Last month, Miranda Martin joined Columbia University Press as Editor of our Life and Physical Science list. She came to us from the University of Chicago Press where she was most recently assistant editor for linguistics and life sciences, acquiring titles in linguistics and for the Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing series. We are delighted to have her on our team and are happy to provide the Q&A below so that you, our readers, can get to know her too!
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Q: Can you tell me a little about your background, particularly what brought you to publishing and to science books?
Miranda Martin: I came to publishing more directly than many university press editors I know: as a book lover, I aspired to become an editor, so I earned a master’s degree in publishing and writing from Emerson College in Boston. I got my first full-time, permanent publishing job as an editorial assistant on the environmental studies list — and, later, linguistics as well — at the MIT Press, where I stayed for just shy of five years before I transitioned to the University of Chicago Press. At Chicago, I supported the inimitable Christie Henry on her life sciences list and did a lot of filling in after she departed to become director of Princeton University Press last year. That experience had a tremendous impact on my publishing knowledge and skills, as well as my enthusiasm for science.
Q: What recent trends in science writing do you see?
MM:Right now is an exciting and frightening time for science communication. Avenues for scientists to reach the public have been shifting for decades, and I’m noting with great interest the variety of approaches that some science writers and working scientists are using today. Many have cultivated strong, authoritative voices on Twitter or well-known blogs, and some are participating in the current podcast boom with their own shows or as guests. These are generally labors of love, but I like to think that they succeed as long as they’re reaching people and informing and enlightening them, which is also the hope for science books.
In short, I’m looking for impactful and much-needed voices and perspectives. Columbia has strong publishing programs in environmental and climate science, neuroscience, paleontology, and science and society, all of which I have keen interest in. I seek out exciting discoveries and innovation as well as strong storytelling and clarity of ideas.
Q: Where in New York are you living? What has been the the biggest adjustment from Chicago to New York?
MM: Williamsburg, Brooklyn (against all advice, since the L train will soon be out of service for quite some time beginning in a few months). My adjustment has been pretty smooth, with the usual New York hassles: small apartment, high price tags for everything, and crowded commutes. I’ve been sort of working my way up in city size from Boston, then Chicago, and now New York. This was my third cross-country move, and for me adjusting is always about making a few local friends, establishing a routine that works for me, and finding some new favorite spots near home and work.