architect, lets just do the math, like if you sold this many paintings, you know, on average, this is how much money you'd make, so, I'm like, yeah, that's right and so-- What was that math? You know, I don't remember the, you know it's probably like, it wasn't much, but, you know, I was selling for $3,000 at that point, which was big for, it was a lot of money, but I'd sold paintings for $3,000. I was like $3,000, if I sold one a month, OK, I could make it, right, so. In Davis. In Davis. Not here (laughs). No, not here, no, not here. So you, so you did that, so you were just sort of, and that, and sort of focusing on that goal, did that, did that make it seem sort of manageable somehow? No, when it happened is I went a worked for another consultant, another job as project management consultant and I worked for this guy who's nickname, I didn't give him this name, his colleagues gave him this name, his nickname was snotty Scotty (interviewer and some of audience laugh) and he was snotty Scotty. He was straight from Hell, but in a way he was a gift because I was like this is the last person I'll ever work for. This, he's such a horrid person. And he, physically actually cornered me into the office and like was trying to physically intimidate me. I was like, I can't swear right now, but anyway you can swear. So fuck off, you know like get out of my way and I thought that's it, I'm not ever going back to work again. I don't know what I'm going to do. Like, I'll be a bartender, I'll clean houses, I am never going back to this again, and they, I just couldn't, couldn't deal anymore, it was like a breaking point and then I thought I'm, you know what, I don't wanna go back to work again, and I don't wanna live here, so I just said I'm gonna go do what Angela should have done. Right, Angela should have gone and she should have been an interior designer and she-- Angela your colleague who had just yeah recovered from breast cancer. Yeah, and, and so I just OK this is what I wanna do, if it doesn't work out I'll go find another job somewhere else, I'll figure it out, but I can't like leave life without going for what I want 'cause I have waited all this time. You know, all these reasons why I can't do what I want 'cause I'm, because of money, because I'm married, because of this, because of that. I was like when am I gonna, when am I gonna push that excuse aside and just try, and if it doesn't work at least I know I tried, so I said I'm gonna go to San Francisco, and I'm gonna make a $100,000 or more selling my paintings and I did. I exceeded the goal and then I got media attention and, and then artists started calling and asking for help. How can I do this, How, what did you do? How did you figure that out? I wanna get to exactly what you did. What, why do you think you got emotional just at that moment talking about that? What was it, what was it? 'cause life is short. Here we go again (laughs). Angela's gone, so every book that I make for my patrons, they're all dedicated to Angela, all of them, they don't even know who she is, but they all say this is for Angela, all of them, and the always will. Life's short, you don't know when your numbers up. So if you really wanna do something, go do it. You know, unless there's something really standing in your way and you can't, then that's fine. You can't beat yourself up for that, but if you , if you, if you want something go get it. It's, one of the things that like stands out, like talking about this is that, is that, so where you are right now, describe your current life right now. Talk about what you, the life your living right now, what is it, what does it look like? I'm a CreativeLive instructor (laughs). (interviewer and audience laugh) You know, I make art and I make money with my art, and I work with artists all around, and I really wanna, I don't like the way that art is experienced, I think it's broken, I think art galleries and art museums are mostly really boring and intimidating and cold and disconnected. And so it's my aim to change that and make it more meaningful and warmer. People love art, but they have lost connection with it. So, I wanna make art that, I do make art, that people are connected to, at least my patrons. And if my story helps inspire other artists who are talented and who wanna embrace business I really just wanna dispel this whole myth of the starving artist because it's a real disrespectful slur and it's a mindset and a cultural belief that, you know, stops us, it's what stopped me, and the fact is during the recession every category of luxury tanked, but art went through the roof. You know, so people do buy art, they always have. So, that's good news. So, so my day to day, I, you know, I get up, I, you know and I, I'm working on different projects right now, and I'm gonna be repositioning and relaunching how I sell my art. Working on that, part of it is podcasting actually (laughs). And then I'm working on a course for CreativeLive and then I'm working on another course that I'll be launching online called making art making money. And how much money are you making now? Like what, like where, like you don't have to tell me the exact amount if you want yeah (laughs) Don't ask me how much I weigh either (laughs). (audience laughs) Compare it to your previous jobs. Are you doing better, worse, about the same? Oh no, I'm making more. I made more in my first year than I ever made working for anyone else. Like significantly more. So your my first year. Financially significantly better off Yeah. than you ever were before? When I was working, yeah I'm definitely. Before I was making, yeah when I had a salary, and working for someone else, yeah I'm definitely doing better. And I think that my prospects are so, they are so much better because I never was qualified for anything I did (laughs). (laughs) this is the first job you've been qualified for that you've ever had? I don't know if I'm qualified for this, but I certainly wasn't qualified for the computer company or I mean I wasn't. So I was, I mean I could only get away with it for so long, and someone was gonna figure it out. I wasn't gonna become vice president anytime in any of those, yeah. So I have more, there's more opportunity working for myself. And, would you, but it seems like you had to go through, like there's so many, if, like when I think back when you lay out your story like this, as you've done over the last 90 minutes, like it seems like there's so many things that sort of brought you to this place that if they hadn't happened you might not have gotten there. Like if you hadn't discovered that your husband was a secret alcoholic, and if you hadn't met a dear friend who passed away, Mm hmm. do you think you would be where you are right now? Well, yeah I mean the total of all of my experiences make up who I am now, who we all are now. Who we are, what we think, our beliefs, they're all a summary of everything we've experienced. I guess what I'm saying though is is it, how do you, like would you wanna, would you, like say you hadn't discovered that your husband was an alcoholic and you were still together, would you, would you, what would you imagine that life to be? Well, I probably would have had children and really been, then found out later and like really been stuck and I'm thankful that that didn't happen. I mean if he would have been a nice guy and didn't have addiction, yeah that would've been lovely. I would've taken that life for sure, but that just wasn't, those weren't the cards I was dealt. So, I had, apparently had to learn a lesson. At least that's what I believe. I believe that I had to learn a lesson. That lesson being? Well, it's so many lessons. Like lessons of expressing my feelings, which I did not learn. I used to use art as this silent vehicle and now I can express them, as you've all witnessed. (interviewer and some of audience laugh) Having, you know, believing in myself, and even though I didn't have all the tools in the toolbox that believing that I could find them. I could find people to help me, or who were smarter than me. And I still do that, I still ask for wiser counsel to help me, personally or professionally. And, you know, I had a long family history where there's a lot of alcohol and I don't have that it my circle. It's been removed. So that's a big change, and a lot of people never make that change. So that's a big thing I had to learn. Right. Are you, are you, can you imagine going, can you imagine the you of today being in, in a, in a situation where that, where those, where you weren't making art, where you were working a cubicle like, like, you know what I mean? I can't, it was horrible. I mean I was so, I was so unhappy, but it wasn't just because it was a cubicle. It was because lots of layers of my life were out of whack. You know, there are plenty of people who work in a cubicle and they're just fine, they're just dandy. It has to do with, yeah I just wasn't living an authentic life, I wasn't, you know, I wasn't going after what I wanted. No, I couldn't, I can't imagine, I, like I, I would, no I would do something else, there's no way in Hell I would ever do that again. Ever (laughs). Any, any producers, anything else that you wanna ask before we go, yeah? Willow, Willow go ahead. There's something we need to know, like what's the secret, what's, so how do you make money with art? So, so what is your secret? How do you make money doing art? What's your, what's your big plan? Well, take my CreativeLive class. (audience laugh) No, for real, I mean there's no like simple answer, but I will say this, that it is, like, I'm gonna quote my friend Dr E. Every artist is an entrepreneur and every entrepreneur is an artist. So, the first barrier that many artists have to get past is that somehow they're not in business. It's complete bullshit. So, I mean, where can you, you gotta get past that before we can entertain writing a business plan and a marketing plan, or a pricing structure. So that is the first place, and then after that I tell artists don't sell art 'cause selling art sucks. You know, it's a really bad thing to do. What you need to do is you need to create value above and beyond your art and sell that. And you need to know what your mission is and talk about that, don't sell anything, just talk about your mission. You talk about your, you know, what you're trying to change and then it just sells itself. So, I, I don't encourage artists to take the traditional route. If they do and it's working for then I think that's great and they should continue, but that's not what I teach. Your mission, the mission being like, so what's your, what's the mission? What's your mission, what's the thing that you're selling? So, really, with my, so with my art, I really just want people, bring people into a moment. So, I really want them to just savor the moment 'cause when you have anxiety or depression. You have anxiety, you're preoccupied with the future. When you have depression you're preoccupied with the past. When I was painting as therapy I was in the moment, and I was very happy and joyful and powerful. And my collectors used to say when I look at your art I feel happy and I feel calm. And so that's really what I wanna ignite. So what I do is create this whole experience for my collectors. They choose their favorite landscape, we actually go there together. I go back, I do a whole series of studies in oil, then they can choose one or more that I recreate on a custom canvas, but they've been to that place with me and I give them a coffee table book that chronicles the whole experience with black and white photos so they retrace my steps. They can be in the moment, they can be in the moment where I was painting, they can be in the moment where we were walking, and California landscapes was what struck me immediately when I came here 'cause I came here and thought oh my God it's so beautiful and it's so varied. So, so that's what my collectors, they are, they feel like they're, it takes them back to a moment in time and it, they associate the paintings with a memory, like an anniversary or a birthday present or a trip to wherever, the Russian river where they raised their kids, so, it's a very long winded answer, I need to lighten up my pitch. no, it's a great answer. (audience laugh) Yeah I really want, so it stems from my mission creatively, artistically, stems from the most painful time in my life, which is actually what I teach artists to look for, look to, to help define their purpose. If you look at the most painful times in your life, they stand in stark contrast to what you hold near and dear to your heart and your values. And then if you know what that is then you can, you know know what your purpose is. That make sense? Yep. Yeah. Round of applause (audience clapping) Thank you, thank you so much. thank you. Yeah, so. Alright, so yeah we're wrapping up, but I know the students are gonna have some homework today actually too. The students are gonna have some homework. Not getting off the hook that easy. Yes. So, lets just take a moment to relax. That was some intense shit. (audience laugh) Sorry, are you allowed to, you are allowed to curse. So, yeah, so that was, that was really, that was really amazing and I, I learned a lot, and really thanks again. So, what I wanted us to do, I thought we could do a little something, a little bit of homework, which is sort of like try to do, you know, a very very mini version of what we just did, sort of with your, amongst yourselves. And basically if you, what we want you to do is sort of, what I'd like you to do is pair up with somebody in the class and talk to them for some amount of time, it does not have to be 90 minutes, it does not have to be a life story, but talk to them about one meaningful moment in their life. And then, and then if you, and then pick 20 seconds. Record it on whatever device you have and pick 20 seconds from that, from that recording that you can talk about tomorrow. So, the best 20 seconds that you got out of that, out of your interview that you did with somebody. Email them to us, we'll have instructions on how to do that, right? Yep. Email them, sorry where do they email them? Oh we'll be talking everybody here about the email address, we'll sort that out with our students here in the studio once we wrap up. OK, great. So, so but what you're gonna do is is you're gonna interview each other and, you know, for a little bit and then take the best 20 seconds out of that interview, you know, separate it, edit it out and then email it to us and then we'll be picking a couple of them for tomorrow for people to come up and sort of say we talked about this and this and this, and here is, here's the moment that I wanna play for you. 20-40 seconds, I think you can go over a little bit, but don't make it over, definitely not over a minute. But just sort of like, and the purpose of this exercise is to sort of identify what are these key moments that we're going for here. So, when you're, when you're having the conversation, maybe it's a great story that they tell you, maybe it's a great little anecdote they tell you, maybe there's a really funny punchline, or maybe it's just a very very emotional moment that happens in the course of the interview, or maybe it's just a moment where somebodies saying something that is just like surprising to you. Just take your favorite 20 seconds, email it to us, and then we will bring you up on stage tomorrow and then the next session and you can present them, you know, you can, we'll present a couple of them

Class Description

Join Alex Blumberg, award-winning reporter and producer for This American Life and co-host of NPR’s Planet Money, for Power Your Podcast with Storytelling, and learn podcast tips on how to tell powerful, memorable stories through audio.

Storytelling is in our DNA – integrating its principles into a podcast not only helps you tell better stories, it allows you to authentically and emotionally connect with your audience. In this class, you will learn the unique approach to interviewing and story composition, which has made This American Life a fan favorite on public radio stations across the country. Alex will share production techniques you can use to create a multi-layered sensory experience and share tips for standing out in the ever-growing field of podcasts. You’ll learn: 

  • How to develop your narrative instincts
  • How to prepare for an interview to get the best answers
  • The elements of a good story

Alex will teach you how to create a “driveway moment” — that experience when the story is so good, it makes the audience pause what they are doing just to listen through to the end.

Whether you already produce a successful podcast, are a creative entrepreneur looking for a new marketing method, or just a public radio-loving audiophile – this class will help you tell better stories.


Matt James Smith

The best storytelling resource I've come across bar none. I've read all the books, paid for all the online courses, listened to all the podcasts but for me none have been anywhere near as useful, engaging, moving, fun and outright inspiring as this course. If you're trying to tell stories with factual material, whatever your medium, this is as good as it gets. Regarding those reviewers saying it was haphazard and underprepared - huh? He doesn't offer strict formulas and perfectly structured, detailed approaches, but that's because he's the real deal. Those things only exist for snake-oil-merchant online "story gurus" who charge through the nose for "the perfect strategy" (*cough* Patrick Moreau *cough*). Alex offers what he can of tricks and formulae, but where it's about experience and gut feelings, he's honest. Thank god. Superb.

Gregory Lawson

This class is great on multiple levels. Are you interested in interviewing? There are great tips and techniques. Interested in Storytelling? Great insights into the basic structures and tools to test how compelling your story idea is. Interested in podcasting? Great tips and ideas here too... Alex is a seasoned pro, has an easy, approachable style and allows his class (and you) time to really consider and work through the concepts. Excellent all the way around!