Sunday, February 10, 2013

February Theme: Do-overs vs. The Best Advice Ever
By Marcia Thornton Jones
Do-overs. This notion of ‘if-only’ ranks right up there with daydreams attached to every lottery ticket I buy. If only I could jump in the way-back machine, visit the past, and do things differently…

This should be an easy post since I’ve made my share of mistakes and found myself in the midst of plenty of uncomfortable situations. Surely I’d want to do them over, right? One experience pops immediately to mind; an experience that happened a long time ago when I was on tour for the first series I co-authored with Debbie Dadey: “The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids”.

Scholastic had us hopping across the country visiting bookstores, schools, radio, and TV stations. Every day we flew into a new city, were met by a ‘handler’, and then whisked off for an appearance. One such event was a live television talk show.

Sitting there, facing the interviewer with cameras rolling, I was ready to answer all the standard questions: how I got started in writing, where I got ideas, how I developed plot, the importance of children’s literature, how I juggled writing with a teaching career. What I wasn’t prepared for was when the interviewer turned from the camera, faced me, and asked, “So, are you rich now?”

My response was to stammer and stutter as I tried to compose an appropriate answer. I think I said something about being able to pay my bills and having plenty to eat. After that the interviewer never got around to talking about the books or writing, and I struggled to keep up with his line of questioning. After we left the television station the handler didn’t throw any punches. She was professional but blunt. I had blown the interview.

It seems like that would be the perfect do-over moment, right? Except for one thing. If I could really go back in time and erase that moment I would miss out on the next thing she said.

"Be prepared with three key points you want to make before going into any situation. Then, no matter what the interviewer asks, make your points. You can start with the phrase, ‘That’s a great question, but what’s really important to me is…'”
I was embarrassed that day, but my red cheeks and the sick feeling in my stomach eventually faded. What is ever-lasting is her one tidbit of advice that I’ve used over and over and over again. Try it. It works. And not just for interviews. No matter what the situation or setting you can redirect a conversation with a variation of that one little phrase. “That’s an interesting point, but what’s really important to me is…”

Sure, sometimes I'm tempted to jump down that would-a, could-a, should-a rabbit hole, but that sort of wishing game tends to land me in the world of remorse, regret, humiliation, anger, and depression. The reality is I can’t change what was. So while the notion of do-overs is an interesting one, what’s really important to me is that I focus on lessons learned and apply them to today, tomorrow, and the day after that.

(Although, honestly, I do wish I hadn’t eaten that huge piece of cheesecake the other night…but that’s another story…)


  1. Great advice, Marcia--I'm going to memorize that line!

  2. A lesson learned by all politicians at an early age. :)

  3. Great line! Important to develop those talking points.. but also good to veer from them occasionally so you don't sound like a robot. Also: use humor to get through those icky questions. Unfortunately I only think of the perfect response AFTER... sigh. Thanks for your post!

  4. I'm thankful I haven't needed that line yet, but it's great to have it tucked away for future reference. Thanks for sharing it!

  5. Humor and spontaneity are two components of a successful interview, Irene. And you're exactly right about the hindsight ah-ha's that follow interviews that veered off track. This one little tidbit of advice helps minimize those awkward situations!

  6. Wow, that's incredible advice! And you're so right about humor and spontaneity.