Interviewing Sources for Articles

interviewing sources for magazineBefore you contact any person for an interview, research that person. Get to know the facts on that person before you approach him, before you mention the magazine you’re writing for. Who are his equals and rivals? Does he like or hate the media? Research the topic as well so you don’t waste the source’s time with basic questions you could answer on your own. What do you have in common with your interview subject? Same college, similar hobbies? This connection can open a door.

Find Experts

One source for locating experts on a topic is ProfNet or Professors Network. This free service is used by journalists worldwide to locate public information officers in government, business and academia. ProfNet is a cooperative of public information officers. The service is free to writers and queries by email are preferred. Send in your request to

Be sure to include:

  • Name of publication you are working for
  • Synopsis of the project
  • Field of expertise desired
  • Time frame for publication
  • Preferred method of response (phone, email, snail mail…)
  • Ask how the expert source wants to be identified (John Smith, author of ABCs of Genius, and Harvard Professor of Psychology….)

Notice the advertisers. Is there any way to tie their products or business into the story? Quote one of their experts? Don’t use them just to drop their name, but why pass up a willing source, a source that already ties itself to your target publication?

Record Interviews

Buy a phone line splitter or other device to record phone interviews directly. Always, always ask permission to record the conversation for accuracy. Remember Monica Lewinski’s “friend” who ended up with felony charges for this? Ask for permission to share the interviewee’s phone number with the editor in case of last minute questions or verification. Many top-paying magazines require a transcript of an interview, especially if the subject is famous or speaking on a controversial issue.

Beware of recording an interview in a restaurant or other noisy setting because background noise can drown out your questions and the subject’s answers. If you must interview someone in a restaurant or cafe, choose a quiet time or seek an unused conference room.

Even if you take shorthand or have a perfect memory, record the interview. When transcribing it later, you are likely to encounter a terrific quote or turn of phrase that captures the person’s personality. Reveal the expert as a person, warm-blooded and human, rather than just the expert. Take notes on mannerisms, behavior, habits and other details to bring the reader into the setting of the interview. Capture the smells, sounds, sights, and other details, especially if you are in the interview subject’s home turf.

While it is best to use direct quotes from interview subjects, you can also paraphrase what is said. You will encounter an occasional source who is simply unquotable–run-on sentences, sentence fragments, English as a second language–so listen for meaning as well as for wording.

Ask open-ended, unbiased questions and shut up! The adage in sales is that after the pitch is made the next one to talk goes home with the product. Ease into the tough questions by starting with basics that show you’ve done your research—verify facts on the person—date of birth, place of birth, education, special interests, hobbies.

When interviewing a person always verify the spelling and title of the person’s name. John can be spelled Jon. Check. Verify.

Corroborate information gained from interviews. Do other sources repeat the same information and impressions? Do public records back up the facts?

In a story that stirs controversy; open your mind to see the issue from the side of the interview subject. Verify claims of sources, especially those sources with payback on their minds. Quote exactly and completely if the source’s view is part of the story.

Take Photos

Bring a camera to record images of the interview subject. This helps the writer keep track of who is who and often the magazine will buy the photo if they cannot send a photographer. An animated photo is always better than a static, posed portrait. If the subject has a professional portrait, ask for a copy. Give the publisher good options for images to go along with your article.

Interviewing Techniques

  1. Prepare factual questions, to get information, to open discussion. Example: Who, what, where, when, why and how.
  2. Prepare explanatory questions, to get reasons, to broaden discussion, to develop additional information. Examples: “In what way would this solve the problem?” “What other aspects of this should be considered?” “How would that be done?”
  3. Prepare justifying questions, to challenge old ideas, to explore reasoning. Examples: “Why do you think so?” “How do you know?” “What evidence do you have?”
  4. Prepare leading questions, to advance a suggestion to others, to introduce a new idea. Examples: “Would this alternative work?” “What other ideas have you considered?”
  5. Prepare hypothetical questions, to explore an unpopular opinion, to change the course of the discussion. Examples: “Suppose you did as your opponent suggested…What would happen?” “How do other cities handle this issue?” “Are alternative fuels usable in this vehicle?”
  6. Prepare decisive questions, to choose between alternatives, to develop consensus. Examples: “Which solution is better—A or B?” “What is the next step to implement the change?” “Do you believe the public will agree to the company’s plan?”
  7. Prepare personal questions, to elicit anecdotes, to reveal personality and character. Use this kind of question for a profile or feature on the person. Examples: “What’s the most unusual case you’ve ever had, Doctor?” “What are three things people don’t know about you?” “What other careers interest you?” “What would you like your friends and colleagues to say about you at your funeral?”
  8. Prepare superlative questions, to find the newsworthy hook. Ask for examples of the biggest, best, worst, most unusual experience the subject has encountered in his work. For example, an orthopedic doctor reveals that after a hurricane he treated 12 people for falls because they were cutting limbs or trees that their ladder was braced on. Every one of them admitted trying to save money by doing it themselves when a professional tree cutter was available.

Always ask your interview subject who else to talk to on this subject. Experts know one another and are more willing to talk if you mention that you have already interviewed one of their equals or rivals.

In writing about Emmy-winning director David Nutter, I sent the request for an interview to him through his agent. During the interview with Mr. Nutter, he mentioned an actor who had worked with him on a previous project. I asked if he would call the actor and let him know I would be calling to ask him a few questions. That call opened the door to the next contact without involving delays and agents.

Ask: “Is there anything I haven’t asked you about that you’d like to tell me?” Listen. You might get info on your next article, an anecdote or other valuable info.

After Publication

After publication, send a copy of the magazine to each person interviewed in the article with a short thank-you note and business card. When your source encounters another topic that seems newsworthy, who’s he gonna call?

After publication, send a thank you note to the editor with an offer to take an assignment and suggestions or a pitch for a related or follow-up article.

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What You Need to Know to Write for Publications

trackingsuccessWhether you are young or newly retired and seek to support yourself as a writer, you need to establish a plan based on understanding the marketplace for selling your work. Expect a slow start and slow returns. If you want to pursue a career in writing, consider keeping a day job with a regular paycheck while you build your credentials as a writer. It may seem noble to suffer as a starving artist, but living the cliché does not guarantee success any more than drinking in excess grants you the writing skills of Hemingway. Keep in mind that Tom Clancy worked in insurance until his earnings from his books exceeded his insurance salary. He did not quit his day job after publication of his first or second book.

One pathway to publication is writing articles on specific topics for magazines, newspapers, and online publications. As newspapers transfer from paper to online formats, keep in mind the vast range of online publishers–professional organizations, corporations, and other outlets–willing to buy your writing. While it would help to have a degree in journalism, you can manage well without it if you take your writing seriously enough to study the market. You produce a product with the written word. You can maximize your time and income by learning about the marketplace and the process.

For example: Let’s say you have a blog about your hobby–bicycling. As your readership or following grows, you become an expert or a source of valuable information. You interview bike racers, bike repair experts, and so on through your blog. Why not share your passion with other like-minded bicycling enthusiasts by offering your blog to the largest biking association or manufacturer? Don’t they need content for their magazine and website? Why not earn income from something you are already happy to do for free?

In this series I will present Things You Need to Know to Write for publications:

  • Types of Articles,
  • Finding Your Topics,
  • Generating Story Ideas,
  • Research,
  • Interviewing Sources,
  • Query Letters & Guidelines,
  • Writing the Article,
  • Fillers & Sidebars,
  • Contracts,
  • Reprints & Rewrites, and
  • Tracking your Work.

I will share my knowledge of three decades as a working journalist and other resources available to help you. I have taught writing to police officers, students who speak English as a second language, middle school students, and fiction writers. While building my career as a fiction writer, I worked as a technical writer and journalist by day and helped support my husband through medical school. For more information about me and for samples of my writing, see my website: Developing a writing career is not for sprinters. If you decide to take up the marathon of a long-distance career in writing, enter the race with knowledge.

Editors seek articles that entertain, enlighten and inform. No matter how brilliant your article may be, if it isn’t NEWSWORTHY (meaning valuable and interesting for their publication’s readership) then the editors will not buy it. Each publication has its own readership measured in numbers and demographics. Demographics show the readership by age range, race, gender, cultural background, politics, religion and other factors. For example: Working Mother readers are predominantly women, but probably not the same women who read Cosmopolitan.

I will show you how to analyze a publication to determine its demographics, style, and fit for your work. One popular source of listings for magazines is the Writer’s Market, which gives a paragraph description of a publication. Here is an example:

Christian Science Monitor This world-famous American newspaper seeks “upbeat, personal essays from 300 to 900 words.” Their current requirements include travel, parenting and seasonal essays. Read the guidelines for updated information. Payment: $75-$160 on publication. Guidelines: [It also lists contact information, such as the name, title, and mailing address of the person to query, their response time, whether they pay on publication or before, and how many readers subscribe to the publication.]

Let’s begin with an overview of the work strategy or process needed to get your article from concept to publication.


Every week bring 25 article ideas to the desk. An idea is a topic or subject combined with an approach or slant. To test an idea, ask it as a question and then answer the question. For example: What is the quality of local news broadcasts? They have become entertainment (or agenda?) focused instead of informative and objective.

  • Choose the idea to develop into a query or article by how exciting it sounds to you. If you don’t get revved up about research, interviews and so on, then your reader will sense the lack of enthusiasm. Find the idea that matters to you to pursue and develop.
  • Develop a statement that captures your story idea in 25 words. Post this where you can see it as you research and develop the story to keep your focus. Find the fresh perspective or slant or attitude toward this subject. Target your ideal readership by demographics (age, education, location, income, experiences). Why should this target reader want to read your article? Example: A couple raised in the sixties teaches their daughter the fine art of rebellion to empower her to live boldly as a Christian.
  • Develop a headline and subhead. Example: Teaching Your Child To Rebel; Raising Lions From Lambs. This idea developed from frustrated parents raised in the sixties who want their children to avoid following dangerous teen trends and peer pressure by asserting themselves as individuals and thinking independently.
  • Write your grabber lead sentence and keep it short, 8 to 15 words. Put the grabber fact or quote first. For example: A teenage Christian is more likely to be ashamed to admit being a virgin than to try marijuana.
  • Develop your main points and state them at the top of clean pages. Jot facts, ideas, and examples to support the statement and so on for each page’s main point. List experts to interview, sources for more research, myths and misconceptions about this issue, scripture or other references related to each main point.
  • Organize the structure or layout of the whole piece. What is the logical order of the main points? Which order will deliver the smoothest flow?
  • Conduct research and interview experts.
  • Write. Flesh out each main point. Keep sidebars in mind. What is the take-away value from each of these points? Think relevance and practicality.
  • Step away from the desk. Go work on a different project. Come back later and read the article like a reader, fresh and objective.
  • Edit, rearrange, delete, refine and hone everything to the focus of the piece. Read it aloud into a tape recorder. Listen to it. Polish it.
  • Send the query letter to the magazine, or online publishing organization this piece belongs in. Make a list of other candidate buyers and file the list with the piece.
  • If you get a ‘no thank you’ letter from one publication, immediately send out a query to the next one on the list.
  • Track your queries, acceptances, publication dates, payments and rights. An example tracking chart will be provided as a pdf in a later blog.
  • Two months before the rights revert back to you on a published piece, send out a query to another magazine for this article [to publish as a reprint or a new piece to suit the buyer’s readership].

Selling reprints or rewriting an article to sell to other publications will multiply your income. Your research, interview and writing time can pay off repeatedly when you refocus your article to suit different groups of readers.

Editors will notify you of their policy regarding reprints. Generally, the larger the buyer’s organization, the less likely they are to buy reprints. However, once you have done the research on an article and topic, you can rewrite the article with a new angle or slant or perspective to suit the next publication.

For example: I published an article in an aviation magazine about earning my pilot’s license. In that publication I freely used aviation vocabulary without having to explain it. When Christianity Today bought the article, I rewrote it to suit the focus the editor requested—how a hobby brought a married couple closer. Hubby and I both fly, so writing from the perspective of a married Christian was easy. I had to define the aviation terminology, but the focus of the article was on how aviation affected a marriage, so the substantial rewrite earned me a higher fee. They paid the fee for an original article, and they also gave attribution to the previous publication with an endnote. The fact that the article/topic appeared in an aviation magazine gave it more credibility.

The King and Queen of freelance writing are Robert Bly and Kelly James-Enger. Bly is the master of copywriting and he shares his expertise though his books, most notable of his collection is:

Secrets of a Freelance Writer, Third Edition: How to Make $100,000 a Year or More

Kelly James-Enger has made a very comfortable living as a freelance magazine writer on topics of health, fitness and nutrition. She shares her freelance experience and knowledge in these books:

Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success

Ready, Aim, Specialize!: Create Your Own Writing Specialty and Make More Money

Goodbye Byline: Hello Big Bucks

A few terms you need to know:

Front of Book—the part of the magazine before the feature articles appear.

Kill fee—a magazine buys your article for a percentage of the full payment to keep it off the market for a period of time.

Rights—First North American Serial rights (an original work), Second North American Serial Reprints (a reprinted work or a work with large sections reprinted from a previously published article)—see contract for “buys all rights” or the length of time the rights belong to the publication. Typically, rights last 30 to 90 days after the date of publication. Reprints are often half of the pay of the original or less than the second magazine pays for an original.

Writing on SPEC—this means that you are writing on speculation that the magazine will buy the finished article. The editor may ask a writer to submit on SPEC if this is the first work submitted to this magazine. This gives the editor the right to refuse to buy it if it is not up to the magazine’s standards or style or may cause controversy. If the editor sends a contract, then the work is considered writing “on assignment” and the editor will demand changes if the work does not meet his standard.

I will define publishing terms throughout the series. I welcome comments, questions and sharing of this series.

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Generating Article Ideas

Do you carry a small notebook to jot down ideas? If not, start. Great ideas can get lost in our multi-tasking, fast-paced lives. Once you have identified your topics of expertise and interest, keep that list in your notebook. Add the following to your notebook as well.

The top 10 most profitable topics to write about are:

  • Business and finance
  • Diet & nutrition
  • Essays
  • Fitness and sports
  • Health
  • Home and garden
  • Parenting
  • Profiles & true-life features
  • Technology & science
  • Travel

Pair up your expertise to the profitable topics. Brainstorm. Everything is connected. Find the connections. Explore them.

What captures your imagination and attention is likely to interest other people too. What are people in your industry talking about, afraid of, planning for?

Let’s say your topic of expertise is farming. How does farming connect to the world around you? Are you concerned about the safety of eating genetically altered vegetables? How are people of different ages/cultures/regions affected by farming changes, trends, costs? What are farmers talking about? Are small farms being lost to co-ops and giant conglomerates? Are people growing their own herbs and veggies at home in suburbia?

Once you’ve gathered your research on a topic, try developing your article in different formats for different publications. Can you write on the same topic in a personal essay and a How-To? Look for sales opportunities. Consider breaking up an article into bite-size bits to sell as fillers.

How about writing an article for a magazine you regularly read or for your local newspaper? You are already familiar with the content, style and topics and you represent the magazine’s demographic (readership). Can you take a national news item and give it a local focus?

What combinations of popular topics can be done? What is the popular trend or belief and can you argue the opposite in an interesting thought-provoking way? Is the majority belief based on erroneous information or misinterpretation of facts? Is there a low-tech approach to a problem that high-tech society is overlooking? NASA spent serious coin on developing a writing instrument to use in weightlessness, testing and creating a special pen. The Russians used pencils.

What hot topics are in the news? How can I relate these hot topics to the specific readership of this publication?

Generate ideas from sources like:

  • Snapshots, fillers, sidebars and tiny front-of-book items in magazines. These (500-word or less) fillers can state a fact, a survey result, a bit of trivia that could be developed into a story. For example: Children under age 10 spend an average of 3 hours a day watching television. What could you do to develop that into an article?
  • Personal experience. Mine your life for stories. How does your family handle reunions? What special traditions have you developed in your life? What events in your life have changed you?
  • Old magazines and newspapers. What was news ten years ago? Still a problem? Problem solved? How? Compare then and now. Diet, fashion, health, medicine, telephones, computers, look around at what has changed in your life and what those changes mean.
  • College web sites. Research findings, projects. Wild class titles. What issues are on the minds of this generation? Why does it take more than four years to get a college degree these days?
  • Eavesdropping. What are people talking about? What bothers or excites them? Social Media?
  • Calendar. Magazines buy stories months in advance, so think Christmas in August. What holidays are big in your town? What happens in different seasons where you live?
  • Trend reports. Business magazines, civic groups, industries all track changes. What’s coming up next that consumers would like to know? Identity theft was a critical issue at banking conferences five years ago. It hits the news now as more consumers become victims. What trends do you see?
  • Word play with potential titles. Keep a rhyming dictionary on hand or go to the website and find all the words that rhyme with your word and then look at famous quotes using the word.
  • Clip and save weird news articles that capture your attention. The Tabloid headline kind.
  • Pay attention. Listen. Ideas will come to you with practice. One idea will grab you and demand to be written.

Keep a notebook handy for capturing those ideas to develop into articles.

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Finding Your Writing Topics

Jot down a list of every category of topics in which you speak the language, are an expert, know an expert, have an insatiable desire to learn more about, or enjoy as a hobby. The list below comes from the The Writer’s Market. Under each category of topics, The Writer’s Market lists the publications that buy articles on these topics. Use the following list to jog your memory.

  • Advertising, marketing and PR
  • Animals
  • Architecture
  • Art, design and collectibleswriting
  • Astrology, Metaphysics, New Age
  • Automotive and motorcycle
  • Aviation and space
  • Beauty and salon
  • Business and finance
  • Business and management
  • Career, College and Alumni
  • Child care & Parenting
  • Church administration and ministry
  • Clothing
  • Confectionery & snack foods
  • Construction and contracting
  • Consumer Service
  • Contemporary culture
  • Detective and crime
  • Disabilities
  • Drugs, healthcare & medical products
  • Education and counseling
  • Electronics and communication
  • Energy and utilities
  • Engineering and technology
  • Entertainment
  • Ethnic and minority
  • Farming
  • Finance
  • Fishing
  • Florists, nurseries and landscapers
  • Food and drink
  • Games and puzzles
  • Government & public service
  • Health and fitness
  • History
  • Hobby & craft
  • Home and garden
  • Home furnishings and household goods
  • Hospitals, nursing homes and nursing
  • Hotels, motels, clubs, resorts
  • Humor
  • Inflight (magazines for frequent flyers)
  • Information systems
  • Insurance
  • Jewelry
  • Journalism & writing
  • Juvenile
  • Law
  • Literary & Little
  • Machinery and metal
  • Maintenance and safety
  • Management and supervision
  • Marine and maritime industries
  • Medical
  • Men’s
  • Military
  • Music
  • Mystery
  • Nature, Conservation and ecology
  • Office equipment
  • Personal computers
  • Pets
  • Photography
  • Plumbing, heating and Air conditioning
  • Printing
  • Politics and world affairs
  • Psychology & self-improvement
  • Real estate
  • Regional
  • Relationships
  • Religious
  • Resources & water reduction
  • Retirement
  • Romance & confession
  • Rural
  • Science
  • Science fiction, fantasy and horror
  • Selling and merchandising
  • Sex
  • Sports
  • Sport trade
  • Stone, quarry & mining
  • Teen & young adult
  • Toy, novelty and hobby
  • Transportation
  • Travel, camping and trailer
  • Women’s

Have your list in hand? Okay. Here you go. The top 10 most profitable topics to write about are:

  • Business and finance
  • Diet & nutrition
  • Essays
  • Fitness and sports
  • Health
  • Home and garden
  • Parenting
  • Profiles & true-life features
  • Technology & science
  • Travel

Do not despair if your list doesn’t match the top ten! See how you can relate your list of topics to the top ten. Tie in your knowledge base with the big selling topics.

Let’s say you checked off MUSIC as a topic. What do you know about music and fitness? Or music and technology? The business of music? Profiles of musicians? Music as therapy? The best music for working out? Because MUSIC is not one of the most profitable topics—you can be the go-to expert more quickly. Tie music to one of the most profitable topics and you are most likely to catch the editor’s interest and present material from a fresh perspective.

When I took up flying, I started subscribing to aviation magazines. The more I read, the more I realized there were few articles written by women or written from a woman’s perspective. After publishing my first article in an aviation magazine, editors started calling me. Only six percent of pilots are women. As a woman in a male-dominated field, I became something of a novelty. I have since come to know the few other women writers in aviation and we each have our distinctive style. Mine is humor, but I have been called upon for straight reporting work as well. A few examples of my aviation writing are found on the General Aviation News website. Other examples are also on this website.

Writing about a hobby and making money doing it is unfettered joy! I even published an essay about the fun of writing about what you love in an essay titled “Call Me Shameless.”

So what would you LOVE to write about? Brainstorm your topics with tie-ins to the most popular topics editors buy. Work can be fun. Make it so.

Next week:

Generating Story Ideas.

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Missing June

To support my husband during graduate school, I put my novel-writing dreams on hold and worked as a staff writer for a Fortune 500 bank in New Orleans. Technical writing is as far from fiction writing as driving a school bus is from race car driving, but the friends I made at the company kept me sane. As one of two staff writers, I became very close to the other writer, an Australian journalist named June.

When our company asked for volunteers for first aid and CPR training, I volunteered. Three months later, I got a call from the division head of personnel. He was in a full panic and shouted in the phone that I had to run over to his office. June, he said, had fainted. I ran. June was slumped over her desk, breathing in ragged labored breaths. I told the director to call an ambulance. He said a ride was on the way.

June’s pulse was weak and irregular. She was having a heart attack. I kept her awake and checked her eyes. Both pupils responded to light as usual, so maybe it wasn’t a stroke. Unless she stopped breathing, all I could do was watch her and wait for the ambulance. The division head announced that the ride was downstairs and he and I wheeled June in her chair to the elevator. The security guards and card-entry system downstairs would cause a delay we could not afford. We rolled the chair into the elevator.

“We’re going to Charity, right?” I asked. Charity Hospital had four large specialized emergency rooms and the facility stood three blocks from our office.

June rallied and shouted, “Baptist, I have to go to Baptist because my doctor is there.”

“You are having a heart attack. They can save you at Charity and move you to Baptist.”

“Take me to Baptist or leave me in this chair to die.”

I wanted to swear. June might die of stubbornness. “Minutes can mean life or death, June.”


“Okay, okay, June. We’ll get you to Baptist. Just stay calm.” The director tried to reassure her that her wishes would be followed even if it killed her.

Someone handed me June’s purse. June would need her identification and health care insurance card at the hospital. We rolled June from the security guard station to the large double doors that led to the street. The director opened the door to a yellow cab.

june“She needs an ambulance!” I roared at my boss’s boss.

“This is just as quick and it will save her money.”

I grabbed his tie. “If she dies in this cab,” I hissed in his face, “then I will tell the world about it, so start praying.”

We hefted June into the cab and I climbed in beside her with her purse.

I shouted at the cab driver. “This is an emergency, get us to Baptist Hospital. I’ll pay any speeding tickets.”

The driver gave June a frightened look and launched from the curb like a man on a mission. He did not want anyone to die in his cab. We stopped at a light and June pointed to her purse.

“What do you need?” I opened up the purse toward her.


I dug into her purse and pulled out a pack of Malboro unfiltered cigarettes. I held them up for her. “You can hold them, but I refuse to light one.”

She laughed and rolled down the window beside her. She flung the pack out the window at the same time the cab started moving again. The pack hit a man standing in the median. He looked up at us and waved. He was one of the regular panhandlers who gathered at the library between my office and my parking lot.

Ambulance at Emergency EntranceWe reached the emergency room entrance to Baptist Hospital in about eight minutes, possibly a new land-speed record for a cab. Two orderlies met us at the cab and moved June into a wheelchair. I turned around and grabbed June’s purse.

The cabbie came around to the passenger side. He was sweating. “She going to make it?”

“I sure hope so. Thank you.”

He handed me a clipboard with one of the company account vouchers on it. He had written the cab fare on the voucher. I added a fifty dollar tip to it and signed my name. Let the division head complain. I dare him.

The cabbie read the amount and glanced at the emergency room doors.

“That’s the rate the ambulance charges,” I explained.

The cabbie nodded.

I dashed into the emergency room and a nurse pointed to the doorway on her left. June was on an examination bed with two white coated men standing by her. They looked up at me and started talking.

“We need to admit her. She had a heart attack. Are you family?”

“No, but I can call her husband.”

Minutes later Clive, June’s husband of forty years, blasted through the swinging doors.

“Clive! Over here.” I stepped aside.

His face lit up when he saw June alive.

The doctors started talking to him. I walked back to the nurses’ station and picked up a clipboard. I completed the forms and fell into one of the ugly cushioned chairs in the waiting room. I had June’s purse in my lap and realized that I had no wallet or cash. I remembered that I could use the company’s cab account to get back to the office. All was well in the world. June survived the ride and she was in the hands of doctors.

Clive came out and sat beside me.

I handed him the clipboard and forms. “Sign here.”

He did. “I understand the son of a bitch cheapskate called a cab.”

“I tipped the cabbie fifty bucks.”

Clive grinned and hugged me. “She’s going to make it.”

“Too tough to kill.”

“Too stubborn to die.”

June recovered after a two-week rest. The director never mentioned the cab ride or the cab fee to me and I never brought it up with him. The legal department explained the concept of liability to him in terms and instructions he would remember and obey.

In the years I worked with June she was the keeper of birthdays. She published the birthdays of employees, not the year, but the day of the month, in the company paper. She remembered to send birthday cards to her chosen friends after she retired. I wrote to her about twice a year on her birthday and on Christmas to tell her the news of the company and the people she loved there. I retired from the company a few years later because I gave birth to my one and only child.

In the hectic life of being a new parent, I was late in sending June her birthday card. It arrived a day late. The day after she died. June died on her birthday and the fact that she missed my card broke my heart. I pray she did not feel forgotten because of my lateness.

Three years later when my husband and I moved into Winter Haven, Florida where he joined a medical practice, I received mail from my old company notifying me that the retirement plan held up in litigation was ready for dispersal to participants. All I had to do was get the enclosed form signed and witnessed by a notary and I would get my retirement balance issued by check. The original balance when I retired was five thousand dollars. I got a check for eight hundred because the company stock that backed the plan, had plummeted in the wake of a scandal at the upper level of the company. Those scoundrels escaped with bonuses and golden parachute clauses while the average worker, like me, got screwed.

I called the personnel department and talked with a woman who had worked there when I did. She had been the division head’s secretary and she had moved up to be the benefits administrator. We chatted for a while and I asked if she had heard from Clive. I explained that June had died and Clive had moved to New Jersey to live with their daughter.

She checked her records and quoted the bank’s policy about not giving personal information out. I reminded her that I was giving her personal information, information that she might need to disperse whatever June was entitled to receive. She told me that notices sent to June had been returned undeliverable. I told her that I would call Clive and tell him to call and to ask for this woman by name. She agreed to the plan.

It took two months for Clive to bother with the forms that bore June’s name. I received a card from Clive that read, “Three thousand four hundred and twelve kisses, love, Clive.”

Clive, his daughter told me in a call, was thrilled to have money of his own to spend. He died a year later and his ashes were flown back to Australia. The urn was lost on the plane, possibly behind a panel, the airlines apologized. In death, Clive was traveling the world.