Longreads’ Best of WordPress, Vol. 10
Seven great interviews from across all of WordPress, featuring Drunk Austen, Guernica, Rookie, and more.
In the digital age, it’s very easy to talk at each other through emails, texts, and tweets rather than with each other. Interviews enable us to rekindle the art of conversation. Here are seven interviews we’ve enjoyed reading recently from across all of WordPress.
1. Q&A: Rebecca Schinsky of Bookriot and Bookrageous (Admin R, Drunk Austen)
Chatting with Rebecca Schinsky, the director of content and community for Riot New Media:
Admin R: Is there any book you’ve read in particular that you credit with changing you somehow? Something that affected you so much after you read it, that you grew and matured?
Schinsky: Yes! When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams rocked my world in very real ways. She gave voice to thoughts and feelings I had been simmering on for a while, and when I read her words, things just clicked. I had conversations about Major Life Stuff that I wouldn’t have had if not for this book, and I said things I wouldn’t have said otherwise. And those conversations changed the directions, in positive and important ways, of some of the defining relationships in my life. I wrote about it for Book Riot when I was in the throes a few years ago.
2. Just to Tell the Truth (Rebecca Chao, Guernica)
Investigative journalist Anya Schiffrin discusses the “pleasures and perils of reporting”:
Guernica: Does investigative journalism have to involve risk on the part of the journalist to have an impact?
Anya Schiffrin: For me, the lesson is that you don’t know when you will have an impact and how. It can take a long time, though in some cases there is impact quite quickly, like with the New Zealand fishing story [which immediately led to legislation to protect migrant crew members]. Even when a piece doesn’t have an impact, it provides a testimony, sets the record right for history, like with [Chilean reporter] Patricia Verdugo [whose piece on military abuses under Pinochet was used a decade later as evidence during Pinochet’s trial].
3. Branko, 3, Has Bones Growing Out of His Chest (Johan, Read An Interview)
Three-year-old Branko has a rare, unnamed condition causing him to have bone dysfunctions. An interview with his mother:
RAI: How does the fact that he’s the only person in the world with this condition affect his treatment?
JPZ: It’s tricky. Pretty much every statement that comes out of a doctor’s mouth is justified with “but he’s the only Branko in the world!” Sometimes this works in our favor, like when a doctor gives us bad news, they can placate us using these words. And it works. However, when we push for a new treatment or the next major surgery, we are sometimes told to wait it out, because the doctors can’t make any predictions on how his bones might turn out.
4. We Mean What We Say: An Interview With TLC (Julianne Shepherd, Rookie)
A conversation with the popular ’90s group:
T-BOZ: The song “Unpretty”—it was actually a personal situation on my behalf. When I wrote that song, I basically wanted to stand up for how people made me feel in school. I had sickle cell anemia, and I didn’t understand the disease I had myself, but people would say to me, “Oh, Sickle, you’re gonna die.” So mean. But this is the thing: I had tough skin, ’cause my mom was amazing. But at the same point, not everybody handled things the way she taught me to, and there were times when I got down. My thing is to give somebody something relatable, like in those lyrics, and to show there is an upside. You can overcome. I was told I wouldn’t live past 30, that I would never have kids, and that I’d be disabled my whole life. I’m 44, my daughter’s 14, and I’ve traveled the world in the best group on the planet. So, my thing is, there’s always an upside.
5. Inside the Boom and Bust Cycle of Standup Comedy with Jordan Brady (Philip Stamato, Splitsider)
Jordan Brady has been working in comedy for three decades:
Splitsider: People think it’s about going from one place and then just skipping to another, but you should connect with the community as well.
Brady: Right, because that’s the ego. The meet-and-greet, you can still have ego. Without the ego, no one would want to meet you. But you show humility and appreciation for fans. I mean, this is turning into a deeper conversation, but comedy, it’s bouts of ego and humility that will give you a long-lasting career.
6. Absent Victims (Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, Harper’s)
Joshua Oppenheimer, the director of the Academy Award-nominated The Act of Killing, discusses his new documentary:
Harper’s: It seems fair to say that The Look of Silence and The Act of Killing aren’t so much two discrete pieces as they are two parts of a single project. How did this larger project come about?
Oppenheimer: There’s a key moment in The Look of Silence when you see two perpetrators take me down to a clearing by a river, the Snake River, and then show me how, in that very spot in 1965, they helped kill ten thousand people. These men take turns playing victim and perpetrator, showing how they brutalized people, how they kicked them in the river. And then they produce a camera when they’re done, and pose for photographs—snapshots as souvenirs from a happy day out.
7. At the Algonquin Hotel: A Conversation With Wes Anderson (Matt Zoller Seitz, Grantland)
Seitz just wrote a book taking readers behind the scenes of The Grand Budapest Hotel, and this interview with Wes Anderson is excerpted from the book:
Seitz: Another question: “This is the first script where you have a solo credit for the screenplay. Your others were collaborations. What is it like working with different writers versus writing by yourself?”
Anderson: Well, you know, this movie wasn’t actually that different of a process from other ones — different parts of different ones. Noah Baumbach and I, for Life Aquatic, really did sort of sit there together, all the way through the process. Bottle Rocket, certainly, and Rushmore: Owen and I were together while we were writing those.
But, on the other hand, at different phases of all of those scripts, there were times when I was working on my own a bit. So it’s not like I felt, on this movie, “I’m on my own here.” In fact, I had Hugo Guinness, who is a very old friend, hysterically funny and tremendously intelligent, working with me on the story from the very beginning.
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