Writing with Friends of Joe’s Big Idea

In 2015, I joined a group of aspiring science communicators led by Joe Palca of National Public Radio (NPR). Recently, this group blossomed from a group of people who care about and share interesting science articles to a group that also helps each other write science articles for the public. Over the course of 2 months, a writer progresses from idea to published blog-style post. First, a writer pitches a story and Joe Palca and Maddie Sofia (the Queen of the FOJBIs) help it find an outlet. Then, the writer drafts the article and 3-5 other FOJBIs provide feedback on this draft. After a series of edits, including some from Joe and Maddie, the writer finalizes the post and it’s published.

Check out my article, Your Brain on Music!

I got my first chance this spring to write for the Science Nonfiction blog at Carnegie Mellon University. I pitched my story about music and the brain, and the editor at Carnegie Mellon liked it!


My Original Pitch.

With a pitch done and a blog in mind, I set out to write the article, with a target length of 500-600 words. Here, I struggled. What sources should I use? How should I link them? How much information makes sense? What should I focus on? Check out my unfocused first draft and my slightly improved second draft (sorry, the sources aren’t linked directly in these drafts).

Thankfully, my peer editors helped me through this process. I used primarily links to abstracts in Pubmed for my sources, although in the future I plan to use more broad source types. I used plain hyperlinks in my text to cite those sources. I focused on improvements to cognitive function over development and left out a ton of really interesting information about how rhythm and sound are processed.

After extensive editing and comments from my peer editors, Joe Palca, Maddie Sofia and Julian Whitman, editor of Science Nonfiction, I had an almost-final draft complete. After a few more small edits and finding an appropriate, eye-catching and freely available picture, “Your Brain on Music” was published!

Music Musical Instrument Child Violin Girl

After searching fruitlessly for a musician in a lab coat, I settled on a kid musician for my article.

If you are interested in joining the Friends of Joe’s Big Idea Writing Group, send me a message and I’ll get you added.

About Torrey Truszkowski

Torrey is a sixth year PhD candidate in neuroscience at Brown University. Her research investigates the connections between brain cells that process sensory information. She hosts the Providence, Rhode Island Nerd Nite (nerdniteri.com) and teaches science communication. After graduating, she plans to embed science communication into her work. Find me on Twitter @TorreyTruszko
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1 Response to Writing with Friends of Joe’s Big Idea

  1. Pingback: Society For Neuroscience 2017 Annual Meeting Reflection: blogger, workshop leader and scientific presenter | Torrey L.S. Truszkowski

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