When I was twenty years old, I interned for The Hollywood Reporter. It was my first serious job ever. I’d mostly gotten it by talking up my former post as Entertainment Head of the Bedford Square News, our student-run newspaper at NYU London. I hadn’t even worked for NYU’s actual newspaper. I had worked for the study-abroad paper.
So when reporters gave me transcription to type, I was lost. It took me hours to do the first few. Was I supposed to include every single time people said things like “like” or “uh?” Luckily I eventually got the hang of it.
But once I could do my job in satisfactory manner, it wasn’t long before I started to get a little annoyed with the interviewees on the tapes. They often responded to questions with dry, unadorned answers. I listened to talented journalists do all kinds of fancy wordsmithery, trying to get some elaboration out of their stubborn charges—but to no avail.
If you’ve ever done transcription, you’ll know it’s full of little annoyances. There are those prickly words you will never be able to decipher no matter how many times you replay them. There was a producer whose voice I had to slow to the lowest setting to be able to even slightly understand. So when the interviewee wasn’t interesting, it could be pretty grueling work.
One day I was assigned to transcribe an interview with Neil Gaiman. I didn’t know much about him, though I had seen Stardust (a film based on one of his novels) and enjoyed it. Even with no outside knowledge of the author, I was completely charmed. Not only did he wander well outside short-answer territory every time, but he always had some fascinating anecdote on hand. It was easily the fastest transcription I’d ever done, but I was sad when it was over. I would’ve happily transcribed for hours if all the interviews had been as intriguing as that.
I went on to read and love much of Mr. Gaiman’s work, from Neverwhere to Coraline to the Sandman comics. But I will always remember him as the funny, clever writer who made an intern’s little gray cubicle in New York a tad less so for a few hours.
So, listen up, writers. If you’re ever lucky enough to be interviewed by a magazine, don’t waste time getting nervous. You’ve got an edge over every other person getting interviewed in the world—the word thing is what you’re all about!
Each time you feel tempted to give a simple “yes” or “no,” remember that there will one day be an intern out there somewhere with a stress headache, trying to figure out if you in fact said yard because you mumble a lot.
Okay, I know that's super tiny and hard to read, but, see, a lot of you guys don't know me very well. Certainly not well enough to know if I wouldn't be above getting up to a little Photoshop wizardry to make it look like NEIL FUCKING GAIMAN retweeted my blog post.
I know I write for young adults. I know that. But I think that on today, of all days, a few jubilant curses are in fine order.
Really, the fact that you think I'm capable of Photoshop wizardry is laughable.
P.S. Neil Gaiman, you are a god among men. A king among peasants. A swan among geese. A Godzilla among tiny buildings in Tokyo.
Thank you, sir.