Coming Soon: December Portland Monthly

The December issue of Portland Monthly is always the History issue. The theme of this year’s History issue is Heroes.

I will have an article in it about Dr. Esther Pohl, who led the successful campaign to prevent San Francisco’s 1907 bubonic plague epidemic from reaching Portland. No other city on the West Coast managed it.

Esther Pohl pulled it off by yoking science and politics. By politics, I mean leadership, not back room deals.

The science that made it possible was the recent discovery that the plague bacillus was carried not by rats, but by fleas riding on rats. Until that connection was made, no city in all of human history had a chance against plague. Continue reading Coming Soon: December Portland Monthly

Hey! Got a gig!

Yesterday, an editor I’ve worked with before emailed me. He wants me to write a story we talked about months ago. I’d almost forgotten it.

Details later. It will appear in December in a local magazine, and it’s another aspect of the rat story.

How did this happen? The usual way: keeping in touch with my network.
A writer’s network includes every editor she’s worked with and wants to work with again.
That’s even more important now that there are fewer venues to choose from.

Science Writing Sinking: It’s Not Just Me

Aha! Or rather, uh-oh. I’ve been writing about how hard it is being unable to write, but I just learned it’s not that I can’t write. The problem is that I can’t find anyone who’s listening. The problem is the writing economy. Especially the science-writing economy. I’m not alone in isolation, but that’s no consolation.

At The Open Notebook: The story behind the best science stories, freelance science writer Kendall Powell writes

[T]he collapse of print advertising, declining magazine subscriptions, the enormous availability of free content online … has writers of all kinds talking and writing about their job security fears and inability to make a living wage in journalism.

Continue reading Science Writing Sinking: It’s Not Just Me

Hello?

I never thought I would suffer from writer’s block. As a nonfiction writer, questions are the air I breathe. And questions call out for stories to answer them. But for about a year, since my last published piece, words fail me. I don’t know how to tell anyone about it when a story pops up.

Writers talk about finding their “writing voice.” What is that? It’s nothing like a singing voice, or a classroom voice, or a commanding voice. Continue reading Hello?

Twitter, here I am!

Wow, Twitter is a parallel Earth, miniaturized. I should have joined a long time ago. Mea culpa idiotica.

It’s great that there no slow talkers to endure, no meandering, no lugubriousness. The exclamation points are a chuckle – they’re as thick as the hair on a dog’s back.

Twitter search results are both concise and comprehensive. By ‘comprehensive’ I mean that the result of searching on ‘X’ is a kind of map, to scale, of common knowledge about X. Continue reading Twitter, here I am!

Dead in the Water

My science-writing career is dead in the water. How do I know? I have a big story that I can’t sell (Indoor Air: Why it Makes You Sick & What To Do). And that’s all I have. I have no small stories to introduce myself to an editor at a magazine. Small stories in science cover a new study, or an interesting researcher.

I’ve never developed small stories, because I thought I didn’t need them. Continue reading Dead in the Water

Who Do You Call? Part 1

Suppose the practical questions of how to make a home healthy are solved. Suppose we do untangle the science of houses and indoor air, and how they make people sick. Fantastic.

Then what? Who will you call to figure out whether your home is making you sick, and what can be done about it? You’ll call an HVAC contractor, or some other kind of building contractor. It’s your house you want fixed, and they fix houses. Continue reading Who Do You Call? Part 1

Free Trade

I just sent this email to my Congressperson, Earl Blumenauer, who supported Fast Track for the TPP (TransPacific Partnership). He is otherwise an excellent representative.

Free trade is great in theory. I took Econ 101 years ago and learned why it’s so great for nations to maximize what they’re good at making, and sell their stuff to other nations that make other things better than they can. Continue reading Free Trade