Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Nonfiction Storytelling in Science, Technology and Policy—The Necessity of Narrative

We were very glad to get an email from Creative Nonfiction editor Lee Gutkind suggesting  that The Writer's Center could host "To Think, To Write, to Publish," a conference bringing together writers and science and innovation policy scholars.  As many of you know, Lee visited The Writer's Center two years ago for a program focusing on creative nonfiction.  We're joining with Creative Nonfiction to offer a panel discussion,at The Writer's Center 6:30 p.m. Saturday, October 6 as part of the conference, and we're glad to post Lee's blog entry describing the program.   

Pitching and Selling Story Ideas About the Future:


Lee Gutkind

“Nonfiction Storytelling in Science, Technology and Policy—The Necessity of Narrative.” That’s the subject of an intriguing and unique panel discussion among editors from leading publications—The Atlantic, Harper’s, National Geographic, Publisher’s Weekly and Slate—upcoming at the Writer’s Center, in Bethesda, MD, on Saturday, October 6. I will be moderating the panel.

The discussion, open to the public, is the keynote event of an invitation-only, 4-day program introducing narrative or creative nonfiction approaches and techniques to writers and science policy scholars from around the world. The landmark program, “To Think, To Write, To Publish,” was conceived and will be conducted by the Consortium of Science Policy & Outcomes (CSPO) at Arizona State University and supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

The subject of the panel is especially important because the discussion will go beyond the use of storytelling in science and technology to engage the public—it will be dealing partially with policy: Ideas, theories, proposals. This is the stuff that folks around the Beltway are talking about all the time, mostly in generalizations because policy is so difficult to define—and even more challenging when attempting to connect to the general public. Policy, however, is what our candidates for public office, as well as scientists, engineers, economists, environmentalists etc., should be discussing and debating, for establishing and following policy is how we will shape our future.

The “To Think, To Write, To Publish” workshop will focus on translating and presenting policy into story and the “Nonfiction Storytelling in Science, Technology and Policy—The Necessity of Narrative” panel will concentrate on how to pitch and sell these ideas to major magazines and publishers.

The editors participating include: Christopher Cox, Senior Editor, Harper’s Magazine; Scott Stossel, Editor, The Atlantic; Victoria Pope, Deputy Editor, National Geographic; Laura Helmuth, Science and Health Editor, Slate.com; and Mark Rotella, an editor and reviewer of nonfiction for Publisher’s Weekly. Virginia Morell, a frequent contributor to National Geographic and an author of many books concerning science and policy, will join the panel for discussion.

Each editor will first discuss his or her publication and editorial interest in stories about science and policy. The editors will include information about the content and shape of stories they might encourage from writers. The discussion following the presentations will focus on conceiving ideas concerning the future and how to present them in narrative form. The necessity of narrative may also be debated.

The October 6 panel discussion, “Nonfiction Storytelling in Science, Technology and Policy—The Necessity of Narrative,” is co-sponsored by Creative Nonfiction and the Writer’s Center.  Please visit our Web site,  call 301-654-8664 or email post.master@writer.org for more information.  Admission is $15 ($10 for Writer's Center members).