New to science writing

Poynter's Beth Winegarner lists a half-dozen ways for freelancers to build their businesses. Many of them boil down to finding a network and making the most of it: "Thanks to Facebook and Twitter, connecting with fellow freelancers has never been easier. Knowing who’s writing, and who they’re writing for, gives you a good sense of which publications are open to taking freelance work," Winegarner writes. Also, do your homework, and "pitch more than you can write."

The days when a beginning journalist was surrounded by a newsroom full of experienced colleagues may be gone now, Jillian Keenan writes on the Poynter site: "I fell in love with the freedom and flexibility of independent journalism, but there was one problem: without long-term editors to supervise my work, it seemed like I’d never find those inspiring mentors I had imagined." Keenan offers five tips for freelancers who want to fill the gap by finding their own mentors.

Two prominent educators and NASW members offer advice to students about science writing in this Quora post. Traditional journalism may be on the skids, but other options beckon, says Rob Irion of UC Santa Cruz: "The bottom line is that I remain sanguine about getting a job with the right training in hand. Become involved with NASW, seek mentors in the field, attend key meetings (NASW and AAAS, in particular), use social media, and seek solid training. You'll do fine."

"Technical writing sheds truth; science writing breeds understanding," Kristina Bjoran writes on her blog, where she gives examples of both (a pharmaceutical insert for the former; a CDC web page for the latter). She also offers tips for beginners who want to break into either field: Get an education, get experience, and network. "Science and technical writing exist on a spectrum — sometimes it’s the stuff in between in which you’ll find your perfect happy place."

Spending four years or more in a PhD program is enough to make some budding scientists think about other options. A popular one is science communication, Becky Ham writes in a post on "don't get caught." "Why does science writing sound so good?" she asks. "I think it’s because most scientists want to share their research. And new scientists haven’t given up on the idea that they’re allowed to talk to everyone — not just their peers — about what they’re doing."

Meredith Cochie put a quite a show at a recent SPJ conference with her advice for students, Dan Reimold writes on College Media Matters. For example, take the "overzealous student who politely and repeatedly accosted her with business cards and clips and questions about job prospects ... Some of his early approaches were a bit abrupt and artless, but his overall persistence and speak-to-strangers-in-positions-of-power courage enabled him to earn a name for himself."

The National Association of Science Writers will once again sponsor travel fellowships to the upcoming AAAS meeting for undergraduate students interested in science journalism. As many as 8 students will receive up to $1,000 in travel expenses to attend AAAS in Vancouver, Canada Feb. 16-20, 2012. NASW's education committee will select students to receive the fellowship and will pair each one with a veteran writer for a one-day mentoring program.