>Sound like a pro wherever you are

>Everybody’s on a cell phone at the airport. Grandmas, teens, businessmen and businesswomen, everyone. If you’re a freelance writer, you may need to keep your phone handy, too.

I traveled to Sacramento last weekend to give a talk to the local branch of California Writers Club. I had planned to do a phone interview Friday morning before I left, but the gentleman was not in, even though he had said he’d be there all day. I left a message and kept waiting for a call back. I had to be ready to jump into interview mode at any time. Obviously some times are better than others. Please don’t call while I’m in the bathroom, I thought. Don’t call when I’m checking into airport security. Don’t call during my speech or while I’m driving on the freeway.

He didn’t call until Monday when I was at the Sacramento airport waiting for my flight home to Oregon. The timing was good. I had over an hour to kill before our flight boarded, but that terminal in Sacramento had no quiet place to conduct an interview. I had chosen a seat as far from people as I could get, but as more passengers arrived, I was soon surrounded by three men working on their computers, a family with two little boys, and an endless stream of Starbucks customers doctoring their lattes at the counter nearby. The overhead speakers chattered with flight announcements.

I had listened to a man reschedule his doctor’s appointment and watched a woman pace as she demanded to know who was responsible for some screwup at the office. The Southern-accented man across from me had made one call after another. I heard him asking his boss to please clarify his status.

Then my phone rang. I saw the number and grabbed my pen and notebook. “Hello, this is Sue.” And the interview was on. I turned the phone volume all the way up, struggling to hear as I went down my list of questions and scribbled his answers. I had no access to a tape or digital recorder or to my folder full of information on the subject. The man was probably four miles from where I live, but I wasn’t there. I was sitting on a plastic seat in Sacramento, bent over my notebook, writing as quickly as I could while the world went on around me.

At one point, my phone went silent. We got disconnected somehow. I don’t know what happened, but I dialed the number and continued the interview. I needed to sound professional and unrattled, and I think I pulled it off. It only worked because I was prepared. I had done lots of research before I left, and I had a full page of intelligent questions to ask him. I got my answers, I got my quotes, and now I’m ready to write my story.

The moral: a freelancer has to be ready to work at any time, anywhere.

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