Wednesday 5 December 2012

My Encounter with Canada Writes: Close Encounters with Science

I just finished up a rewarding stint as a reader with CBC's Canada Writes, science edition. The latest theme was "Close Encounters with Science." It was a moving and humbling experience.

The challenge:

"Send us a true personal story of a close encounter you had with science and technology. We were looking for personal stories that gave us an insight into human nature and how changes in our understanding of the world have made a lasting effect on who we are."

Along with Scott Fotheringham, I read through the 600+ submissions and sent in my choices (I was limited to 15...) Here's the longlist, 29 stories that are worth your time. 

Twenty-nine: makes me think Scott and I only agreed on one, lol. But the truth is, it was incredibly hard to choose. I could have selected 50, or more, that were worthwhile!

(Scott, by the way, is a novelist and PhD from Cornell who no longer works in science, either. I think we probably should talk...:)

 Enjoy this trailer for his well-reviewed speculative novel, The Rest is Silence; I look forward to reading it very soon.


 Here is an excerpt of the interview I did with Canada Writes my experience reading for the contest:

Can you describe a couple of the stories from the challenge that struck you as standouts?

There were so many wonderful stories, it was hard to choose. But some were just stellar. “Firsts,” about a technician working overnight at the hospital, analyzing blood sent from the ER. Who thinks about the lab tech? We get these machine readouts from our blood tests…we don’t really think about the person at the other end of the pipette. The writer had me right there with him (or her), feeling the weight of the world on his shoulders when called upon to diagnose leukemia in a child. That really touched me. There were many, many stories about electrification, and television. About all kinds of things: Skype and texting, the moon walk. Many were about children learning from their parents; “The New Age” is a quiet story of a kid going outside with Dad and brother to watch Sputnik pass overhead one night in October 1957. “Better Living Through Chemistry,” about what getting the meds right has meant to a person with schizophrenia. A woman who waited six months for an MRI and was so distressed by its claustrophobic nature, she stopped the test. How she was able to depend “on the kindness of strangers.” One about a teacher who knew how to talk physics so that young guys would listen. The experiment a six-year-old designed to identify the tooth fairy…I could go on and on. It was the way the writers communicated the meaning, the emotion, the small epiphanies attached to the scientific or technological experience. The stories I chose all answered that question: how did you feel when it happened? And they did it by bringing me along on the journey.

You can read the 29 stories on the longlist here. Congratulations to all who entered!

"The next task is in the capable hands of CBC host and author Nora Young, who will select the winner of this challenge. That person will receive $1,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts.

The winner will be announced on Canada Writes on Wednesday, December 5th. Stay tuned!"

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