Writing

I started writing stories and articles in primary school and was on my school’s first newspaper team.

As a teenager, I sent a letter to a national weekly, about a play by G.B. Shaw. It was published.

In my early 20s, I sent a letter to Tineke Beishuizen (a renowned writer at women’s weekly Libelle) about my mother’s illness and death. I also submitted an item to women’s weekly Viva, about the cat I’d adopted from the shelter. Viva published the item about my cat and sent me a voucher for it. (I think it was for 25 guilders’ worth of flowers.) I received a letter from Tineke, asking me permission to use the letter as a column (adapted, of course), as well as a lot of encouragement to write more. (We spoke over the phone.)

In my mid-to-late 20s, I sent about a dozen letters to the editor of Dutch national daily De Volkskrant, responding to articles in the newspaper. Almost all were published, almost all in the Saturday edition. Most were on violence against women and children. As about 8 out of 10 of mine got published, I had not realized that it was quite hard to get such letters published. I found out later, during an evening course at the Netherlands School for Journalism.

In my early 30s, when I was living in the US, I wrote a letter to the editor of an American newspaper (the St. Peterburg Times, which has won twelve Pulitzer Prizes since 1964, but later merged into a larger regional newspaper). That too was published.

I became self-employed in Amsterdam in 1997 and continued that when I moved to Britain at the end of 2004. My writing skills are a great asset, no matter what I do, provided I put them to good use. (I do ramble at times.)

So, before I moved to Britain, I was part of the Arcadis Elements magazine team (@ 55 euros per hour, excl. of VAT) and was editor in chief of the newsletter and scientific yearbook of the Environmental Chemistry (and Toxicology) Section of the Royal Netherlands Chemical Society. For 11 years, I was associate editor for the international newsletter of the Geochemical Society, which is based in the US.

I have interviewed people all over the world, on location as well as by phone and e-mail. I particularly remember finally being able to catch up with a very busy person (who is now one of my LinkedIn connections) on his mobile phone at an airport in the US, while he was waiting for his connecting flight. I also remember speaking with two highly sympathetic people who were based in Hong Kong at the time. I remember my interview with Claude Allègre in Paris because I learned major lessons from that. I also remember my interview with Keith O’Nions, who had just been knighted and was about to become the Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK’s Ministry of Defence. He is a kind and highly entertaining person.

In my early 50s, I wrote some quirky flash fiction that is somewhat reminiscent of the work of Spike Milligan, I was told. I think that it only applies to some of it, and discovered that it is probably closer to Donald Barthelme’s quirky style. It’s available from various online retailers.

I published a bioethics essay (“We need to talk about this“, about the new eugenics) at the start of 2017. That version was much too skimpy, I realized, so I took it off the market, and doubled the number of pages in the second version, which I published in 2018 with a new cover. I should have published that improved version as a second edition, which it was – but I didn’t. It’s available from Amazon in print and as e-book, and as e-book from other major retailers. As the book isn’t very accessible, I decided to record a bunch of videos and create an online course. I am working on a third edition.

That said, the feedback I got back from Hélène van Pinxteren after I sent her the first edition was “Het eerste dat weer meteen opvalt is: wat schrijf jij ontzettend goed”, though we seemed to differ in opinion on how to approach the new eugenics. Sadly, we never got the chance to discuss that in more detail. (She had progressive MS.) It more or less echoes a review I received on Amazon from someone I used to know in the US and who had purchased the book.

I translated one of Richard Bintanja’s books into “The Ultimate Brainchild” of which the topic suits nicely with the eugenics context and I have contributed considerably to several books in the Dutch “For Dummies” series.

My first academic publication, in marine biogeochemistry, had only me as author and was published as a tripartite discussion with a contribution from Jim Moffett, on whose work my article was a comment, and another one from Brad Tebo. It was accepted without any revisions. In part, it was a rewrite of a shorter article that I had submitted to Science in 1996 and after resubmission was deemed more suitable for a specialized journal. (At around the same time, I convened an AGU conference session in Boston on the role of fungi in the marine environment, supported by a grant from the Dr. Catharine van Tussenbroek Fonds. That got me invited to a conference in Hong Kong, but I only submitted an abstract as I was unable to travel to Hong Kong at the time. I did participate in the PICO-III symposium in Plymouth later that year, which I combined with a trip to Oxford where I did the O’Nions interview.)

In 2000, I wrote a review on the environmental chemistry of cyanide, which was cited all over the world. I also contributed a quote about the Mariana Trench for a book in Canada. (My business website used to be over 200 pages and was listed on several Wikipedia pages.)

Other than that, I have written so many bits and pieces here and there (mostly on geochemistry and environmental chemistry, occasionally including health issues, and also on feminism/women in science), that it’s impossible to list or even remember them all.