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EDGE: What is the purpose of asking people to make that jump, instead of directly addressing the more general questions.

BATESON: People learn from stories in a different way from the way they learn from generalities. When I'm writing I often start out with abstractions and academic jargon, and purge it. The red pencil goes through page after page, while I try to make sure that the stories and examples remain to carry the kernel of the ideas, and in the process the ideas become more nuanced, less cut and dried. Sometimes reviewers seem to want the abstractions back, but I figure that if they were able to recognize what's being said, it didn't have to be spelled out or dressed up in pretentious technical language.

EDGE: Your approach is somewhat the opposite of that which a journalist might take, namely going out and finding famous subjects to write about — in your last two books the women you've chosen to write about are not known to the public.

BATESON: Famous people are interesting, but there's a kind of a distancing phenomenon there. I'm interested in the creativity that we all put into our lives. Picasso's life story is not empowering to the creativity of ordinary people. What is empowering is looking at someone that they can identify with. And becoming aware of what they're already doing.

EDGE: Would you care to mention two or three of the women you write about in the book? Why you chose them?

BATESON: I didn't choose them. The younger women were traditional undergraduates who signed up for a course at Spelman College, and the older women in the group were part of a larger group that Johnnetta Cole had told about the opportunity of joining this course. So the women came from two different generational groups, which is what I had asked for, but they were basically self-selected; they thought this would be interesting.

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