Timothy J. Jorgensen—Spark: The Life of Electricity and the Electricity of Life




Timothy J. Jorgensen
Princeton University Press, November 16, 2021, $29.95
ISBN-10:‎ 0691197830, ISBN-13:‎ 978-0691197838
ebook ISBN: 9780691232652

Jorgensen reports:

When we think of electricity, we typically imagine the energy humming inside our appliances or illuminating our homes. But electricity is much more than that. Spark takes a fresh look at electricity and its essential role in the body. In writing Spark, I sought to tell the story of electricity from a biological perspective and illustrate how electricity is central to life itself.

The story of how humankind came to understand electricity is rooted in observations of its influences on the body, particularly the nervous system. Through tales of real people, from Benjamin Franklin to Elon Musk, I show how our views of electricity and the nervous system evolved in synchrony, and how progress in one area enabled advancements in the other. Collectively, the joint developments in these two scientific fields allowed us to understand—and emulate—the ways electricity enables most all of the body’s essential functions.

Timothy J. Jorgensen

Timothy J. Jorgensen

Spark is my second book. My first book, Strange Glow: The Story of Radiation, took a similar narrative approach. While researching that book, I happened upon many fascinating scientific stories about electricity. When my literary agent urged me to write another book, I proposed a book about electricity, written in the same story-telling style as Strange Glow.

Since Strange Glow had been a critical success, Princeton, which held a right-of-first-refusal on my subsequent books, offered me a contract to write an electricity book.

Spark took 18 months to write, much less than for Strange Glow. Having written a book before allowed me to hone strategies for working more efficiently, with fewer false starts and complete rewrites. In writing Spark, I also changed some things that I didn’t like about Strange Glow’s narrative. I used a first-person instead of a third-person perspective, for example.

I would advise aspiring narrative science book writers to get a good literary agent. There are a limited number of narrative science book publishers out there and an agent will polish and tailor your proposal to target the appropriate acquisition editors, thereby increasing the likelihood of success. An agent will also negotiate a better contract than you could yourself.

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November 10, 2021

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.

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