Carl Safina

How did you become a writer?

Very slowly, by writing first a few little items for newsletters, then a lot of research papers, then in policy journals, then books and magazines. It was 20 years from my first newsletter article (age 22) to my first book (age 42).

Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.).

Peter Matthiessen, Rachel Carson, Aldo Leopold, Thoreau, John McPhee, Barry Lopez—

When and where do you write?

Wherever I can as I bounce around and when not bouncing in a small comfortable studio behind my house.

What are you working on now?

Planning a new book on animal behavior.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?

For me it doesn’t seem to apply to non-fiction.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

“Whenever you write, tell a story.”

What’s your advice to new writers?

There are no rules, but there is one rule: to be a writer you have to write.

Carl Safina’s writing about the living world has won a MacArthur “genius” prize, Pew, and Guggenheim Fellowships; book awards from Lannan, Orion, and the National Academies; and the John Burroughs, James Beard, and George Rabb medals. His seabird studies earned a PhD in ecology from Rutgers; he then spent a decade working to ban high-seas drift nets and to overhaul U.S. fishing policy. Safina is now the first Endowed Professor for Nature and Humanity at Stony Brook University, where he co-chairs the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science and runs the not-for-profit Safina Center. He hosted the PBS series Saving the Ocean. His writing appears in The New York Times, TIME, Audubon, and on the Web at National Geographic News and Views, Huffington Post,, and elsewhere. He is author of the classic book, Song for the Blue Ocean. Carl’s seventh book is Beyond Words; What Animals Think and Feel. He lives on Long Island, New York with his wife Patricia and their dogs and feathered friends.