Monday, September 2, 2013

MY SCIENCE WRITING HUSBAND: Writing science right and speaking about it engagingly

TONY MARTIN SPEAKING ENGAGINGLY ABOUT SCIENCE (photo by Ruth Schowalter, aka Hallelujah Truth)
Hallelujah for husbands! Hallelujah for my husband, whom I affectionately call Chiboogamoo (aka Tony Martin). Hallelujah for his bright spirit endeavoring to write science "right" and to speak engagingly about his expertise of all things paleontological and ichnological!

This weekend, these two endeavors, writing and speaking, merged for Tony Martin as he was a featured Atlanta author at the 2013 Decatur Book Festival (DBF), the largest independent book festival in the United States--and it took place in our hometown of Decatur, Georgia, within walking distance from where we live!

Tony and I both began the DBF weekend by taking workshops on the Agnes Scott campus, also located in Decatur. Tony took the workshop, "Science and Storytelling: Creating a Chemical Reaction," with Sonya Collins, which was down the hallway from my workshop, "Good Book, Bad Book," with Susie Wilde (see my blog entry about her workshop).

Here is the description of his "Science and Storytelling" workshop:

Maybe you've heard of science writing or science journalism, but as a creative writer, you wonder, "How creative could science writing really be?" You're interested, but you wonder if it might be a little dry for you. You wonder if it could really scratch your "writerly itch." In this workshop, learn how science writers use metaphor, character, scene and other creative literary devices to tell stories about science. And then try the tools out for yourself.

And the man that I am married to who has authored more than three science books and 35 peer-reviewed papers, emerged from his workshop classroom all smiles, pronouncing, "Yes, I learned something," and, "It reaffirmed what I'm doing right."

Hallelujah for Tony's openness to ongoing personal and professional development, for leaving his desk computer and going out into the world of the DBF and engaging with other science writers and gaining from their expertise.  

Not speaking at the DBF until Sunday afternoon, my Chiboogamoo and I had all of Saturday to enjoy the DBF writer venues and book vendors. An Emory professor, my honey wanted to make a stop at his university's tent to see how his newest book, Life Traces of the Georgia Coast, was being displayed. He was not disappointed when he saw it figured prominently in a collage about Emory authors.
EMORY UNIVERSITY AUTHOR-TONY MARTIN! At the Emory University DBF tent, we were delighted to see Tony's book, Life Traces of the Georgia Coast, represented in a lively populated collage of other Emory University authors. "An embarrassment of riches," is the way Tony describes the hundreds of books written by Emory faculty, which were unavailable for purchase at the festival. How could you cart all of the books to sell, or even worse, which books would you choose if you were to represent only some of the authors? (photo by Ruth Schowalter)

Our Saturday slipped away pleasurably and smoothly like hourglass sand as we attended events, looked at books, stopped at the hospitality suite for authors, mingled with authors and friends, and celebrated at the evening gala. Opera singers, costumed creatures, light displays, gourmet cocktails, and "haute" street food swirled around us. Fun was to be had on this hot humid night in Georgia at the DBF.

Floating about in a delirium of heat and pleasure, we bumped into Brian Switek, a DBF-featured Atlanta Science Tavern writer and, not surprisingly, an acquaintance of Tony's via Twitter and professional meetings. Arriving in Atlanta to speak about his book, My Beloved Brontosaurus, he was enjoying the celebratory atmosphere surrounding authors, their books, and the people who love them. 

As it was my first time to meet Brian, I was feeling slightly shy about talking with this accomplished science writer. That is, until he accidentally splashed the feet of U.S. Poet Laureate, Natasha Tretheway, with a spilled cocktail. All was forgiven and I was then completely relaxed in his presence. (As an aside, I might add that my husband had the privilege of teaching introductory geology to Dr. Tretheway when she was an undergraduate and he was a graduate student at the University of Georgia.)

Sunday arrived. My honey and I went to the first science talk at noon, which began with Brian Switek's talk about his book. Good science that is well written can be spoken about in an entertaining fashion, and Brian excelled at engaging us. He even explained the genesis of Bookzilla (DBF's monstrous mascot)? Can you believe it?

HMMMM...GETTING READY TO ENGAGE. Meet the motley crew that began the Atlanta Science Tavern's speakers for the DBF on Sunday at noon. You recognize my Chiboogamoo on the left, preparing to introduce Brian Switek (center), author of My Beloved Brontosaurus, getting in the groove to speak to the Atlanta audience. Then there is the magnificent Marc Merlin, one of the organizers of the Atlanta Science Tavern. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
But before Brian spoke about his book, My Beloved Brontosaurus, Tony gave an informative and thrilling introduction. Yes, he did. Taking the time to craft the introduction, he wrote a draft by hand, typed it, revised it, rehearsed it, and was ready to create a heightened sense of fun for the audience. Is that writing science right and speaking engagingly?
TONY MARTIN IS PURE THEATER.  When introducing Brian Switek, Tony donned a dinosaur hat to engage the audience. He succeeded, and they were disappointed when he took it off. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)

BOOK SIGNING AND LUNCH WITH BRIAN SWITEK. Thanks to the organizers of the DBF, who provided $10 coupons in the author swag bag. These coupons were redeemed for food and drink here at the Brick Store Pub (and at other times during the weekend at Twains and Leon's), and allowed for an affordable and congenial way for authors to share information and get better acquainted. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
Following Brian's talk was book signing and lunch with Brian, but then it was TA-DA time! Tony's talk about Life Traces of the Georgia Coast in the DBF's Atlanta Author division. For us, this was the climax of the DBF! 

And I watched while Tony incorporated in his talk what he had just learned from Sonya Collins on her Friday afternoon workshop. He created a cast of characters, asking the audience to imagine them in a Flannery O'Connor novel or a movie. Time was too short for him to pursue and develop this character idea in any depth; however, I am curious to see where this idea will go in the future.
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SCIENCE SPEAKER EXTRAORDINAIRE! Think about a science writer asking you to "IMAGINE"! (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
All good things must come to an end. And so did the DBF. But not before I got to witness my husband's continued engagement in learning how to be better at what he does, as well as his deep and abiding interest in entertaining people about the science he knows. 
CHIBOOGAMOO AND HALLELUJAH TRUTH. Here we are pictured together at the Decatur Book Festival with our DBF logo coffee cups, Tony Martin, science writer and engaging speaker with me adoring wife, artist, and blogger. (photo by willing DBF attendee)
That's Coffee with Hallelujah! SOUL BLOG with me. Tell me what you are Hallelujahing today. Or tell me what you think about our experience at the DBF and writing science right and speaking engagingly!

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS:  Enormous applause to Daren Wang, one of the co-founders of the Decatur Book Festival. Much appreciation to Brian Switek and the time we spent together getting to know him better during the DBF. And to U.S. Representative John Lewis, who has given so much to this country, the United States, towards creating equality for all. He gave a wonderful keynote speech Friday night of the DBF.
JOHN LEWIS, KEYNOTE SPEAKER FOR THE DECATUR BOOK FESTIVAL 2013. John Lewis, Georgia Congressman and Civil Rights advocate, split his keynote speech into thirds to allow his two collaborators equal time. He is standing in front of the slide with the cover of his newly published graphic novel, MARCH. Andrew Aydin, seated behind the Congressman, co-authored the text. Then seated left on the stage is the graphic artist who illustrated the text, Nate Powell. (photo by Ruth Schowalter) 


  1. I was so sad to miss the DBF this year - thank you for blogging and posting pictures so I could experience a piece of it! Tony mentioned he might give his talk again and if he does I'd love to attend!!!

    1. Sounds like you had a great time at Dragon Con. Tony will definitely be speaking again in the future.

  2. Sounds like fun for you, Tony and your audience at DBF. I love Decatur!

  3. Missing you Cecelia but know you are living such a wonderful life up north in a cooler climate.