It’s a pretty big accomplishment for a first-time author to land on the New York Times bestsellers list, but Isabel Wilkerson definitely deserves it. The Pulitzer-prize winning journalist spent 15 years researching and conducted over 1,200 interviews for The Warmth of Other Suns, an account of the men and women who lived through the Great Migration, when 6 million African-Americans moved to the North.
In the latest Mediabistro feature, she talks about her writing process and gives tips to fellow journos who want to write a book. Below, an excerpt:
You interviewed more than 1,200 individuals. What skills do you possess that made people feel comfortable sharing their stories and information?
I always go into interviews with a great sense of gratitude for the courage it takes to share one’s story, particularly one so painful and heartbreaking, things that they had deep within themselves and had just gotten to the point of being able to share. So I think being an empathic listener, someone who was truly wanting to understand what they had endured — those are things I think they could pick up and sense in me. I also think they felt I had a sense of connection with them.
For more, read Hey, How’d You Write a New York Times Nonfiction Bestseller, Isabel Wilkerson? [Mediabistro AvantGuild subscription required]