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.

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

What’s My Age Again?

I’m about to tell you something really personal. I’m going to put it out on the internet for anyone searching for me to see.

My age.

Celebrating one of the birthdays in my third decade.
Celebrating one of the birthdays in my third decade.

I used to think it was small-minded and coy when women refused to say their age. Perhaps it was because my parents had me in their 40s. I learned early that, for many people, age has very little bearing on life events or personality traits or health. Even now, I can barely guess which decade my coworkers are in.

And why were only women ashamed of their ages? It seemed to me that by not admitting their age, they were perpetuating the myth that women lose value as they get older, while men hold on to their worth. Say your age and be proud, ladies!

But this past year, I realized that there’s an age-shaming culture apart from women being too old — which is women being too young. Continue reading What’s My Age Again?

Nashville’s Jewish Cemetery

Ralph Levy can visit four generations of family by walking a few hundred feet.

His great-great-grandfather, buried in 1880. His great-grandfather, buried in 1923. His grandmother, buried in 1977. His mother, buried in 2011.

And when his time comes, he’ll be buried here too.


When I first moved to Nashville, my editor mentioned that she always wondered why there was a Jewish cemetery in North Nashville, a historically African-African part of town. I stopped by, talked to some of the neighbors, called every city historian I could get ahold of — no one really knew how it ended up there.

However, I did come across some guesses. Ralph Levy, the president of the synagogue that owns the cemetery, took me on a tour of the grounds one sweltering Nashville summer day. He said the location might have been chosen in the 1800s because it was cheaper land, outside the city center, but accessible  by a trolley.

Except for the occasional groundskeepers and funerals, the land stays undisturbed. It’s a peaceful, almost hidden place. My full history on the cemetery is on WPLN.org. The photos I took of the cemetery are below. Click on the i to see the photo captions.

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Taking ‘fluffy’ journalism seriously

A radiation therapist takes down a mask from the wall. It will be snapped down over a cancer patient's head. That's serious stuff, right? Photo by Emily Siner
A radiation therapist takes down a mask from the wall. It will be snapped down over a cancer patient’s head to zap their tumor. That’s serious stuff, right? Photo by Emily Siner

A few weeks ago, I had a long drive back to Nashville on a Sunday afternoon and was, of course, listening to public radio. Somewhere between St. Louis and Kentucky, Krista Tippett, the host of On Being, was interviewing Michel Martin, an NPR radio personality and host of the now-defunct Tell Me More.

Ms. Tippett: One of the things you’ve done in your journalism at NPR and certainly on Tell Me More is to say that faith and family are huge topics at the center of your journalism. And I wonder, um, how you respond to the — because, you know, I think in journalism these are considered to be soft, and subjective, and…

Ms. Martin: Girly.

That word struck a deep nerve. Because, I realized, that’s what I thought about those topics, too. And the person who suffered most from that mentality was me.

Continue reading Taking ‘fluffy’ journalism seriously

A Long Hiatus + Thoughts From Yesteryear

The gardens at Cheekwood inspire the kind of wisdom that I describe in this blog post.
The gardens at Cheekwood in Nashville inspire the kind of deep thoughts that I describe in this blog post.

I have not published anything here in a long time, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about it frequently. I publish half-written blog posts in my head a lot, although no one else can access those. For those of you wanting to follow my life here in Nashville (hi, Mom!), I promise to write about that more. But for now, I’m going to include one of the half-baked, potential blog posts that I wrote a few weeks ago without publishing, which I am now resurrecting, dusting off and presenting here for your enjoyment. Continue reading A Long Hiatus + Thoughts From Yesteryear

Wandering Part II

If I stayed in my house instead of wandering, I wouldn't have found Printers Alley hidden in downtown Nashville. If I already knew about it, I wouldn't have thought it was so cool. But I didn't, so I did. © Emily Siner 2014
If I stayed in my house instead of wandering, I wouldn’t have found Printers Alley hidden in downtown Nashville. If I already knew about it, I wouldn’t have thought it was so cool. But I didn’t, so I did. © Emily Siner 2014

A little over two years ago, just a few months after I decided it would be a good idea to start blogging about my life, I wrote about how I constantly got lost in the twisty medieval streets of Aix-en-Provence. Except I wasn’t really lost, I wrote, because I would always end up where I needed to go eventually. I was just wandering.

I’ve wandered a lot in the two years since then. I left France and went to Washington, then to Los Angeles, then to Washington again, then to Nashville. With each move, I find myself exploring unfamiliar roads, looking for landmarks and struggling to draw a mental map (except now I have an iPhone, which takes some of the paralyzing “where-the-heck-am-I-now” feeling out of most excursions). But I’m realizing that there’s a second component to what I described in Aix. It’s not just the exploring that makes wandering so distinctive; it’s also the fact that I’m doing it alone. Continue reading Wandering Part II

9 ways to be the best journalism intern ever

By internship #6 (NPR), I fortunately got the hang of being an intern.
By internship #6 (NPR), I fortunately got the hang of being an intern.

I don’t pretend to be an expert in many areas, but when it comes to being a journalism intern, I feel pretty qualified to give advice. During my tenure in the field, as a college student and young professional, I’ve had a whopping six internships* — the last of which turned into a full-time job, thankfully marking the end of my career as a professional intern. Time for some health insurance!

Although graduating to employee status gave me all sorts of nice feelings, being an intern was not unpleasant. It allowed me to sample different kinds of jobs in different kinds of newsrooms, with low commitment and, often, high reward. But having a successful internship is more than luck — it’s an active process that depends on how much you, the intern, work toward making it successful. You don’t need to be the most talented, most driven, most charismatic journalist to get the most out of your internship (although some amount of talent, drive and personality are helpful).

What it really boils down to is three things. Continue reading 9 ways to be the best journalism intern ever

Moving again: A survival guide

I was walking around my neighborhood one sunny Saturday a few weeks ago when it hit me: I’ve built up a pretty good life here in D.C. I’m living in a city full of intelligent, motivated young people, I’m getting to produce original work for one of the best news organizations in the country, I have an active social life, and I have access to so many free art museums! For the first time since I’ve graduated college, I feel like I have found a home.

Much like this path at the garden of the National Cathedral, your path, too, will be rocky at times when you move to a new place.
Much like this path at the garden of the National Cathedral, your path, too, will be rocky at times when you move to a new place.

So you might be surprised to learn that I’m moving. Exactly one week from today, in fact. For the next month, my life will be in a state of flux — finishing up my job at NPR, saying goodbye to friends, schlepping my stuff from one city to another, visiting family in Illinois and Texas, meeting with journalism professors, hanging out with my 96-year-old grandmother — before I finally settle down in middle Tennessee, where I’ll be an on-air enterprise reporter at Nashville Public Radio.

I’m thrilled to start working as a full-time reporter at a fantastic station. But despite my professional excitement, I’m personally slightly terrified. Because starting over is hard. I’ve done it four times now in the past two years, so I can say that as a fact. It’s hard going to a place where you have no close friends, or no friends at all. It’s hard adapting to a new culture, whether it’s on a different continent or a different part of this vast country. It’s hard getting lost all the time, taking wrong turns because the GPS didn’t update in time, walking down streets that suddenly feel unsafe. There are the days when you say, Yes, I feel incredibly lucky to be having adventures, but I really just want a) a hug and b) to find my way home. Continue reading Moving again: A survival guide