This interview is with Rich Ehisen, a political journalist who is working on a new book called Gen Wars: Voices of America’s Generational Culture War.
LC: Politics, politics. You have built a career writing about national and California State politics. Dish, please. Best part of covering politicians and their ilk? Worst part? How’s the free food at PR events, really? But don’t share anything that will get the men in black after you.
RE: Funny, I used to cover sports, which I thought would be my dream job. Covering politics seemed like the opposite of that. But after actually covering sports and dealing with athletes and teams, I couldn’t wait to get away from it. Politics is actually far more interesting to cover professionally. I’d rather just be a passionate fan of sports and an impartial observer and reporter of all things political. The best part is that the stuff I’m covering is important – it matters to our society. And I get paid to ask powerful people hard (but fair) questions that often challenge their positions. They don’t always answer but I get to ask. The worst part is without a doubt dealing with their flacks who try more to shield their boss from us than to help work out us being able to talk to them. Thankfully, there are not that many who operate that way these days, at least at the state level. Congress, which I have covered a little, that is a different story. ;o) I generally avoid the food at press events, lest someone accuse me of being too cozy with the powers that be – as if I could be bought off with rubbery chicken dinner. That said, cops and reporters NEVER say no to coffee.
To read some of Rich’s work, click here.
LC: You’ve been jetting around the country working on a big new project…big in the sense of what it encompasses and big in terms of what it might do on the market. Tell me more about Gen Wars: Voices of America’s Generational Cultural Clash.
RE: It’s been slower going than I would have hoped, but I’ve adopted the mindset that it will be done when it is done right. I’m notoriously impatient but rushing through really complex stuff like this generation transition we’re going through from the Boomers to the Millennials via Gen X won’t serve my purposes at all. In the book, I really want to showcase some of the people across all of these generations that are doing good work in areas that matter, and where Boomers and the two younger generations are alike and where they differ in their approach to it all. For instance, I’m planning a section on activists that profiles how activists in the Boomer generation compare to those working today from younger generations. I was at a writers conference in San Diego in January and was able to have a trio of agents look over my proposal. Two of them were pretty interested with some caveats, which I am working to address right now. So fingers crossed.
For more about this project, click here.
LC: What’s the worst thing you’ve personally done as a boomer?
RE: Sex, drugs and rock & roll, baby! Definitely spent my youth wrapped up in all three as a lifestyle. I was probably pretty typical of my late Boomer group, though.
LC: Best thing?
RE: I will say I have worked a lot harder since my 20s at not being selfish and narcissistic, which I think has been the hallmark of the Boomers. I actually find it funny when I hear a Boomer bitching about Millenials being self-absorbed. Where do they think these kids learned that behavior? Who are their parents? I made it my mission in life to raise my Millennial daughter to not be that way, so when I see 20-somethings who are selfish idiots I usually presume the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. From a practical standpoint, I have also made it a priority to save money for my retirement, which I can tell you far too many people in my age group have not done. I’ve interviewed a lot of Boomers all over the country who have no idea how or if they will ever be able to stop working. That should scare all of us, especially the Millennials and Gen Xers who will likely have to pay the bill for taking care of them.
LC: What’s the most important way Millennials can change their lives or world view?
RE: Be flexible in everything they do, and to think entrepreneurially. Not necessarily as if they are all going to start their own business, but more like they are the captains of their own ships and take responsibility for their own happiness and success. I sound all new age with that, but I really do believe that with technology there are more opportunities now than ever, but also more challenges to maximizing those opportunities. And to keep giving back at every opportunity. Life really is a team sport.
LC: Any wisdom for Gen X?
RE: Same as above, with the addition of also being willing to let your guard down a bit more. Gen X really has got screwed a bit in all this. Boomers and the Silents did a lot of things right, but we also did a lot of things wrong that Xers bore the brunt of. Subsequently, they tend to be a lot more guarded and wary. Stats show they are the hardest to market too, the least susceptible to sales pitches, etc. That’s a good thing, but they also tend to be the most cynical of the generations, which is not a good thing.
LC: When we first met, it was through a writer’s group and almost 20 years ago. Since then, you’ve evolved quite a bit, and this project seems to be an important part of that. Tell me how you decided to work on this, and what impact you think it will have on your career.
RE: This project came out of a conversation I was having with my daughter, who was 25 at the time. We were talking about some of the struggles she was having with grad school living in the big city etc. All normal stuff I some ways, but it made me think a lot about what kind of world we are leaving them. We have some really significant problems to deal with – climate change, growing wealth disparity, the absurd cost of education, etc. – that I’m not sure my generation is doing much about. I’m not sure we even can now, given how polarized we are both politically, economically and socially. That leaves it to the young ‘uns, which is a hell of a burden if you ask me. I am hoping that I can do this topic justice and inform and entertain people in the process. From there, if it opens the doors for me to do more books or another film, then I’ll be very happy.
LC: Plans for post Gen Wars?
RE: I’m really energized right now. I’m working on some new fiction, though as of this moment I’m not sure what form it will take. I’m just letting the story form and move, almost on its own, every day. It has been great. I’m also for sure going to work on more screenplays and maybe even produce another short movie.
LC: Best tip for interviewing.
RE: Be prepared but don’t be so rigid to your questions that you miss the obvious follow ups to what people say. Make them feel comfortable, look them in the eye, show them respect. You don’t have to go to coffee with them later but try to connect in some way. People always will tell you more if they like you and trust you. And always show integrity in your own work. There are times where the situation is unavoidably confrontational or tense, but most subjects will stand behind their words if you report them accurately.
LC: What does your writing space look like? If you don’t have one, where do you go to create?
RE: I’m the luckiest person alive. I work from my home office. We’re quasi-rural, so the view out my office window is a hillside with a plethora of trees, birds and the occasional deer. My desk can be a challenge – two laptops, a large monitor, etc. I’m a neat freak so sometimes that makes me crazy.
LC: Wild card: Share a crazy dream, a wildly ambitious goal, a favorite quote. Or whatever.
RE: I would love to write a great screenplay based on the main character from the fiction I am working on now, and then have that screenplay win an Oscar! Woo hoo!