Sunday, April 12, 2009

My CNN interview on staycations

It started with an e-mail that had “CNN Interview Request” in the subject field. Sent to me by an associate producer for CNN, the e-mail started like this:
“Hey Matt,

I’m writing to find out if you can join Fredricka Whitfield during CNN Newsroom Saturday at 3PM CT/4PM ET, to discuss your book The Great American Staycation.”
I received this e-mail on April 1, so I was suspicious. But no fooling … none of my old college buddies were involved and it was not a prank. It was truly a golden opportunity to get some national publicity for my book -- or perhaps pass out or throw up on live television and became a YouTube legend.

Thinking about it now, maybe I should have done something outrageous during my interview. A million hits on YouTube would undoubtedly translate into some book sales, if only from people who felt sorry for someone who was humiliated in front of a national audience.

But the interview went pretty well, or so I’m told. I’m too embarrassed to watch myself on television so I still haven’t seen the whole thing. But I do remember, and I will always remember, the way I felt as a CNN producer told me, “After this segment, we’re coming to you.”

I was sitting in a chair in a Dallas studio, with a microphone clipped to my jacket and a backdrop of the Dallas skyline behind me. I was staring into a camera, listening to the show through an earpiece, wondering what question Whitfield would start with and how shiny my head looked under lights nearly as bright as the sun.

(Column continues below video)

Some makeup would’ve mellowed that shine. And 30 minutes earlier, when I had arrived at the studio, the makeup room was pointed out to me. But yeah, like I’m going to put on makeup. It’s not that I’m too manly to allow some makeup touch-ups, it’s that I have no idea how to use makeup. So what if my head would be shiny and my skin a little blotchy? Better that than my amateur makeup application turning CNN Newsroom Saturday into a freak show.

Anyway, back to the interview. I was sitting in my chair, listening to the earpiece, and I heard the intro. “So Matt Wixon wrote a book on staycations …”

Oh man, they really are coming to me.

I hadn’t felt incredibly nervous until that moment, when I realized my national television debut was just seconds away. My heart began pounding so hard that I wondered if it could be seen under my jacket. Any kind of television interview can cause anxiety, including the one I did last week on Good Morning Texas. But the CNN one was more stressful because I had never met the person I was about to talk to, I had no idea what question she would ask, and I was looking into the lens of a camera instead of the eyes of another person.

Finally, Whitfield asked her first question. And …

Seriously, I don’t remember much of the interview. But you can see the video above. What I do remember is that the interview was much faster-paced than I expected, and I didn’t feel I had enough time to answer a question fully.

When I was done with my interview at the start of the show, I was asked to stick around so they could talk to me some more. So for the next 30 minutes, I sat in the chair, waiting for the producer to again say, “we’re coming to you.”

In the meantime, I tried to follow the show in my earpiece, but it was sometimes difficult. I couldn’t see a monitor and the audio sounded like muffled AM radio. I stayed alert, however, to the possibility that I could be back on at any moment. My nose itched at one point, but I didn’t want to scratch it because I thought that would be the moment when CNN would put me back on the screen and the scratch could be mistaken as a pick, like in a memorable episode of Seinfeld. (Hmm … a nose-picking author on YouTube … another way to get a million hits!)

Finally, Whitfield came back to me. A few more questions, a little more discussion, and then the show was over. I was relieved as I walked out of the studio, but also a little disappointed that I didn’t get to mention some of my best staycation ideas and strategies. (Start subliminal message … For lots of great ideas, buy The Great American Staycation … end subliminal message).

So the CNN interview wasn’t perfect. But I can’t complain. I got the chance to go on a national show, and I didn’t throw up, pass out, fall off the chair or get frozen in fear and stare blankly into the camera.

Well, I don’t think I did any of those things. Like I said, I haven’t watched the interview that closely.

And if any of those things did happen, it’s probably better that I don’t know.

*** "The Great American Staycation: How to Make a Vacation at Home Fun for the Whole Family (and Your Wallet!)" is now available. You can find it in stores or online.