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Free Event! Looking for a Coupe de Ville in the Bottom of my Cracker Jack Box

by CATHERINE

One of my favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut, wrote in Cat’s Cradle: “In this world, you get what you pay for.”

So I try to keep my expectations low when I go to a free event. I recently went to one such event on the topic of interviewing techniques. The panel was comprised of two print journalists, a local NPR host and a TV reporter.

My hope was to walk away with a single nugget of information and feel two hours of my life had been well spent.

At about the 45-minute mark, my mind drifted, and I completely tuned out the room. I started working on the plot for my current novel-in-progress, book five in The Infinite Veronica Series...

Until something the panel leader said got my attention, and pulled me back to the world around me. He was off-topic, and skipping off on a tangent about his days in radio. He had apparently worked with hip-hop artists, because he mentioned a few names that rang with old-school familiarity.

He had my attention. He said he was responsible for opening CD’s and reading the enclosed bios. They were often so uninteresting that he didn’t even want to take the CD out and play it.

Bad bios were so prevalent that he started a side gig of getting paid to write bios for artists. Further, his favorite question was: “What would you describe as the hardest time in your life?”

Boom!

He said this question instantly created and built tension in the narrative of the bio. By virtue of the fact that the artist’s CD was in his hand and about to be played on the radio, that person had clearly overcome that hard time and was on the yellow brick road to success.

I thought of my own bio – it’s basically a narrative of my resume. I started jotting down my own answer to his question. I was excited to get home and rewrite my bio.

When it was over, I had my nugget, glad I’d spent two hours of my morning panning for that piece of gold that was now mine to keep. Yeah, anybody can pan for gold—it’s a free activity—but finding it is the hard part. Mr. Vonnegut, once again, got it right.

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