CONNECTICUT COLLEGE, New London, Connecticut
My first challenge was to profile four highly accomplished alumni, keeping each piece to 500 words. The second was finding new material to write about, since they’d all been profiled extensively.
When I lamented my challenges to Harvard Forest director David Foster, he expressed relief that the problem was mine, not his, to solve, and we had a good laugh. I did manage to overturn a few new stones in his background, however. One of his best stories came from asking him, “How did you get into botany?”
George Washington University professor Linda Lear wrote what is now considered the definitive biography of environmental crusader Rachel Carson. We talked about the first time she’d ever heard of Carson. She also recounted some of the amazing parallels in their lives—which she didn’t discover until she started the project.
I interviewed filmmaker Judith Irving before her acclaimed documentary, “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill”, was released. Accompanied by the “background music” of her adopted parrots, she explained how the project grew from a short to a full-length film. She also swore me to secrecy as she revealed the film’s surprise ending.
Alex Brash, Chief of New York City’s Natural Resource Group, a master storyteller, gave me several times more material than I could possibly use. All of it was fascinating, so I had to make some tough choices. Many of the ones that didn’t make the cut got pulled together in my lead.