Monday, February 6, 2012

Being On TV

Recently I had the thrill of being on the local morning show, AM Buffalo. I had sent a review copy of For the Birds to the host Linda Pellegrino hoping the selling point that Roger Tory Peterson was local (from Jamestown, NY) would spark and interest. It did.

So, Friday I woke up to a torrent of rainwater and thaw flowing down my street. I hadn’t planned on wearing rain boots at the end of January, but I pulled them on and sloshed out to the car.

I picked up my sister-in-law Terry, I figured it would be more fun with two, and it was a good thing I did, because we got lost. Well, not lost lost, we could see the building with its giant red 7 teasing us, but couldn’t find the way into the parking lot. Twice we made the same mistake almost ending up either on the Skyway or going over the Peace Bridge to Canada. With Terry’s help I kept calm and she read the map and although we did not get into the parking lot we did find a parking lot and walked over.

I always imagined a TV studio busy and full of people, but it was quite quiet and stark. We sat around with another guest, a chiropractor, waiting for the hosts to show up.

A large warehouse type room with small sets – a mock kitchen, part of a living room, a stairway that led nowhere, and a new’s anchor desk. Most of the equipment seemed to hang from the ceiling, lights, monitors, TVs and whatnot,except for two cameras and two teleprompters.

The few people we met were pleasant, but not too concerned that we were there -- no pre-interview or a heads up about what they might ask me -- but that was okay because Terry and I just had fun taking it all in.

A few minutes before the show was to go on, the hosts arrived, Linda Pellegrino and John Summers. They sat on their loveseat spoke to the invisible people only they could hear in their ear pieces and chatted about the day’s events. Then they were on. Bubbly, engaging, clear and crisp, they rarely faltered as they zipped through weather, banter and promos of what was coming next. Me!

Thankfully, I could not see myself live on TV. And without cameramen there to distract me (it’s done remotely), I easily focused in on Linda and John and their genuine interest in my book. They didn’t ask me anything too difficult and I found myself at ease and able to have a normal conversation with them. They showed off Laura Jacques’ amazing artwork, and helped me relate interesting bits of Roger Tory Peterson’s story. All too soon it was over, and I hoped I had not embarrassed myself.

The experience was a lot of fun and I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again, although I still haven’t seen the clip yet, and if I did I might change my mind. But the experience was a lot like writing nonfiction and here’s why --

Sometimes doing research is like slogging through ankle-deep water. You have to go slowly or it will swamp you, and you have to be prepared – Not with golashes, but with extra pens, paper, change for the copier, etc.

Unlike fiction authors, nonfiction writers need a solid plan or map to help them navigate all the information that is out there. If you don’t have a clear idea of what you want to write, you may end up lost. If you lose your way, enlist the help of experts, archivists, librarians who know where to look. They can get you to your final destination.

You have to enjoy what you are doing and understand that others won’t necessarily care about it as much as you do. Your enthusiasm needs to carry the project through.

When you begin to write, keep your message clear and casual – just a normal conversation. Make it interesting, show off your best research, share your best stories. And enjoy the experience. If you do, people might say what Linda Pellegrino said when it was all over, “Let us know when your next book comes out. We’ll have you back on.”

I certainly will, especially now that I know how to get there.

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