Science writing in Santa Fe: It’s all good

Colorful mailboxes in Santa FeI had the great privilege of attending the 2018 Santa Fe Science Writing Workshop in May. I highly recommend it to science journalists, writers, editors and communicators at agencies, universities, nonprofits, etc. Scientists who value clear communication and recognize the importance of science literacy, education, public outreach and darn good science writing would also find much benefit.

The leaders include the esteemed New York Times science writers and authors Sandra Blakeslee and George Johnson and workshop mentors have included author and former New York Times science editor Cornelia Dean, Henry Fountain of the New York Times climate desk and Lee Holtz of the Wall Street Journal.

Early career, mid-career and veteran science writing folks can all share and learn from the best and each other.

And you get to spend a week in beautiful Santa Fe. What’s not to love???

Check out the 2018 science writing workshop schedule of events:

Monday, May 7

3 p.m. Begin checking in at Inn of the Governors.

4:45 p.m. to 6 p.m. Registration packets will be available for pickup at a table in the lobby.

5:30 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. Reception (cash bar) in Kiva Room. (Participants only. Guests will be welcome at later events.)

6:15 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Dinner in Governors Room followed by introductions. Meet the students and instructors. (Participants only.)

Tuesday, May 8

6:30 a.m. to 8:15 a.m. Breakfast at hotel.

8:30 a.m. Meet in hotel lobby for a ride to the Santa Fe Institute. Drivers, including commuters and instructors, are asked to help with the carpooling.

9:15 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Welcome by David Krakauer, president of SFI.

9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. “Searching for the Perfect Lede.” Before listening to two presentations by scientists, the instructors will discuss how to turn science’s discoveries into compelling stories.

10:45 a.m. to 12 noon. Presentation by SFI scientist Chris Kempes.

12:15 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Picnic lunch on the grounds. Meet with your group for the first time and discuss the morning’s presentation.

1:45 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Presentation by an SFI scientist Vanessa Ferdinand.

(Students may use the talks as the basis for a writing assignment, which will be critiqued during the workshop sessions. See the FAQ for details.)

3:15 p.m. Return to hotel.

4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Meet in the hotel conference room for a short discussion about what we learned at SFI.

5:30 p.m. Explore the Plaza; forage for dinner.

Wednesday, May 9

6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. Breakfast at hotel.

9 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. “Covering the Climate Beat at the New York Times.” Henry Fountain talks about how to make sense of the complexities of climate science and produce stories that people will read and find interesting and informative.

10:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. “Sensor City.” Robert Lee Hotz discusses how data about health, lifestyle, and behavior can be turned into maps that enrich story-telling, and he describes his own experience mapping the bacteria of the New York City subway system for The Wall Street Journal.

12 noon to 1 p.m. Lunch at the hotel.

1:15 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. “Where Book Ideas Come From.” George Johnson talks about how he came to write nine books during his career, three of which were short-listed for the Royal Society Science Book Prize.

2:45 to 5:15 p.m. Workshop session. Students will break into groups and meet with their assigned instructor.

6 p.m. Gather in the Governors room for a book reading and signing by the instructors. You can order a drink and relax for awhile. (Collected Works bookstore will have books on sale.)

6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. The reading and book signing.

8 p.m. Explore the Plaza; forage for dinner.

Thursday, May 10

6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. Breakfast at the hotel.

9 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. “It’s Not Just About the Science.” Cornelia Dean talks about her reporting on the fate of the coast in an era of rising seas — a story where science intersects with politics, economics, and sociology.

10:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. “Dueling Authors.” Sandra Blakeslee describes her collaborations with scientists on books about neuroscience, the microbiome and other subjects and explains what you need to know before writing your own book.

12 noon to 1 p.m. Lunch at the hotel.

1:15 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Workshop session. Meet with your instructor.

3 p.m. Meet in hotel lobby for an optional field trip to Bandelier National Monument. Guests are welcome. Bring sunscreen, hat, water, and (depending on the forecast) rain gear. (If you prefer to stay in town, you can walk to the Plaza and nearby museums or explore Canyon Road and Santa Fe’s historic Eastside.)

3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Explore the ruins at Bandelier.

6:30 p.m. Dinner at Pranzo Italian Grill. (Cash bar. Guests welcome.)

9:15 p.m. Return to hotel.

Friday May 11

6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. Breakfast at hotel.

9 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. Meet for the final time with your group.

12 noon to 1 p.m. Lunch at the hotel.

1:30 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.

Environmental reporters Laura Paskus and April Reese will discuss how to pursue a career as a freelance writer.

3 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. Open session. (Topic to be decided as the week unfolds.)

4:30 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. Instructors will be available to meet informally with students. Meanwhile relax and prepare for the week’s big event.

5:30 p.m. Meet in hotel lobby for a ride to the barbecue. (Guests welcome.)

6 p.m. to whenever. Barbecue at Sandra Blakeslee’s house. (The drinks are on us.)

Saturday, May 12

6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. Breakfast at the hotel. Please check out before attending the final session. Luggage can be left at the front desk.

9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Pitch session. Drawing on what we learned this week, students will pitch story ideas to our guest editor (name to be announced) and the instructors.

10:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Closing discussion and farewell.

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