Two Month Journal: Science Writers showdown

What can I say? Time moves fast when you’re having a blast.

It’s officially my second full month here on Ohio University’s campus, and my life couldn’t be more frantic, exhilarating, and rewarding – all at the same time.

Where did I leave off? My days seem like years; I often crash at night forgetting where I began exactly that morning. And I’ve made so much progress in both my professional career and social experiences, I often ask myself: “It’s only October?”

Midterm season has mercifully passed over us all, as we scholars enter Week 9 of 15. (We’re officially over halfway!!) Though just because midterms are over doesn’t mean I’m shuffling around in my pajamas all day. I’m (attempting) to read all of my course material, completing those tedious out-of-class assignments, while juggling interviews and articles for The Post and College Green Magazine. After six weeks of often-inconvenient evening classes, I’m a certified Career and Leadership Development Center Foundations Freshman Leader and 21st Century Skills Team Member (chalk that up on the ever-evolving resumé).

Undeniably, the most influential and enlightening experience over the last month has been attending the Science Writers 2014 conference, held in downtown Columbus this past weekend. If ever there was a moment when, years from now as I’m writing my highly-anticipated autobiography, I had to peg when my career as a “science writer” officially began, it would be at #sciwri14. And not just so much began but as ignited into a burning ball of flames that even I get overwhelmed just thinking about the opportunities, possibilities, and contacts literally resting in the palm of my hand (business cards, people, I’m talking business cards).

I entered as an inexperienced freshman undergraduate with a huge passion for the environment and a celebrity crush on every writer in the banquet hall. I emerged as a battered, coffee-addicted/sleep-deprived, yet determined ‘science writer.’ Walking into the first seminar of the all-intensive weekend, I just about dropped into a full-body stupor – for I was face-to-face with one of my journalist-idols, Nadia Drake of National Geographic’s Phenomena blog. After the initial shock of “ohmygosh you’re actually a real person and not just a Twitter icon”, Nadia (my assigned mentor) and I discussed her ‘origin’ story as a science writer and the future of science journalism. That half-hour of unprecedented mentorship late Saturday afternoon is more valuable to me than the 11 business cards currently tucked away in my journal. I know I’ll always remember her words of wisdom, along with Betsy Mason’s (of WIRED) unparalleled advice from an editor’s perspective. Sunday and Monday, I was practically thrown into the sacrificial fire of science journalists by being asked to cover a talk on the recent advancements of genome engineering. Clearly, I’m no expert on genetics, let only genetic manipulations, and it was obvious I had no idea what I was talking about in my article – my editor said so. After stumbling through my endless edits, she point-blank told me I should consider broadcast instead of print journalism. Ouch.

It’s not easy to digest such a blunt comment like that. It’s not easy to hear I don’t have what it takes to be a science writer, after I’ve pursued the written word since my first fiction story in the third grade (shoutout to the wonderful Mr. Fouts and The World of Appleless). How did I react? I took the comments with grace and an uncomfortable slice of humble pie. In truth, my article was incredibly lack-luster. The lead was buried beneath a jumble of inaccurate genetic science and I-guess-only-I-thought-were-clever phrases. It took a slap in the face for me to realize nothing about science writing is easy. But does that mean I’ve given up? Absolutely not. If anything, it gives me a little more edge, a little more aggressive dedication. Not only will I return next year with more experience and seasoned practice, but I will become a nationally-recognized science writer. Every success story is not without his or her critics. Fine, let the critics say I can’t do it. Let them say I’ll never make it. The beast inside of me has arisen, and she’s got a thirst, an insatiable hunger, to prove them all wrong.

Oh, I also got all my lovely locks chopped off this month. So there’s my first college-girl-gone-wild story for the memory bank.

Until next month,

BNB xo

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