World's Fair

My first piece

O.K. it looks like I’m going to use this site as a repository of my various science writings. In truth, I still consider myself a bit of a neophyte in this matter, but nevertheless, I’ve been lucky enough to publish the odd thing here and there.

In this vein, below is a copy of my first successful query letter written to that wonder of a wonderful magazine, Maisonneuve (sent on Jan 29th, 2004).

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Dear Editors
MAISONNEUVE

It’s like this…

Science geeks like myself can also be of the adventurous fold. And from this unwieldy mix, we can produce some pretty interesting dialogue on any number of science influenced topics. From this train of thought, I’d like to showcase a possible feature article that fits with the eclectic philosophy behind your magazine. If we were to assume that the literary world secretly prefers to not be verbose, and would much rather follow a Sesame Street type pitch, then I can simply say that my article is sponsored by the words “DNA” and “Nigeria.”

DNA, of course, will be (and arguably has been) done to death, and this is especially so in the subsequent months with the anniversary of the double helix, and the simultaneous announcement of the fully completed sequence of the human genome project. Its relationship to Nigeria, on the other hand, is what makes this particular piece interesting, and not necessarily due to its oil deposits or its near hosting of the Miss World pageant.

Rather, in the summer of 2002, I was fortunate enough to travel to Lagos, Nigeria to partake in the teaching of a scientific workshop that covered the theoretical and practical aspects of Molecular Genetics. Attended by senior graduate students, this particular workshop was unique in that it provided an interesting look into the scientific culture of a developing country. Furthermore, I think the essay would be enjoyable to your readers given that the narrative covers several diverse themes – from the challenge of facilitating a high technology workshop in an otherwise struggling country, to the cultural disparity between our own way of life and that of a nation clearly in the need. At times, I felt that the workshop would have fitted right at home in any episode of The Amazing Race, MacGyver, or even Survivor (if only UNESCO had given us $1500 and 48 hours to renovate the laboratory facilities, then we could have also included Trading Spaces).

Anyway, let me know if you want more and thanks for listening.

cheers
dave ng

You know, it’s oddly embarrassing to re-read this letter, and I’m definitely of the opinion that the acceptance was largely due to good timing (Maisonneuve was preparing for a “travel” issue). Anyway, the piece was eventually published in the May 2004 issue of the magazine.

READ the unedited version of DNA and Nigeria.