Spring is sprung

by Michael

Spring_2013_logo_-_150A fleeting visit to Cambridge yesterday to run a workshop on ‘Writing Science’ for Cambridge Wordfest (Spring 2013 edition). Having some experience of offering guidance to scientists who want to improve how they write for general interest audiences, I was a bit nervous about a workshop that was open to the public – anyone, if they were willing to pay for the privilege, could come along. But in the end, most of those who came were from some sort of scientific background – working in research, scientific publishing or, alarmingly, science communication.

Of course, part of the draw was the attendance of Alok Jha, science correspondent for the Guardian. In fact, I’m sure two or three people were there solely to try and pitch ideas to him. But our schedule was already full to the brim with exercises and talks, including one from Penny Sarchet, one of the first winners of the Wellcome Trust Science Writing Prize, which we were there to promote.

Indeed, we were knocked delightfully off-schedule by some great questions and discussion that followed the first exercise. It was so good that people came ready to speak up and question our assumptions as well as their own. I guess it is something of a truism to say that it is the participants who make a workshop successful or not, more than the people running it, but perhaps we can allow for there to be a great deal of input from both sides.

The workshop was over all too quickly. However, it was followed by a really pleasant lunch in Cambridge. It had definite airs of the kind of journalistic excess of bygone days – not so much the booze (though there was a rather nice bottle of Viognier on the table) but the food. My waistband was certainly a little tighter on the train home….

But what bliss on the train home! I think I had been quite stressed about doing the workshop, plus it has been unusually busy at work, so having an hour or so to clear my head was a real treat. As is my usual refuge, I started making notes about the things I want to write outside of work and outside of science. Some familiar projects resurfaced, including a work of fiction that has been stewing for a while (years, if not decades). But on that train journey, I sketched out an outline for the book and I am really quite excited about it – if I can now discipline myself to write it in life’s interstitial moments.

All in all, a good weekend, and with the weather improving as well, sappy as it might be to say it, I feel invigorated and inspired in my writing. Let’s hope it lasts longer than the current sunny spell.