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Alicia Sometimes on science writing: Teen writing boot camps

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07 May 2021

At the Library's Teen writing boot camp, writer Alicia Sometimes explored the art of science writing with a group of talented young teens. Here she shares some tips and reflections from her boot camps in April 2021.

Reading about scientific achievements or the pursuit of a scientific problem is one way I like to spend my time. Like many writers I always want to understand the intricacies and wonders of the universe, and I find scientific endeavours endlessly fascinating. By knowing more about who we are, we can create a window into our past, present and future existence. Science is ongoing and expands our knowledge constantly. It is a changing body of knowledge and is a methodical process that adapts.

I am not a scientist but love to write about science and its many forms. What a pleasure it was to find so many like-minded writers in this bootcamp. We looked at the ways science can enhance our curiosity and we talked about the way science and art can be similar: through pattern recognition, big ideas, language, connections, detail, observing, experimenting and asking questions. We also delved into the many ways it can be different.

We talked about non-fiction science writing and also the creative response to scientific stories and studies. Each boot camp we would write short pieces and I was always astounded at the output that these creative teens came up with. Whether it was about nebulae or nanotechnology, the macro or the micro, these writers would consistently write unique, engaging and vibrant pieces. Detail was key and they wrote from such a personal and authentic place which allowed rich detail and experience to shine in their work.

There are many outputs for science writing as a non-scientist (and more if you are a scientist). Some ideas mentioned: writing an excerpt from the diary of an astrophysicist; personal reflections on why this science matters to you; a day in the life of a climate scientist; non-fiction poetry on biology; drawing and writing graphic novels; a short story set working with particle colliders. This small list is in no way exhaustive. Just like science, imagination is boundless as well.

It was also clear that science fiction held a place in most of the participants’ hearts as it does mine. I loved hearing excerpts of the dystopian and hopeful stories or novels they will go on to write. We spoke about the importance of reading other writers’ work; the crucial act of drafting and editing; the subtlety of structuring and tone and the heavy lifting of fact-checking and research. But most importantly—we know instinctively we just have to get out there and begin to write.

Soak up those subjects you are passionate about, write about science in fascinating and new ways and create in any style you like. Have fun. With science, you will never run out of things to explore and never be short of interesting content to write about.

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