Intrepid Bwogger Ross Chapman ventured to writer Mary Roach’s lecture at CU for a night of debauchery, drinking, and dirty secrets about the Department of Defense. Read on for the less-dramatized details.
“Turns out, diarrhea can be a threat to national security.”
Dodge 501 was filled to the brim with (mostly wine-drinking) students last night for another round of the School of Arts’ Nonfiction Dialogues as pop science writer Mary Roach came onto campus. Roach, whose titles include Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers and Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, writes with a “hybrid form” of scientific exploration and personal humor. A psych major who graduated with no discernible skills, she worked her way up from copy editing to pursuing her own interests for books. She talked about her experiences writing and working on her new book (about soldiers and warfare) and took questions from aspiring authors and scientists, packing plenty of writing tips into the hour.
Roach focuses on human interest, humor, and a bit of an ick factor. The quote at the top of the article comes from her research into military solutions to diarrhea, because the Department of Defense has a ton of money to spend. In her talk, she stressed writing about the relationships between figures in science. Far from a sterile narrator, she writes in the first person and considers herself a character, especially when it comes to the grosser science. The first person allows her to level with the reader. This is weird for me too,” she would say, peering along with the reader at disembodied heads. “Let’s go through this together.” She was as funny in person as she seems to be in her books, and accommodated every question, even the ones she couldn’t very expertly answer, until every audience member had their say.
Here are some writing tips gleaned from Roach’s talk and students’ questions:
Professional photo via Mary Roach’s website