There is much excitement about the Fenn Book Signing Event at the Collected Works Bookstore and Coffeehouse in Santa Fe, New Mexico on the evening of November 2, 2017. Can’t be there? No worries. We’ll be live streaming it to our YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/c/agypsyskiss/live).
There is an expectation that Fenn will be answering some of the hundreds, if not thousands, of questions that searchers have been posing and posting on the various forums, like this one:
“How do you know that the poem can be correctly understood by someone other than yourself? Everyone who reads the poem has their own interpretation of what it means. So how do you know that someone will eventually interpret it in exactly the way that you intended? If you have never revealed the clues and their meaning to anyone else, no one has ever verified that they can be understood in the way you intended. And, it’s possible that no one will ever unlock the precise interpretation of the poem that you imagined. You say that the poem is ‘difficult but not impossible’ which means that you think it is solvable – but what makes you think that it is solvable? How do you know that the clues can be deciphered by other people in the precise way that you intended?”
I’m happy that I’ll be in the audience, with a camera pointed in Fenn’s direction, to capture the look on his face if or when he gets this one.
Which, by the way, will not elicit the answer (or four, as there are four different questions in the paragraph above) the searcher expects.
Fenn will likely respond with something like, “Everything you need to know to find the treasure is in the poem.” I categorize that one as one of his “pat answers.”
So, let’s talk about how Fenn answers questions. Because, he answers questions based on how they are asked. He does nearly the same thing for interviews with journalists or questions from searchers in an audience.
There are four basic types of Fenn responses:
- The “pat” answer. Fenn responds in this way when he perceives that the question has been asked and answered many times before, i.e., “How old were you when you buried the treasure?” Fenn has answered that question enough times to have developed a pat answer that includes “…I never said I buried it,” and “…don’t go where an 80 year old man couldn’t go.”
- The misdirection answer. Fenn responds in this way when he perceives that the answer to the question may provide the audience (of one or more) additional hints or clues to the location of the treasure. He may or may not precede the response with something like, “I don’t want to answer that question…” and then move on to what I call “misdirection territory.”
- The “Yes” or “No” answer. Fenn especially likes questions he can respond to with a simple yes, or no (exclusive of, again, giving out hints or clues). But, it is rare that he doesn’t expand on the yes or no to provide additional information. Unless he doesn’t particularly like you.
- The avoidance answer. You can tell when Fenn doesn’t like the question when he responds to the question with a question. Which, technically is a form of misdirection. His question is designed to do one of two things – shut you up, or move on.
As a former journalist and documentary maker, when editorializing, I always ask questions that begin with one or more of the words how, who, where, when, what. I avoid using why unless it’s a hostile interview. I also avoid compound questions, i.e., “What were the conditions on the ground, and when did you realize you were in trouble?”
Unfortunately, that approach doesn’t apply to a Fenn post-book-signing Q&A.
If I was at the event, and I was going to ask questions, they would be short, non-compound, and elicit a “yes” or “no” response, upon which Fenn will provide additional information – if he likes you. If he doesn’t like you – you’re screwed anyway. That is a tactic very different from the one I would use were I a journalist with the opportunity to interview Fenn.
You’re more likely to get a useful response to “Does the sun ever shine directly on the treasure chest you hid?”
You are less likely to get a useful response to the a question like the one I cited above.