Part 2 of Constructing a Pitch – Dramatic Structure
Here we have on the operating ta— I mean, stage — four characters to build a play with.
Cast of characters –
- Sick people. They live in sickening houses. Most don’t know their home is making them sick, though some suspect.
- Health care payers. Sick care, not health care, really. They pay to make sick people better.
- Contractors. Home fixers. Sometimes healers, if the home they fix was making people sick.
- Building scientists. They find ways to make homes healthy, and figure out why houses often make their occupants sick.
Next step – Pick one of those four to be the protagonist. Continue reading Play Doctoring
Part 1 of Constructing a Pitch – Dramatic Structure
What’s the problem with the “Indoor Air is Bad For You” story? I’ve pitched it several places, with no takers. The angle with which I’ve shot it over the transoms is
The emerging discovery that it’s cheaper to treat asthma by fixing people’s homes than by prescribing them asthma drugs.
Let’s take the story apart, as a dramaturg would take apart a play, to see how it works. Or, in this case, how it fails to work. Continue reading Looking for the Hook, Dramatically
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
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.
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
Yes, it’s the first line of Hamlet, but that’s not what I’m writing about. At least not directly.
In my last post, I promised to bring to the table other writers who’ve written about fruitful relationships with imaginary readers.
My own touchstone comes from an essay by Mark Kramer. Continue reading Who’s there?
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?
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!
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
Forgive my curmudgeonliness, but this is a discovery for me. Twitter is good for something.
Twitter as a reporting tool
Further research is needed.