MY BRUSH WITH NATURE.
It all started with my husband sticking an issue of Nature magazine under my nose a little while ago. The ad was about writing to the journal’s blog, and he told me I should try since I write for various publications and for my own blogs, and I have a lot to share. At the time, we were spending five weeks in Paris, my husband working on a joint project and I free-floating around the magical city. Now, as any professional, I do have my areas of research and expertise as well as my own personal interests. Dante has me mesmerized for instance, and I am ready to discuss La Commedia Divina even in my sleep. Having visited Florence several times and shed some tears in Casa di Dante, I feel emboldened enough to try and understand some of his writings in Italian. Shakespeare is another great love; this love affair began when I was five years old and never ended. I taught English language and literature, translation and business English, Internet in education and many other things, so I am quite versatile. But Nature journal?! All I knew about it came from my relatives, many of whom are scientists. I shared the idea with my favourite aunt, a chemist. Her reaction: “Well Nature publishes, like, mostly Nobel Prize laureates, it’s practically impossible to get into it, so why don’t you try?” My friends’ and relatives’ belief in me boosted up my determination, not to mention the great influence of Paris, and I emailed the journal. Rather to my surprise, a suggestion to arrange a phone call followed, and we had a nice talk with the blog editor. I thought to myself that he was looking for the impossible, which completely charmed me as an educator, so I decided to tackle the topics. Since I am a philologist, not a scientist, it did not much matter to me whether whatever I wrote was accepted or not. It was a good new challenge. And I accumulated a huge support in my hometown. Plus, I never write into a desk-drawer so to speak; if my submissions were declined I could always use them elsewhere.
For a month, I religiously followed the journal blog to get a feel for it. My undiluted reactions and perceptions varied. Blog editor’s posts are all consistently very good. His Boston experience made me think nostalgically about our own conference held in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and my own long walks around Boston. We went to “the real Cambridge”, UK, later, and it was a huge enriching event. The post about a week in the life of a tenured professor from China made me sit up and take notice, it was so true, so close to what we experience! A researcher from Brazil writing about her sister’s pregnancy and how it influenced her research, complete with a cute photo of mother and baby… hmm, why not. The wish to help diagnose and treat newborns in case of emergencies is a very good incentive to conduct one’s research. Actually we have whole albums of photos with three very cute babies at home, and a lot of our activities naturally revolve around their lives.
I spent a long time writing the two posts; many people read them when I was done. The universal verdict was, send them. So I emailed the editor – and forgot all about them.
No, my attempts were not accepted. And here is an important lesson. When I began writing for publication at age 14, my father explained the one Golden Rule to me: the editor always knows best. So I took this third rejection in my long writing career quite philosophically. Once in about ten years is not too many. Naturally, as I am only human, I thought to myself, why this or that story is interesting, and the story of my daughter’s receiving Erasmus Mundus scholarship and getting her M.Sc. with Merit from Imperial College, London, isn’t. But again, the editor knows best. The experience itself gave me a lot of insights and inspiration. It is not an edition which I would normally strive to get into, but it is a very high quality journal. Even communicating briefly with an editor stimulates one’s thinking. I spoke to many scientists while composing my essays, and in the process I noticed that indeed when compared to science and research everything else seemed bland, as some of my respondents said. To the extent that I clean forgot some of my other obligations and had to dash out my regular bi-monthly column for a national weekly in one morning! Well, I’ve been doing that for years, and while I try to introduce something new each time, I also know how to write it really well. The new challenge is always welcome.
One of my children’s all-time favorite quotes comes from Walt Disney’s “Bambi”. Mother Rabbit teaches her child, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all!” I consider myself extremely lucky that I had this wonderful opportunity to study the well-established journal, and to try my hand at writing for the blog. I can only say something nice about it 🙂
As for the posts, today, one can find innumerable alternative ways of publishing one’s views.