What’s the thing you read when you want to remember how to write?
I don’t. I know that sounds counterintuitive. But honestly, when I’m blocked or frustrated, it’s usually because I need to get away from words, and into experiences. Doing reporting, either in person or virtual, is what gives me passion and excitement, and makes words come spilling out.
What’s the best thing you read in the past month?
It’s actually a re-read, but I was just taking some notes on Emma Marris’ The Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World. I love the clarity of her prose, and how she reinforces her points and builds her arguments. She writes not in a way that confirms what you already know, but in a way that makes you think more for yourself, and that’s so rare.
Who’s the Twitter follow that hasn’t let you down, since the beginning?
I personally believe that you should never stan anyone. These days with unfettered access to the internet, everyone will let you down eventually. So I would say @onthisdayinLOTR, which just Tweets things that happen in the
Lord of the Rings books on calendar days that correspond. Not only did nothing in the feed ever actually happen, the dude who wrote them down in the first place is dead.
Tell us a way you’re excited to see people use Notes?
I feel like blogging has ups and downs, but no matter the platform, people want to express themselves in ways longer than a Tweet. Twitter users initially solved this for themselves with threads, and I hope Notes will take the place of that, both for accessibility and to concentrate all the bile in one place. Notes: the new gall bladder of the internet.
What’s a piece of writing advice that’s held true for you?
It’s so nerdy, but I was lucky enough to meet with @MichaelPollan once. He described writing longform narrative like laundry on a line — balance heavier bits like jeans with lighter bits like socks, to make sure the line doesn’t get weighed down and the reader can move along it easily. This analogy worked so well for me that I started graphing my own longform narratives, weighing them and looking for balance.
How would you describe your relationship with your readers? (especially if it’s evolved)
In the very beginning, I was still an academic scientist, and so most of my interactions were with academic scientists. When I became a journalist, my interactions gradually shifted. I tend to Tweet links to things, rather than share my opinion, in part because my opinions kind of suck. But the best interactions with my readers are still when we can chat back and forth, teaching each other things and making each other laugh.