Where Do I Even Begin?

How asking questions can help you find your lede sentence

By Tiffany Fox

“The most important sentence in any article is the first one. If it doesn’t induce the reader to proceed to the second sentence, your article is dead.” — William Zinsser, On Writing Well

By TookapicIs there a science to writing a good opening sentence, otherwise known as a lede?

Maybe not, but there is science that suggests a good lede can mean the difference between your story being read and your story being, well, written off. The harsh truth: You have exactly eight seconds to capture your reader’s attention — unless your reader happens to be a goldfish, in which case you have nine. Continue reading “Where Do I Even Begin?”

Happy Hour, etc.

Happy Hour3Last Wednesday, we hung out with 40 of our closest friends at AleSmith, off Miramar Rd. We quaffed a beer or two, talked shop and watched Marine Ospreys land at the nearby airbase. Thanks everyone who came and sorry if you missed it. Don’t worry, more on the way.

There’s a rumor going around that one of our attendees received a job offer mid-happy hour. That’s some next-level networking, and we applaud the effort. More on that as new information comes in, but I think it’s just one more proof point that SANDSWA is the nexus of all things good in the world.

On a related note, Salk Institute is looking for a science writer. I relay this with some reluctance, since I freelance for them and a new FTE means less Salk for me. Still, must look beyond my own selfish self-interest and encourage qualified people to apply. They have an awesome comms team and cool faculty.

SANDSWA is up to 43 members – including eight newbies on Wednesday. Thanks everyone for joining. For those who are not members yet, please peruse our member benefits and immediately sign up. We will be your friends forever and ever.

What’s next? On September 26, we’re doing a tour and tasting at White Labs in Mira Mesa. Better yeast means better beer and White Labs is on top of it. The event starts at 5:30 and costs $10. We will have the registration up shortly. And, no, we do not drink too much. We drink exactly the right amount.

You should follow us on Facebook and Twitter – your productivity has been way too high lately.

What’s Next for SANDSWA

36978837_10216168953047461_5130917847635066880_o1.jpgWe’ve received a lot of positive feedback on our recent happy hour, so it makes sense to have another. Hope to see everyone on August 15, 5:30 to 7:30 pm, at AleSmith Brewing Company for our second event.

We would also like to encourage everyone to become a member. It’s only $25 a year, $15 for students. We’re putting together a nice membership package, which is expanding by the minute:

  • Regular newsletters with event notifications, job openings, member news and more
  • Invitations to special quarterly events, lectures, workshops, field trips
  • Opportunities to write a blog post or be featured in our blog and newsletter
  • Access to member directory
  • Opportunity to take a leadership role in organization – professional development and community service

So, you can serve your community, network like crazy and enhance your personal brand. What could possibly be better?

On the member event front, we are looking into potential tours at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, White Labs and other sites, as well as satellite events with some of the many scientific conferences that come to San Diego.

But what would you like us to do? Feel free to share in the comments below, through Twitter @SANDSWA2 or on our Facebook group. See you on 8/15.

 

 

Thanks for Being our Friends

Welcome SignWe reconstituted SANDSWA because we thought there might be pent up demand for a local science writing organization. Judging by the response at yesterday’s Farmer & The Seahorse happy hour, we weren’t wrong.

We guesstimate around 50 people showed up – freelancers, PIOs, journalists, marketing and PR pros, postdocs, grad students and at least one PI. People came from UCSD, Salk, SBP, LIAI, the UT, Canale, CG Life, Little Dog. There were past, present and (possibly) future San Diego Business Journal biotech writers. Thanks everyone for coming. And if you couldn’t make it, we missed you.

In a way, it was like a big family reunion where everyone gets along. We got to meet (IRL) so many people we knew only via email. There were former colleagues reacquainting and more than a few who had held the same positions at different times.

On a personal note, I’ve been to science events where I’m the only writer, and I have to explain what I do. And I’ve been to PR and journalism events where I’m the only science writer, and I have to explain what I do. It was nice getting to skip the preamble.

Steve2So, what’s next? There will be networking, facility tours, speakers, book signings. Stay tuned for a calendar of events (coming soon). If there’s anything you’d like to see, please let us know.

In the interim, you can become a member – only $25 or $15 for fulltime students. Join by July 31 and your one-year membership becomes an 18-month membership. You won’t have to re-up until 2020.

On the social media side, please follow, like and retweet on Twitter @SANDSWA2. We will be opening our Facebook page soon as well, so watch out for that.

We’re also looking for volunteers. You can help plan events, take on administrative duties or submit a guest blog. Send us a nice note, sandswa.info@gmail.com. We want to keep in touch.

 

Happy 4th

Image by Tom WalshI hope everyone is having a pleasant and relaxed 4th of July week. I’m reading about liquid biopsies, which is my idea of a good time.

Anyway, a couple of quick reminders. Our Kick-Off Happy Hour is coming next Wednesday at Farmer & The Seahorse. Start time is 5:30. You should register, I guarantee nothing better is going to come along.

Also, we have a Twitter page – @SANDSWA2. You should follow. We promise we won’t troll you about anything, except maybe the Oxford comma. Serious divisions there.

Okay, in summary, come to the happy hour, follow us on Twitter, have a great 4th.

On Becoming a Science Writer

Operating_a_Computer_Keyboard_MOD_45158109People sometimes ask me what I did to become a science writer. It was a circuitous path, but it’s worth noting that my degrees are in history and creative writing. I had to get the science knowledge through other means.

I make this point because it’s not an exclusive field. In some ways, I’m disadvantaged because I have to figure out things I might have learned in undergrad biochem. On the other hand, it becomes a voyage of discovery for me, much like my readers. Now that I know the science better, I have to occasionally check myself because I’ve started using jargon my audience might not understand.

For those who are interested in becoming science writers, from English majors to MD, PhDs, the first requirement is wanting to do it. I love my job, but I still have days when I really don’t want to write at all. It’s not writer’s block (that’s an entirely different post), it’s just work malaise.

My underlying desire to communicate science gets me through. I can’t imagine what it would be like to feel tepid about it. I’d probably have a different career by now.

The second step is writing. At some point, or even many points, people will ask to see your writing samples. You can write a blog (be sure to publish consistently, people notice), do some volunteer writing for your favorite scientific nonprofit, get an internship. Find a way to get the words out.

Take a class or two. UCSD offers an entire science communication program. Some of these classes are taught by SANDSWA board members Heather Buschman and Tiffany Fox, as well as scicomm guru, Lynne Friedmann.

Network like crazy. The San Diego Biotech Network holds periodic events. CG Life is hosting their annual Unwind party on August 9. Other possible resources are PRSA, HCC and IABC.

Also, by the way, SANDSWA is having its first happy hour on July 11 at Farmer & The Seahorse on Torrey Pines Mesa. You should come. We’ll chat more.