Category Archives: Q&A

Q&A: Sirena Dufault Nears End of 817-Mile Arizona Trail Hike

Sirena Dufault at the Mazatzal Wilderness | Courtesy of Sirena Dufault

Sirena Dufault at the Mazatzal Wilderness | Courtesy of Sirena Dufault

Back in March, we told you about Sirena Dufault, who’s hiking the entire 817-mile Arizona Trail to raise awareness and funding for the Arizona Trail Association, where she is a volunteer. Dufault is nearing the end of her hike now, and we recently caught up with her via email to see how the trek was going. To see Dufault’s updates on her progress, check out her blog, and to contribute to the ATA, visit this link.


What have been the highlights of your trek so far?
That’s a tough question, because there have been so many breathtaking moments! But I’ll give it a go:
  • Hiking through the “sky island” ranges in Southern Arizona, where you go from prickly pear to ponderosa pines and back down again, often through wonderful rock formations. Tough because of the elevation gain, but worth every step.
  • The solitude of hiking for days without seeing another person.
  • Finding perfect camping spots with a view of the spectacular Arizona sunset and sunrise.
  • Seeing people’s eyes light up when sharing my favorite places on the public hikes and backpacking trips.
  • Backpacking through the rugged and remote Mazatzal Wilderness: over 60 miles of trail between vehicle access points, with some of the most wonderful geology, camps and views on the whole trail.
  • The women’s backpacking trip was such a wonderful experience: I had nine women and a mini-donkey along for three days from Mormon Lake to just south of Flagstaff. It was a fantastic group, and there were a lot of laughs.
  • When I hiked the Arizona Trail in sections in 2008-09, there were quite a few pieces that had not yet been built and others that have been rerouted. It’s been fun to see the new trail! Also, there has been a tremendous amount of work to rehab parts of the trail that have been damaged by fires. All of the improvements I’ve seen cost money, which is why it’s so important to me to raise the $20,000 for the trail.


What challenges have you faced that you might not have expected before you started?
The main challenge of this trek is the continued intensity without a real break. In two months, I have had only one or two real days off where I didn’t have an event, interviews, promotion, planning or writing to catch up on.


Overall, has the journey been easier or harder than you anticipated?
The journey has been about as tough as I’d expected. I knew I was committing to a lot by not only hiking the trail, but having events and public hikes and backpacking trips along the way. It’s been exhausting at times, but worth every bit of effort.


How has the turnout and reception been at the stops along the trail?
It’s been wonderful! All of the gateway community events have been well-attended, enjoyable evenings with great music, food and Arizona Trail Ale. It’s been great to have hikers, bikers and equestrians at the events sharing their love for the trail.


What parts of the trek are still to come? Are there particular parts that you’re looking forward to?
I have two weeks left to hike from Flagstaff to the Utah border, about 200 miles. The Grand Canyon is the crown jewel of the Arizona Trail and my favorite place in the world. I’ve hiked rim to rim many times, but it will be such an accomplishment to arrive having walked from Mexico! I can hardly wait to hike down to the Colorado River and relax at the boat beach. I work on the river as a guide in the summertime for Arizona River Runners and will be starting my river season shortly after my trek.

Also, the last passage into the Utah border is one of my favorites; it’s a striking transition from the forested Kaibab Plateau to the colorful sandstone formations of Utah. Then it’s over to the town of Page for my big finale celebration!

It has been a dream of mine to thru-hike the Arizona Trail since 2007 and I am so grateful to have not only this experience, but to also be able to share it with so many other people. It’s been wonderful to educate folks about this amazing resource that links deserts, mountains, canyons, communities and people across the state. Hope to see you on the Arizona Trail!


Filed under Et Cetera, Hiking, Make a Difference, Q&A

Q&A: How the Town of Duncan Saved the Greenlee Mural

Courtesy of TK

Courtesy of Ginger Pattison

“Every child that ever went to that school saw it every day. We had to do something to save it.” —Doug Barlow

Duncan, Arizona, in Greenlee County, is about as close-knit as a small community can get. It has a population of maybe 800 people, mostly from large, extended families who originally migrated there in the late 1800s and early 1900s. What makes Duncan especially unique is that its history is captured in a mural that hangs in the cafeteria of the town’s tiny high school. Greenlee, by Hal Empie, is the largest mural in the Southwest. It was painted in 1953, and it recounts the history of the Greenlee County, from the Coronado conquistadors to the 1950s and everything in between.

Time took its toll on the mural. Doug Barlow and Ann Empie, the artist’s daughter, decided to do something about it, so they embarked on a fundraising campaign along with the Duncan Pride Society. To date, they have raised more than $26,000.

Below, Barlow talks to us about the artist, the mural and why the community decided to save this piece of Duncan history:

How did the school acquire the painting?
Hal Empie came here as a young man; he was the local druggist. He was born and raised in the Safford area, which is about 40 miles away. He became an artist. He had fiddled with it all his life, and he got serious about it and wanted to do a mural. The high school had just built a new gymnasium in the late 1940s, and he wanted to do it on the wall of the gym, and they were kind of hesitant. He said, “I promise you I won’t ruin the wall; I will do it on a canvas and I’ll hang it.” The school finally commissioned him to paint the mural, and he was paid $600. The mural measure 5 feet by 27 feet. It was hung when I was in kindergarten. The cafeteria is probably the worst place in the world to have this hung, but there was nowhere else in town with a wall big enough to put it on. And the school would never give it up. Every child that ever went to school there saw it every day. We had to do something to save it.

What inspired you to be a part of this project?
The Empie Gallery is run by his daughter, Ann Empie, in Tubac. She’s a good friend of mine, and I went down to visit her one day. We were talking about Duncan and something came up about the mural, and I mentioned, “Shouldn’t we do something about that mural?” and she said, “I’m glad you brought that up.” So we sat there that day and planned what we needed to do. I was born and raised here. I’m not an art critic or an art expert. I always loved that painting, and every time I look at it, I see something different that I’ve never seen before. It’s amazing. It’s a piece of Duncan history. I would hate to see it get so far lost that we couldn’t restore it.

You had a fundraising goal of $20,000, and you reached $26,000. How did you manage that?
The Empie Gallery donated a beautiful print of one of his paintings, and we raffled it off. For every $25 you gave, you received a ticket for the raffle. And if you donated $250 or more, then you would have your name put on a plaque that would be hung next to the restored painting. We raised $10,000 on that. This was a community project. We got a huge amount from the alumni and a lot of donations. We got a grant from the Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold Foundation for $14,000. It all added up.

When is the restoration expected to begin?
We’re going to start taking the painting down on May 27. Charlie Burton is the one who will restore it. She said the restoration would probably take about five weeks. And there will be drying time after that. Then we will re-hang it. During the process, we will have a scheduled time for people to call ahead a make a reservation to see the painting during its restoration. And we have a fantastic bed and breakfast called the Simpson Hotel for people to come stay the night.

What do you think is the importance in saving this work of art and works of art in general?
Art is just something that stays with you, especially if you knew the person and what it took for him to finish the piece. It took a year for him to finish the painting. I think Hal Empie is one of the greatest artists I ever saw, partly because I grew up around him and knew him personally.

What was Hal Empie like?
When we were little kids, we lived on a little farm across the river about a mile from town. When my brother and I were young, if we got the farm work done, then we might be able to go catch the matinee in the theater. But it cost a dime to get in, and we weren’t given any money. We would walk below the bridge and pick up soda-pop bottles, and hopefully we could get seven of them. We could get 3 cents apiece for the bottles, and with 20 cents we could both get in the theater. We always got there early, so we would go to Hal Empie’s drugstore, which was right next to theater, to look at the magazine rack, and there was always 10 or 15 little kids sitting there reading the comic books. Of course, none of us could afford to buy one. As I got older, it dawned on me how Empie never once came to us and told us we couldn’t read those books. Even though he couldn’t sell them — they weren’t new, ya know, with 50 little kids going through them. But he never said a word. That was Hal Empie in a nutshell. We all grew up loving Hal Empie. At that time we didn’t know he was an artist. We just knew he drew pictures. In the second grade, we went on a field trip to Hal Empie’s drugstore. There was 45 of us, and he drew a caricature of each one of us that we could keep. Do you think any of us got home with our picture? Imagine what they would be worth today.

For more information on Hal Empie, visit the Hal Empie Studio and Gallery’s website.

—Alexandra Winter


Filed under News, Q&A

Help Save Kolb Studio

5172_Kolb_Posters-RIVER-12x18-HIGH RESKolb Studio needs your help. Perched on the edge of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, the 109-year-old building is in need of some serious repair. Earlier this year, the Grand Canyon Association launched a fundraising campaign to save this historic site. Over the years, countless visitors and extreme weather have taken a toll on the structure. The association hopes to raise $400,000 by the end of the year (they’ve raised $273,752 to date) to replace the entryway; repair and replace structural beams, wooden porches, and log and shingle siding; and remedy other issues. The goal is to restore the structural integrity so visitors can continue to learn about the Kolb brothers and the Grand Canyon.

Below, director of communications and publishing Miriam Robbins talks about the Save Kolb Studio campaign and why your help is desperately needed.

Talk to us about the Save Kolb Studio campaign. How did it come to be?
The Grand Canyon Association is Grand Canyon National Park’s official nonprofit partner. In additional to running seven bookstores at the park and several programs for the public like the Grand Canyon Field Institute, we raise funds to help with specific park projects every year. Kolb Studio is more than 100 years old and was built literally on the edge of the rim of Grand Canyon. Grand Canyon Association are stewards to this building, and we run one of our stores out the building and ensure that the historic integrity of the building is intact. While Kolb has undergone some restoration over time, the hard weather conditions at Grand Canyon and the age of this historic building require that we provide some maintenance to the building so that it’s structurally sound and maintained for future visitor use.

Why is this campaign so important? What’s going on?
Right now, Kolb Studio is open to the public as a retail store for Grand Canyon Association; we also run an exhibit hall there (currently showing The Amazing Kolb Brothers). There is also a large area of the building that is only open for special tours. This area was the main residence of the Kolb family for decades. If the building is not restored at this time, we may not be able to allow public visitation to this building.  It is a valuable historic site, and its preservation ensures people can learn about the early pioneers, the Kolb brothers, for many generations to come.

5172_Kolb_Posters-STUDIO-12x18-LOW RES
Who were the Kolb brothers and what did they do?
Ellsworth and Emery Kolb ventured to Grand Canyon National Park in the early 19-teens of last century. They were entrepreneurial and started a photography business to capture tourist photos at Grand Canyon. They originally got a small piece of land on the rim from early pioneer John Cameron before Grand Canyon was a national park. In fact, at that time, the popular Bright Angel Trail was a toll road, charging a fee of $1 to enter. Kolb Studio started out in a tent, then a small, one-room house that they built up over time.  The brother’s photography business flourished, and they took many photos of people coming down Bright Angel Trail — especially on mules. In the early years, they did not have water at the rim, so one brother would hike 4 miles down to Indian Garden, where there were springs, to develop the photos and then hike back up to deliver the prints to the tourists. The Kolbs were also known as daredevils and would hike into the Canyon to capture images that no one else could reach by hanging off cliffs and rocks. They also made a movie of their harrowing trip down the Colorado River, which was shown all over the country and at Kolb Studio until the 1970s. This video encouraged people from all over the world to visit the Grand Canyon. Over time, Ellsworth and Emery parted ways, but Emery stayed and continued showing the movie while raising a family at Kolb Studio. After Emery’s death, the Park Service took ownership of the building, and it was refurbished and turned into a store and interpretive facility in the 1990s by the Grand Canyon Association.

What role does Kolb Studio play at the Grand Canyon today?
Grand Canyon Association park stores sell products relating to Grand Canyon. In addition to the 44 books published by the Grand Canyon Association, we also sell other gift and educational items, including junior-ranger materials, jewelry, T-shirts and water bottles. Our mission is to educate the public about Grand Canyon National Park, so all our products help people understand the Grand Canyon. Purchases are tax free, and all proceeds help support Grand Canyon National Park. Kolb Studio also has long-term exhibits that rotate out every few years — The Amazing Kolb Brothers is currently showing, and it talks about the history and lives of the Kolb brothers and the building; and every September through January, there is an exhibit and sale of the Plein Air paintings for the Grand Canyon Celebration of Art event. During the winter months, Grand Canyon rangers hold daily tours of the Kolb Studio residence, which is normally closed to the public.

How can our readers help Save Kolb?
Share the website and learn more about the Kolb brothers, their history and the importance of this historic building. You can also make a donation. If you make a donation of $75 or more, you’ll receive a Kolb poster. There are four posters to choose from, each showing a depiction of one of the Kolbs’ photos.  They are custom designed 12×18 posters (not framed).  You can also share your photos and stories on the Grand Canyon Association Facebook page.

—Kathy Ritchie

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Filed under Eco Issues, History, Make a Difference, Q&A, Things to Do

Q&A With Brooke Bessesen, Author of Zachary Z. Packrat Backpacks the Grand Canyon

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 1.05.05 PMWriting and working with animals are two of Brooke Bessesen’s passions, and she’s found a way to combine them: Using knowledge from her work at the Phoenix Zoo and with conservation research, Bessesen has authored several children’s books. Bessesen spoke with us about her new book, Zachary Z. Packrat Backpacks the Grand Canyon, and how she combines fun with education.

In the book, Zachary learns he can’t take items from the Grand Canyon — an illustration of the Leave No Trace philosophy. Why was it important to make that concept the focus of the book?

I’m a conservationist at heart, and I work in a lot of areas of conservation for wildlife and environment. Anytime somebody goes into nature, I would encourage a “tread lightly” attitude. With Zachary, it was particularly important because he went in with the mission of collecting things. Being the packrat that he was, he was looking to get something from the Canyon as he entered it. I think for a lot of people who are going on vacation, they’re thinking a lot about what they are going to get from their experience. Sometimes we can all become a little self-focused in our own experience as we go out and see the world. I thought it was a very important and valuable element to include in the story that as he goes, he begins to see the beauty of the Grand Canyon, and without really realizing it until the end, he’s collecting things that are really more valuable than the stuff he set out to collect.

Why did you structure the book the way you did?

I wanted to build something as interactive as a picture book could be. One page gives descriptions of 16 animals found at the Canyon. All of them are found within the story, and none of them is identified, other than the mule. I just gave descriptions of the animals so that the kids would have to go look them up. It requires the readers, as they see an animal, to ask the same question they would ask if they were in the wild, which is “What is that?” And then they can go to their guidebook, which is also Zachary’s guidebook, and look that animal up and learn about it. That’s what makes going out in nature so much fun. I thought it was really exciting to find a way to do that for kids in a picture book.

Is it hard to come up with rhymes and still be informative and educational?

My grandfather was a poet, and I spent my summers with him in Minnesota when I was a little girl. He and I did a lot of rhyming games and a lot of wordplay, which is what I call this. So, as you can imagine, the crafting of a book like this is really a puzzle. Each word goes in, it comes out, and it goes back in and gets shuffled around and changed and decided upon again. It’s kind of a long, puzzle-like process to complete the text.

What is your intended audience?

I think all of my books have a thread though them, which is that they are made for multiple reasons and audiences. The book was crafted for somebody who is going to the Canyon — a child, perhaps, who gets to look through the book before they get there or see what they might see if they could hike down. But in addition, I really wanted it to be for kids who never get to the Grand Canyon — for children in classrooms all around the country, and for kids whose parents or grandparents went to the Grand Canyon and can bring them back a sliver of their trip so the child can feel like they got a little bit of the journey. It’s such a joyful thing for me to be able to work with animals, to work with wildlife and then be able to share that through my books, for kids who can relate and have been there and for kids who don’t get that opportunity. This is a window for them.

— Kirsten Kraklio

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Filed under Books, Mother Nature, Q&A

Q&A: Historian Documents Prehistoric Copper Trade Network

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument | Courtesy of National Park Service

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument | Courtesy of National Park Service

Author and historian Monette Bebow-Reinhard has been working with copper artifacts since 2000, when she began her work with the Oconto County (Wisconsin) Historical Society, home of the oldest copper burial site in the nation. Now, her research has spread to include all of North America, as well as South America. In 2004, Bebow-Reinhard received her master’s degree in history, with a focus on “Aztec origins.” Her degree has led her to begin compiling a database of copper artifacts throughout the nation in an effort to track a trade network. Because she is neither a private collector nor an archaeologist, her focus is on being a mediator between the two groups and offering her findings to the public. Bebow-Reinhard answered a few of our questions about her work in copper research.

Q: What exactly do you do, and how did you get started?
A: I contact museums and private collectors, and I stop at every antiques store, in an effort to compile a master database of all Pre-Columbian copper artifacts found in the Americas. I felt that the first metal industry in this country was not receiving the attention it deserved, and this database would be of great value to researchers — and a source of enlightenment and further understanding of prehistory to the general public.

Q: Why is this kind of work significant to you personally?
I got interested in the Anasazi, Hohokam and Mogollon, as well as in Mesoamerica, back in 1996, when I was doing my undergraduate work in history. I took an art-history class and became so enamored that I also student-taught the class two more times, until that professor retired. Until this class, I had little knowledge of anything in prehistoric times, and I felt like I had been denied. Their wonderful pre-contact societies, all they were able to create and do, needs to be understood, and I believe this copper contribution will help.

Q: Why is this kind of work significant to society?
A: What I feel most important about this research is the ability to track trade networks, to demonstrate that there were so many people on these continents at one time that they could share easily — from Peru all the way up into Canada.  This kind of trade can be tracked through a compilation of copper artifacts that are currently “hidden” away in museum archives or private collectors’ back rooms; this database stores that information in one easy-access location. Then it can be sorted by state or country and we can easily see, regardless of where the artifacts are stored, where they were found, created and used by people, and what those finds indicate about their social connections in their time.

Without this, we’ll never fully understand how well populated and civilized this country was before the Europeans arrived. Without this, the true history of the native experience in this country might never get written.

Q: What is your goal in tracking artifacts in North America and South America?
I want to see researchers and historians and others able to access this data to answer all kinds of lingering questions. I want to see people who think that the native American Indians who lived here were savages come to understand how smart and civilized they really were. I want people to stop saying that Europeans must have come over and created the copper industry long before Columbus, because “those people weren’t capable.”  And I want people who travel to understand the landscape just a little better.

Q: Where were these artifacts found?
To date, my database includes Arizona artifacts from Harvard’s Peabody Museum, Denver’s Museum of Natural Science, the Santa Fe History Museum, the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., and the museum in Beloit, Wisconsin. I have also just obtained the database from Flagstaff that includes Wupatki ruins artifacts, indicating this as a perfect stop on a curious traveler’s route. Other locations in Arizona found in the database include Gila Pueblo, Casa Grande and Antelope Mesa. I’ll be looking at these sites more in depth, but carefully, so that I don’t give any locations away. I always want to get more in depth on the bells that have been discovered, as there’s a potential they were being smelted by the Hohokam in Southern Arizona.

Q: What does this indicate in the bigger picture?
This will show how Arizona’s peoples connected to those farther away, in Mexico and elsewhere, and this will also show what the people were like who created this pieces. I also am in search of a mystery: Did the Hohokam start to smelt copper? Did they begin to create their own bells? I have some interesting geological material that I’m going to get analyzed by one of my colleagues. If they were being smelted there, it indicates the first area in the U.S. where people were starting to get into the Bronze Age, which had begun in South America and Mexico before the Conquest. Eventually, I hope to do presentations on the topic in Arizona.

Q: What are some of the historical sites we can visit?
This research will include some of the places I’ve contacted, and will also encourage people to share anything they might know about copper artifacts, too.

  • Museum of Northern Arizona, Flagstaff: a great anthropology/archaeology repository of more than 600,000 pieces. They also offer festivals that feature a balance of ancient and modern cultural presentations, performances and activities.
  • Arizona Museum of Natural History, Phoenix: includes a re-creation of a Hohokam village, updated in 2000 to show it in two parts, Pre-Classic and later Classic period structures.
  • Wupatki National Monument, near Flagstaff: My database indicates they have a copper bell on display. I have personal photos from my 1998 visit to this site.
  • Tohono O’odham Cultural Center and Museum, Topawa: They promote understanding and respect through educational programs and public outreach.
  • Cocopah Museum, Somerton: In the Yuma area.
  • Case Grande Ruins National Monument: Another place I’ve visited, this has preserved Hohokam structures and is a definite location of copper artifacts found in this database.
  • Casa Malpais, near Springerville: Another site I’ve visited in the past, it is a look at the Mogollon culture within Arizona. Most of their cultural sites are in New Mexico. Their museum features artifacts found there, and I’m in the process of learning if any were copper.

I’ve contacted other sites, too, and hope I get more responses.

— Alexandra Winter


Filed under Et Cetera, History, Q&A

Q&A: Scratchboard Artist Brings 1890s Prescott to Life on Our May Cover

This image shows our May cover as a work in progress. Douglas Smith estimates that he was about 50 percent done at this stage. | Courtesy of Douglas Smith

This image shows our May cover illustration as a work in progress. Douglas Smith estimates that he was about 50 percent done at this stage. | Courtesy of Douglas Smith

Our May issue celebrates the sesquicentennial of Prescott, a town with a history as unique as any in Arizona. For the cover of that issue (which you saw in Monday’s sneak preview), we turned to an equally unique illustrator, Douglas Smith.

Smith’s medium is scratchboard, a painstaking and labor-intensive art form that involves scratching away darkness to reveal light beneath. We thought Smith’s style would be perfect for the May cover, which depicts Prescott’s Gurley Street as it might have appeared in the late 1800s.

Smith spoke with us from his home on Maine’s Peaks Island about the process of bringing this vision to life.

Q: Take us through how this project came together. What kind of guidance did you get from us before you started?
A: Robert [Stieve, editor] provided a historical photograph, which is the same scene as in the illustration, but with some notable differences. It’s not very clear and doesn’t exactly look appealing; it looks kind of dark and dingy, and there’s not one wagon or human being or horse to be seen. The other difference is that there’s no sky — it’s just a flat gray.

The only direction from Barbara [Glynn Denney, creative director] was for me to add “life” to the scene.

Q: Besides the historical photo, did you use anything else for reference?
A: I used a previous magazine cover, as well as a previous illustration of Prescott, but not of that street. I also did research on what sorts of vehicles would be appropriate for that time period.

Q: You mentioned previously that the scratchboard process is somewhat labor-intensive. Other than that, did you run into any challenges?
I had a lot of trouble deciphering the deep shadows that were totally cloaking a lot of the buildings. Finally, I said, “I just have to make some of it up,” which Barbara said was fine, as long as the general scene was captured.

Also, the photograph showed a somewhat unpleasant-looking area on the left, near the white fence. It looked like there was some construction going on there, and everything in front of the courthouse area was kind of a mess — it looked like a drainage ditch or something. So I made that into a path and put a couple of wagons near there.

There was a very humorous element that Barbara had noticed, too: a set of stairs, which looked like a wedge of cheese, put up against the white fence, but not quite as high as the fence. I said, “Barbara, should I draw that?” It looked like they had forgotten to build a place to get through, so they put those stairs there so people could climb up and jump over. Who knows what they were supposed to do from the other side of the fence. (Editor’s note: If you’ve got any idea what’s going on with those stairs, let us know in the comments.)

Q: In the May issue, we include an excerpt from a story that ran in a 1938 issue of the magazine — a fanciful imagining of what life was like in Wild West-era Prescott around the time this illustration depicts. Did you think about including any gunfights or passed-out drunks in the illustration?
A: I didn’t get any direction to do that, so I assumed that wasn’t desired. Being a lifelong Easterner, I would have just been showing my ignorance. I didn’t want to Hollywood-ize the illustration. Barbara said to add some “life,” not some “life or death.” (Laughs.)

Q: We love the illustration. Were you satisfied with the final product?
A: Pretty much so. There are certainly things, and this is not unusual for me — you have to be a little obsessive-compulsive to do what I do. There are endless little things where I could say, “Let me just go and refine that and touch it up.” That could apply to any line in the piece. and then I might decide later that I should leave it as is.

I wonder whether I should have put more light and fewer ruts in the road, but I think the ruts add a lot of character — like there’s a lot of activity going on. I’m always fooling around with the clouds — should they be lighter, more dramatic underneath?

It’s never-ending with me. It’s a weird life that I live because of this technique. There are scratchboard artists who don’t take as long as I do, but I think I tend to pack my things with more detail than other artists do. I make trouble for myself that way.

For more information about Douglas Smith, visit his portfolio page or pick up a copy of our May issue, which exclusively features Smith on the Contributors page.


Filed under Covers, History, Q&A