Click here to read the entire article on Medium:
Jennifer Karchmer was a student in a ten-day silent meditation retreat in March 2011 through the Northwest Vipassana Center, known as Dhamma Kuñja, located in Onalaska, WA. What follows is Jennifer’s personal experience, as told in interview form while she was living in Reykjavik, Iceland in 2012.
Click here to read the entire article on Medium:
New Job? Here are five tips to help you thrive — and survive
Landing a new job can be exciting and scary at the same time. You’re pumped for the challenges (and to receive your fat paycheck!) but maybe a little nervous too about how you’ll fare fitting into already-established workgroups.
If you’ve been wanting to start a new daily routine to stay centered and calm especially in your high-powered career, now is the time.
Click here to read the entire article on Medium:
Since 2014, Jennifer Karchmer has been successful in beating her eating addiction, abstaining from two trigger foods — chocolate and ice cream — sweets that she abused for several years. This is a Q & A interview with Jennifer on what lead to her out-of-control eating, how she addressed the behavior and the steps and mindset she has adopted to address her addiction. Jennifer, 49, lives in Washington state, USA. The interview was conducted Nov. 10, 2019.
Read the entire article on Medium: https://medium.com/@journalist_jk/how-i-beat-my-food-addiction-2c41e5176c69
by Jennifer Karchmer
I'm hot and cold about writer's retreats. This is pretty funny because I've been a professional writer for more than 25 years, so you'd think that I would jump at the chance to share a comfy couch with fellow scribes and commiserate about the craft.
But my relationship to the weekend escape known as the retreat is more like a "Sam and Diane" connection (think TV show "Cheers") rather than a hand-in-glove love affair. I'm a writer in passion, talent and career, but I tend to resist the meta — the bird's-eye view of writing.
This ambivalence is rooted in two precepts common to many writers — fear and procrastination. What if I find out that my writing sucks, that everyone else is better than me? Am I just stalling by getting away from it all, when what I really need is to get my butt in the chair?
"A writer writes, right? How could attending a veritable break get more words on the page," I thought?
Last fall, I decided to drop all of this psychological baggage to attend Write Doe Bay, a writer's mecca in Washington state that dubs itself, "an intimate artists' retreat and multi-workshop event..." Now that the dust has settled, I can say this three-day weekend (Oct. 6-8, 2017) gave me ...
Don’t tell my editor this: I've always had trouble meeting deadlines. The moments leading up to the finale crush me as I work frantically getting a piece done, sometimes kicking myself that I didn't dig deeper sooner.
What exactly do I resist? Avoid? Battle with? Struggle with?
So I ask myself: Is it fear of failure? Fear of performing? Fear of rejection?
When I write, I see the faces of my audience, as if I’m on stage. I’m ready to utter my lines, but my throat tightens with censorship. Will the performance be as good as the rehearsal?
I write the story in my head, but when I face the page, my mind is blank like a painter’s new canvas. Why does that prospect instill panic, rather than entice like an invitation?
As I sit at my desk toiling over my next draft, judgment enters the room. She takes a seat, clipboard firmly clasped against her chest. She bites the end of a pen, her peering eyes above the bifocals ooze critique. She’s not front row and center shaking her head. Rather, I see her midway, maybe seven or eight rows back, just far enough to give the guise of objectivity, yet close enough that I can feel her heat.
These worries are cliché: a writer stalled, mind numb, paralyzed in the chair, what to write?
Enough of this, I say.
I’ve been resisting the muse for too long. I take an ice pick to my writer’s block; it’s time to chip away. I turn to my best friends on my bookshelf: King, Lamott, Goldberg and others who instruct and inspire. Strunk & White are in the corner (smoking a cig and sipping whisky).
The block begins to melt, just slightly. I pull a marked-up paperback off the shelf. On the cover, I see six thin pencils, standing at attention, serving as tree trunks to the web of ideas a writer calls upon when she grabs words from head and heart. The inside back cover is like a New York City subway car in the 80s: scribbled graffiti with lists, arrows, bullet points -- my notes from the first time I read the book.
It’s “The Forest for the Trees,” by Betsy Lerner, a long-time editor. She dubs it “Advice to Writers,” gently providing food for thought in the Track Changes of our writer minds. It’s one of my favorites, and today, I summon her counsel.
As I flip through the pages, I happily find several passages that I had circled, underlined or starred to remind me why I am a writer, why I struggle with my confidence and why I resist my muse.
From Lerner, I learn:
Ah! I recall the day I originally highlighted these poetic and prophetic paragraphs. As a collective, they lecture me like a professor: Your writing is like a piece of clay. You don't begin with the etchings of the tiny details and fine lines. You must build the foundation before it takes shape. So too with writing, one must put the thing up and lay it out. You cannot carve away (edit) pieces that could be saved for good use later.
Early in “Trees,” Lerner tells a story of the time when she got to study with Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Jorie Graham. One day during a private conference, Graham had played a trick on Lerner – one that set in motion a detective's work of discovery.
To be instructive, Graham had reassembled a series of the student's poems in such a way that transformed Lerner's approach to writing. The poems had gone from “acorns" to "an oak,” Lerner recalls.
Judgment does not have to be front and center; relegate her to the back row.
With renewed creativity and a permission slip to experiment, Lerner rushed home and sifted through her poems to create new masterpieces, which eventually got published in prestigious literary journals.
“If you are struggling with what you should be writing, look at your scraps,” she says.
Back at my desk, I sit down and pull the paper snowballs out of the trash. I dust off an unfinished essay that was demoted to the lower drawer I rarely open.
I hear Lerner's advice continue: “Whatever you do, I beg you not to look at the bestseller lists.”
Don’t try to copy what already exists, she says. Look at your scraps; therein lies your pot of gold.
Now, resist the voices that sit on your shoulder. Judgment does not have to be front and center; relegate her to the back row, I tell myself.
A version of this article was originally published in Red Wheelbarrow Writers.
by Jennifer Karchmer
How long have you been dreaming about opening a restaurant? How about quitting your day job and travelling around the world? Maybe you’re still thinking about getting that yoga certification? Or wondering when you’ll get published even though you’ve stuffed 50 pages of your memoir in a drawer because you’re worrying it’s not any good?
We all have lifelong dreams. They drive our passions and feed our imaginations. For some, we lock them away (like the manuscript) because we think they are out of reach, too lofty, or “crazy.”
It’s easy to get discouraged when you share your vision with friends or family only to get shot down with: “It costs too much. Your head is in the clouds. That will never happen. It’s too expensive. It will take forever.” On and on those negative thoughts permeate your daily life and soon enough, the dream bubble is burst and we truly believe that our dreams are as far away as the sun.
So how do you get your dreams off the ground,
It’s a mindset, and those who are fortunate enough to have reached their goals or who are living their dreams didn’t get there because of a big bank account or supernatural powers.
Hiring a personal coach is a wonderful way to help quell destructive thoughts. By working one-on-one with a coach – someone who’s objective, compassionate and focused on you every week – you can gain a new perspective on what’s been holding you back and suppress those irrational fears that serve only as roadblocks.
Each coach is a little different: consider the life coach, the business coach, the personal coach, the writing coach. Some work with you online, by phone or by a Skype call. Figure out which method works best for you and choose accordingly.
Think of coaching as brainstorming with an impartial visitor who you meet with once or twice a week. You can get the best results when you connect over several weeks or months so you can build together and see progress through measurable goals.
Theo Mahy is a business coach in New York. Originally from France, Mahy came to the US to help other French entrepreneurs relocate to the States and find new ventures and grow their businesses. He’s since branched out and works with a variety of clients, from college administrators, to restaurant owners, to athletic company CEOs to freelance writers.
“It’s like digging deep,” Mahy says. By giving yourself at least one hour each week, you can “let go and work on yourself and create value just around you.” Mahy himself worked regularly with a coach when he was student. It was a great way to set up measurable goals and, most of all, stay accountable. When we know we have to report to someone, we’re more likely to do the work, he says. Those sessions, “help you see yourself as powerful.” And who doesn’t want to powerful?
So how do you know it’s the right time?
If you’ve considered working with a coach, then you’re ready. Just having the idea percolate in your mind means it’s important to you and that your dreams are poised to become reality. Somewhere in there is a block but you’re open to sharing your most intimate fears and doubts with an objective third-party.
Your BFF and your mom lend a listening ear, but a professional coach will give you the good, the bad and the ugly truth about your mindset.
So what is holding you back. Perhaps it’s opening up to a stranger? The dent in your pocketbook? Does the thought of actually achieving your dreams seem scary?
Here are some common fears and ways to overcome them:
The bottom line: if you’re even thinking about working with a coach to reach your dreams, then the time is now to find the right person who can guide you and help keep you accountable. Why wait any longer to be able to say, “I have fulfilled one of my lifelong dreams.”
Back in the day when I was a reporter for my hometown paper, The Poughkeepsie (NY) Journal, we were advised to carry a stack of coins in our pockets to make a call from a pay phone to get an attorney on the line in case of trouble. This advice was mostly for the reporters covering crime and the courts. As a reporter on the business section, the most danger I could expect was pissing off potential advertisers.
Today, however, the advice to reporters covering politics, demonstrations, and even run-of-the-mill public meetings has shifted: program your lawyer’s number on your smartphone’s speed dial, and make sure your bank account is flush so you can make bail if you find yourself in handcuffs.
Click here for a replay of the webinar
"What To Do If You Are Assaulted or Arrested"
During a live one-hour webinar organized by The National Press Foundation last week, two reporters and a media attorney suggested several ways we can prepare for the worst if we are threatened or assaulted on the job.
Increase in risk
Unfortunately, hazards aren’t reserved for war correspondents trekking through conflict regions and dodging bullets. Apparently, attending public meetings and interviewing political figures come with a level of physical risk, as seen in a few recent incidents of reporters being shoved and knocked around.
For example, in May, John Donnelly, a senior defense writer and reporter with Congressional Quarterly Roll Call, was pinned against a wall in a public hallway at the Federal Communications Commission building.
Donnelly (seen in screenshot, center) was asking a routine question of FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly when Donnelly was mistreated by security guards. O’Rielly later apologized via Twitter for what happened. Donnelly did not pursue charges.
“We shined a pretty bright light on what they did,” said Donnelly, a panelist on the webinar, livestreamed from The Evelyn Y. Davis Studios in Wash, D.C. “Don’t be silent about it. Hold them accountable.”
A few week’s later, in a separate but similar physical incident, Montana lawmaker Greg Gianforte was charged with assaulting reporter Ben Jacobs of The Guardian. Gianforte pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault, and too, later apologized.
So what should a reporter do in these situations?
National Press Foundation President and COO Sandy Johnson, who served as panel moderator posed: Does the press cower, reserve questions only for sanctioned press conferences, or go through a dedicated public information officer for comment?
“I hope newsroom leaders figure out guidelines and strategies to share with reporters on the front lines,” Johnson said.
Some strategies are proactive, like identifying a safe meeting place to retreat to in case of emergency, said Kevin Goldberg, the media attorney on the panel. Also, before leaving the newsroom, reporters are advised to program into their phone names and numbers of media lawyers.
It doesn’t hurt to save contact information for a media organization that defends reporters like the National Press Foundation (NPF), the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), Reporters without Borders (RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). (Editor's note: Create a laminated emergency card in case your phone or notebook gets taken away. Keep the card in your pants or sock.)
"Don’t be silent about it. Hold them accountable.” reporter John Donnelly
You may also be interested in:
"How to Deal With Intimidation," webinar hosted by the the National Press Foundation
As we know, threats against the press aren’t new, Goldberg reminded. Don’t forget Occupy Wall Street – a tense time for reporters who were the target of police violence and arrests.
Johnson, the moderator, continued with questions from audience members attending via Facebook and Twitter: “What do these incidents mean for reporters, and more importantly, for the public?”
Donnelly was quick to chime in: “What really sticks in my craw, are people who ask, ‘Why should we care [about threats to the press]?’ This is the heart of this whole issue.”
He said: “The National Press Foundation and all of these groups need to really think about educating the public about the importance of the press. If a large number of people don’t get that, then we’re not going to be protected.”
The panelists agreed that keeping silent mutes the press and merely perpetuates potential attacks. Rather than taking a defensive approach, it is best to use a seemingly isolated incident, such as shoving, as a reminder that a threat to the press is a threat to everyone’s right to know.
Don’t forget, Goldberg went on, that citizens have a right to record in public. Earlier this month, in fact, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the First Amendment right of journalists and private individuals to observe and film police officers on duty. As part of that case, the ACLU defended Temple University student Richard Fields who was arrested in 2013 while using a mobile device to photograph Philadelphia police officers breaking up a house party.
The limitation to recording in public, of course, is making sure you are not thwarting the efforts of police or emergency personnel.
“Just as long as you’re not getting in the way,” Goldberg added.
Jennifer Karchmer is an independent journalist who covers freedom of the press, conflict reporters, reporter safety, and legal issues related to the media. Don't miss her podcast The jPod, Interviews & Conversations from the desk of a journalist. Connect via the social media links below.
Here is latest episode of The jPod -- interviews and conversations with a journalist. Today, I talk about the work of international female journalists and discrimination in the newsroom. My guest is Elle Toussi, an American journalist based in LA who started the nonprofit "In One Minute" as part of her platform for multimedia storytelling.
Click here for the podcast: www.jenniferkarchmer.com/podcasts.html#ElleToussi
Pay particular attention (go to 14:00) to the discussion of the lack of female trainers in the hostile environment training field. Can men effectively train women for dangerous assignments? Should more women be part of the teams preparing reporters for conflict reporting?
Join the conversation via these hashtags and links and comment on this blog below:
Elle Toussi @ElleToussi
SPJ International Community @SPJ_IJC
Jennifer Karchmer @journalist_jk
Years ago, while living in New York City, I would spend a Friday night at the Barnes & Noble at 14th Street-Union Square. First, I would grab a handful of books I had on my reading wish list and plunk down in a comfy chair. Unfortunately, my pocketbook at the time allowed me to purchase only one book. Before departing, I would get a coffee at the café and go to the metal folding chairs set up in the reading gallery to listen to an author talk about his or her latest book.
When I wanted to support a small, independent bookstore, I would head over to BookCourt in Brooklyn and do the same.More recently, while living in the Pacific Northwest, I listen to authors of fiction, memoir, non-fiction, humor, and all genres by attending writing conferences like the annual Write on the Sound held in Edmonds, Wash. When I want to hear an author do a reading from his or her book, I go to Village Books, an independent bookseller in Bellingham, Wash.
Sometimes the speaker is well prepared, confident and engaging, which is enjoyable for the audience. We get valuable information on how to write our memoir or novel. We laugh at interesting stories and leave with a good impression of the author’s work (and a purchased copy of the book). Other times, the author is nervous or uncomfortable or just doesn’t know how to make genuine, or subtle, pitches to buy the book.
The reality is that not all authors are good at speaking, self-promotion or selling. That’s OK. Writers are good at writing.
Therefore, if you are an author approaching an upcoming book signing, writing workshop or lecture and want to boost your confidence, and more importantly your book sales, here are a few tips:
1) Remember to stay hydrated. Try tea or tepid water. Ice water tends to alarm the vocal cords, whereas a warm drink is more soothing and calming.
2) Pass around one copy of the book during the talk. If they’ve come to hear you, chances are they are old-school book lovers and will enjoy touching the cover, rubbing the book spine and holding it as if it were theirs. Make them envision it on their bookshelf. Also, diverting attention to the book takes the focus off of you momentarily to take a deep breath and relax.
3) Assume everyone will purchase a copy. Use language like “readers like you,” “when you read the book…” (Similar to job interview advice.)
4) Make reference to page numbers and turning points. For example, “By chapter 3, Clarissa was becoming stronger and looking at life in a new way.” Or, “On page 67, she says …” Your audience will begin to connect with plot and writing technique and will want to get to that exact spot to see for herself. Also, those who brought a pre-purchased copy for signing can follow along.
5) Bring something new to each engagement. Your audience will appreciate when you say, “I haven’t mentioned this before during a talk…” Be genuine and your readers will connect with you, and then your writing.
This blog post was originally published on Medium: https://medium.com/@journalist_jk/authors-public-speaking-boost-your-confidence-and-book-sales-55f7539bfc05
While this video (below) is geared toward public speaking, I'd argue it provides an excellent structure for all storytelling.
Authors and writers take heed... watch this short explanation (8 mins) of how to succeed at public speaking and pay particular attention to the parts about giving your audience a reason to care (5:32) and building metaphors (6:45):
This is an excerpt from Jennifer’s upcoming book,“Take (Your) Time To Write: The Path to Peaceful Writing,” based on the concept of slow writing.
I’ve always been a slow writer. In the 1990s, at my first job as a reporter, I would take hours to finish a 500-word column that should have taken an hour or two after sifting through my notes. I would return from a school board meeting or a run-of-the-mill press conference and toil over the lede (first sentence of a news story) and every sentence. I would rewrite and rewrite until everything was just right. Of course, accuracy is critical in journalism, so I checked, rechecked, and made my quotes perfect. Still, my editor pulled me aside one day, and while assuring me I was doing a good job, she said I needed to produce more quickly. They were paying me by the hour ($5) and wouldn’t be able to afford me if I kept up this tortoise pace.
Thankfully, I learned to speed it up. After putting in more than a decade in busy newsrooms, I can say I have never been fired for missing a deadline. (Admittedly, as I work on this post, I see out of the corner of my eye on the TV, three episodes of Seinfeld have passed in addition to at least half of “Dirty Dancing” so we’re moving in on three hours and I’m only halfway finished.)
Several years ago, I made the transition from a “Just the facts, ma’am” reporter to a personal essay freelance writer. Today, I make my own deadlines – a dream come true for a writer, but with the autonomy comes discipline. So I’ve turned to other writers for guidance.
Frightfully, at a cocktail party, I overhear one writer say she jumps out of bed at the crack of dawn to get her butt in the chair before the family begins to stir. Similarly startling was the time a fellow scribe tell me he neurotically crosses off “Wrote 1,500 words!” on his daily To Do list. Getting up before the roosters? Hitting a daily self-imposed word count? Is this discipline or competition?
Realizing these conventions are not for me, I try to build my confidence, and my writing practice, around a slower, more relaxed pace that seems more in tune with my molasses gait. I admire you early risers, I really do. But it’s just not my style, so why force it? Writing is not only a career but an art, a passion–one that inches along to the tune of the muse whom I invoke when the sun and moon align.
Well, it’s actually not that magical but I put a lot of stock in how I am feeling. I am a productive writer, but these laments make me feel stressed out and depleted. Am I really a writer if I don’t adhere to these routines? I had left the busy newsroom grind and didn’t want to replace it with tortuous rules that seemed to leave me with a wet blanket of guilt draped over my shoulders.
Along the way, I have adopted some precepts that seem to keep my writing in tune with my natural (slower) stride:
Not only do I hold the dubious distinction of being a slow writer, I am also a slow reader. I take months to finish a novel (although I did finish “Fifty Shades of Grey” in three days…shhh). So I try to mix up my pleasure reading between fiction and a nonfiction magazines so I am getting a regular dose of different genres including some longform or “slow” writing.
Here are some resources and examples I recommend.
Jennifer Karchmer is a creative writer, book reviewer, and editor, based in Bellingham, WA and Brooklyn, NY. When she’s not writing first-personal essay, she is a volunteer correspondent for Reporters Without Borders defending and protecting freedom of the press and freedom of speech around the world. Find her latest work here: http://www.jenniferkarchmer.com/essays.html
This post originally published on Dec. 19, 2016 on Red Wheelbarrow Writers website: http://www.redwheelbarrowwriters.com/blog/slow-writing-why-i-write-at-a-snails-pace/
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