These two inspirational young women were part of our COP20 Climate Tracker team in Lima last year, and their stories added a beautiful humanity to our discussion.
I first met them both about this time last year. We just opened up applications for our Lima team, and were preparing for our first trial of our #ClimateTracker training program. I was nervous.
I had a small slither of hope. But a big part of me thought, what if we can’t inspire young people to write about Climate Change? What if no-one ends up having the time? What then?
Luckily, it did. Young people just as inspiring as Leehi and Anna began writing articles all around the world.
Our movement began taking flight.
This year, as we plan to do it all again, but bigger and better, I thought it was about time we checked back in to give you a bit of an insight into what being a Climate Tracker is all about.
Anna, you came to the Adopt a Negotiator project as a bit of an experienced blogger didn’t you?
No one is an expert really 🙂 but yes, by the time I applied for Adopt a Negotiator last year I had started several blogs and organisations related to environment and climate change issues. This was largely because I like the idea of communicating Climate Change and I am passionate about raising more awareness.
One of the projects I started is called http://climate-exchange.org/, and if you’re looking for a place to publish some of your Climate Tracker articles, this is a good place to start.
But, Anna, during the Climate Tracker program did you have to push yourself further?
Yes definitely! During last year’s Climate Tracker program, I had to learn a lot about how to pitch news stories to newspapers and media in general. I also had to refine my thoughts down and actually choose what to focus on. I had so many ideas but I had to learn to pick one at a time to focus on.
Finally, I also had to learn how to write in a easier, less-scientific way that people across Spain could understand.
Once I was picked for the team in Lima, it rose to another level of challenging – in the beginning I had trouble understanding even what is going on – but having all the trackers on the team with me made it way easier. In the end, it turned out to be one of the most inspiring times of my life.
What advice would you offer to those people who are more experienced writers, hoping to stand out this year?
The most important thing is your pitching. That’s when you try to email an editor or media publication and tell them you have a really amazing idea they can’t afford not to include in their publication. When you do that, make sure you’re direct and ask exactly what you want when you pitch.
I am normally too cautious, too humble and too timid. This means that editors weren’t getting my message – they didn’t take me serious. But if you’re direct, clear and precise in your pitch, they will.
I also think its important to learn to simplify big, complicated topics, and connect them to local stories. In the end, it’s local stories that matter to people. You need to make even the most complicated negotiations, science or government policies sound simple, and always try to connect them to local experiences and impacts. Make it real for people.
We also had a pretty amazing discussion with Leehi, who added some great insights as someone who had not had a lot of experience in the past as a writer.
Leehi, you came to our program not nearly as experienced as Anna right?
Yeah you’re right, I’d published some Op-eds before. But it had been a while since anything had been accepted. I now know that a big reason for this was that I didn’t know how to pitch. I used to write lots of articles that never got accepted by publishers.
Even before the Climate Tracker program, I just had a whole bundle of articles that ended up staying on my computer – it was like they inhabited it.
But then something happened last year, and changed all of that right?
Yes, it was great. Diego taught me to pitch!
Diego was one of the other trackers from Costa Rica, and he has a lot of experience writing for IPS and other media in Costa Rica, and he laid out some really simple lessons on how to pitch, and helped me with mine. Almost immediately, it worked!
He also told me I needed to pitch to many more places than I was doing so. I thought pitching to 5-10 media publications was a lot, but he told me that was nothing. So I began pitching to lots more places, and it worked.
I also began collaborating with others, which really helped me learn a lot. I wrote a piece in RTCC with Anna, and then a piece in IPS with Diego. These articles really helped me learn a lot and build up some great experience and momentum. Then a lot of the editors started getting back to me thanks to my awesome new pitches, and I started writing articles solo.
When I wrote one piece for the Montreal Gazette, it was shared 1000’s of times, and was republished by almost every major newspaper in Canada. Then Television news even began asking me to be a “key expert”. It was crazy.
But in the end, such a valuable learning experience.
But what was really so different this time?
The pitches. Literally. Diego really helped me craft a much clearer, direct pitch. But I also gained the confidence to reach out a lot more. In the end, not being shy to reach out meant I saw some amazing returns. Then journalists started reaching out to me!
What advice would you offer to those people who are NOT experienced writers, hoping to stand up during this year’s Climate Tracker program?
Firstly, don’t be shy! Push yourself! Put yourself out there and get people to listen to you.
Oh, and learn to pitch and sell yourself! If you don’t know now, ask for help. I know someone in the Adopt a Negotiator family will be able to help you.