The writer's retreat, organized by Indica Books, with R. Jagannathan Ji, Director Editor of Swarajya Magazine, as the mentor was an immensely enriching experience for the large group of participants who had assembled in Bengaluru from different parts of India to learn from the distinguished journalist. Jagannathan Ji, or Jaggi as he's known among friends, generously shared his time and knowledge throughout the retreat that spanned from 17th - 20th March 2023. After the two days ended, the participants returned with a toolbox of specific and valuable techniques for writing opinion pieces and news articles.
The main focus of this workshop was to help the participants develop an authentic voice and writing skills to craft effective news articles, opinion pieces, and micro-posts (for social media). We couldn't have hoped for a better teacher than Jaggi Ji, who has over 46 years of experience in journalism. Along with being the Director Editor at Swaraya Magazine, he has also written a book titled, “Dharmic Nation” which is a call to Hindus to reconnect with the unique essence of this land – the dharmic heritage of Bharat and close ranks to defend the dharma. His vast experience, approachability, down-to-earth attitude, and quick wit ensured that the retreat was filled with lots of learning, fun banter, and personalized guidance for every participant.
This article contains details of what we learned, the interactions we had, key takeaways, the workshop venue, and testimonials from the participants. It has been prepared with the help of the feedback received from all the participants.
The retreat began around 5:00 PM, after the evening tea, on 17th March 2023. To begin with, we learned that every journalist is a brand in themselves regardless of whether they work independently or are on the rolls of a publication. This personal brand is built on credibility and credibility is built by consistently writing accurate, well-articulated content.
We're living in a world where the attention span of an adult is no better than that of a toddler. This issue is even more pronounced when reading on the Internet. Jaggi Ji shared current research about the reading behaviour of typical web audiences. It was revealing to find out that only 1/6th of the audience reads articles word for word while most read in an F-shaped pattern. We learned how to address these issues through the structure, size, and style of our articles.
The importance of writing smaller, shorter, and simpler prose was stressed throughout the workshop.
We discussed how contemporary journalism is about communication and not just writing. Jaggi Ji spoke about the importance of communicating through different mediums such as video, audio, print, and web as well as writing short-form and long-form articles. He encouraged everyone to communicate through at least two mediums such as text and audio or text and video.
Next, we discussed the writing challenges posed by data-heavy articles. We learned how to overcome these challenges by presenting numbers as metaphors to enhance readability and to present numbers in the right context to bring out their correct meaning. Agenda-driven writing has become rampant nowadays with narratives emerging as a battleground in itself. Many agenda-driven articles use numbers in a limited or skewed context to distort their meaning and change the narrative. We learned how to spot these lies as well as report the truth by re-contextualizing the data in a larger scope and performing proper comparisons. The importance of precision, not just in the context of numbers, but in all aspects of an article was also discussed.
A good portion of the retreat was dedicated to understanding the meaning of curated articles and writing them as part of the workshop exercises. We discussed the benefits of curation, the importance of using credible sources, and how to reference and credit the sources. We learned about different types of curation techniques such as headline curation, deep curation, interpretive curation, summarisation, and corrective curation.
Jaggi Ji impressed upon the participants, the importance of being deep and consistent readers to be good writers. He also encouraged everyone to maintain their own style book to guide their writing.
Along with discussing these general concepts, we also discussed the structure of a typical article which contains the headline, the introductory paragraph, the 'dear reader' paragraph, key points/arguments, conclusion, and references. The art and science of creating these elements were discussed at length. For example, an effective title should be based on one of the five Ws (who, what, when, where, and why). The first paragraph is essentially the conclusion stated in a way that helps open the article. The second paragraph is the 'Dear reader' paragraph. It provides context, clarifies unknown concepts, and sets reader expectations. This is followed by a clear listing and expansion of the key arguments, followed by the conclusion, and references. In addition to the above points, we learned that the lead of a story is the point at which we enter the story. How to identify a story’s lead was also discussed briefly.
Next, there was a discussion on how to refer to people with consistency and context, how to edit an article, and how to reveal information in a layered way. We also discussed how to utilize software like Grammarly and The Hemingway App to improve our writing.
Practical writing exercises and feedback constituted a large part of the workshop. Jaggi Ji painstakingly reviewed and provided detailed feedback on three rounds of articles written by the participants. The first was a piece of writing penned before the workshop, the second was a curated article written by groups of participants, and the third was individual articles. The individualized feedback received in these practice sessions was very valuable in helping the participants understand their strengths and weaknesses. Because this session was offered in the style of a workshop, the participants learned not only from the constructive critique received on their own work but also from the feedback given to other participants.
The retreat ended with a general discussion and QA.
Throughout the retreat, Jaggi Ji was indefatigable and generous in sharing his knowledge and providing feedback to the participants. Everyone felt comfortable asking questions without any fear or hesitation because of his approachable and encouraging attitude. Last but not the least, his ready wit ensured that everyone remained fresh, awake, and smiling. Despite his busy schedule, Jaggi Ji encouraged the participants to stay in touch with each other and with him.
Like all good things, it felt as if the retreat came to an end in the blink of an eye. I’m sure all the participants would echo the sentiment that they would have loved to spend more time with Jaggi Ji and each other.
The participants were a diverse group who came from different parts of India ranging from Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Puducherry, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttarakhand. Along with the diversity of location, the participants also had vastly different professional backgrounds, belonged to different age groups, and had different writing goals.
The diversity of the group led to insightful discussions that were fun and informative since the participants learned from each other's experiences and viewpoints. The lively discussions on topics ranging from politics to culture to history were relished by everyone.
On behalf of all the participants, I would like to thank Team Indica for their continued effort to help aspiring writers through such events. Many thanks to Hari Kiran Ji for founding this massive initiative, to Jaggi Sir for taking time out of his busy schedule to guide us toward becoming better writers, and to Srinivas Vadde Ji who played a crucial role in organising and managing the event.
Montfort Spirituality Centre, where the retreat was hosted, was an oasis of peace in the busy Indiranagar neighbourhood of Bengaluru. We had at our disposal, a spacious meeting room furnished with a large oval table, comfortable chairs, and the necessary technology for doing presentations. The boarding and lodging were excellent and the simple, nutritious, and timely meals kept the participants well-nourished.
The three-day writing retreat with Mr R Jagannathan was a very well-spent weekend. His vast editorial experience was manifest in all the sessions he conducted. The hands-on content was especially enriching as he painstakingly analysed and corrected each submission by the participants. The tips and pointers he educed from the exercises over the three days were practicable and very, very valuable. Overall, a very satisfying and educative event for which I thank Mr Jagannathan and Indica. – Ashwani Sachdeva
I had a very fulfilling experience at the workshop. Jaggi Sir's method is meticulous and he is quite careful to not interfere with what and how the author intends to write. It was amazing to see him work so hard these three days – Samir Pathak
The workshop started with a mantra that was emphasized several times. The mantra was ‘Smaller, Shorter, and Simpler’. Jagannathan Ji demonstrated the application of this mantra in the workshop by rewriting opinion pieces curated by the participants. Hence, the workshop was a combination of both theory and practice. During the workshop, I learnt many such simple and powerful mantras from Jagannathan Ji, a veteran journalist, and editor. Thanks to Team INDICA, especially Hari Ji, Jagannathan Ji, and Shrinivas Ji, for organizing this writers’ workshop. – Govind Madhav
I learnt much and unlearnt much more. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Jaggi Sir's practical tips on writing and readability based on his rich journalistic experience. I am still processing the interesting insights related to the changing role of media, fickle reader behaviour and how to write for the digital audience. Grateful to Indica and Jaggi Sir for having given me this opportunity! – Ujwala Rao
I fondly remember the time spent at the retreat looking at all the slides and absorbing the 'art of writing', because, after all, you have to be a good reader first, as Jaggi remarked. I'd attend such life-transforming events in the future as well. – Amith Vikram
My key takeaway from the weekend is to shift the focus to the reader and be aware of how the writing lands for them. Several practical tools were shared to make writing more effective, succinct, and comprehensible in this regard. I'm grateful for his time and for sharing so candidly. Thank you Indica for your continued commitment to organising such events. – Priyanka Bardhan
Jaggi's workshop was action-oriented. The focus was on writing for effective communication. Detailed conversations on the individual write-ups helped me experience the diversity in the style of writing. I learned many practical tips that I intend to apply in my writing going forward. Thank you to Indica for organizing this. Thank you to Jaggi for taking time out of your busy schedule. – Umesh Mohanty
As someone who loves to write and share my thoughts, I was eager to learn how to make my writing more compelling and impactful. The Writers’ Retreat by Shri R. Jagannathan helped me to discover exactly that. The content was practical and on-point, peppered with Jaggi Sir’s delightful wit. The nuances of writing for both print and online media were well-explained. I left the workshop feeling much more confident in my ability to craft an opinion piece. Thanks to Indica and Jaggi Sir for this stimulating learning experience. – Vishakha Khetrapal
The best part of the workshop was Jaggi’s feedback on every write-up as he patiently went through every word/sentence. He gave all his time to us through the workshop. kudos to Indica for putting so much effort into encouraging people to read and write. – Mahipal Nair
This was truly a lovely workshop and I hope for many more! My main takeaway was 'Reduce Redundancy & Repetition'. As someone whose writing style is more ornamental or 'flowery', this is something that I am trying hard to learn. A more crisp and concise writing style helps when it comes to crafting micro text for social media & mainstream media publications. – Rohan Raghav Sharma
Jagannathan sir started this workshop with an open mind. Asked all the participants to introduce themselves before the workshop. Asked what we wanted to learn in the workshop. During the workshop, spent most of the time correcting the sample submissions word by word. No doubt, this personal attention gave some benefit to the participants. This allowed us to see how editors and copy editors work. Some of the practical tips he shared with the team are very useful for all. – P V S Kumar
I had the pleasure of attending this excellent Writing Retreat by R Jagannathan Ji, and I must say, it was an incredible experience. He is such a scholarly instructor and is truly outstanding. His knowledge, expertise, and passion for the craft of writing were contagious, and he inspired all of us to reach new heights in our writing. – Aravind C V
'Shravana-Manana-Nididhyasanam' is a model of the learning process within us. We listen or read repeatedly what we wish to learn. Then we ponder things over in our mind until it makes good sense to us. And finally, this knowledge assimilates within us and becomes part of our own wisdom. Jagannathanji ensured Sravanam and Mananam, in the duration of the workshop, enabled easy assimilation of the things he shared with us. – Harikrishnan Venugopal
I felt inspired and motivated to improve my writing skills. Sir's insights on curative writing were quite enlightening. In addition to the teachings on curative writing, tips for better writing were incredibly valuable. The focus on clarity, brevity, the use of simple words and the importance of knowing your audience were all points I would carry with me as I continue developing my writing skills. The practical exercises provided were also beneficial, and I appreciate the opportunity to practice applying your tips in a hands-on way. – Preethimol G
This was an overall writing course to fine-tune our writing skill set. We can say it was more from a journalistic point of view, although many participants who wrote from an academic writing point of view also benefited. Our teacher, Sri R Jagannathan, made the whole workshop very interactive where everyone was given the opportunity to improve their classmates' writing. It was a very encouraging exercise. All of us were focused and never diverted from the topic of discussion or study in the classroom. This created a very healthy atmosphere for learning. At the end of the course, we were all energised and empowered to do a good job of writing. Millions of Thanks & NAMASKARAMS to our Teacher Sri R Jagannathan for sharing his years of wisdom as a writer and journalist in a simple child-like way to help everyone understand.🙏– Dr M Vishwamitr
I often write short opinion pieces on social media but I’ve not studied the art and science of how to write them effectively. This excellent workshop taught me the correct way to approach journalistic writing, how to structure an article, and the various aspects to be mindful of to create an impactful piece of writing. Jaggi Sir’s generosity in sharing his knowledge and feedback on all our articles helped me learn a lot within the short span of two days. I am grateful to Indica and Jaggi Sir for making this workshop possible and look forward to many more in the future. – Parag Shah