At the National Association of Science Writers' annual meeting in Pittsburgh in 2005, Kendall Powell, a young freelance writer, was "soaking her conference-sore feet with three other writers in a huge jet-tub in the hotel's honeymoon suite" while they did one of the things writers do best: complain.
"I complained that while I met so many interesting colleagues at conferences, and always loved talking shop with them, it was difficult to keep up that camaraderie once we headed home," she writes. Online groups, she thought, were too impersonal. But would a small, more intimate group "serve as a virtual jet-tub"?
Out of that reverie came the birth of an online group known as SciLance, which has grown to 35 members, and out of SciLance came a very good guide to science writing–The Science Writers' Handbook, published this week.
The book, written by the members of SciLance, explores such subjects as finding ideas and pitching them, writing narratives, working with editors, selling a book, the business of freelancing, journalism ethics, and blogging. One chapter that spoke to me was "Children and Deadlines: A Messy Rodeo." Writing a book on fathers, as I am now doing, became possible for me only when I became a father, which is when it almost became impossible as well.
Some of the chapters are more like therapy than advice: "The Loneliness of the Science Writer" is one, and "Good Luck Placing This Elsewhere: How to Cope with Rejection," is another. Fans of Susan Cain's book Quiet will enjoy a chapter called "Networking for the Nervous," which includes an "introvert's survival guide for conference cocktail parties."
Except in the case of Powell, who started this whole thing, I've decided not to mention the names of the writers, because I can't name them all and it wouldn't be fair to name only some of them–they have all made substantial contributions to this book. You will see familiar names here, and some unfamiliar. But they all have a lot to say. You can find their names here.
I found the book entertaining and enlightening, and that's coming from someone who's been at this for a while. You'd be smart to take a look.