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The Rich Writer

The Rich Writer: October 2010

The Rich Writer

How to Thrive on the Writer's Road

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Writing Inspiration for Moms

What a great way to start the day! Hope you enjoy :).

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Friday, October 22, 2010

Cool Science: Landing Lights for Bumblebees

How cool is this?  

Caption: Gardeners could help maintain bumblebee populations by growing plants with red flowers or flowers with stripes along the veins, according to field observations of the common snapdragon, Antirrhinum majus, at the John Innes Centre in the UK. Bees are important pollinators of crops as well as the plants in our gardens


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Computer games: the debate continues

I've written previously on computer games, their impact on kids, and their potential drawbacks and benefits. This is a hotly debated topic in my household, with the kids coming down firmly on one side of the fence (computer time should not be limited!), me on the other (no computer time!), and my husband, ever moderate, somewhere in the middle.

Here's the latest news to fuel the debate: scientists at the University of Bristol's Centre for Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences published results of a study of more than 1000 children (ages 10 and 11) in the November edition of Pediatrics, where they report that children who spend more than two hours watching TV, in "recreational computer use," or some combination of the two score higher in measures of psychological difficulty.

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Wolves take the highway now?

This is pretty amazing (via Ecorazzi):


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Society of Environmental Journalists conference 2010: what children’s writers can learn from SEJ

photo (2)I just finished my time at the 2010 SEJ (Society of Environmental Journalists) conference. My head is spinning with information and ideas—a good sign, since I wasn’t sure whether to come to this conference. I mean, look at the title: Society of Environmental JOURNALISTS? I don’t think of myself as a journalist: I’m a writer. A children’s writer, a medical writer, a science writer, a nature writer—but not a journalist.

This conference made me question that assessment of myself. I write for magazines (journals); I do interviews and research; I fact check and look for bias. My first day here, a fellow attendee quizzed me on what kind of writing I do. When I finished, she said “I think you are a journalist. You just don’t know it.”

It’s an interesting question, because in the past few days I learned that journalists receive different training than “writers” do—and I think we writers (yes, even children’s writers) can learn a thing or three from them. Here are a few for starters:

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Infrequent Flyer


I’m writing to you from the Missoula, Montana airport (note the cool mosaic), where I am very very very happy to be and I’m very very happy to be here with all my various bags and devices. Why so happy, you ask?

Because apparently I’m one of those people who shouldn’t fly by herself.

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Friday, October 8, 2010

The Most Influential Tweeters

chipmunk_creativecommons If you Tweet, you might be interested in recent research from the laboratory of Alok Choudhary at Northwestern University, where grad student Ramanathan Narayanan and colleagues created a website that "uses a specialized algorithm to rank the most influential people tweeting on trending topics".

The result? While celebrities like Britney Spears and Lady Gaga gather huge numbers of Twitter followers, people are paying more attention to tweets from those with greater knowledge.

The website,, is an interesting resource for those of us trying to figure out what’s going on in the Twitterverse. Although I haven’t quite figured out how to apply it to what I tweet…which has nothing to do with Britney Spears, Desperate Housewives, or #welcometoChicago :P.

:) Cheryl

* Photo courtesy of Giles Gunthier, Flickr Commons

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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Music and Mood: Emotion Classification in Contemporary Music

Music is a recurring theme in my writing, so it was with great interest that I read recent news from the Glasgow Caledonian University on how music can impact mood, stress, and even the experience of pain:


In a study titled “Emotion Classification in Contemporary Music”, researchers had volunteers listen to a variety of contemporary music that isn’t available to the public, then rank the music in terms of its emotional impact. Project leader Dr Don Knox says, "We look at parameters such as rhythm patterns, melodic range, musical intervals, length of phrases, musical pitch and so on. For example, music falling into a positive category might have a regular rhythm, bright timbre and a fairly steady pitch contour over time. If tempo and loudness increase, for instance, this would place the piece in a more 'exuberant' or 'excited' region of the graph."

I think of music as a language* that we humans don’t fully understand, but one that speaks to all of us. It’s a language birds use to fight, defend territory, boast and brag…a language we humans use to inspire, soothe, comfort, trigger memories, rile up a crowd…I find it fascinating that particular arrangements of sound waves, performed in particular rhythms, volumes, and pitches can influence so many different people in so many different ways.

Music is magical.

At least, it is if you’re writing fantasy :).


*NYC’s Radio Lab produced a fascinating radio show titled “Musical Language,” in which they discuss topics such as research showing that people from multiple different cultures use the same “song” in their words when speaking to infants and “musical illusions”. Check it out!

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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Cool Science for the Day: DNA Extracted from Dolphin “Blow”

A group of scientists from Georgetown University, the National Aquarium, and the University of Queensland have pioneered a new technique for gaining DNA samples from dolphins: they’ve extracted DNA from dolphin “blow”—that is, the misty breath dolphins blow out when they surface.

200500601-9am-blue-swim-1 028This is pretty cool because the current best method, the “dart biopsy”, is invasive (see the “dart” part), can’t be used on young animals, and requires a great deal of skill to carry out. Both techniques can only be used on nearby animals, but since dolphins enjoy the occasional frolic in a boat’s wake, they often approach boats of their own volition.

So far, scientists have obtained blow samples from captive dolphins by training them to exhale on command, into test tubes. Now that they know the technique works, they’re working on taking the method into the field—specifically, a population of bottlenose dolphins in Western Australia’s Shark Bay.

I’d like to watch this. How the heck do you get a a bow-riding wild dolphin to exhale into a test tube? It’s a great idea that sounds very tricky to put into practice. I’ll be waiting to see if they can get it to work!

:) Cheryl

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