Interviewing famous people for Uncharted: The Berkeley Festival of Ideas
Two years ago, Berkeleyside, the news site I co-founded and write for, launched Uncharted: The Berkeley Festival of Ideas. The idea was to use the ideas that form Berkeley – notions of social justice, world-class science, food, etc, – as a basis to hold a gathering that would explore them in depth. The second Uncharted happened last weekend, Oct. 24-25, in downtown Berkeley.
I had the honor of conducting two interviews: one with Kriss Perry and Sandy Stier, the couple who challenged California’s Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage. They took the case all the way to the Supreme Court, which allowed to stand a lower court ruling that Prop 8 was unconstitutional. They were the first lesbian couple to be married after the ruling, an event that is beautifully chronicled on the documentary The Case Against 8.
I also got to interview Saru Jayaraman, who is leading the fight to get better wages for restaurant workers. It was an especially interesting discussion because the Bay Area is one of the nation’s food capitols, yet many food service workers are struggling to make ends meet.
Preparing to interview someone on stage takes a lot of preparation. I almost felt like I was stalking my interviewees I spent so much time Googling them and reading about their lives. But it is important to know as much as possible going into an interview so the conversation can flow. I often see an interview like a story: it has a natural narrative arc and it’s the interviewer’s job to help the speaker tell her story.
I have been making a Pinterest board of all the fun things I get to do as a writer. It mostly has photos of events I have participated in, including interviews with Michael Pollan and Khaled Hosseini.
For more photos of Uncharted, click here.