Michelle Nijhuis: The Science Writers’ Essay Handbook

The Science Writers’ Essay Handbook cover

Cover: The Science Writers’ Essay Handbook: How to Craft Compelling True Stories in Any Medium by Michelle Nijhuis


Michelle Nijhuis
Self-published, February 2016, $4.99
ISBN: 9780692627495

Nijhuis reports:

I wanted to write an essay handbook for science writers not only because I love to write and read essays about science, but also because I think the essay form is perfectly suited to the digital age — and to science writing.

Essays allow science storytellers to go beyond simple “translation” of scientific results, providing the context and analysis so valuable to modern readers. The personal essay voice is increasingly used to explore broader questions in feature stories, multimedia productions, blog posts, and many forms of social media. The essay form may be more than four hundred years old, but it’s everywhere.

This essay handbook, which was written and published with the support of an NASW Idea Grant, is a companion to the 2013 Science Writers’ Handbook, which was also supported by an Idea Grant.

Michelle Nijhuis

Michelle Nijhuis

Writing the essay handbook was rewarding in many ways: it gave me a chance to read, reread, and analyze many great science essays, and to read a lot of smart writing about the essay form. It allowed me to think through and articulate my own essay-writing process. I also benefited from some terrific editing by NASW members, especially my co-grantee Monya Baker.

I chose to self-publish because I liked the idea of being able to control the book’s content, and because self-publishing would allow me to get the book into the world more quickly. As a novice self-publisher, though, I didn’t realize how much time I would spend fiddling with coding, designing interior pages, and choosing and acquiring rights to cover art. I may or may not choose to self-publish again — it’s too early to say — but the experience did give me new respect for all the hidden work done by commercial publishers!

I hope the handbook will be useful to all NASW members, including students, teachers, and professional communicators of all kinds. If you’re interested in using the handbook in your classes or workshops, please contact me directly for a review copy.

Contact info:

Buy this book now in the ScienceWriters bookstore. Your purchase helps support NASW programs and services.

NASW members: will your book be published soon? Take advantage of this opportunity for shameless self-promotion. Submit your report for Advance Copy.

Tell your fellow NASW members how you came up with the idea for your book, developed a proposal, found an agent and publisher, funded and conducted research, and put the book together. Include what you wish you had known before you began working on your book, or had done differently.

See https://www.nasw.org/advance-copy-submission-guidelines.

Thinking of writing a book? If you are a NASW member, you may access a list of more than 150 books and online resources to help you craft your book proposal, find an agent and funding sources, negotiate your contract, learn about self-publishing, publicize and market your book, and more at https://www.nasw.org/article/write-book.

Send book info and questions about book publishing to Lynne Lamberg, NASW book editor, llamberg@nasw.org.

February 18, 2016

Advance Copy

The path from idea to book may take myriad routes. The Advance Copy column, started in 2000 by NASW volunteer book editor Lynne Lamberg, features NASW authors telling the stories behind their books. Authors are asked to report how they got their idea, honed it into a proposal, found an agent and a publisher, funded and conducted their research, and organized their writing process. They also are asked to share what they wish they’d known when they started or would do differently next time, and what advice they can offer aspiring authors. Lamberg edits the authors’ answers to produce the Advance Copy reports.

NASW members: Will your book be published soon? Visit www.nasw.org/advance-copy-submission-guidelines for information on submitting your report.

Publication of NASW author reports in Advance Copy does not constitute NASW's endorsement of any publication or the ideas, values, or material contained within or espoused by authors or their books. We hope this column stimulates productive discussions on important topics now and in the future as both science and societies progress. We welcome your discussion in the comments section below.

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