Writing up interviews is not easy!
From an anthropological perspective, there’s always the worry that I’m committing the ethical crime of appropriating someone else’s subaltern culture. Racially I’m white, and I don’t want to even accidentally appear to act like I’m either stealing the words of, or attempting to speak for, any of the minority participants. Also, as I feel is only correct, CIIS strongly suggests all participants be allowed to review what you’ve written about them, so they know for sure that you’ve not either misquoted or misrepresented them.
All these concerns make me a little twitchy while writing! So initially I tried to craft each of the five families’ segments almost entirely of participant quotes. Unsurprisingly, this made for a Very Long Chapter! Fortunately my dissertation committee chair explained that statements of fact do not need to be quoted, e.g.: I can type ‘she has two sisters and seven brothers,’ rather than quoting the participant’s statement: “There were ten of us… I was the second of the three girls, and… our births were interspersed between those of our seven brothers.” Whew!
The next thing I had to cope with was what I’ve heard writers refer to as “murdering your darlings.” In a nutshell, no matter how amazing or wonderful the quote, if it didn’t relate to the subject at hand then it needed to be cut! That’s a painful process, since I really wanted each family’s fascinating and cool information to remain. Oh the angst! J
Then there are the mechanical issues — as in, the entire chapter for the participant families should ideally only be about 60 pages long. That averages out to about 12 pages per family. So I went back and checked how many pages each family had devoted to them… and had to shudder! The shortest was 18 — and the longest was 29! OK, back to work…
So this is my attempt at public self-accountability! I started with the largest family segment, at 29 pages, and got it down to 14 pages — I figured since I was interviewing three people all at once, the two extra pages weren’t too slipshod of me. The committee chair thinks I did great, and on to the next one! That family’s segment is 28 pages. While I’m still working on it, it’s down to 18 now — yay, me!
More — or rather, less pages, I hope — to come!