Blanche's experience with the Young Writers Network
What was your experience with YWN?
I had recently submitted my PhD which was investigating how to conceptualise human-climate relationships in non-anthropocentric ways, and which ended up looking at undergraduate students' emotional responses to climate change. YWN helped me take some of the conceptual ideas and find ways to discuss this in accessible language. They helped me get an article published in The Conversation, which was re-posted by a range of media outlets, most notably ABC news online, and was read by 55,000 people within 3 days (including being re-tweeted (dismissively) by climate denier and ex-senator Malcolm Roberts which was one of my favourite outcomes). The article has since led to 2 radio interviews (Radio Adelaide and 3CR) and 3 interviews with people writing for teachers' magazines or environmental NGOs, as well as being approached by a Routledge editor with the offer to submit a book proposal on the topic. So it has been a very busy 10 days since the article got published! YWN also helped me write an article for Environment Education Victoria's magazine discussing why it is important to understand that young people are quite concerned about climate change, and providing some tips for teachers on how they can respond to that. This article will be published in mid April.
Why did you decide to get in touch with YWN?
YWN was exactly what I was looking for, which was someone to help me work out how to discuss/disseminate my research beyond academic audiences. I knew I needed help working out which parts were relevant/interesting and how to frame this for particular audiences. Working on climate change means that research without public engagement feels empty and too slow. I never thought I would have gone from having just 4 people read my 75,000 word thesis (2 x supervisors and 2 x examiners) to having over 50,000 read my 800 word paper within a few days. It feels so great to have finally had some kind of meaningful impact on the world after being behind the computer screen for 5 years!
Hurdles you faced transforming research into content for non-academic audience?
Condensing/communicating complex ideas and letting go of particular conceptual/theoretical elements that were dear to my academic self; people mis-identifying me in terms of discipline (i.e. assuming that because I research emotions that I am a psychologist).
Key learnings, what did YWN provide you with?
Confidence that my work was relevant - and interesting - to the public is perhaps the greatest benefit. A space to communicate with other young people who aren't somehow in a position of power over you is really key to that; so you don't feel the need to already have it all worked out before discussing it. YWN also provided more tangible things like proof reading, editing suggestions, and approaches to structuring the ideas.
How do you think your experience with YWN would be useful for others?
Having people listen verbally was incredibly useful. To put words on paper requires a lot of the necessary work you need help with (condensing, finding the story, choosing appropriate lay terminology) to already have been done, and so having a space where I could ramble and people could say which bits they thought were interesting/insightful, and which bits were not (as much) was one of the highlights I think, as it kickstarted the process and enabled me to step off from there. I couldn't recommend the experience more highly :)
Associate Lecturer, Global, Urban and Social Studies RMIT University