Back and still scary! (Day 226, Year 3)

Yesterday, friends, as my husband heroically drove 12 hours from Tybee Island, Georgia to Haddon Township, New Jersey, I submitted my final essay for my first graduate school class at Johns Hopkins! 

I think I'll end the semester with a solid A. 

I haven't really gotten an A in anything since the mid-to-late 90s. It's really exciting! I see why my middle child is obsessed with getting As; it is like acquiring charms for a bracelet or collecting ultra-rare Garbage Pail Kids (in the 1980s). 

Now, since you are my biggest fans, you might be tempted to say "OF COURSE YOU GOT AN A!" and while that is very sweet, I literally sobbed, panicked, obsessed and ate fistfuls of Twizzlers through each and every assignment. My classmates all seemed very smart; which was very scary. But, they were also delightful, supportive and also seemed equally scared. Our instructor was not scary; he was supportive, filled with meaningful feedback and wonderful knowledge. Of course, this grandeur sort of made him scary--like maybe his kindness and grace was a trick--but he wasn't tricking us! He's been in the writing trenches and knows the horror that comes with pitching, submitting and allowing others to read your writing. 

I vomit in my mouth every time I publish a Yoke! Imagine the GI discomfort I had each time I submitted an assignment! 

I began the semester covering my area of science expertise and wrote about pediatric CAR T therapy. I've been following the development of this therapy for all my 8 years at Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation. I wrote an explainer article (which I just adapted for the ALSF blog, you can read it here), a journal article explainer piece (which I struggled with, oddly, even though I thought this was my bread and butter) and then a feature piece about accessibility and disparity issues around the promising treatment. I just pitched the last piece to a medical news website. I now refresh my personal email 1,000 times an hour waiting for the editor to say "YOU SUCK!" Just kidding, I am waiting for her to say "YES FRONT PAGE ROCKSTAR WRITE IT!" 

Then, I decided to ditch my cancer writing and try something new: invasive insects. I wrote an article about the dreaded spotted lanternfly. I have some revisions I'd like to make and I need to find the right publication to send a pitch. This was so far out of my wheelhouse; but I discovered invasive insects are fascinating and a little bit like cancer. Both things are not supposed to be where they showed up uninvited. 

Now, I am a bug writer, too. 

But, mostly, I am a science writer.

I wrote about my 20 years of imposter syndrome in my final essay. My class finally helped me shed the feeling that I wasn't sciency enough. I'll struggle with self-doubt through my entire writing life. A little doubt is a good thing--it pushes me to choose better words and imagine better ways to tell a story. A lot of doubt is paralyzing. And friends, I've just taken my first big steps and I am not going back to stillness. The only way forward is to keep pitching, interviewing, investigating, explaining, translating and, of course, writing the stories about how science impacts our lives. 

See you in the front page news (maybe, hopefully, I think?)!