Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Publishing my memoir—essentially this blog

The Science Part of me, UC Riverside 2018
            I need your help!
 I’ve finished writing the end of my memoir. I’ve edited the manuscript by re-arranging and editing blogs I’ve been posting for the past three months. I love writing. Every morning I am excited to perfect my life’s story by making it more readable and interesting for a wider audience. I have to balance this with lab management, continuing the work of the EDGE Institute, and keeping up with new discoveries.
            I’m now looking for reviewers who don’t know me or who haven’t followed my career for the past forty years AND a publisher who is interested in working with me to turn the draft manuscript into a book.  I want the book to grab the attention of a much wider audience than I now have through Facebook, Twitter, and colleagues in geoscience. I’ll tackle the issue of reviewers first.
            To date, I’ve received four reviews from friends—all women who I’ve known for many years. All are familiar in some way or another with my work; one is a current collaborator. Their comments have been very helpful, but I feel the need now for an expanded perspective: those who aren’t geochemists, men of all ages and backgrounds, and people who don’t know me personally.
            If any of you would like to volunteer to provide a review and who fit this category (for example, non-scientists or guys), let me know! I’m also asking if you could suggest friends or contacts in the literary field, who might provide feedback.
Email me at marilyn.fogel@ucr.edu
            For a publisher to consider my book, I need to write a cover letter with a Hook and a Pitch. The Hook is the thread(s) that runs through a book that keeps the reader turning the page ideally early on in the book.
            Hook #1: The memoir chronicles the challenges that I have faced and overcome as a woman in science over the last half century and how things have changed for me and women in general.
            Hook #2: The memoir describes my evolution as a person and a scientist as a new interdisciplinary scientific field—biogeochemistry--developed.
            Hook #3: The memoir highlights the importance of people and personal relationships in my life and career, something that isn’t always considered important for a scientist’s success.
            The Pitch consists of 2-3 sentences summarizing the book.
            Idea for a pitch:
·      The interdisciplinary science—bio geo chemistry—was ramping up when Marilyn Fogel began her scientific career at a time when women were at a disadvantage for the best jobs. Her memoir chronicles her transition from a shy, quiet person to an outspoken iconoclast in her field. She describes the challenges she faced and continues to face through a half century of achieving success as a scientist, woman, wife, mother, and thoughtful and caring human being. 
            I’ve thought a lot about the audience for the book.  I recently published the geochemical, mostly scientific, version of my career. Writing that article took a full year but provided the framework for the more personal account that is in my memoir.
·      See the link to this open access article which you can download: http://www.geochemicalperspectives.org/online/v8n2
            I started the Isotope Queen blog, which is the modern way for a new writer to learn what is engaging her readers on a real-time quick basis. I can see which posts draw the greatest readership. I can see which posts most likely appeal to a smaller group of readers probably with a more scientific bent, although I cannot be sure of this. What I do know for certain is that people are reading about personal challenges I’ve had. They are also interested in light-hearted stories. Last, because geoscientists in general are following the blog, readers are interested in learning about my trials in setting up a laboratory, teaching students, and mentoring women in science.
            My target audience is educated readers who have an interest in science, but may or may not be scientists. I think the book will be of interest to women of all ages, especially those who aspire to a fulfilling career and a satisfying family life. I hope that men will enjoy the journey I’ve written about as well, although I think their opinions and feelings about the memoir may be different. 
The Family/Mother/Wife part, Evan and Meghan's Wedding, DC 2018

            The blog also shows me that it takes more effort than is usual to engage general readers to actually read and understand scientific writing and concepts. It’s also been difficult for me to switch my style of writing so that a non-scientist would want to read about a topic they might typically avoid. A good example of an engaging writing is found in Hope Jahren’s memoir Lab Girl, which alternates between short discourses on plants and the up-and-down story of her career and personal and professional challenges. Since we in the same scientific field, I skimmed the science bits but devoured the personal ones. Although I’ve known Hope for many years, I was unaware of her struggle with mental illness. Lab Girl is well worth your time to read, if you haven’t already.
            My chore in the next couple of weeks is to continue to revise and improve the manuscript and prepare submission proposals for a couple of publishers. The University of California Press might be a good possibility. I’ll look at Johns Hopkins University Press since much of the book takes place in Washington DC. Last, I’ll continue my search for smaller, boutique presses that are interested in women’s issues.
            Any suggestions you might have or better yet leads—I’m all ears.


  1. Hi, not sure if this is helpful, but just another option for an editor for your book: Wiley VCH. Years ago they published this book about women in chemistry:


    Yours would be a nice addition or complement to that one, especially because you are writing about yourself, and not about someone else.

  2. Marilyn, I am not a scientist, although I was raised a Christian Scientist. We were both young girls in the Junior High when we met. You were indeed shy. I Loved reading your blog about you and your Dad and the family vacations to the National Parks, such adventures.

    Mika Brzezinski is the author of three best selling books, ALL THINGS AT ONCE, KNOW YOUR VALUE, OBSESSED:AMERICA"S FOOD ADDICTION AND MY OWN. She is also a liberal political commentator who currently hosts MSNBC Morning Joe. Try to reach out to her she is on twitter morningmika, or nbcnews.com/know-your-value@MikaKYV365

    Also classmate Claudia Logan is very good about promoting reach out to Claudia claudia@claudia.com

    Thank you and keep up the spirit!


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