In 2014 Kathryn Hulick, the current events writer for ODYSSEY magazine, went on maternity leave, and ODYSSEY’s editor asked me to fill in for three months. It was really fun following science news sites and finding stories that would be interesting to kids aged 9-14. And then writing a 100-300 word blurb on each one. And then deciding which ones to include–I had a 1000 word limit per issue, and each issue of ODYSSEY has a theme. I usually provided a couple of extra stories for my editor, just to give her additional choices.
The assignment really helped me with writing concisely. It wasn’t just a case of using the paramedic method to reduce my word count; I really had to figure out what was most important and boil a story down to its essentials. And while reducing word count, I had to retain an engaging voice and informative style.
Months before publication, Cricket Media decided to shutter ODYSSEY and move its editor to MUSE. So one of the pieces was published in the last issue of ODYSSEY, and two were combined and published in MUSE. Stories that didn’t get published for various reasons include
- transplanted insulin-producing cells
- backpack safety
- South African penguin rescue
- solar powered rechargeable batteries
- fecal microbiota transplant (poop pills) to treat C. diff infections
- prosthetic hands controlled by the brain
- how many rats are there in New York City? [fewer than you think]
- monarch butterfly conservation
- hermit crab shell swap
- lost Philae space probe [good news: they found it!]
- tracing sheep breeding history through DNA analysis of parchment
- vibration detector based on spider legs