College Classes, Science Communication, and Writing Books: An Interview with Liz Galst

When virtually meeting a person that writes about the climate regularly and has written for major newspapers, magazines, and other media (The New York Times, The Boston Globe, in Better Homes & Gardens, among others) and now covers most stories published at The Nature Conservancy New York, seeing a virtual background that would remind you of Teen Titans Go is the last thing you would expect:

Liz Galst and awkward me. 03.04.2022

In her eyeglasses and warm smile, I had the pleasure to hear Liz Galst, Communications Manager for The Nature Conservancy New York and an established freelance journalist, talk about her communications journey this afternoon of early March:

It began during college, when she believed people then studied for diploma’s sake and people had no concrete idea what to do after college. Thus, she blindly took BA in Social Science as an undergraduate. But even then, the classes the young Liz unconsciously took foreshadowed her future as a journalist: she boarded subjects from Oral History, which taught her how to interview people, to specific subjects such as Art and Politics in Germany and Radical Movements in Agriculture.

Coming out of university, she became a baker for a year. Simultaneously, however, she conducted an oral history project for homeless women. She also noticed a neighboring office from her that houses gay newspaper, to which she wrote. These paved way for her to freelance for the big publications mentioned above.

Being a journalist felt like home to the curious Liz. It provided her the privilege to connect with experts, find out new things, and build relationships — from an Evangelical Christian Republican from Ohio who started an energy efficiency business (a not-so-average environmentalist!) to a woman basketball star that farms oysters.

“If I am talking to a physicist about quantum theory, which I don’t really understand, I would ask ‘Why is this meaningful?’ ‘How does this have an application in people’s lives?’”

She eventually became a full-time consultant for the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of her major environmental stints before The Nature Conservancy. As someone who covers natural science stories, having a Social Sciences bend actually gives her a leg up: “If I am talking to a physicist about quantum theory, which I don’t really understand, I would ask ‘Why is this meaningful?’ ‘How does this have an application in people’s lives?’” she explained. The humanities mindset also prompts her to probe who might really be impacted about an issue in ways beyond the surface — e.g., when covering unprotected wetlands in New York, her mind brought her to interview sump pumps installers, people who prevent water intrusion in home basements caused by flooding.

Writing a piece not her interest is one of the challenges she faces, which she remedies by just turning it into a challenge to still write it well. She recommends three writing books:

  1. On Writing Well by William Zinsser
  2. The Art and Craft of Feature Writing: Based on The Wall Street Journal Guide by William Blundell, and
  3. Writing to Persuade by Trish Hall

Liz also notes the distinction between paper and web-based writing — for web-based, she suggests supplementing writing with knowledge in Content Management System skills, including tools like Drupal, and navigating social media (which she admits being too old for).

One tip about writing Liz cherished was something Joan Didion, American writing goddess, validated for her when Didion entered her Master’s in Creative Non-Fiction class: giving oneself time to spend inordinate time with a piece’ opening! It should always be clear head-on what is the writer’s elevator pitch about the story.

Liz is currently with her partner, swimming and hanging out with her kids for fun.

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Gertrude is a professional curious person (researcher) still in college in the Philippines but is based in New York. She currently interns at The Nature Conservancy and The New York State Attorney General’s Office out of love for communication and research utilization for social justice.

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WRITER for UNDERSCORE | Creating something means imagining it and not imagining the world without it. We’re all telling a story, what’s your medium?

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Gertrude Abarentos

Gertrude Abarentos

WRITER for UNDERSCORE | Creating something means imagining it and not imagining the world without it. We’re all telling a story, what’s your medium?

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