Published book reviews. (7 articles)
I worked as a journalist for a small-town newspaper from August 2003 to January 2004. Here’s a sample of what I wrote during that time. (8 articles)
Originally published in amateur herpetological society newsletters with tiny circulations, these articles are republished here in hopes of finding a larger audience. (19 articles)
- How to Write an Article for a Herp Society Newsletter
Chorus 23, no. 8 (Oct. 2007)
I don’t envy Bob’s job. Getting people to write articles for herpetological society newsletters is a difficult if not impossible task, as I know all too well. During my two years editing The Ontario Herpetological Society News (from 1999 to 2001), I had to beg, plead and cajole people to write articles for me. Of the articles I did get, more than a few were so badly written that I had to edit them heavily. Rewriting the articles sentence by sentence did not always go over well with some of the authors, who objected to every change I made to their prose. Even if it was awful. Especially, it seemed, if it was awful.
But problems with grammar and spelling weren’t the only issues. In many cases the articles were written well enough, but were in a convoluted and overwrought style; others didn’t seem to have much of a point. And some were just too darn long.
Don’t misunderstand me: herpers aren’t necessarily bad writers. But I do think they could use some guidance—some advice that would allow them to make the most of what they’ve got, and say what they’re trying to say, without tripping up. Every kind of writing is different: you don’t write a newspaper article, or an instruction manual, the same way you write a novel. No one, to my knowledge, has sat down to write something that said, “This is how you write an article for a herpetological newsletter.” So I thought I would try.
- The Seven Rules of Raising Baby Garter Snakes
Chorus 22, no. 5 (May 2006)
Few people are crazy enough to breed garter snakes and raise the babies, but more than a few of us have unexpectedly been handed the task of raising a large number of baby garter snakes. We may, for example, have been handed a “rescued” garter snake that turns out to be very, very pregnant, which then surprises you one day with dozens of her offspring slithering around her cage.
Oh great, you think. Now what? Suddenly you’re faced with having to look after a whole bunch of little snakes. The sheer number of them can make that a very intimidating situation. And raising baby garter snakes isn’t the same as raising a litter or two of corn snakes. Garter snakes don’t eat mice, you think, and they’re too small for pinkies anyway — how are you going to feed them all?
Taking care of an adult garter snake, especially if it’s been trained to eat mice, isn’t really any different from taking care of your average colubrid. But baby garter snakes are different. Their special requirements can trip you up if you’re not ready for them, but they’re not that difficult once you know them. I call them the Seven Rules of Raising Baby Garter Snakes, and I’ll share them with you here.
- Raising Baby Garter Snakes: Some Personal Observations
The Garter Snake (April 2005)
The herpetocultural literature on the raising of young garter snakes is surprisingly scant. Apart from some issues of diet, the care of adult garter snakes is little different from that of any other medium-sized North American colubrid. Books on the subject either deal with neonate garter snake care in very general terms, or treat it as similar to that of other snakes. But this is not the case. There are some definite differences in the care of newborn garter snakes, especially in terms of feeding and housing. As a result, when my garter snakes started breeding in the spring of 2001, I was not prepared for some of the surprises their offspring had in store for me.
What I propose to do in this article is to share what I’ve learned from raising a few litters1 of garter snakes, plus a few neonates that I did not breed, but acquired when they were very young. This is by no means scientific or definitive, but anecdotal. It’s merely what I’ve observed. If your observations differ, by all means share them: at this point, we need as many observations as we can get, if we’re to understand better how to look after our charges.