We are pleased to announce the inaugural 2021 SANDSWA Writing Awards. The competition is open to all SANDSWA members, and there are four categories: Best Traditional Media Story; Best Institutional Writing; Best Multimedia Piece; and Best Student Writing Assignment.
Winners receive a free SANDSWA membership for the upcoming year. The Best Student Writing Assignment winner will receive free registration for the next NASW annual meeting.
The deadline to apply is July 1. Please, submit no more than one entry per category. Here are some more details:
Best Traditional Media Story – This category is for journalistic work published in a traditional media outlet such as a newspaper, magazine or online news service. Entries should feature original reporting, and should have publication dates between June 2020 and June 2021. Submit a Piece
Best Institutional Writing – This category is for work such as press releases or institutional publications that report on or promote the work of an institution, such as a university, nonprofit organization or business. The work should have a publication date between June 2020 and June 2021. Submit a Piece
Best Multimedia Piece – This category is for science reporting or science communication that is presented primarily in a non-written format, such as podcasts, infographics or videos. The piece should have a publication date between June 2020 and June 2021. Submit a Piece
Best Student Writing Assignment – This category is for a science reporting or communication project (either written or multimedia) that was completed as part of a class assignment. The work should have been completed between June 2020 and June 2021. Submissions can be made on behalf of a student. All students of science writing coursework in San Diego County are eligible to participate. Submit a Piece
I’ve been freelancing from my home office for around eight years, and I would be reluctant to trade back. I enjoy the freedom and flexibility. On the other hand, it wasn’t an easy transition. I missed having colleagues close by and sometimes had trouble budgeting my time. For those who are working from home for the first time, here are a few tips.
Take time to set up your office right. You may want to pick up a second monitor – I find it indispensable. But also spend some time (and money if you can) on good ergonomics and a comfy chair. You’re going to be there a lot.
You will also have to learn new skills. Maybe Zoom wasn’t your best talent. It is now. And nobody from IT is coming to your home to troubleshoot your network problems. If you’re trying something new, test it before the interview/meeting. There’s nothing worse than facing technical failure while you’re trying to do something important.
Let’s start with the last one. We got to check out the Frozen Zoo – a comprehensive cell sample collection covering hundreds of species. We happened to pass by when the zoo team was pulling Northern White Rhinoceros cells for further study.
The Acoustical Society of America (ASA), part of the American Institute of Physics (AIP), held its 178th meeting at the Hotel del Coronado last week. In addition to meeting old friends, networking and presenting their research, a number of participants met for an evening media training session on December 2. The workshop sought to teach acoustic scientists best practices when pitching their work and interacting with the media. Continue reading “Media Training at ASA”
I was laid off from my communications job at Sanford Burnham in 2011, the collateral damage from a grant funding crisis. Theoretically, I could have gotten a similar position at Salk, TSRI or UC San Diego, but I was concerned the same funding issues would catch up with me. When my risk-averse wife gave her blessing, I decided to go freelance.
A number of people warned me against it, but they were all former journalists and knew it would be challenging to make a living pitching publications. I had a different model in mind: working for universities, research institutes, biotechs and nonprofits. I occasionally perform random acts of journalism, but mostly I work for organizations.
The slow economy was a concern but that may have been an advantage. Companies lay off full timers, but they still need the work done. Signs are pointing towards another economic downturn, which could really test that hypothesis.
In the Beginning
I started by calling everyone I knew who could either hire or refer me. Not really a pitch so much as just letting them know I was freelancing. I hated calling like that, but almost everyone was supportive, and I was incredibly fortunate to get a project that week. Networking is a long game – some of those calls generated business two years later – but it’s good to be lucky.
When people want advice on freelancing, I always ask what their Rolodex looks like. My experience with Sanford Burnham, and Scripps Health before that, gave me lots of contacts who knew my work. Otherwise, it’s just pure cold calling. Some people are good at that, even enjoy it. But if that’s not you, give it some thought.
I also ask what kinds of samples prospective freelancers have – prospective clients will definitely want to see your work. There’s lots of ways to create samples: blog, volunteer at a nonprofit, write random spec pieces.
My first rule is: Always show up. That means meeting deadlines, responding to calls and emails within a few hours, communicating with clients if there’s a problem and generally being transparent.
This may seem like no-brainer advice, but it’s not. There are lots of flaky freelancers. Every couple of years, I get a call from someone who has lost their writer – they have literally gone MIA – and the deadline is coming up. I always say yes, it’s a function of my hero complex.
As a consultant, my job is to solve my clients’ problem(s). That means showing them the work is in good hands. From the moment they make the assignment, I want them to feel confident they can cross it off their list.
What I’ve Learned
Working at home was hard at first, but it’s grown on me over the years. Being alone means fewer distractions. As an FTE, there are always meetings, urgent email strings, birthday parties, fires to put out. Sometimes, it’s hard to get to the actual work, even if you love it.
Some people worry that being at home will present its own distractions. Fortunately (or unfortunately), I’m not the type to clean my house to avoid work.
The flexibility is wonderful. My kids were 10 and 7 when I went on my own, so I got to be there when they came home from school, or I could carve out 20 minutes for an impromptu game of street football, or take them to the orthodontist. It all worked, as long as I got my projects done on time.
Is it feast or famine? Sometimes. Being slow is frightening. Nobody likes waiting for the phone to ring. Being busy can also be scary. Sometimes multiple deadlines fall on the same day. But fear is a great motivator, and it has made me a better writer. On a professional level, that may be the best win of all.