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MANILA, Philippines – What business do fashion personalities like Sarah Meier-Albano and Vicky Herrera have entering the serious world of publishing?
As it turns out, they have every right do so.
“To be completely honest with you,” Sarah confides, “fashion has always been more than an effort than conversation.”
“Growing up, Sarah and I have always been very curious,” Vicky reveals. “We like to ask people questions.”
This is perhaps why modeling is only one part of their of career cocktail. Off the runway, the two have worked as writers (from scriptwriting, magazine writing and authoring newspaper columns), television hosts, and radio talk show hosts.
Last December, they launched “Unscripted: Conversations in the Dollhouse,” a book based on the interviews that transpired during a short-lived radio show, The Dollhouse, which they had hosted together.
The book features a curated set of conversations with a diverse group of people – musicians, educators, politicians, athletes and entertainers – who’ve made a mark in their own industries. It highlights their tales and struggles toward success.
Before it easily turns into the classic case of judging a book by its cover, so to speak, we asked Sarah and Vicky to share their thoughts about what makes a good book. And, more importantly, why they decided to publish one.
To share a good story, or two, or many.
To get to the fine parts of anyone’s story, Vicky reveals that it takes more than crossing questions off an interview list.
“A whole part of the interviews is listening to what they have to say,” she asserts. “Sometimes, for certain guests, you know who they are before they walk in. The challenge, then, is how you pull out something new from them, how you pull out new answers and new memories. Sometimes, it’s not what they say; you look at their reactions. When they react to a certain word or to a certain question, or their eye would twitch or gaze out the window – if anything sparks our curiosity, we dive further.”
“It’s instinct,” says Sarah. “I usually would start off along the lines of: ‘Let’s go back to the beginning. How did it all begin.’ Or, ‘If you had a business card and you had to put a title on there, how would you describe yourself?’ But we never had a set of questions.”
And thus, unscripted.
Whether it involved a controversial former first lady, an icon in the rock and roll universe, or a veteran in the world of show business, the first rule here is to let the conversation simply flow.
To pass on one generation’s life lessons to another.
On their radio show, Sarah and Vicky had the chance to interview a slew of characters, and they were very specific about the kind of people whose stories they wanted to explore.
“We had a segment on the radio show called The Real OG,” Sarah relates. “The initial sort of scope of the interviewees was that they had to have something done something influential and innovative in the generation prior to us, generally speaking. The whole purpose was to be able to link and to communicate what they had done in a sort of demeanor and language that Generation X would be able to understand. So we incorporated a lot of slang. We never really conformed to who was sitting in the booth. We kept it consistent with how we usually spoke.”
OG, in fact, stands for ‘original gangsta,’ a slang reference to someone who has stood as a pioneer, a thought mover or a change maker.
“We brought them to our booth to ask them questions,” Vicky starts, “They’ve lived a very rich life full of ups and downs. They have the lessons and the backgrounds and the scars. The focus is learning from these people who’ve gone before us.”
To slow down and relearn patience.
A book, Sarah reflects, allows you (and will insist that you) take the time to go through what is being said.
She muses, “This ADD generation, where something written has to be amended to a blog reader’s attention span, this clickable shortcut, shortening URL, 140 character business… it made it more relevant and important to have something you couldn’t hit the refresh button on in an instant, something that wouldn’t have somebody’s attention because it went through another timeline.”
Producing a book also asks that its creators become painfully persistent with the project’s development itself.
Vicky adds, “Everything is very instant, right? From a blog post to a tweet. Coming up with a book took us a year! We were working knowing that our results would come out months later. I think the beautiful thing about working on something that doesn’t give you instant gratification is the discipline you develop during the process. The person that you become after you do a big project – it’s amazing.”
To encapsulate an era, or an aspect of it.
“This is something that will stick around,” says Sarah, referring to a book’s nature as a solid, tangible, physical item. “Should you choose to read it over and over again, the lessons sort of reveal themselves to you, depending on where you are in your life. Or what questions you want answered. Any other medium, I think, wouldn’t have achieved the same resonance.”
Unscripted draws from the radio show’s year on the air, specifically 2009 to 2010. While the names featured may span decades of influence, the pages can’t help but reflect the era when the conversations took place.
Vicky explains, “This is really the actual transcription. We didn’t really paraphrase anything. It’s, I would say, 99% true. The other one percent means we had to edit down to 8 pages per person.”
It was an era on the precipice of change, it would seem.
“Things like Twitter changed both the student and the teacher,” Sarah reasons. “The OGs (as teachers) became more diligent about conveying what matters the most to them in a language and sort of way that would be most understood and not be misinterpreted. It’s very unique for them to be able to express themselves in a demeanor that is very personal. And then for the listeners, they were having an education outside of the classroom, knowing that the world in essence was at their fingertips or on the dial of a radio. And that they’re allowed to ask questions – and to have an opinion.”
To put ideas into motion.
There’s nothing quite like creating a piece of work that takes a life of its own. Unscripted was released just last month, and only time will tell how far its reach in readership will grow to be. Meanwhile, its influence has gone full circle – the very people who put it out there are the first to admit of the book’s potential effects.
Vicky, for one, is learning to adjust to life’s curve balls.
“I look at the book and try to live a little bit more like that, a little more loose. I have my plans and my dreams but I also know that, for a certain part, you also have to go with things. That’s the beauty of it, to be in the moment. I would have to say, in hindsight, that life is unscripted.”
Sarah looks at it another way.
“I’d been really impulsive and free-wheeling my entire life, and now I’m sort of coming to the part where I’ve to be scripted, like there needs to be some kind of form and order. I think that comes with being responsible for another person’s life; the second that you become a mother, life doesn’t revolve around you anymore. It’s not so much of a pseudo-hedonistic life anymore. I think everything is both scripted and unscripted. To a certain extent, you plan, but sometimes you just say, ‘Let’s go!’” – Rappler.com
(All images courtesy of Sarah Meier-Albano and Vicky Herrera. Unscripted is available at Fully Booked http://unscriptedconversations.com/)
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