read + write

By Anna from Twitter

As a writer you have to show up

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read + write
this time with science.
Today, we’re excited to bring you reading recommendations, inspiration, and writing advice from scientists and researchers Dr. Pamela L. Gay, Bethany Brookshire, Dr. Sheree Bekker, and Mattia Peretti
We’ll be hosting a Space with all of these writers soon — look out for an update from @TwitterWrite (and while you’re here, check out last week’s inspiring Space at the NABJ-NAHJ convention in Las Vegas with John Paul Brammer, Adriana Lacy, Michell C. Clark, and Isabelia Herrera).
read + write + inspiration
Our first guest is Dr. Pamela L. Gay. Pamela is an astrophysicist who focuses on engaging people with science and technology through her writing. She is the co-host of the ‘Astronomy Cast’ podcast, and her writing has appeared in Astronomy, Sky and Telescope, and Lightspeed
📸: @JRBlackwell
📸: @JRBlackwell
What’s the thing you read when you want to remember how to write?
Humans are natural mimics and our language mirrors those we are with, listening to, or reading. When the world is on fire, I read books with humor like John Scalzi‘s and then try to talk science with lightness. When I seek grace to address hard issues, I read Maya Angelou. By reading many voices, I can find my own way to write about our complex universe. 
What’s the best thing you read in the past month?
Questions like “What’s the best thing you read” are dangerous to ask a reader. I took great delight in reading Jack Tamisiea’s National Geographic story describing DNA evidence that Virginia’s Chincoteague Island ponies actually swam there, just as the oral histories suggested. I also stayed up far too late last night reading the Dan Simmons classic, Hyperion. Ponies and poet planets — these are the things we need more of. 
Who’s the Twitter follow that hasn’t let you down, since the beginning?
My favorite Twitter person, who I inflict on every nerd in my life, is Twitter’s Orbital Police, Jonathan McDowell. I followed him because he’s a friendly colleague, and I stayed because the combo of science, humor, and chorizo is amazing. 
Tell us a way you’re excited to see people use Notes?
In the early 2000s, there was a wonderful moment where many of us Gen X'ers converged on LiveJournal to tell our stories, share our “secrets”, and try and inform those online. With the rise of MySpace, things changed and that intimate voice disappeared into independent blogs and died away with the rise of the influencers and microblogging. With Twitter Notes, those intimate voices have found a new place to speak, and I’m loving these new views into people and their passions.
What’s a piece of writing advice that’s held true for you?
As a writer you have to show up. Writing can be easy. It is often hard. If you don’t show up to make yourself tell that new story, essay, or idea, you’ll never even know if it is an easy day or not. If you aren’t writing — if you don’t show up — no other piece of advice really matters. If something is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.
How would you describe your relationship with your readers? (especially if it’s evolved)
One of my best friends just moved cross country to live in the town I live in. She is currently crashing in my spare bedroom. She is someone who discovered me as a content creator a million years ago and started showing up in comments and chat and one day a few years ago we just started being friends. This is a rare and special example, but it isn’t unique. I learned from Amanda Palmer that we have to start with a relationship of trust, and that lesson on the Art of Asking made me who I am as a creator and allowed me to find several of my closest friendships in places I never expected.  
Our second guest is Bethany Brookshire. Bethany is a writer, science journalist, and podcaster. She is a host and producer on the podcast ‘Science for the People’, and she has written for Science News, Scientific American, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, and more. Her upcoming book Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains will be published in December 2022. 
📸: Lancer Photography
📸: Lancer Photography
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. 
Our third guest is Dr. Sheree Bekker. Sheree is an Associate Editor of the British Journal of Sports Medicine, and a Qualitative Research Editor for BMJ Open Sport and Exercise Medicine. She is also an Assistant Professor in Injury Prevention in the Department for Health at the University of Bath.
📸: Sheree Bekker
📸: Sheree Bekker
What’s the thing you read when you want to remember how to write?
Audre Lorde’s exquisite ‘The transformation of silence into language and action.’ I have read this short essay hundreds of times, and still find it galvanizing every single time.
What’s the best thing you read in the past month?
Bitch: A Revolutionary Guide to Sex, Evolution and the Female Animal by Lucy Cooke. It’s the kind of feminist science writing that I cannot get enough of — writing that flips the script on everything you thought you knew. 
Who’s the Twitter follow that hasn’t let you down, since the beginning?
Frankie de la Cretaz (@thefrankiedlc), who writes about sport, gender, and queerness. I will read anything that they write, and have learned so much from them over the years.
Tell us a way you’re excited to see people use Notes?
For me, I’m excited about what Notes can do for science communication. I have loved what Twitter threads allowed me to do to convey complex information concisely to an audience of interested readers, but having the ability to follow that up with a more nuanced Note is a game-changer.
What’s a piece of writing advice that’s held true for you?
I have found the Mumford method, developed by philosopher Stephen Mumford to be incredibly useful. The method separates the thinking from the writing process, and for me this has produced some of my best (and easiest!) writing yet.
How would you describe your relationship with your readers? (especially if it’s evolved)
My relationship with my readers is based on trust and credibility that I have built over time. My readers look to my work for well-researched, credible, and trustworthy information on stories that can be difficult to make sense of. In this way, I think my readers see me as a guide, separating the wheat from the chaff.
Our fourth guest is Mattia Peretti. Mattia is the Programme Manager of Journalism AI, a research project run by the international journalism think-tank at the London School of Economics and Political Science. 
📸: Mattia Peretti
📸: Mattia Peretti
What’s the thing you read when you want to remember how to write?
I go back to read a newsletter I was writing in 2018 at a time of significant change in my life — and I was writing about that change. It’s something I’m proud of and, when I read it, it gives me the confidence to face the blank page and start again.  
 What’s the best thing you read in the past month?
The Blue Room, a short novel written in 1964 by Georges Simenon. It’s the 14th book I’ve read by him, a passion handed down to me by my father. I’ve never found anyone with a comparable ability to explore human emotions in such a nostalgic, powerful way.
Who’s the Twitter follow that hasn’t let you down, since the beginning?
This is gonna sound silly but I have to go with @dino_comics. Every time one of their comics pops up in my Twitter feed, I know it’ll put a smile on my face and make me want to show it to my girlfriend as soon as possible. Like this one. Or this one. Or this one. Ok I’ll stop.
 Tell us a way you’re excited to see people use Notes?
In short ways. When I start writing a Note, my brain expects me to write at least a few hundred words, like I would do if I was writing a blog post or a newsletter. But a Note can be anything beyond 280 characters. Even just 281. I’m excited to see how writers much more creative than me will come up with new formats that use just a few dozen words.
What’s a piece of writing advice that’s held true for you?
One of my favourite writers, Ágota Kristóf, is quoted to have said: “We can never express exactly what we mean.” It’s as frustrating as it is liberating because as much as we try, we will never be able to fully characterise what goes through our head once we write it down. Our thoughts are inevitably distorted when we turn them into written words. So we might as well write to the best of our abilities, and let the readers distort those words again as they process them in their head, making them theirs.
wrap up
Lots of great stuff in this issue — thanks for being here. Remember to follow @TwitterWrite to look out for reminders for our Science Space.
Until next time,
Anna
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Anna from Twitter
Anna from Twitter @revue

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