<sigh> As I continue working on my first formal assignment in my MFA program at Goucher I am having all kinds of revelations about story, which is great but also creating challenges I never expected. I have been writing like a journalist long enough that I can’t break the habit: Intro, quote, paragraph, quote, paragraph, paragraph, quote, paragraph, ending. Like that. I take the reporting that I have right now and as I try to write it as narrative I realize how many holes there are. I guess that’s good because it’s a lesson in how to get detailed interviews. When I become aware of the images and details I didn’t ask about in an interview I can make a mental note to make sure I go there next time I interview.
At this point I’m not sure I have time to fill in the holes with the subjects I’ve already interviewed for the “Mormon section” of my manuscript (i.e., the portion that covers Mormons). I think I’m going to have to write up what I have and move on to the next portion (Pentecostals) incorporating the lessons I’ve learned so far.
So there’s that. Then I’ve been having thoughts about immersion and wondering where and at what point I’m going to move beyond individual interviews. When I did my journalism thesis I was at drug court every Wednesday. Everybody knew who I was and what I was doing, and I had easy access to drug offenders and drug court staff. With the coverage I’ve done to date on Mormons I was kind of thinking I’d do the same thing with them but the last time I was at the local Mormon church, to witness a confirmation, I ran out as soon as the confirmation was done and didn’t stay for the whole service. I just felt weird, partly because I felt like I stood out being in hijab – another challenge I will always face – and because I just felt generally uneasy. Maybe it was also because I got connected with subjects through a public affairs rep, which didn’t necessarily limit me but it made everything feel more formal – emphasis on feel. (Me to Mormons: It’s not you, it’s me.) My reporting was also impacted by the fact that I was writing an article for the Chronicle.
I am going to go into reporting on Pentecostals with a different viewpoint. I do want to sit in the back row and observe – although obviously I am going to introduce myself. I am definitely, definitely not going to hide what I’m doing like this reporter did.
Bottom line is that this first section of what is intended to probably perhaps I think be my final manuscript taught me some lessons that I will carry forward. It’s time to wrap it up and move forward.