SHARON, MA– Meara Sharma recently won the 2017 Gracie Award for Outstanding Producer for her NPR radio feature “Kidnapped” on the plight of journalist hostages in Syria. When asked about the award by INDIA New England News, Sharma said: “As a producer, so much of my work is behind the scenes, so it is wonderful that the Gracies recognize what that role means.”
Sharma is a producer for On the Media, where she often finds herself working on stories about thorny issues in far-off time zones. In December 2014, she traveled to Liberia and made a show about Liberian journalists covering the Ebola epidemic.
Before landing at On the Media, Sharma studied comparative literature at Brown University, researched art and reconciliation in Rwanda, tutored elementary-schoolers in Providence, produced a radio series in India, and worked at WBUR, Boston’s NPR station. In addition to radio, Sharma writes and edits literary journalism and occasionally makes dances. She is a senior editor at Guernica, the New York-based magazine of global art and politics.
INDIA New England News: Please tell our readers about your work and what you enjoy most about it?
Meara Sharma: As a journalist, producer, and editor, my job is quite simply to identify urgent issues in society and figure out how to translate them into stories that ignite the mind and foster a sense of shared humanity. I enjoy talking with people who are directly confronting challenges in their communities, and I enjoy the craft: piecing together a narrative, paying close attention to language, and considering the deeper philosophical questions behind the news.
INE: To which charitable, community and professional group do you belong and why?
MS: I feel at home in the journalistic community because I have wide-ranging interests, and this work allows me to nurture my curiosity and constantly learn.
INE: What are your hobbies and interests?
MS: Cooking, dancing, reading fiction and poetry, seeing art, exploring the natural world!
INE: In what way do you feel you have positively influenced or served the local community and your company/organization and professional field?
MS: The question of impact is a difficult one in journalism, but what I hope is that my work teaches people something new and prompts them to think more expansively and take action in whatever ways feel meaningful to them.
INE: Your rare talent?
MS: I am a beekeeper. Also, I am very good at remembering faces.
INE: Your favorite books?
MS: There are so many books that have hugely impacted me; here are a few that come to mind.
Fiction: To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf. Of Human Bondage, by W. Somerset Maugham. Ragtime, by E. L. Doctorow. The Ice Palace, by Tarjei Vesaas. Outline, by Rachel Cusk. Open City, by Teju Cole.
Poetry: The Book of Light, by Lucille Clifton. Praise, by Robert Hass. The Dream of a Common Language, by Adrienne Rich. The Blue Estuaries, by Louise Bogan.
Nonfiction: Hold Everything Dear, by John Berger. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, by Anne Fadiman. H is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald. Women, Race, and Class, by Angela Davis.
INE: Your favorite quotes?
MS: “I think the secret to doing things is just doing things.” -Mark Baumer
INE: Who inspires you the most?
MS: My college playwriting professor, Erik Ehn, is someone who has long inspired me and embodies the qualities I strive for — he is a rigorous artist, an enlivening and wise teacher, and a true cultivator of community.
INE: The one person you would like to meet and why?
MS: The writer and activist Arundhati Roy. I admire her integrity and intellectual fearlessness, and I think we could have a good conversation.
INE: Your core value you try to live by?
MS: To be a good neighbor and friend, and to listen with generosity — everyone wants to be heard. Also, to write my own rules, seek beauty and pleasure, and keep the big picture in mind; we only get one shot at all of this!