Siner Says

A blog about journalism, food, shoes and other random thoughts — essentially, a way to casually exercise my writing muscles. If you’re looking for my actual radio work, see my on-air portfolio.

Dreams of a Podcast Party

The show, sans Taylor Swift

My mom tells me that one’s ability to have vivid dreams is genetic. I’m not sure if that’s been scientifically proven, but at the very least it seems to be true in our case. My dreams have crisp details; I read in them; I often formulate interview questions if I’m dreaming about work.

This weekend, I dreamed about something that my mind (conscious and subconscious) has been obsessing over lately: Nashville Public Radio’s Podcast Party. It’s a big variety show that the station is putting on, in which we’re adapting our four podcasts to the stage. It will be really cool, and I’m not just saying that because I’m planning it. Continue reading Dreams of a Podcast Party

Worth Saving

Dec. 1, 2006, may mark the first article of my journalism career.
Dec. 1, 2006, may mark the first article of my journalism career.

Inside the top drawer of a wooden filing cabinet in my parents’ house, there is a stack of old newspapers that contain nearly every word I’ve ever written in print. It is an archaeological dig into my career — a history of Emily Siner, journalist, in reverse-chronological order.

At the top, carelessly strewn, are articles written for the Champaign News-Gazette in college. Below that are stories I wrote during my internship at a paper in my hometown, then copies of the alt-weekly magazine I worked for in college, and finally, editions of the Homewood-Flossmoor High School Voyager.

At the very bottom, preserved by the weight of the papers above it, is the oldest surviving evidence of my writing in print: an issue of The Voyager from Dec. 1, 2006. I was a new features writer, and I wrote about how Smart cars were being produced in America for the first time. Why this story was feature-worthy for the student body of H-F High School was not made clear in the article. I did, however, interview a new classmate of mine who later became a good friend. Our friendship outlasted the purpose of that article.

But what will likely outlast both is the physical piece of paper on which the purposeless article is written. Continue reading Worth Saving

The Rules Of Wandering

Seriously, this is the dead end of a random street in Venice.
Seriously, this is the dead end of a random street in Venice.

When I think back to my time studying abroad four years ago, there are two things that stick out in my mind.

First, I remember being cold the whole time. Southern France was unseasonably chilly that spring, so I had brought the wrong clothes, and I was too money-conscious to buy the right ones. Instead, I layered three pairs of tights and double-wrapped my scarves and bought a cheap winter hat from a street vendor.

Second, I had no obligations outside of classes, which meant I would spend hours getting lost in the web of tiny medieval-era streets. (When my toes got numb, I would warm up inside one of Aix’s endless supply of French boutiques, fingering the price tags of clothes I wished I could buy.) My extensive wandering was such a profound experience that I blogged about it at the time.

Then, a couple of years later, I learned about the word flâneur. It’s French — fittingly — and it has no direct translation in English, but it means something like “one who wanders alone.” A New York Times reporter described it like this: “Flânerie is, in its purest form, a goal-less pursuit, though for some it evolved into a purposeful art: Walking and observing became a method of understanding a city, an age.” This word resonated with me so deeply that I wrote another blog post about it.

So this is my third time blogging about the profundity of wandering. I can’t promise it will be my last. Continue reading The Rules Of Wandering

Weighing My Words

Moleskines
How many pens had to be sacrificed for this notebook?

It was the color that got me, a light purple with a tinge of pink: the color of the Dannon raspberry yogurt I used to eat as a kid, before I realized any color that vivid should not be eaten in one’s yogurt.

I plucked the raspberry yogurt-colored notebook off the shelf and examined it. It was a Moleskine with a soft, leathery cover, and it was more expensive than any notebook I’d ever bought before. But I had just read a blog post by a writer — some writer, I can’t remember whom — professing the joys of using a Moleskine. Maybe, I thought, owning this notebook would inspire me to write more.

I know that logic is flawed. Proof: I bought a bike two years ago, hoping it would inspire me to ride more, and instead it’s been sitting on my porch and wasting away in the elements. But it came recommended by a real writer somewhere on the internet, and besides I liked the color. What the hell, I thought. Continue reading Weighing My Words

On Looking Up

The clouds are the landscape in central Illinois. (© Emily Siner)
The drive to Champaign: great big skies and road construction. (© Emily Siner)

One evening my first semester of college, a friend and I drove back up to the suburbs of Chicago for another friend’s father’s funeral.

We were leaving from the University of Illinois, a place that people frequently refer to as “in the middle of cornfields.” It’s kind of meant as a joke, half-endearing and half-exasperated — but the expression is mostly true, except that some of the fields are planted with soybeans instead.

Either way, it’s true that as soon you leave the small, semi-urban hub of Champaign-Urbana, you’re surrounded by huge swaths of flatland. The drive north to Chicago is basically one straight, horizontal line. It’s one of the things kids lamented about when they decided to go to the University of Illinois. The drive is just so boring.

My friend and I left after class on a Friday in October, so we were driving when the sun began to set. It dipped slowly on our left until, at a certain angle, something unusual happened. Suddenly, the light flooding the road was a vivid pink. It stained the concrete interstate and the flat yellow fields. The clouds looked like they were spun with gold. I stared out of the car, couldn’t get enough of it. It was healing.

People were looking at the landscape of central Illinois all wrong, I realized. It was like an optical illusion, one of those pictures with a double image where you can’t see other point of view until someone points it out to you. We call it a “landscape,” but it’s not the land here that’s so remarkable. It’s the sky. Continue reading On Looking Up

Annual Review

Speaking at TEDxNashville was a definite accomplishment of 2015.
Speaking at TEDxNashville was a definite accomplishment of 2015.

Until this year, I had no use for New Year’s resolutions. I thought they were a fabrication of glossy magazine publishers, a sort of “New Year, New You!” myth. Why tie important life changes to an arbitrary date each year?

Recently, however, I found myself reflecting more on what I’ve done in 2015 and want to do in 2016. And that makes sense: For most of my life, goals and accomplishments weren’t measured in calendar years. They were measured in other beginnings — new school years in August, new internships, new cities — but for the past year and a half, my life has been fairly monotonous, beginnings-wise. I’ve been in the same job, same city, without many starts or stops to mark the time.

So even though Jan. 1 still feels a little arbitrary, I see it as a decent time to reflect. And instead of simply making a list of my favorite stories of 2015, which seems a little self-serving, I want to focus on one professional accomplishment that I find truly meaningful, that I want to improve upon next year, and that I hope will also help other young journalists starting in the field: feeling comfortable as a reporter. Continue reading Annual Review

The fleeting beauty of French macarons

Très fragile
I took this picture about two minutes after I bought them in 2012. Très fragile.

Yesterday, I bought a macaron from a stall at the Nashville Farmers’ Market. It was tiny and fancy, dyed pastel peach and filled with orange confit. I held it firmly between my thumb and forefinger as I walked away — too firmly, it turned out, because I ended up crushing the delicate flat top of the cookie under my thumb.

It was no loss. It tasted the same, although maybe slightly less smooth under the roof of my mouth. But it reminded me of a conversation I had with my favorite macaron vendor at a market in France on my last weekend there. Continue reading The fleeting beauty of French macarons

On Hemingway

Hemingway's favorite? Photo by Claire via Flickr
Hemingway’s favorite? Photo by Claire via Flickr

Despite the fact that Ernest Hemingway was a depressed alcoholic who cheated on multiple wives, his writing has always thrilled me, ever since the first time I read “The Sun Also Rises” in college. He was originally a newspaper reporter, which you can tell from the extreme simplicity of his writing. But what I loved most was his ability to cut to the core of complex human emotions. He was especially good, perhaps unsurprisingly, at writing about angst.

Last October, I started reading his memoir about living in Paris, “A Moveable Feast,” and it resonated with me so deeply that I began to write a blog post about it. I never finished the blog post, probably because I finished the book first and became kind of disillusioned with him — he is, after all, a depressed alcoholic who cheats on his wife — but still, parts of it were pretty profound to me. Especially this part, where he’s sitting inside a Parisian café on a rainy day, writing a story and staring out the window. Continue reading On Hemingway