September 23, 2017

Science writing tips for California Academy of Sciences workshop

Think like a journalist: Consider what’s unique, surprising or compelling about your topic. Think about what you’d tell a friend about it – what makes you say wow?

Winged Wonders: Great migrations of sandhill cranes, Horizons, March 2014

With an assist from the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, crane populations have rebounded dramatically, though habitat loss and hunting continue to imperil these graceful birds.

Sweet home Chicago: Blues, baseball and barbecue, Inspirato, Summer 2015

Sometimes, if you’ve worked with an editor for a while, she approaches you with an assignment. And occasionally she opens the door to your dream story. When my editor at Inspirato suddenly had an opening for a feature and asked me to pitch a story about Chicago, I sent in essence a three-word reply: “Blues, baseball, barbecue.” Ultimately I got the assignmet and wrote about my favorite aspects of the City of Big Shoulders.
Here’s an excerpt from the story: Wrigley Field has been showing its age, but that’s part of its charm, and a new Jumbotron installed this year adds 21st-century technology to the creaky yard. Mark Gonzales, who covers the Cubs for the Chicago Tribune notes that baseball is “deep-rooted” in Chicago and that loyalty is passed down through the generations. “You can always sell hope, and hope remains strong with the Cubs.”
That hope is captured in Norman Rockwell’s 1948 painting The Dugout. It focuses on a slump-shouldered bat boy with dejected Cubs players sitting in the dugout behind him. Above are several jeering fans, but there’s one smiling kid, thrilled just to be at the game. That’s the symbol of the true Cubs fan.

Grateful Dead documentary: North Bay has starring role (May 2015)

“It will come out when it’s ready,” said Kreutzmann, 45, the son of Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann. “It would be nice to hit the 50th anniversary, but making a better film is more important.”

Boz Scaggs still smooth after all these years (May 2015)

The classics remain fun because “I never play a song the same way twice,” Scaggs said. “It’s different every night.”

Islands magazine: Last of the Moken, June 2014

En route to Thailand last year, I saw a short video about the Moken, a Polynesian who traditionally have drifted among the islands and coasts of Thailand and Burma. Inspired to see them, we found a group that arranged visits and provided a translator, which led to this story in the June 2014 issue of […]

CritBit wins top prize on ‘Top Inventor’ reality show

CritBit wins top prize on Top Inventor reality show BY FRANK FARKAKTE DISASSOCIATED PRESS SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A wearable device called the CritBit has earned Petaluma inventor Michael Shapiro $1 million on the Turner reality show “America’s Greatest Makers.” The device, about the size of watch, can be worn on one’s wrist or belt. […]

Dodgers’ broadcaster Vin Scully suspended for PEDs

LOS ANGELES — Veteran Los Angeles Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully was suspended today by Major League Baseball for 50 games after performance enhancing drugs were found in the announcer’s booth at the Dodgers’ spring training stadium in Glendale, Ariz. A random search found No Doz and Sudafed in Scully’s section of the booth, which contain […]

Making a living as a freelancer

Editors have always appreciated brevity, but today space is tighter than ever. Try to keep stories under 1,500 words, 2,000 tops. A 750-word story has a much better chance of selling than a 2,500-word piece.

Barbara Kingsolver interview, Press Democrat

“It’s really important to me not to write the same book twice, not even close.” -Barbara Kingsolver