Perry Beeman worked as an Iowa news reporter and editor for over 40 years, specializing in covering the environment and agriculture. He served as president of the nonprofit international Society of Environmental Journalists. His resume includes major national and international awards and a series of fellowships with travel to Rwanda, Brazil, Belize, Mexico, Panama, and China. Perry currently is director of communications and environmental initiatives for Orlando-based New Village Initiative, which is involved in sustainable construction, recycling, affordable housing, and tech education.
In the past 10 years, Beeman has published a book, “The $80 Billion Gamble: The Inside Story of How A Suspicious Ticket, Hot Dogs and Bigfoot Foiled the Biggest Lottery Fraud in U.S. History,” hundreds of stories in the Des Moines Register, Iowa Capital Dispatch, the Business Record, Grinnell Magazine, and other publications, along with many social media posts, web stories and news releases.
- 1. Write what you know, or how to get dirty: From Iowa’s chemical-laced lakes and streams to the Amazonian rainforest and the gorilla-nurturing Virunga Mountains of Rwanda It’s easiest to write with authority if you know the topic. You may already have that knowledge base, but if you don’t, getting one is a lot of the fun. Learn the value of specialization, drawing on the author’s adventures visiting mountain gorillas in Rwanda; testing water and air in Brazil’s shrinking rainforest, in Massachusetts’ eel grass beds and in Iowa lakes and streams; and monitoring shrimp-farm pollution and coral bleaching in Belize.
- 2. Speaking across the fence to a neighbor: How to keep your writing style simple and conversational. So much of the writing battle comes with shedding big words that just stand in the way. In this workshop, we’ll discuss the value of using a conversational style, even in somewhat technical pieces, and how to develop that tone.
- 3. Weeding your garden: How to make your point without polluting the world with jargon and other big words. “The easiest thing for a reader to do is to quit reading,” noted Wall Street Journal editor Barney Kilgore once wrote. For many, jargon is the biggest incentive to move on. It is either too lofty, or vague for political or other reasons. We’ll discuss why this is a big deal, and how you can write with meaning, even without the big, scary words.
I have conducted writing workshops and tours for writers across the USA and in Mexico, Belize, Panama and China, particularly for environmental journalists. These were through my affiliations with the Society of Environmental Journalists (I’m a former president and board member) and the International Center for Journalists. We discussed the importance of environmental issues and informing the masses about them. And we explored how environmental stories, like those involving topics in some other arenas, are really about politics, economics, and health as much as pollution, climate change, extinctions or other issues. PERRY BEEMAN