True North: A Love Story In 5 Maps

True North: A Love Story In Five Maps recounts a couple’s courtship through their travels and adventures.

The Heart of interviewing

The journalist Isabel Wilkerson once said the trick of getting ordinary people to open up about their lives is to create what she calls “accelerated intimacy” between her and her sources. Don’t ever lead the interview, she cautions, instead let it develop like a guided conversation.

I thought of that the other day when I sat down to interview a young couple for a Short Take they’d commissioned for their first wedding anniversary. They were easy-going and eager to talk, but describing the ups and downs of a love affair can quiet the most effusive among us. In their case, we were lucky, they’d come equipped with props: five maps.

As they told the story of the maps, connecting each to a moment in their courtship, they visibly relaxed into the conversation. What started as a formal interview quietly shifted gears into something less guarded. Of course letting a couple steer the narrative can feel a bit like watching a game of street basketball — he starts to dribble, she steals the ball, he recovers it, pauses, and passes back to her — but the process brings out the best of both partners’ tale-telling abilities as they pick up the thread of each other’s storylines and expand on the other’s thoughts and memories. It’s a delight to record.

In the best of personal interviews, what begins as a dry series of introductory questions quickly morphs into a fun and often even funny narration. It can be irreverent, intense, emotional and curious, but most often provides the makings of an openhearted narrative — a love story to cherish. — Caitlin Randall

The Soul of Design

The basketball analogy is apt. The subjects of our book — Jesse and Betsy — are athletes, and when they are in motion, they are at their least self-conscious. And so I embraced their suggestion that they be photographed while going for a run. Not only did that free them from worrying about how they looked on camera, but it created an air of spontaneity that resulted in images that pleased us all. Certainly their dog, Banjo, helped lighten the mood.

It was only after the portrait session that I read Caitlin’s text for the Short Take and began designing Jesse and Betsy’s book. Its subtitle, A Love Story In Five Maps, was a given, but the concept didn’t come together until I actually saw the maps that Jesse had drawn. His very literal interpretation of a compass rose — complete with thorns — was as romantic as it was clever. I thought, What does the rose point to? What is the heart’s desire? The answer was our title: True North. — Peter Crabtree

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