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    Every Creeping Thing: True Tales of Faintly Repulsive Wildlife: “Conniff is a splendid writer–fresh, clear, uncondescending, and with never a false step; one can’t resist quoting him.” (NY Times Book Review)

    The Species Seekers:  Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth by Richard Conniff is “a swashbuckling romp” that “brilliantly evokes that just-before Darwin era” (BBC Focus) and “an enduring story bursting at the seams with intriguing, fantastical and disturbing anecdotes” (New Scientist). “This beautifully written book has the verve of an adventure story” (Wall St. Journal)

    Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time by Richard Conniff  is “Hilariously informative…This book will remind you why you always wanted to be a naturalist.” (Outside magazine) “Field naturalist Conniff’s animal adventures … are so amusing and full color that they burst right off the page …  a quick and intensely pleasurable read.” (Seed magazine) “Conniff’s poetic accounts of giraffes drifting past like sail boats, and his feeble attempts to educate Vervet monkeys on the wonders of tissue paper will leave your heart and sides aching.  An excellent read.” (BBC Focus magazine)

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On Becoming a Science Writer

Posted by Richard Conniff on December 9, 2011

It seems to me now that my entire science education consisted of one year, seventh grade, with Dr. Kowalski, who, among other ingenious assignments, had each of us purchase a whole chicken, strip it to the bone, and then reassemble the skeleton.

After that, I had a high school physics course taught by a summertime Good Humor Man, and a biology course taught by a newly-consecrated Irish Christian Brother, who found alm0st everything in biology deeply mortifying (and honestly who can blame him?). In college, I visited Science Hill just twice, first as a protester, and next for my job as a projectionist. I mostly studied poetry.

My turnabout came at the age of 25, when a magazine agreed to let me write about mosquitoes, and I suddenly found myself appalled and delighted by the incredible surgical tools in a mosquito’s proboscis. I also managed to work a poem (by D.H. Lawrence) into the story, a practice I have tried to indulge ever since.

Other stories about animals and behavior followed. Dr. Kowalski’s assignment even came back to me, when I found myself in Venezuela testing chicken caracasses on piranha populations, for my book Swimming With Piranhas at Feeding Time: My Life Doing Dumb Stuff with Animals.  (They could be a lot quicker than me at the business of stripping a carcass to the bone.)

My advice to prospective science writers?

Marry money.

Sorry, just kidding. Read poetry. We need more people to recognize that the “two cultures” idea is bunk. And, really, take more science courses than I did. Lots more. I hear they are better now.



One Response to “On Becoming a Science Writer”

  1. Raymond said

    Well said, Richard. As a fellow poet turned science enthusiast and lecturer I’ve greatly enjoyed both of your books. Looking forward to your future efforts, wherever they take you.

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