I have a lot to write about, but I really can’t do it today because my arms are so sore. My arms, legs, back, you name it. This is proof that, as the saying goes, you should be careful what you wish for. Back in November I was in London rushing between conference and meetings and also finalizing articles for the current issue of Against the Grain (which I guest-edited). One of those final pieces was a Q&A personal profile to go with my own article, “Social Media Simplified.”
There’s a standard Q&A that Against the Grain magazine uses, and my mind was blank as I read it through. Some people, like Richard Charkin and Tim Coates, had written snappy replies and I felt intimidated. So I simply jumbled in some answers. One, to the item, “Goal I hope to achieve five years from now,” came from left field: “Take up aikido again.”
Farfetched as anything I could think of then, but last night I went back to aikido (it’s been 5 or 6 years, and 20 years since I practised seriously) and happened to land in a class where almost everyone else was a blackbelt. Something of a plunge into cold deep water, not the gentle reemersion I was thinking of. But as my daughter Rachel says, “Mum, you love it.” And I do. Here’s a YouTube aikido clip if you don’t know what the sport is like, and the article on aikido from the Berkshire Encyclopedia of World Sport.
Name: Karen Christensen
Born & lived: Born in Indiana, grew up in Minnesota and California. Adult life divided between London (pop 7.5 million) and Great Barrington, Massachusetts (pop. 7.5 thousand)
Early life: Books were my lifeline.
Family: Anthropologist husband, David Levinson, whose expertise is homelessness, substance abuse, and spousal abuse (this took some explaining to my friends). Children: Tom 21 and Rachel 18.
Education: College of Creative Studies UC Santa Barbara, independent research and, most important, the hundreds of scholars I work with on subjects ranging from world history to leadership.
First job: Farm laborer.
Professional career and activities: A decade in academic and literary publishing in the U.K., at Blackwells and Faber & Faber, followed by several years as freelance journalist and author before cofounding of Berkshire Publishing Group in 1998. Author of a number of popular environmental books, which have been translated into French, German, Chinese, Japanese, and Thai; editor of various major reference works including the Encyclopedia of Community (Sage 2004) and Global Perspectives on the United States (Berkshire 2007). Currently a member of the board of the Content Division of the Software and Information Industry Association, the Text Outline Project (Digital Universe) advisory committee, and the Society for New Communications Research advisory board.
In my spare time I like to: Sweat.
Favorite books: This winter, Anthony Trollop’s Palliser and Barchester novels.
Pet peeves/what makes me mad: Evangelists for social media who don’t appreciate good writing and the work of editors; traditional publishers who don’t know what a blog is.
Philosophy: Walk the talk.
Most meaningful career achievement: I do’t know about meaningful, but it was an achievement to get the first volume of the T.S. Eliot Letters to press.
Goal I hope to achieve five years from now: Take up aikido again.
How/Where do I see the industry in five years: Far more conscious of the challenges of sustainability and the climate change crisis, and more attentive to the need for interdisciplinary scholarship and engagement between the academics and practitioners.