By Chris Buddle (McGill University) & Dezene Huber (University of Northern BC)

————–

Last autumn there was quite an interesting discussion on twitter among some entomologists in Canada about the ‘job search’ – more specifically focused on the process of seeking tenure-track academic appointments.  Many of us shared our sob stories, and although the time, place and characters varied, the common element was REJECTION.  Those of us who currently are lucky enough to hold faculty appointments remember the rejection to success ratio, and some of us still have stacks of rejection letters.  While most of us really enjoyed the academic freedom that came with working as a postdoc, the job-search process was more often than not discouraging and deflating, and a really difficult time in our lives.

Towards the end of the PhD program, most of us are riding high – our papers are getting published, we are truly ‘experts’ in our fields of study, we are being congratulated, buoyed by our peers and mentors, and we are ready to take on the world.   We found ways to get a post-doc and perhaps traveled to a different country for additional experience, with a sense of hope, optimism, and enthusiasm for the next stage of our careers.

Then, like the world supply of helium, our hopes were quickly diminished.

“I will easily get a job interview at THAT University”.

Nope.  Not even an interview.

“Perfect – that job advertisement was MADE for me – they will hire me.  It’s a perfect fit”.

Nope. A mass e-mail rejection letter instead.

“I’m the GREATEST in my field of study.  Universities will be asking me to apply”

Nope.  That never happens.

I’m sure that I’ll be seriously considered for this position

Nope. The rejection letter came back saying that there were more than 400 applicants for the position.

Even if I don’t get the job, I’ll be able to get feedback from someone on the committee.”

Nope. It’s highly unlikely that, among the 400 applicants, anyone on the committee even remembers you.

There are really two ways to look at this.  It is possible to get discouraged and frustrated, and give up hope OR it’s possible to see that persistence can pay off and eventually the right job will come along, and you will be competitive.  Sure, the opportunities have to be there, but that kind of timing and ‘luck’ isn’t something you can control.

Here are a few pointers that will hopefully help you think about that tenure-track job search, and give you a sense of optimism:

  • It will take a huge dose of patience and persistence, but there ARE tenure-track jobs out there for people with Entomological interests, even in Canada. Recently, Manitoba hired an entomologist, and University of Ottawa just hired an assistant professor on the evolution of plant-pollinator interactions.
  • University professors do eventually retire! (…Although it needs to be noted that the reality in the current economy is that their positions are not always replaced)
  • You don’t have to restrict your options to only University positions.  We know of faculty members who worked in private companies, or in government, and made a lateral transfer, eventually, to academia.  Your holy grail may be a tenure-track job, but other opportunities are equally rewarding and could eventually get you a tenure-track job. Or you may find that life “beyond the ivory tower” is much to your liking anyhow. In fact, you may be interested in the advice column at Chronicle.com by that very name.
  • Be creative with your CV.  There are relatively few jobs for entomologists, sensu stricto, but there are jobs for evolutionary biologists, ecologists, or other more ‘general’ disciplines (Look: Concordia recently held a competition for a community and ecosystem ecologist!)  Re-work your cover letters and CV to reflect your potential in these jobs, and that you use insects as ‘model organisms’. And always tailor your cover letter and CV to any job for which you apply. Don’t just send in the same material to every search committee. Search committees are looking for that elusive thing that we call “fit.”
  • Keep your eye on the ball:  to get that coveted university position, the peer-reviewed publication remains the MOST IMPORTANT item on your CV.  Publish, publish, publish. During this stage of your career, keep the focus on that part of the research process. In particular, enjoy the fact that, as a postdoc, you are relatively free to conduct research and publish without many of the other responsibilities (e.g., teaching, administration) that will come with a tenure-track post.
  • Be realistic. If a job ad states that the committee is looking for an acarologist specializing in the mites of toucans, and you are an acarologist who studies toucan mites, then you have a good chance of landing an interview. If the job ad asks for a “terrestrial ecologist working at any scale from microbial to landscape” and you fit somewhere in there, chances are so do a few hundred other recent graduates.
  • When you see something that looks potentially appropriate for you, apply. Rejection is painful but costs nothing; not applying to something that might have worked out is doubly painful.  People who have agreed to write you letters of recommendation will be patient with you (if they are not, perhaps they are not the right people to give you a letter…?)
  • Have another postdoc or your mentor read through your application material. Chances are your mentor has been on a few search committees and can give you useful tips.
  • Every time you apply for a job, consider it a chance to improve your application material.
  • When you do land an interview, prepare for it like there’s no tomorrow. You are a researcher, do your best to figure out everything that you possibly can about the department to which you are applying and, even more, the personalities that make up that department.  Once you get an interview, this means your CV is strong enough, and the job interview is about the ‘fit’.
  • OK, to be fair, there are other tricks to success in academia.
  • Landing an academic position is not always going to be in the cards for everyone. It is best to have alternate plans so that you don’t get stuck in the so-called postdoctoral holding pattern for years and years. At least one of us (DH) committed to himself to start to explore alternate options at the five year mark after walking the convocation stage. Have a plan B. Your Plan B might actually turn out better than your Plan A in the end.
  • Rejection in terms of tenure-track jobs is really just a warm-up to the continual sense of rejection you will feel if you do end up working as a Professor.  You might as well get used to it.  This is not a statement to bring on doom and gloom: it’s the reality.  You must develop broad shoulders.

Rejection is a fundamental and core part of the academic life: The publication process is becoming so difficult that you can pretty much assume that your paper will get rejected the first few times around (check out this paper about rejection rates…).  Funding agencies are cash-strapped, and it’s getting harder and harder to find ways to fund research projects.  High caliber graduate students will ‘shop around’ for the best graduate program, and will often reject your laboratory. Be a practitioner of academic kung fu – use the weight of rejection against rejection itself by learning from it and applying it to your next attempt.

Depressed yet?

Don’t be.  A tenure track has so many advantages, and these far outweigh the annoying stream of rejections. And the other options available to a bright, young researcher are often as appealing (and usually pay more) than being on the tenure track anyhow.  ..but that’s a topic for another post.

The co-chairs – Chandra Moffat and Boyd Mori. Photo credit: Adrian Thysse

By Julia Mlynarek, PhD Candidate (Carleton University)

—————

Well it’s a New Year! 2013!

I’m writing a post on behalf of the Student Affairs Committee (SAC). Many people, especially students, don’t really know who we are and what the Student Affairs Committee actually does. So I figured I’d try to clear it up…

Who are we?

The SAC is composed of several graduate students distributed as evenly as possible across Canada. At the moment, there are seven students serving on the Student Affairs Committee. Part of these seven and Chandra Moffat (Fredericton, NB) and Boyd Mori (Edmonton, AB) who are also co-chairs of the SAC this year making sure things run smoothly.

The co-chairs – Chandra Moffat and Boyd Mori. Photo credit: Adrian Thysse

The co-chairs – Chandra Moffat and Boyd Mori. Photo credit: Adrian Thysse

Via e-mail, we consider how improve or maintain student success and visibility in the ESC. Other members include Ikkei Shikano (Burnaby, BC), Brock Harper (Toronto, ON), Paul Abram (Montreal, QC), Léna Durocher-Granger (Quebec/Honduras), Guillaume Dury (Montreal, QC) and me (Julia Mlynarek (Ottawa, ON)).

What do we do?

The mandate of the SAC is two-fold; 1- we advise Student Members, the Governing Board, and the Society on programs of the Society for students and on other matters concerning students and 2- we advise Student Members and the Society on the training of entomologists and on the future job opportunities for entomologists in Canada. This mandate is very broad but throughout the year we try to set specific goals to help students succeed in entomology. This year for example, we will be trying to post more regular updates on the ESC blog to let the Members know what we are up to. We are also working on an updated version of the Directory of Entomology. Of course we continue working hard on letting the Student Members know of Job and Research postings. Additionally, we let the community know if a student has defended their thesis successfully in the thesis round-up (either on the ESC website, or in the Bulletin). So if you’re a student that has just submitted a thesis, let us know! We also help with organization of the annual meeting such as trying to keep the costs for the meeting as low as possible (but still sustainable) for the student, the student mixer during the meeting, the Graduate Student Symposium and the Silent auction. The proceeds of the silent auction actually come back to help the students. So a successful silent auction means extra funds for the students!

Great turn out to the ESC student mixer! Photo credit: Seth McCann

Great turn out to the ESC student mixer! Photo credit: Seth McCann

Student affair committee members (Chandra Moffat and Paul Abram) manning the silent auction at the last ESC annual meeting. Photo credit: Adrian Thysse

Student affair committee members (Chandra Moffat and Paul Abram) manning the silent auction at the last ESC annual meeting. Photo credit: Adrian Thysse

We work hard in our spare (non-thesis) time to encourage students pursue their dreams of working with insects. The actions we take today will influence the future entomology students which could potentially be our students in the future. We want Canadian Entomology to be the best it can be so that is respected in the world as it has been since the inception of the ESC.

If you (as a student) are interested in getting involved please contact us – students@esc-sec.ca or post a message on the ESC student facebook page. We would love to hear from you.

Enjoy the insects.

Till next time,

Julia

The Entomological Society of Canada gives out several financial awards each year to Canadian graduate students studying entomology. The following awards are available for 2013:

Graduate Research Travel Award – Up to a maximum of $2000

  • Normally awarded to one MSc student and one PhD student annually
  • Intent is to help students increase the scope of their research, and will be judged on scientific merit
  • Student must be enrolled as a graduate student at a Canadian university & studying insects or related terrestrial arthropods
  • Details
  • Application & Evaluation Information
  • Deadline: February 16, 2013

Postgraduate Awards – $2000

  • Normally awarded to one MSc student and one PhD student annually
  • Awarded on basis of high scholastic achievement
  • Student must be enrolled as a graduate student at a Canadian university & studying insects or related terrestrial arthropods
  • Application & Evaluation Information
  • Deadline: February 16, 2013

John H. Borden Scholarship – $1000

  • In honour of Dr. John H. Borden, one postgraduate award of $1,000 to assist students in postgraduate programs who are studying Integrated Pest Management (IPM) with an entomological emphasis
  • Awarded on basis of high scholastic achievement & innovative research in IPM
  • Applicant must be a full time postgraduate student at the time of application, studying IPM at a degree granting institution in Canada
  • Application & Evaluation Information
  • Deadline: February 16, 2013

Keith Kevan Award – $1000

  • In memory of Dr. D. Keith McE. Kevan, the Entomological Society of Canada offers one postgraduate award of $1,000 biennally to assist students in postgraduate programs who are studying systematics in entomology
  • Awarded on  basis of high scholastic achievement and excellence in insect systematics
  • Application Procedure
  • Deadline: February 16, 2013

By Sean McCann, PhD Canidate in Biological Sciences at Simon Fraser University

9/10 ant-mimicking mantids recommend tropical fieldwork for prevention of insect withdrawal.  (Photo: S. McCann)

9/10 ant-mimicking mantids recommend tropical fieldwork for prevention of insect withdrawal. (Photo: S. McCann)

At this stage of the long dark Canadian winter, thoughts of tropical fieldwork should be going through the heads of all sensible entomologists…If you find yourself longing for the moist and insect-filled paradise of the Neotropics, or even if that is what your research plans call for, let me introduce you to the wonders of French Guiana.

Topography near the Inselberg Camp.  (Photo: S. McCann)

Topography near the Inselberg Camp. (Photo: S. McCann)

French Guiana is situated just north of Brazil on the Atlantic coast of South America, and remains to this day an overseas Department of France.  Both French and Creole are spoken, so Canadians should feel right at home.

French Guiana truly shines as a biodiversity and natural areas hotspot because unlike many countries in the Amazonian forest region, it has not experienced extensive deforestation. The immense expanses of unlogged rainforest are truly impressive.

The Inselberg des Nourages on a clear day.  View not guaranteed, depends on the season. (Photo: S. McCann)

The Inselberg des Nourages on a clear day. View not guaranteed, depends on the season. (Photo: S. McCann)

There is quite active citizen science in Guyane as well, of particular interest is the SEAG, or Société Entomologique Antilles Guyane: http://insectafgseag.myspecies.info/. This society has conducted numerous expeditions focused on collection and identification of many insect taxa, and represents a great resource of local knowledge of the insect fauna.

Finding a cryptic owlfly nymph is always a nice surprise (unless you are a cricket) (Photo: S. McCann)

Finding a cryptic owlfly nymph is always a nice surprise (unless you are a cricket) (Photo: S. McCann)

I have done all my tropical fieldwork at the Nouragues station, supported by an annual grant program that seeks to assist visiting scientists with the travel and logistical expenses involved with a tropical field season. My work has centred on a bird which is a specialist predator of social wasps, the Red-throated Caracara.

Red-throated Caracaras are specialist predators of social wasps, and a common resident of the Nouragues Reserve. (Photo: S. McCann)

Red-throated Caracaras are specialist predators of social wasps, and a common resident of the Nouragues Reserve. (Photo: S. McCann)

The 1000 km 2 Nouragues reserve is located approximately 100 km SSW of Cayenne, and was established in 1995 to be both a refuge free of development and to facilitate research on Neotropical forest dynamics.

Army ants (Eciton spp.) are one of the wonders of the Neotropical raindforests. Go. See. Them. (Photo: S. McCann)

Army ants (Eciton spp.) are one of the wonders of the Neotropical raindforests. Go. See. Them. (Photo: S. McCann)

There are two research camps, the Inselberg Camp, situated just beneath a 420 m granite mountain, the Inselberg des Nouragues, and the camp at Saut Pararé, situated just below a series of high rapids on the Arataye River. The camps are accessible by helicopter, or you can take a motorized canoe (pirogue) to the Saut Pararé camp.  Both camps are administered by the CNRS (Centre Nationale de Recherche Scientifique) which has an office in Cayenne. Field costs are €20/day for students and postdocs and €35 per day for established researchers. Travel to the station can be expensive, but sharing the cost of helicopters/pirogues with other researchers can bring the costs down considerably.

Access to various parts of the forest is facilitated by an extensive trail system . Data on tree species and flowering/fruiting phenology in two large research plots at the Inselberg Camp are available. At the Pararé camp, there are also many trails, although not as extensive as at the Inselberg camp, as well as access to riverine and palm swamp habitats. Lists of species of birds, bats, fish and trees are available, and there is an impressive list of scientific data already published:  http://www.nouragues.cnrs.fr/F-publications.html.

SM7

UV lamps attract a nice variety of insects. These are particularly fabulous. Start your collection today! (Photo: S. McCann)

The camps are comfortable, with covered shelters (carbets) for sleeping and eating, and there is electricity and running water at each station (it is the rainforest!). There is also a satellite internet connection which is adequate for email and keeping in touch with labs and colleagues. Food is provided, and is quite good (as one might expect at a French field station!), cooking/cleaning duties are shared.

The kitchen carbet by moonlight. (Photo: S. McCann)

The kitchen carbet by moonlight. (Photo: S. McCann)

If you are a student or a researcher at the planning or pre-planning stages of a Neotropical research program, there is no better time than now to submit a research proposal to the scientific committee of the station. The recently announced call for proposals will fund projects to a maximum of €9000, which would nicely cover the transportation and field costs for a several-month expedition. The deadline is Feb. 14, 2013. For more information, the details are available here: http://www.nouragues.cnrs.fr/indexenglish.html

The Entomological Society of Canada is looking for volunteers for the upcoming JAM, November 3-7!

Volunteering looks great on your CV, is an excellent way to meet new people, and is fun! The Student Affairs Committee worked hard to keep student registration rates low, so we need a very strong showing of student volunteers to help make this meeting a success!

Sign up at http://www.doodle.com/i8znn4z75mtharfw by checking off times you are available. The full program is up now so you can confirm when you are presenting: check it out here!

Hi, my name is Holly Caravan and I am a PhD student in Dr. Tom Chapman’s social insect lab at Memorial University of Newfoundland. Currently my work is focused on galling aphids and their potential for antimicrobial activity within the gall. This past summer I visited Dr. Patrick Abbot’s lab at Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN) where I was able to access three species of galling aphids. But, to address the ultimate goal of my research, I want to include the species Pemphigus spyrothecae which produces spiral galls on Lombardy poplar, Populus nigra. This species has a soldier caste which is morphologically specialized, different from the other three species I have already researched. I am looking for any information on locations of this aphid species in Canada; Newfoundland would be ideal, but my hopes are not high! Attached are links with pictures of the host tree and the spiral galls produced by the aphids. Any information would be greatly appreciated! I can be contacted at holly.caravan@gmail.com or hcaravan@mun.ca!

http://www.naturespot.org.uk/species/pemphigus-spyrothecae

http://www.parkwoodpines.com.au/html/lombardy_Poplar.html

Jacob Coates is an MSc student in the Chapman Entomology Lab at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador.

—————————————

Cockroach – Photo by Jacob Coates

If you’ve never thought of visiting Australia, you’re making a terrible mistake. I just recently returned from a 6 month stint in Sydney based out of a Lab in Macquarie University. I carried out lab and field work on several species of gall-inducing thrips. I owe this great trip to the Australian Endeavour’s Awards, An Australian government run program which takes applications from students all over the world and to those lucky enough to be accepted, ships you to an Australian University with a wage, living allowance and travel cash. On top of getting some serious work done I enjoyed snorkeling around the many beaches, hiking in the Blue Mountains, and took part in the City 2 Surf road race where over 80,000 individuals take to the streets of Sydney to run the largest road race in the world.

Southern Queensland Red Road – Photo by Jacob Coates

In early June I completed a field trip into Southern Queensland to collect insect samples. Tenting through the outback presented some difficulties like torrential downpours, cold nights, and very sloppy road conditions (Nearly sinking a 4×4 in a flooded dirt road). Despite the problems, after nearly 2500 kms and 10 days of driving I returned to Sydney with thrips samples in hand and a very dirty truck to clean. Amazing wildlife, epic landscapes and great people await everyone in the outback, without a doubt the best trip of my life.

Jacob Coates

For those interested about the Endeavour’s award go to http://www.deewr.gov.au/International/EndeavourAwards/Pages/Home.aspx It’s well worth your time.

Culex pipiens photo by Kate Bassett

Today’s post is by Kate Bassett of Memorial University. If you’d like more information about her work, she encourages you to contact her.

——————————-

Hi,

I’m a graduate student at Memorial University (MUN, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador), nearing the end of my masters…hopefully :). My research project is focused on a wildlife issue. Snowshoe hare, Newfoundland’s only Lagomorph, suffer from infection by California serogroup viruses (snowshoe hare virus and Jamestown Canyon virus). Helped by the province’s Chief Veterinarian Officer Dr. Hugh Whitney, I sampled the blood and tested for infection in wild hares and laboratory rabbits used as sentinels.  This work was based in part in the laboratory led by microbiologist Dr. Andrew Lang at MUN, as well as working with the team at the National Microbiology Lab headed by Dr. Michael Drebot in Winnipeg. But, my project also included studying mosquitoes that are thought to transmit these viruses. That part of my project was based in the social insect lab at MUN headed by Dr. Tom Chapman.

I spent two summers catching mosquitoes. Consequently, I can’t miss them. I seem to have permanently altered my hearing and vision such that a mosquito in flight always grabs my attention. Last May while putting in a load of laundry, a specimen alighted on the washer. I dropped everything and ran upstairs for my aspirator, and made it back to collect this girl to identify at work. I froze her and didn’t get around to id’ing until later in the summer, and I was shocked to see that it may be Culex pipiens. This mosquito gains attention on the East Coast of North America because it can transmit West Nile Virus, and when I made this determination the worst West Nile viral outbreak in N.A. was underway and centered in Texas. I was uncertain of my morphological identification, so I added a leg or two of this specimen to my DNA barcoding work, and I waited for the outcome. When the sequence confirmed by identification, I put out a press release, which had me immediately doing live interviews on TV and Radio. I didn’t have a lot of time to think about it, I just went from interview to interview. It was a good experience; I do recommend it. I should add that we don’t have confirmation of West Nile Virus in Newfoundland, but we don’t know what lies ahead. Drs. Lang (aslang@mun.ca), Chapman (tomc@mun.ca) and Whitney (hughwhitney@gov.nl.ca) are looking for students to pick up where I am leaving off.

Culex pipiens photo by Kate Bassett

Here’s a picture of Cx. pipiens I took using a digital camera mounted on a dissecting scope. I used the program Helicon for producing a wide focal plane. It’s not the one that I got in May and fingerprinted, but another one that I got last weekend (September, 2012), also in my house!

Mosquito field trials at the Guelph Turfgrass Institute
Mosquito field trials at the Guelph Turfgrass Institute

Sometimes field work can look a little unconventional, like using large screened tents for a mosquito repellent trial. This original (yet ultimately unsuccessful) idea came from some work I did at the Guelph Turfgrass Institute in 2011.

Another field season has come and gone (mostly, I bet there are some field crop entomologists still out collecting data), and the entomology conference season will soon be upon us. But before you wrap yourself up in a nice warm cocoon of fresh data in preparation for the coming winter, we’d love to hear how your summer went!

The only thing better than obtaining exciting new data is the great story about how you got it! Maybe you traveled to a new location (or had an adventure on the way to your normally-mundane field site), met some interesting new people, took some photos you’re proud of, or did your best MacGyver impression by rigging your equipment together using only duct tape, dental floss and that perfectly shaped twig you found. Being the start of a new semester, maybe you’ve started a new project or joined a new lab and want to introduce yourself, your work, and put out a call for specimens.

Whatever your situation, the ESC Blog is a great place to share your story and earn the adoration of your peers for heroics and valor in the face of p > 0.05! Simply send us an email (entsoccanada@gmail.com) with your story (and a few pictures if you can) and we’ll help bring your story to the masses.

We know you’ll be swapping stories with newfound friends over beer at the ESC meeting in a few weeks, so hopefully you’ll consider sharing them with everyone a little sooner. We promise, we’ll ooh & ahh at all the appropriate moments (and not tell your advisor how the dent in the rental truck really got there)!

Dear Buggy is the the alter-ego of Dr. Chris MacQuarrie, a research entomologist with the Canadian Forest Service. You can ask Buggy questions of your own on Twitter @CMacQuar.

—————————-

Hello all,

Writing your first manuscript can be difficult. I remember spending a ridiculous amount of time preparing the first draft of my first paper. I thought I had produced something pretty good. So imagine my surprise when the file came back from my supervisor dripping in red ink (digital red ink, that is).

I had two big problems. First, like many new students, I didn’t make a particularly convincing argument in my introduction, my methods were confusing, the results were a mess and the discussion was meandering. My second problem confounded the first. I wasn’t a good writer.

Solving the first problem was easy. I had two very patient supervisors who taught me how to write a scientific paper. Solving the second problem is taking a little longer, because the only way to become a better writer is to practice. That is, you need to write. I write as much as I can, but I still have a lot of work to do. I’m lucky that I’ve had the good fortune to work with good writers and good editors from whom I’ve managed to learn some good habits (and break some bad ones).

The rest of my education has come from books. I thought I’d share some of these with you.

Books about writing in science:

How to write and publish a scientific paper 6th ed. by RA Day and B. Gastel

This is an excellent primer on how to write a scientific paper and should be on the bookshelf of every grad student.The 6th edition is a bit pricey, but you might be able to pick up a copy of the 4th or 5th edition at a good used bookstore. I own the 4th edition, it’s a bit dated but more than adequate for everyday use.

Writing Papers in the Biological Sciences 5th ed. by V McMillan

I was introduced to this book during my undergrad where it was on the required reading list (in part, I think because the author is also an alumni of the University of Saskatchewan’s biology department) I’ve carried it with me ever since. McMillan focuses on writing term papers and lab reports with less attention paid to writing journal articles, so this might be a better choice for undergrads. That said, there are good sections on formatting and citing that also apply to graduate level work. The current edition also covers the formatting of posters.

Writing to Learn Biology by R Moore

A Short Guide to Writing about Biology 7th ed. by J Pechenik

These two were recommended to me by Cedric Gillot, editor of the Bulletin (Cedric is one of those good editors I mentioned earlier. He’s been editing my work, on and off, for over 15 years).

Moore’s book looks to be out of print but many copies are available from online used book stores (as are most of the books in this post).  Pechenik’s book is well reviewed on Amazon. I’ll track down a copy and report back. If you’ve read this book let me know what you thought.

Books on writing in general:

These three books are not about writing in science, but are all excellent guides on how to write well.

How to Speak and Write Correctly by J Devlin.

Perhaps the granddaddy of all grammar guides. While it’s a bit dated (Devlin goes into detail on the proper use of ‘shall’ and ‘thou’), writers should still find it relevant. In particular, those, like me, that were never taught the rules of english grammarl. One other plus, since it was published in 1910, the copyright has expired and it can be had for free!
The Elements of Style 4th ed. by W Stunk and E.B. White.

The classic guide to writing in english. Buy this. Read it. Then put it on your bookshelf and read it again every year for the rest of your life. The best $12 you can invest towards becoming a better writer.

On writing well by W Zinsser

Zinsser focuses on guiding the writer to telling a compelling story. A great resource if you fancy becoming a writer about science (in addition to a writer of science). Regardless, science is about telling stories and the advice in this book about constructing a narrative can be applied to writing in the peer-reviewed literature.
And two for the road…

These last two books are on the art and craft of writing. Both are fun reads and worth checking out.

On Writing by S King.

Yes, that ‘S King’. King has much good advice to offer to all writers. If you ever wondered how King could be such a prolific writer, consider this: he writes at least 1000 words a day, six days a week. Anyone who has spent that much of their life writing should have good advice to offer. Set any doubts that you may have about King as a fiction writer and read this book. Probably one of his best.

When you catch an adjective. Kill it. by B. Yagoda

cover photo [ http://covers.openlibrary.org/w/id/528568-M.jpg ]

A fun little book about exercising verbosity from your writing. Clearly, I need to read it again.

I’d also love to hear your recommendations. What books influenced you as a writer?

Cover images in this post are from the Open Library project. Links are to Amazon.ca, but you should be able to find many of these in your local used bookstore, university bookstore or library.