Category Archives: books

The Scientist’s Guide to Writing is a year old!

One year ago*, The Scientist’s Guide to Writing hit the world’s bookshelves. A year is very young for a human or a redwood tree; it’s very old for a butterfly.  I hope a year is still quite young for The Scientist’s Guide, although that depends entirely on whether people keep reading and using it.

People often ask me how the book is “doing”.  I’d love to know the answer to that!  Continue reading

Why so few novels about scientists?

Image: “Scientists” sensu Wikipedia, by Urcomunicacion CC BY 3.0.

Like most scientists, I live a life rich in other scientists.  That’s true because I work among them, but I also live in a university town with a couple of major government research labs.  That means there are often scientists at the movie theatre, scientists at the grocery store, and scientists at the next table when I go out for dinner.  There are nearly always scientists at the bookstore and at the local library, too.  But there’s one place there aren’t scientists (or at least, not very many): in the pages of the books shelved there. I find that peculiar. Continue reading

Writing a book: what a long strange trip it’s been

Image: Sidewalk art by Jeremy Brooks, via flickr.com CC BY-NC 2.0; lyrics from Truckin’, Garcia/Weir/Lesh/Hunter.

Warning: really long post.  TL;DR: Publishing a book is really different, and I learned a lot by doing it.

Heard_Scientist'sGuide coverPerhaps you’ve noticed that I’ve just published a book, The Scientist’s Guide to Writing.  (I’ve tried to make it hard for you not to notice.)  And lately, it occurs to me what a long, strange trip it’s been.

What do I mean by that? Well, if I were an academic in the arts or humanities, there’d be nothing unusual about having published a book.  But in the sciences we don’t write a lot of books.  Like most scientists, I knew next to nothing about writing or publishing a book before I started working on mine.  If you’re curious about how it works and what it’s like, read on. Who knows, maybe you’ll write a book too, someday. (Caution: since I have a sample size of one – for now – I can’t guarantee that my story is representative.)

Books take a long time

It took almost five years* from the first tentative plan to a published book I could hold in my hand.  I knew it would take a long time, of course, but I didn’t see five years coming.  Inasmuch as I planned it out at all (and I’ll admit that making and sticking to a plan is not my academic strong suit), I thought perhaps six months to write a prospectus and get the book under contract, a year to write the rest of it, and another to get it published. (Ha!)

In hindsight, of course, I’m not sure how I thought I could write a 90,000-word book in a year.  Continue reading

“The Scientist’s Guide to Writing” is out!

It’s out!

Heard_Scientist'sGuide coverIt’s been almost five years since I started work on what became The Scientist’s Guide to Writing. I’m absolutely thrilled to announce that as of today (April 12), the book is officially published!  The Scientist’s Guide is now available from your local or internet bookseller (links below) or, of course, from your local library.  (It may be worth checking a couple of booksellers, as shipping times for physical copies seem to vary quite a bit.  Kindle and Kobo e-versions are available worldwide.)

All scientists are writers – we have to be, or our work will be lost.  But many of us don’t find writing easy.  I wrote The Scientist’s Guide to tell you some of things I wish someone had told me when I was beginning to practice the craft.  Actually (and somewhat to my surprise), in writing it I learned new things that are helping me even this late in my career.  I think the book can help any writer; as of today, you can grab a copy and see whether I’m right.

Meanwhile, if you need me, I’ll be off doing my happy dance.

Canada Canada: The Scientist’s Guide via Amazon.ca, or via Chapters.ca

United_States USA: The Scientist’s Guide via Amazon.com

150px-Globe.svg Everywhere else: see links here.

 

© Stephen Heard (sheard@unb.ca) April 12, 2016

To love or to hate Miss Rumphius?

Photo: Lupines at Svínafellsjökull, Iceland (photo S. Heard). Book cover, Miss Rumphius, Viking Press, fair use. Georg Rumpf, portrait from his Herbarium Amboinense (1741), public domain.

This is my 100th post on Scientist Sees Squirrel. You’ll notice it hits some of my favourite themes (but not statistics; everyone needs a break sometime). I hope you enjoy it, as I hope you’ve enjoyed a few others of my first 100.

I should hate this book, but I can’t.

330px-MissRumphiusBookCover“This book” is Barbara Cooney’s Miss Rumphius (Viking Press, 1982; links below) – a picture book for young children that’s both lovely and profound. I read it to my son perhaps a hundred times, and if it weren’t for him thinking he’s outgrown the book (and being read to), I’d read it to him a hundred times more. I flinch every time I read it, but I keep coming back. I’ll explain both. Continue reading