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Crafting a Personal Myth
By Bonnie Swift

The Personal Myth

(Part 1 of 3)

I love telling stories about other people’s lives, but when it comes to telling stories about my own, I usually get embarrassed and flustered. Part of my dilemma is that I have had a disparate mix of life experiences, and sometimes it’s difficult for me to string them together into a single, coherent narrative. Depending on who I’m speaking with, I tend to narrate different versions of my past. And, usually, the story I tell becomes a dramatized version of events, replete with heightened ups and deepened downs, lessons learned, and projections about how my past will continue to shape my future. And slowly, as I creep into adulthood, these narrativized versions of my past are becoming smoother, more consistent with one another, and easier to tell.

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Fresh Air Extraordinaire
By Bonnie Swift

A while back, I wrote a post about the expert kindness of Ira Glass, where I said that Glass’ gentle touch was the secret to his success in a risky interview situation. But I’d like to revise my argument here, to take into account the tactics of another interviewer par excellence, NPR’s celebrated Terry Gross.

Terry Gross is kind, don’t get me wrong, but she’s not gentle in the same way as Ira Glass. She has a way of probing her interviewee about their apparent contradictions, or their less than noble deeds, and once identifying a difficult point, she does not stop after a single question, but tends to push the point, and then push it again. Somehow, her persistent jabs do not come across as attacks.

How is this possible? Is it the neutral tone of her voice? Is it her genuine curiosity? Is it that her critical questions are preceded by and interspersed with praiseful ones?

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