9th January 2023
Happy new year everyone! It's summer here in New Zealand, and I've just returned to my desk after a lovely break. I hope you also managed to get some time off over this holiday season. Before my calendar gets too busy, I thought I'd take the opportunity to do a bit of a recap of the past 12 months. This may get a bit self-indulgent, but I'll try to keep it brief (or at least shorter than the recap posts I used to write on my old website!)
On one level, 2022 was amongst the busiest and most fulfilling year I've had in my career. My book-baby, Sticky did so well that I earned out my advance (as any author will tell you, this is a big deal). I also did some fun, non-book-related projects, including running training courses for an international network of metrologists, writing whitepapers for Herrenknecht, and putting together a research report for the MacDiarmid Institute.
But honestly, finding interesting, challenging, and appropriately-paid work was extremely challenging in 2022. Everyone seemed to chasing their tail, and/or prioritising simplistic 'quick wins' over those strategic, long-term projects that are actually effective. In some instances, this is an unfortunate by-product of STEM organisations hiring comms people with no real knowledge of science (I've grumbled about this a few times over on LinkedIn (eg1 and eg2). In other cases, it seems to be part of a general sense of uncertainty that's been washing over everything in the past few years. The pandemic and other global events have upended many of our working norms....and not always for the better.
Mental health-wise, I had a difficult year. (If your first thought on reading that sentence was "I don't believe that. She always seems so happy and positive," this is a reminder that social media only shows a sliver of a person's reality). Work instability contributed to that, for sure. In addition, while living in NZ is wonderful in many ways, being so far from my family (>18,000 km) is hard. Even with frequent calls and catch-ups, you miss a lot. You also can't be of any real help when things get difficult. You know all this when you choose to move away, and it's rarely truly debilitating, but the guilt never fully leaves. Or at least, it hasn't yet, and this coming July will mark 18 years since I last lived in Ireland! I was lucky to get back to the homeland for a month in April - pretty much as soon as NZ's border restrictions eased - and it was wonderful.
The other factor was the COVID situation here. It combined with some NZ-family-related concerns meant that our socialising and adventuring were significantly curtailed in 2022. There were big chunks of the year during which I couldn't go to the gym. As someone who finds sweating my butt off to be the best stress relief there is, it's been difficult. But now that things have stabilised (fingers crossed), I'm hoping to get back to it this week.
Anyway, to wrap up this post, I wanted to share some of the many highlights 2022 held. As most are related to Sticky (what a surprise!), I'll take this opportunity to say a huge THANK YOU to anyone who supported my efforts this year. Maybe you bought a copy of the book (in physical, digital or audio formats), maybe you came along to an event, wrote a review on Amazon or similar, shared, liked or commented on a post, bought me a coffee, listened to me on radio or a podcast.... however you showed up, please know that I am deeply grateful you did.
Righto, let's dive in, starting with the book stuff:
Sticky garnered some amazing reviews in 2022. This one in Nature Physics made me cry with happiness. The fact that the book has been shortlisted for the 2023 AAAS Subaru Science Book Prize - I still can't believe I'm typing these words - probably also counts as a positive review! (There were lots of reviews in 2021 too. You can find those in this post).
I was featured on some major platforms, including:
- Neil DeGrasse Tyson's podcast, StarTalk TWICE. Click here for geckos and here for ice (technically the ice episode came out in 2023, but I'm claiming it!
- RNZ flagship show Nine to Noon
- Science Friday
- The front cover of the Dominion Post
- BBC Wildlife magazine - I wrote an article on bird flight
I hosted two NZ book launches - one at my beautiful local bookshop, Schrodinger's. And one at the Irish Embassy here in Wellington. The two header photos are from those events - one is of my husband Richard and I, and the other is of myself and Deputy Ambassador Faran Foley.
There are FOUR translations of Sticky in the works - Chinese, Korean, Taiwanese, and Dutch. AND we finalised the paperback cover, which I'll be able to share soon. It is very different from the hardback, and I think it's beautiful.
I gave talks at the Royal Institution, Auckland Writers Festival, Dinosaur Polo Club, and the Northern Ireland Science Festival, amongst others.
After my interview on Nine to Noon, I was asked to join their stable of science correspondents. I've done four shows so far, and am already booked in for more in 2023.
I continued working with some of my favourite clients, as well as finding brand new ones. I taught and supervised scicomm students at VUW again in 2022.
I decided to set up an online shop, where I'll sell beautiful, nerdy things to people in NZ and Aus. They'll include these mugs, this washi tape, and some goodies that I'm working on with my amazing illustrator friend Pip. I'll let you know when this goes live.
I got to hug my family, and drink many, many cups of tea with them.
I started to learn te reo Māori. I've been doing this largely using books (Māori Made Easy, A Māori Word a Day, a growing pile of kids books), audio recordings, and a picture card game, plus I had some online lessons. So far, it's involved about 3 hours of work per week for four months. My pronunciation has improved hugely, and my vocabulary is growing slowly. I slacked on this in December, and am taking January off to make time for another project, but I'm excited to get back to it soon. I've had a few people ask why I'm doing this when I don't whakapapa Māori - the answer is simple: I feel a strong responsibility to learn the language of the people on whose land I live. I was born and raised in a colonised country, and I now live in another colonised country. I don't take that lightly.
I started volunteering with Save Our Trains / The Future Is Rail in 2022 - it is a grassroots campaign to restore and expand NZ's railway network. As part of this, I spoke to a government select committee about the urgent need to prioritise mass transit here in Aotearoa.
My crafts and DIY efforts of 2022 were varied and fun. I built a sewing nook from scratch, and installed my dream bookshelves in my office. I painted a mural in my bathroom too. I made a pair of leather trainers, and sewed some cuddly toys and a laptop case. I discovered a new hobby - needle felting - which is both tricky and therapeutic. Hoping to do more of that this year. I also did A LOT of baking in 2022, which the people around me seemed to enjoy.
I'm going into 2023 cautiously optimistic, if a bit more anxious than I'd like. Richard and I have a few fun things in our calendar already, including an F1 race (my first ever, despite having watched the sport for YEARS), but I'm also hoping to add more to that list.
Work-wise, I've just had a gig cancelled, which is not an ideal start to the year. But I have a festival appearance coming up that I'm excited about - I'll be at WOMAD in March. I'll be doing a bit more promo to coincide with the release of Sticky's paperback edition in February, too. I'm also at the early stages of a project that could be very exciting...in the unlikely event of it coming to fruition. But other than that, the book stuff is pretty much done. And no, there are no plans for book #3 at this stage!
I'm also very much on the hunt for new collaborators and clients who I can develop long-term relationships with. Please get in touch if you're in the science / engineering / technology business, and might be interested in working with me. You don't have to be based in NZ - I work with people all over the world.
Most of all, I'm hoping that I establish a better balance in 2023 than I had in 2022. Less stress, doom-scrolling, and languishing. More exercise, creative pursuits, and mindful decision-making.
Watch this space :)