Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Longer Writings

When I give a talk – and I’ve given about 40 of them since 2002 – the most-asked question is: How long did it take you to write your book. The answer is, “Almost embarrassingly long.”

I started thinking about writing a book about Long Island Sound and collecting information for it in 1986. Yale University Press finally published This Fine Piece of Water: An Environmental History of Long Island Sound in 2002. I spent a good portion of the intervening years doing general research, learning all I could about the Sound, without really knowing how the book would take shape, or what its theme or story would be. I visited sewage treatment plants, got seasick waiting for researchers to pull up traps, and got threatened by a psychotic lobsterman who was unhappy that I wrote a newspaper story about his bust for taking illegal-sized lobsters. I tracked down days-old dead fish in tiny tidal creeks, got the worst head cold of my life while staying on a remote island, and had gulls crap on me and cormorants try to regurgitate on me. I had a commercial fishermen scowl at me and then ignore me for the five hours that we spent on a boat together. And then of course there was all the bad stuff.

Some of these things made it into the book but some didn’t – not because they weren’t interesting but because as I researched and wrote, a lot of the material simply didn’t fit into what was emerging as the book’s story and theme. Much of it is about what used to be called wildlife or natural history and which now goes by the name of “biodiversity.”

I’ve gone through my notes and files and discarded chapters, and pulled some of these stories and accounts out (as well as a couple of other stories). If you're interested, you can click here or go to the "Tom Andersen: Writings" link on the right.


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