Category: Appearances

Guys, Scott Simon of NPR Interviewed Me

I had the privilege of being interviewed by Scott Simon at NPR Headquarters in D.C. last week. Scott Simon was an incredibly handsome and poised gentleman. NPR Headquarters was amazing–there is a huge news board in the lobby and a newsroom in the building’s atrium and so many wonderful recording rooms. Also, it felt like one of the safest places in America, at least psychically speaking. So I felt comfortable and welcome and ready to share my stroke recovery experience, living with a 15 minute short term memory, and the writing of Tell Me Everything You Don’t Remember

My interview aired on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday this past weekend. You can listen to it here. Also, there is a written transcription of some of the interview.

How to Ask Authors for an Interview


I used to be a technical recruiter. This meant that for over 15 years, I left voicemails and email messages with the intention of opening a dialogue, with the hope that I sounded both professional and engaging. And ultimately, with the hope of a reply.

Additionally, once people called, I interviewed people. My goal was to get to know each person’s motivations and assess skill set and gain insight into their character to determine fit for the companies at which I worked.

I often wondered how this career experience would at all dovetail with my dream of becoming a published writer.

But then when I became a fiction editor at Kartika Review, my past and present jobs began to converge. Part of my responsibilities included seeking out writers for interviews and then interviewing them in the most rewarding way I could muster. I felt like finally my past life was making sense in my present life!

Now that I’m officially an author (!!!)–wow, that sounds weird and amazing to write–I’m on the other end of all this business. I’m the one asked for interviews. And I’m experiencing an entire range of queries.

I can’t say yes to everything. My publicity team is curating requests for me. But I thought I’d take some time here to offer up what I’ve learned (on and off the job) to more effectively ask authors for interviews. It’s “how to get to yes” for author interviews…

In the query emails…

  • Introduce yourself. If you know the author or were referred to her/him or have a friend in common, now’s the time to make that known.
  • Disclose affiliation–are you interviewing him/her for your blog? For a journal? For a magazine? If your publication isn’t nationally recognized (i.e., the New York Times), then share a little about your publication. Provide a url to your publication. Perhaps an example of a past interview. Who’s your readership? Your audience?
  • Compliment. Flattery gets you everywhere–make sure it’s authentic. I am going to assume you’ve read their work. If not their recent book, please make sure you’ve read SOMETHING they’ve written. Then say something about how that work was meaningful to you. This will give the author/writer an indicator of how thoughtful the interview experience will be.
  • Mention the impact their interview might have on you or your publication. If you have a smaller audience, this is a crucial addition–because psychic income counts. Established authors will engage with you if they feel
    your passion or social messaging or whatnot. How would their participation help you or your readership?
  • Then–and this might be the hardest part, tell them in what ways participation would help the author out. Will s/he gain readers? Will this be good community service? How might you help sell her/his book or elevate her/his social presence? Or darn it, will it just be an awesome good old time? Having fun is also a part of the decision equation. Authors are people too. 🙂
  • Also–maybe a quick note on the format of your interview. Will it be via google docs? IM chat? Phone? Email? Or list possibilities and let the author choose (many of us have a preference–I myself prefer google docs or email).
  • If there is a reply…a followup email after your THANK YOU I’M SO EXCITED, be clear about timeline–by when would you like this interview done? And how long will they have to answer questions? How many rounds of questions? How many questions will there be? Make sure you give authors at least a month out of courtesy.
  • And follow up. You can end your first query email by suggesting you will followup in a few weeks if there is no reply. And then follow up. Follow up Follow up Follow up. This is for you. And do it kindly but firmly. I once asked a writer for 18 months for an interview–by checking in every 3 months (politely but consistently) until I got a yes. Now that Famous Author and I are friends.
  • If the author agrees to the interview–they’ve made time in their schedule for you. Make sure it HAPPENS. A disappointed author makes a cynical author makes an author less likely to say yes to future interviews.

I hope this helps!!!

Plan A, B, C, D, and E: On Public Speaking


I’ve been doing more public speaking in recent years. And I think I’m a decent public speaker–teaching in a classroom has certainly helped me be more at ease in front of a crowd, and it has taught me how to establish rapport with my audience.

But here’s the thing: I used to get very bad stage fright. Like, frozen up on stage in front of hundreds of people, fright.

Ground zero for this fright happened about fifteen years ago, when I went up on stage at a blogging conference, with very little preparation. “Oh, I’m just going to talk,” was my thinking. “I’ve a lot to say.” (Did I tell you I was like, twenty-five years old at the time–ah the arrogance of youth). And then I got up on stage and stared at the hundreds of people before me, and then I had that moment where things felt very strange, and I felt very teeny tiny small, and my mind went…blank.

I learned a very good lesson that day about myself: I need to always be prepared. In fact, I now over-prepare for my talks. And the more I prepare, the better my talks go. The better the feedback. And the more I enjoy my time on stage.

I still get sweaty and hot before I talk. So you’ll likely always see me in a sleeveless top whenever I have a microphone in my hand or pinned to my shirt. And I have to park myself near a restroom for the hour or two beforehand, because my body apparently just wants to dehydrate itself before I go in front of an audience.

But my heart no longer thumps. And I no longer feel a deep fear that I’ll go blank on stage.

Because I prepare.

I have a Plan A, B, C, and D when I go into my talks. I try to address all the unknowns or all the variables, and have at least a rough plan for each. I thought I’d share a little of my planning process with you.

What is the topic at hand?
Research your topic. Get an outline going for your overall narrative. Make notes. Rehearse. Rehearse. As a backup, think of anecdotes that might go well to illustrate your points. Have them in your back pocket to liven up your talk. Plan A is to have your talk in its ideal format. Plan B is to figure out supplemental information for your talk.

Who is the audience?
Novices? Experts? Peers? Figure out to whom you are speaking, so you can make sure your talk is relevant and enlightening. If you don’t know–think about ways you can broaden your talk and/or have a back up plan on different angles. If you are uncertain as to who your audience might be, think about having a mini-ice breaker at the beginning and ask the audience questions relevant to your talk and that will give you insight into their level of experience. This is where you may want to have a Plan A, B, C, and D–keep your main outline, but keep in mind where you may have to go should the audience not connect with your talk.

And if you get nervous–look up and spot someone with an encouraging look on their face. Talk to THEM. It may feel a bit creepy, but you gotta get through it!

How many people are in the audience?
Is it a crowd of 500? 100? 50? 30? 10? Your approach will differ with each. Plan A may be a talk for 500 people, but if you end up with 10 people in your audience, you will want to be prepared with a Plan B that is more interactive. Have an exercise regarding your topic. Ask for their questions upfront.

What equipment do I need?
Overhead projector? Music? Let your organizers know. And if for whatever reason the equipment falls through, you need a backup plan. One year, I wanted to do powerpoint slides for a panel talk at a large conference. I knew there would be hundreds of people in the room, and I wanted people in the back to have a visual and also for everyone to see the framework for our discussions. But oops: the projector didn’t work. So I handed the questions out to our panelists, and I made sure to be extra articulate when saying questions and facilitating.

If the room is going to be 30 people–you may want to show up with copies of your preso–and then you can hand them out.

What if your panelists go blank?
Have questions for your own panel. Little ice breakers. Sometimes a question won’t go over well, or it may have been addressed earlier in the talk. You don’t have to keep to the pre-arranged program. Figure out where you may have to offroad.

What if you go blank?
This is when you have notes or an outline up there with you. It’s okay to pause and refer to your notes. This is where your preparation comes in. If you have to, write ENCOURAGING NOTES to yourself in your notes! Tell yourself to smile! Or if you have a tendency to speak fast, write “SLOW DOWN” in your notes.

What if the audience is totally fading?
You can stick to your outline, or you can check in. I ask, “Make sense?” I check in with my audience–this may be a good time to ask if they have questions.

Also, little details mean a lot when you’re up there…so what can you do to make yourself comfortable?
If you have access to the room beforehand, get up there when it’s empty and walk the stage. Or stand behind the podium. So you get a feel beforehand. If you run hot when you’re nervous, do NOT wear a sweater–or at least wear layers so you can peel off a sweater. If you run cold, wear a sweater! Think about your footwear–this shouldn’t be the first time you wear those shoes, or a pair of heels if you never wear heels. Wear clothing that makes you feel confident. Figure out if you can, the color of the backdrop: if you have a black curtain behind you, ditch the black outfit. Or if it’s a red curtain, maybe not a green dress? If your talk will be videotaped, seriously consider NOT wearing pinstripes (they strobe on the screen). Be aware of your own comforts. Make a list of things you need, beforehand so you don’t have to think about it the morning of.

Anyway, those are my ten cents. Now I gotta go prepare for my panel at AWP.

Interview with Hyphen Magazine


I ended up pretty happy with what I said in this interview with Hyphen Magazine about my fiction. I think much of it has to do with the fact that Karissa Chen is a good friend of mine, and she got out of me very candid truths.

Also, Margaret Cho started following me after reading this interview. If you read what I say, you’ll know why.

…My own parents transferred their wartime PTSD onto me—for better and for worse. For better, because in an Apocalypse, I will probably get a posse together in ten seconds and survive. For worse, because I keep thinking about the Apocalypse. I mean, when I see a tree and a wild turkey, I think “Wow, that’s nice. Nature.” And then immediately, I see a source for lumber and food. In that sense, my innocence is gone.

And in the case of my parents’ PTSD, I have no visual for what it is that haunts me. It’s my parents’ ghost, and it’s never been given a face.

I certainly think these ghosts are why I write—to give the ghosts and monsters faces in stories.

What If Reality Suddenly Fell Apart?


A few months ago, right after my BuzzFeed stroke essay went live, I had the opportunity to talk about my stroke recovery and ensuing life changes, with Whit Missildine. We sat in my living room, and he asked me questions, and told me to speak freely about all the things that had happened, and what I felt, and how the stroke changed my perception. Also, I was very aware of my voice. And the many times I say “like” while speaking.

This week, the podcast went live on Whit’s AMAZING podcast series called “This is Actually Happening,” consisting of “first-person stories that explore what happens when everything changes.” Each podcast episode is entitled with a “What If…?” scenario.

The podcast episode on which my story is featured is called “What If Reality Suddenly Fell Apart?”

Take a listen.

Press Publish Discount


Hi everyone. We’re a few weeks away, and so I’m making another announcement:

I’m speaking at’s Press Publish conference event on March 28, 2015 in Portland, Oregon. And this time, I’d like to offer my readers a 40% discount to the conference–mostly because I’d love to see you there!

When you register for the conference, use the following special coupon code: CHRISTINE40

If you can’t make it to Portland, but you are planning on going to Phoenix on April 18th, the CHRISTINE40 coupon code will work for Phoenix, too.

Press Publish tickets come with either a year of upgrade or, for self-hosted blogs, a 1-year subscription to the VaultPress Backup Bundle. Either option is a $99 value, and paired with the 40% discount, this makes tickets an even greater deal.

The full description of my talk is here up at the Press Publish site (and I plan on talking about my relationship with you!):

Eight years ago, Christine Lee survived a stroke in part due to the concern of commenters on her anonymous blog, and more recently experienced the comment flood that comes with a post going viral. She’ll talk about online connection and keeping up with comments.

Are you in Portland? Anywhere near Portland? Got a free weekend? Want to meet other WordPress bloggers? Want to know how to make the most of WordPress? Want to hear inspiring speakers talk about their experiences with blogging?

Register for the conference.