What I’m working on:
I split my time between The Dallas Morning News, where I’m a part-time staff science reporter, Scientific American, where I was a senior editor until I moved to Dallas in 2013, and book writing and research. My current book is about human-induced earthquakes, and I’m lucky that I live in what some call “the new earthquake country.” My coauthor and I have traveled across Oklahoma, Arkansas, and North Texas reporting on the quakes, and we have more trips planned this year.
Last spring, I also branched out into science engagement. I launched an event called Science in the City, a partnership between The Dallas Morning News and local universities that allows readers to tour science labs and meet investigators. The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center invited people into an Alzheimer’s research lab, where they learned about and touched human brains. Southern Methodist University let visitors manipulate nanorobots under a microscope. It was a hit, and we’re working on an expanded version for spring 2019.
Where I work:
Most of the time, I work at the Dallas Morning News building in downtown Dallas. In December we moved into newly renovated offices inside a midcentury modern landmark that used to house Dallas’s public library. The space is bright and open—possibly the nicest office I have ever worked in.
On weekdays my husband and I wake up at 6:45 a.m. to help our daughter get ready for school. Then I go running or to the gym and head into work. I work at The Dallas Morning News Tuesdays through Fridays until about 3:00 p.m. After that, I head home or to a café and try to do a few hours of book work before school pickup and dinner. On Mondays, I devote the full day to book writing and research.
Most productive part of my day:
Early mornings and late nights (unfortunately).
Most essential ritual or habit:
Making coffee with our new mini Nespresso machine, a gift from my in-laws. I can no longer function without it or its milk frother.
Essential software/apps/productivity tools:
At work, I file my stories in Google Docs, and I’ve started keeping all my story notes in there, too, so they remain accessible no matter which computer I’m using. I’ve recently started using DocumentCloud to organize massive files, including FOIAs. My book coauthor and I use Endnote for citations and to store journal articles and press clippings, and Dropbox to share chapter drafts, outlines, interview transcripts, and other notes. I record all interviews for news articles and for my book on a digital voice recorder or on my iPhone, and I still transcribe everything manually, because it helps me absorb and process the interviews.
Favorite time waster/procrastination habit:
Slipping through a door near my desk that connects The Dallas Morning News to The Statler Hotel, where I can buy overpriced coffee just like I did in New York; surfing Nextdoor.com to read about lost and found pets and car break-ins; and watching awful reality TV dating shows.
My reading habits:
I just listened to my first audio book—Michael Lewis’s The Coming Storm, about the National Weather Service under Trump—and loved it and the experience of listening to it. I laughed out loud repeatedly on my flight to Boston. Otherwise, I read The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Dallas Morning News every morning—or at least review headlines in their newsletters—and scan Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
I also receive embargoed news releases from many of the Science and Nature journals, as well as JAMA and The New England Journal of Medicine. I scan all of these to see if there’s a study by North Texas investigators or a study related to anything I’m working on.
Most of the books I read these days are for research or to help me work out the right narrative approach to my own book, but they are also great reads. A couple of recent examples are The Big Rich: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Texas Oil Fortunes, by Bryan Burrough, and Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World, by Tracy Kidder.
By the time I help my daughter with her homework, convince her to go to sleep, and take some time to decompress, it’s close to midnight. So I average a not-very-healthy 7 hours of sleep on weekdays.