Podcast

Episode: 115 |
Danna Staaf:
Squid Empire:
Episode
115

HOW TO THRIVE AS AN
INDEPENDENT PROFESSIONAL

Danna Staaf

Squid Empire

Show Notes

Our guest today is Danna Staaf, an independent science writer and the author of Squid Empire: The Rise and Fall of the Cephalopods. Danna received a PhD from Stanford University in Marine Biology and Biological Oceanography, and then rather than continuing on an academic track, she decided to become a science communicator, rather than a science generator.

In this episode we discuss what makes squid so fascinating and how Danna has created a successful career as an independent science writer.

You can follow Danna on Twitter at @DannaStaaf and on her website: http://www.cephalopodiatrist.com/p/home.html

One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:

Will Bachman: Hello, Danna, welcome to the show.
Danna Staaf: Thanks, it’s great to be here, Will.
Will Bachman: Danna, I am so excited to speak with the author of Squid Empire, and The Rise and Fall of the Cephalopods. We normally talk to consultants on the show, management consultants, but really we’re about how to thrive as an independent professional, and you are the first professional science communicator we’ve had on the show. I’m thrilled to hear about your work.
Danna Staaf: Thanks, it’s quite an honor to be joining you.
Will Bachman: Let’s start with your book, and the focus of your research and of your communicating. You, I understand from your book, which I love, by the way, you visited the Monterey Aquarium as a young girl and then insisted, and with your dad’s help, got a pet octopus.
Danna Staaf: That’s right. I just completely fell in love with the giant octopus at the aquarium, and it hooked me. That was it. I came home, I couldn’t forget it. I was insistent that I had to have a pet octopus. And my dad and I looked it up and it turns out you can keep a small, not a giant, but a small pet octopus in a home aquarium. And we did that and I just never looked back. I’ve loved octopuses and squid and all of their relatives ever since.
Will Bachman: And you mention in the book that it’s pretty important to use plenty of duct tape and so forth because they can squeeze through a small space. You managed not to let yours escape through the drain out to the Pacific ocean.
Danna Staaf: Yes, yes, this is true. I did some early learning from others’ mistakes. I read all of these accounts of people who’ve lost their octopuses escaping through tiny holes. So, we just duct taped the whole thing up and kept our octopus.
Will Bachman: And then, you didn’t drop the idea. I mean, I guess a lot of kids say I wanna be a marine biologist when I grow up, and then you did it, right?
Danna Staaf: That’s right.
Will Bachman: Fast forward us, you ended up doing your research, I think, right next door to the Monterey Aquarium and getting-
Danna Staaf: Yeah, that’s right.
Will Bachman: And then pursuing a degree but you decided you didn’t wanna be a science generator, you wanted to be a science communicator. Talk to us about that and about your graduate work and about that decision to become a communicator.
Danna Staaf: Absolutely. It ended up coming full circle. I got a undergraduate degree in marine biology, decided to go on to graduate school, as I just have not gotten tired. Every new thing that I learned about these creatures, squid and octopus, and the whole oceans that they lived in just made me wanna learn more. So that okay, I better become a scientist. It’s what they do. And I went to graduate school at Hopkins Marine Station, which is part of Stanford University. It’s the marine biology campus of Stanford and it’s next to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. They share a fence.
It was so cool to be back there. I spent six years in grad school studying Humboldt squid, which is a very large squid. Not the giant squid, but a squid that gets to be, I calculated as wide, as big as me. I’m five feet tall, so it’s about a five-foot long squid. I studied where they move, how they reproduce. They have these tiny little adorable babies and I got to spend a lot of time looking at those and figuring out how they grow into such big adults.
An interesting thing is, while I was spending all these years going out in the field, catching squid, watching squid, doing data analysis, crunching numbers, I was also learning a lot about how science works, and how insulated a lot of it is from the general public, despite how interested people are in it.
Anyway, I would just visit schools ’cause I like doing a lot of [inaudible 00:03:50] work and kids would be fascinated. They had so many questions about the animals, about the ocean, about how science works, about how you can become a scientist. And I became aware that there was this real hunger for communication about science, how it works, what the discoveries are, who the scientists are and how you can become one or how you can be involved with it.
I spent 10 years in higher education, getting my undergraduate and my graduate degree. I have a great respect for academia but I just didn’t feel like it was the right place for me. I wanted to be more out in the world. I loved visiting schools, and I wanted to keep doing that. I love writing. I had started a blog called Squid Day, where I just wrote up a silly or a fascinating or a weird or a gross squid fact every day. And I’d gotten a lot of traction with it, and a lot of people were interested in it. And I loved writing that blog so much more than I loved writing academic papers, that by the time I graduated I was like, “Hmm, maybe that should be my job.” And it turns out that you can be a science writer, or a science communicator, that’s a real actual job, although it’s not a very specific one. So, I decided it was my job and then I spent the years since then figuring out exactly what that means.
Will Bachman: I want to get into, the business of being an independent professional science writer. Let’s get to that in the second half of the show. First, I’d like to talk about the book and about the world of ancient squid. Talk to us about ancient squid before the dinosaurs.
Danna Staaf: I would love to do that. Here’s the crazy thing about squid and octopuses and all their relatives. They are swimming around in the ocean today, but their evolutionary history and their ancestors go back 500 million years, which is twice as old as the dinosaurs. They are at least as cool as the dinosaurs. The ancestors of the modern squid lived in these shelves, kind of like snails, but they were gigantic. They were kind of a school bus sized giant tentacled shelled beast roaming around the ocean and they were the first kind of sea monsters. They were the first real giants on the planet because it was before the rise of dinosaurs. It was before even the rise of large sharks and fish, and certainly long before whales and dolphins.
If you go back to this earlier time when life was first proliferating on our planet, the cephalopods, which is the group that includes squid and octopuses, were the first big monstrous animals that evolved. And so I think it’s really interesting just from a point of view of how life evolved and how things get big and what traits make a group successful to survive for that long, 500 million years. Surviving all of these mass extinctions that killed off so many other things.
The other thing that really captures our attention, I think, about this group, about the cephalopods, is that they’re really intelligent. They have these large brains, they have these large eyes that are very similar to our own eyes, with a lens and a retina and can resolve all the same things that we can. And yet they’ve evolved that independently. Like, a dog looks back at you, and you think, okay, well, you’re a fellow vertebrate, your brain and my brain, they evolved along the same trajectory for a long time so we have a lot in common.
But if you look at an octopus and it looks back at you, you can think, well, your brain and my brain have been on separate tracks for 500 million years, and so we got to the point of being able to look at each other and have an interaction, which you can have with an octopus. They have these personalities where you can train them to play tug-of-war with you, or eat different foods and come out at different times, and that’s all happening in these two brains that are totally different. It’s the closest to an alien intelligence that we have.
So, going back to see how the evolutionary trajectory went to bring us to that point, is, I think, one of the most interesting and fundamental ways out there to shed light on intelligence and on our own intelligence, and how we got to be the way we are. And why we are an octopus with no bones and eight arms and a bunch of suction cups.
Will Bachman: So, before there were fish in the ocean, there were these giant squid going around. Were they the dominant force in the ocean? For how long?
Danna Staaf: They were for millions of years, ’cause this is going back in time pre-dinosaurs, and most of what anyone would recognize, if they recognized anything from the world at this time would be trilobites, which are those really abundant crabby type fossils that would have been scuttling around on the seafloor. And there were also worms and there were also snails, but there weren’t any of the animals that we recognize today as vertebrates, so things with backbones. There weren’t any big fish, there weren’t any big sharks. There certainly weren’t any mammals and no dinosaurs, and nothing on land, by the way. So, everything that’s happening was happening in the ocean. Land is barren, completely no forest, no nothing, just some little smears of algae. So, all of the animals are in the ocean, and most of them are these scuttling trilobites, burrowing worms, and probably some jellyfish floating around here and there.
And then, these little creatures that look like snails evolve to become these giant squid-like monsters that are probably eating everything else, probably eating the worms and the trilobites and their fellow snails and everything that they can catch. And that evolution happened, going from tiny little snail-like things to big gigantic squid-like things. Because their shells evolved as tricked of being buoyant, where they could pump out the liquid in their snail-type shells and it would fill up with gas and lift them up off the seafloor. And they were able to grow quite large because they had these buoyant shells that offset the weight of their bodies. They could basically be as big as they wanted and they were the first animals who were freed from size constraints to become monstrous.
Will Bachman: And then, the shell basically ends up inside the squid, right? How did that happen?
Danna Staaf: Right, right. Sometimes I summarize this whole story as how the squid lost its shell. Because the original innovation, if you will, evolutionary innovation and the truth was this amazing shell that was buoyant and let them get enormous. And then, that shell became a liability when large fish and sharks evolved, that were able to swim much faster because they didn’t have a heavy shell or an awkward shell to drag around. And so, over time, cephalopods have reduced that shell. The ones with smaller shells, coiled shells, and eventually internal shells, were able to survive better because they could escape fish and they could compete with fish for the same resources.
So, our ancestors, which were fish, were really the driving factor in turning these sort of squid-like but also sort of ice cream cone-like monsters into the more streamlined, internally shelled squid that we have today, and even the octopuses eventually, that their shell got so small that they don’t even have one anymore and they’re just complete [ooshy gooshy 00:12:03] messes.
Will Bachman: If I remember back to elementary school, in my textbooks, I remember some stuff about dinosaurs. I don’t remember anything about giant squid swimming around, which I think probably would have interested me.
Danna Staaf: Right?
Will Bachman: And you also don’t see it a lot in museums. And I suppose that might be partly due to the fact that squid don’t leave a lot of easily defined fossils, so it’s probably you see in museums what’s easy to find. Could you talk a little bit about how, is the learning and science about these ancient squid, is it relatively new? Has the field been really changing a lot in the past couple of decades?
Danna Staaf: It has, yeah. That’s a really good question. It’s an interesting point that I think we all do remember learning a lot about dinosaurs when we were kids, and all the natural history museums have dinosaur dioramas and you see the giant skeletons and everything. And I think dinosaurs are really an example of a triumph of science communication. ‘Cause if you think about it, these amazing creatures, that we only know of because of scientists studying these fossils and learning things about them, you can’t just go out and observe them the way you could go out and observe birds or plants growing in your yard. We only know about them because paleontologists spend all this painstaking time re-creating them.
And they’re not immediately relevant to our lives. It’s not something we need to know about like the weather for planting crops, or more like how the ocean works so that we can design ships and things. But they’re just so interesting. It’s just this raw scientific coolness factor that has made them familiar to everybody, and something that kids read books about, grownups read books about. We want to see a museum. And I think that happened relatively recently when scientists studying dinosaurs began to get new information, new fossils and new ways of studying the old fossils to learn things like, oh, they actually moved in groups and had complex behaviors. Those were the sorts of discoveries that gave us the Jurassic Park movies, for example, really intelligent, really scary, dinosaurs.
And then we started go, oh, maybe they were warm blooded and they might have had feathers, kind of like modern birds. And those sorts of discoveries got a lot of press and a lot of attention. And I think that cephalopods, the squid group, which I am coming back to here, has not yet reached that point of being able to have that renaissance because there’s still so much we don’t know about them. We have all of these shells from the time when they did have the large external shells, but we don’t have any of the soft parts. We don’t know how many tentacles they had or what their eyes were like, or even really what their bodies were shaped like within and outside of the shell.
But, just in the last couple of decades a lot of this work is starting to ramp up. And when I was working on the book, I got to speak with a lot of young paleontologists who are using new techniques to find new fossils or study old fossils, putting fossils in CT scanners, which will let you see more of where the muscles might have attached and where the soft parts might have been. In some cases, they can even see muscle fibers within soft parts. So, it’s starting to get there. My dream is that my book is just the very beginning of a cephalopod renaissance, like we had a dinosaur renaissance back in the ’60s and ’70s.
Will Bachman: All right, so we can look forward to big models of squid hanging from the ceiling and …
Danna Staaf: I hope so, and I dream of the giant shell that you could actually climb in and see what it would be like to sit in them, like an ancient cephalopod.
Will Bachman: That would be amazing, because you say in the book, I think I remember that there was one that was like, what, two meters across?
Danna Staaf: Yeah. The longest one got up to six or seven meters long.
Will Bachman: Whoa, that’s a big shell.
Danna Staaf: Uh-huh.
Will Bachman: That is a big shell. I would love-
Danna Staaf: You could climb in there with all your friends.
Will Bachman: My kids would love to go to a museum and have a replica ancient squid shell to go climb in. That would be cool.
Danna Staaf: That would be very cool.
Will Bachman: Awesome. Let’s talk a little bit about the business of being an independent professional science communicator. Talk to us about, first, maybe what are the different revenue streams for you? I suppose there’s some book royalties, but what else is there? Do you get paid to go to classrooms? What else is there beyond the book?
Danna Staaf: I would say that actually the core of my work, as a science writer, is writing articles, shorter articles, for magazines, mostly online magazines these days. I don’t write that often for print anymore. And those articles, I do sometimes get a regular gig doing that, so when I first start out right after grad school, for a while I wrote regularly for KKVD, which is here where I live in Irvine, California. It’s our MPR station, essentially, and they have a science website and I was one of their freelance contributors, regularly.
By the time that gig ended, I had editors at other publications that I was pitching stories to. And so that’s my basic gig, I guess, is that I look around for cool science stories to write that are not book length that are like a short news article, maybe a slightly longer featured article, a profile. And I try to find an editor or a publication that would be interested in having me write that story, for money, and then they pay me.
Will Bachman: I like that part.
Danna Staaf: Yeah. But I do-
Will Bachman: And then in-
Danna Staaf: Oh, go ahead, sorry.
Will Bachman: No, go ahead.
Danna Staaf: I was just gonna add … so that’s a basic science writer gig. But there are also then related things that I’ve done, like written things. One of my favorite things, actually, was I got to write a script for a little educational movie for a site called BrainPop, that some parents and educators may be familiar with, that makes these little animated movies on all kinds of different topics. I got to write a script for one of those, which was fun.
We might not initially think that science writing, I certainly wasn’t initially sure if it was a way that you could really make a living or if there was enough of a demand for that. But there are so many different people interested in learning or needing to learn in different ways that there are actually a lot of opportunities between writing for magazines and writing for educators. I’ve done some curriculum design for schools.
And then also I do a lot of speaking in person, as well. Increasingly with the book out, visiting, not just schools but also museums, aquariums, different locations, that are interested in bringing an expert in to talk about stuff and then meet people and answer questions.
Will Bachman: That’s cool. And I love BrainPop, by the way.
Danna Staaf: Oh, good.
Will Bachman: My kids had a subscription and it’s fun to watch those videos. I’ll have to look for the … what’s the one? Is it on squid?
Danna Staaf: It was the rock cycle, actually. I was getting all interested in geology and it turned out they needed somebody to rewrite their rock cycle one.
Will Bachman: Okay, I’ll check out the rock cycle video on BrainPop. There’s some good stuff there and they’re fun to watch.
Danna Staaf: There is, absolutely.
Will Bachman: Usually animated.
So, Danna, one advice that I’ve seen for nonfiction authors is to build a website and then collect up people’s email addresses of readers, and that way you have a way to stay in touch and communicate with your readers. Some other people recommend social media. How do you stay in touch with your readers so people who are interested in your work, that wherever you publish, that those readers can find out about it? How do you go about building up your following?
Danna Staaf: That’s a really great thing to talk about. I mostly use social media right now. I have a Twitter presence, where I always publicize the events that I’m doing, and any new writing that I have coming out or news about the book. I also have a Facebook author page, which I keep updated with pretty much the same information.
But, I also do have a website that I keep up to date, too. So that if people are just looking for me, if somebody’s seen me give a talk and all they remember is my name, or the name of my book and they just do a search for it, then they can find my website, which will have all of that information, as well.
It’s interesting that you should mention an email list off our newsletter because it’s something that I, this year, I was just realizing, I think I’m gonna do that. I’m gonna set up a newsletter that people can subscribe to. Because, I know that I don’t always remember to check social media myself. Sometimes it’s even good to take a break from it. But I’m always keeping up with email and I’m sure that a lot of other people are the same way, where they use email to keep track of what’s important. I’ll make sure that I get these notifications when important things happen. And if anybody happens to consider my writing to be one of those important things, which would be a great honor, then I would love to be able to send them email about it.
Will Bachman: Cool. For listeners who do want to check out that site, what is the website and what is the Twitter address? Where can people find you?
Danna Staaf: Pretty much all under my name, which is tricky to pronounce and not always easy to spell but very unique. So it’s Danna Staaf, and Danna has two Ns, and Staaf has two As. My twitter handle is just Danna Staaf and my Facebook page is also Danna Staaf but you can also find it under Banana Cough, which is what I tell people to use to remember how to pronounce my name, because Danna rhymes with banana and Staaf rhymes with cough. And now you will never forget it.
Will Bachman: All right, Banana Cough, I love that. It makes it definitely memorable, fantastic. So, if you want to follow Danna, check out the website.
What are some ways that you recommend to the layperson, like me, who wants to keep up with what’s going on in science? And maybe the New York Times is too light touch or general news is too light touch, not serious enough. But trying to subscribe to Nature, let’s say, or Science, is like too-
Danna Staaf: A little too much.
Will Bachman: Too impenetrable, like you can’t get past the intro. What are some good sources in your mind for the general layperson who wants to stay up to date on what’s new? But, in a little bit more serious way than you can just get from the newspaper?
Danna Staaf: Totally. That’s a really good thing to think about, too. I think that if you’re interested in science generally, there are a lot of great publications to subscribe to. Things like Scientific American, Popular Science, just thinking here. So, even within that, then there’s a lot of publications based on interest. If you’re interested in conservation, for example, there’s a publication called Earther that’s connected to Gizmodo, that has all kinds of interesting conservation stories. If you’re interested in the ocean and how humans interact with them, there’s an awesome publication called Hakai Magazine.
Will Bachman: I’m sorry, how do you spell that?
Danna Staaf: It’s H-A-K-A-I, Hakai. It publishes beautiful writing. I struggle a little bit because there are so many publications, to know where to keep checking, where to subscribe to. And, I actually think that Twitter comes in really handy that way, because there are a lot of science writers and science communicators there who are tweeting new stories that come out. News that is exciting or interesting in the science-phere. And so if you’re following a few of these people, then by going on Twitter, I’ll find links to stories maybe in magazines I might not have been reading or I might not have remembered to check what’s available.
So, that’s really a nice way, too. And some of the people that I would recommend following, like one is the Times Writer for the Atlantic, Ed Yong, who just writes beautifully. He has a book out about microbes that’s fantastic, and he also publicizes a lot of work being done in science communication and cool new science news.
Will Bachman: To what degree do you try to stay in touch with the world of science by going to academic conferences? I’m curious, how can academics think about science writers like yourself with a PhD, who are legit scientists but aren’t doing active academic research anymore? What’s that relationship like?
Danna Staaf: It’s an interesting one, for sure. And yes, I do go to some conferences. It really varies depending on what my current projects are, so I don’t have any conferences that I definitely go to every year. While I was working on the book, I went to the Geological Society of America conference ’cause it’s where all the paleontologists go. And it was amazing and I learned all kinds of stuff. But, if I’m more focused in another area I might look at other conferences.
When I talk to scientists, those who are actually practicing their science instead of me, who’s just reading and writing about it, I feel like there’s two different sets of responses, largely based on age and generation. And when I chat with folks who are at the beginning of their career, younger, who are themselves either graduate students or [inaudible 00:26:44] and aren’t really sure if they’re going to be able to find a position as a professor, aren’t sure if they want to go that complete academic route, I get so many questions. They’re asking me a lot of the stuff that we talked about at this interview, “Why did you decide to go into science communication? What is it like? How do you make a living?” Because it’s an interesting option that I think a lot of scientists are interested in doing more of themselves, not all. But there are a lot of scientists who love science communication and if they’re trying to still figure out their own careers, then they wanna know what my career is like. Like, “Could I do that? Would I wanna do that? What is it like?”
And then when I talk to more established scientists, who maybe have a position already, have tenure already, then there’s less of that could I have your job, do I want your job, what is your job like, sort of questions. We end up having really interesting conversations. To me, more interesting than I had when I was an academic scientists myself. Because we talk over wider ranging subjects. They might want to ask me about developments in science outside of their field, or I might want to ask them the sorts of questions that I felt like I couldn’t ask when I was a scientist because I was already supposed to know the answer. But now that I’m a science communicator, it’s okay for me to be like, “I don’t really understand how you measure the acidity of the ocean. Can you explain that to me again?” When I was in grad school, I felt like I should know that already. So, just personally, it’s really freed me up a lot, too, to ask questions and to, like, actually, I don’t understand that and that’s okay, like maybe we can figure it out together.
Will Bachman: That is such an interesting, wow, insight and observation. Sometimes, just the role that you have allows you to ask questions that you might not otherwise. For me, as a consultant often I can go into a company and ask really naïve beginner questions and I’m not viewed like an idiot. But if I was Senior Vice President of that company, they’d say like, “What are you, a moron?”
Danna Staaf: Exactly.
Will Bachman: That’s really cool that they respect you, you got a PhD, you’re serious, but you can ask the beginner questions and maybe they’re not used to even answering them. That’s amazing.
Danna Staaf: Right.
Will Bachman: That’s cool.
Danna Staaf: That’s a really cool analogy, and I think it’s very similar. And one of the things that I like about being a science writer, instead of a scientist, is that I can have a little more. Exactly what you’re saying, I can go in and ask ignorant questions of people in fields that I’m not that familiar with, and they’re usually pretty patient with me.
Will Bachman: Is there any community of science writers, people that are like yourself that are out there freelancing and writing these kind of science books? I suppose a lot of the science books you see are written by someone who’s currently a professor somewhere. I’m curious if you have connected with other science writers who written these popular science books …
Danna Staaf: Yes.
Will Bachman: … and what little micro community is like.
Danna Staaf: Yes, there is a fantastically supportive community of science writers, both freelance and there are science writers who have staff positions at various outlets and things. I’m not sure if I would have gone into the field if I hadn’t met some of those people while I was still in grad school and gotten the support and mentoring that I did. Because it’s a tough place if you’re trying to figure it out all on your own, but there’s a National Association of Science Writers, which includes a lot of freelancers and committees and has regular meetings.
And there are also regional associations. Where I am in Irvine, California, has a Northern California Association of Science Writers, which is a really lovely group. Some people have written books, some people stick to magazine articles and write beautiful ones and won lots of awards and do very inspiring things in that space. And some people are employed by a university and are writing press releases that you never see. And there are all different kinds of science writing, but everybody’s talking to each other, and it’s really lovely when we come together and some of the folks in that group have organized workshops on the craft of writing, on the business of writing, that have really made it both pleasant and possible to do this.
Will Bachman: You said it’s been really helpful to you. What were some of the ways that that community of other professionals helped you as you were getting into this?
Danna Staaf: Let’s see. I think that some of the help was very practical, kind of a detailed of how do you write a … maybe have an idea for a story that you want to write, how do you find the right outlet, or editor that might publish that story? How do you craft the pitch? And then how often should you follow up? All of these newbie questions that people have either already answered on their websites where you can read or they’ll talk to you in person and give you these answers.
And then I think the other really practical and helpful thing is less specific, but just generally the company and the knowledge that there are other people doing this. And that they’re doing it in a lot of different ways, but many of them are very happy doing it, and balancing it with their lives and finding ways to make it work for them. There’s some people who travel a lot, there’s some people who barely travel at all. While I was writing my book, I was also taking care of a newborn and so I was not doing a lot of travel, but I had this support knowing that other people had done this, had gone through writing and producing work while they were caring for young children. So, it’s just that comfort knowing that you’re not alone. That was really helpful.
Will Bachman: Are there any daily or morning routines, or daily routines that you’ve adopted that have really been effective for you?
Danna Staaf: Yes. I have developed the habit of sitting to meditate before I work every day. That, for a while, was hard to do because I thought it was taking away from my work time. But, it quickly became clear that the days that I did it I was more focused, and I was able to make better use of the time that I did have. So, that’s become part of my routine.
And I also have an actual … oh, sorry, go ahead. Were you saying something?
Will Bachman: What sort of meditation do you do?
Danna Staaf: I have just a set of simple breathing exercises and concentration techniques that I use.
Will Bachman: Yeah, I find so many guests on the show have adopted some form of mindfulness or meditation, that’s amazing.
Danna Staaf: That’s really cool.
Will Bachman: Yeah, go on, what else were you gonna say?
Danna Staaf: The other thing I was gonna say was super mundane, I have an actual to-do list that I just keep updated. And every now and then I’ve thought about should I use some sort of task management software, and I look at options out there. But I actually just have this text file on my computer that’s a list of things to do, and I have not yet found anything more effective than that.
Will Bachman: Yeah, just keeping one single to-do list, super effective, amazing.
Danna Staaf: It’s awesome.
Will Bachman: Any books that you have frequently gifted for just highly recommend?
Danna Staaf: Yes. Specifically for science writers, there’s a book called The Science Writers’ Handbook, Everything You Need to Know to Pitch, Publish, and Prosper in the Digital Age. And it was written by a number of freelancers, some of whom I had met in person. One of whom was a mentor for me when I was starting out. I recommend this to people all the time, like if you’re even at all seriously considering this career, this book has every … at least get it from the library. Because, it has all of the nitty gritty details of how to make the business work, it has all the big ideas about how to find story and craft story, and it’s just perfect.
And there’s another book about writing a book, which is more general, any kind of book. They cover from nonfiction to fiction, to children’s books, to everything. That one is called The Essential Guide to Publishing a Book. I should probably have made sure I knew the title before I recommended that one.
Will Bachman: We’ll include it in the show notes. We’ll include it in the show notes.
Danna Staaf: It is, let’s see, because I know the subtitle is putting your passion into print. It’s by Arielle Eckstut and David Sterry. So, that’s a great one for anybody who’s interested in writing a book, of any kind.
Will Bachman: Awesome. Well, Danna Staaf, thank you for joining. It’s fantastic. I loved your book Squid Empire. Looking forward to the next one. You have another book coming out? I think a children’s book, perhaps?
Danna Staaf: Yes, I hope I’ll be able to share news about that soon.
Will Bachman: Okay. Still under wraps, the title and so forth, but we’ll look forward to news about that, and I will be checking DannaStaaf.com, your website. We’ll include a link to that in the show notes. Thank you so much for joining.
Danna Staaf: Thanks so much for having me, Will. It was a lot of fun.

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