Nina L. Paul, PhD, has worked in the field of science and health communication for over 20 years. She started down this path at SUNY Purchase, where she received her bachelor’s degree in biology and performed research in the field of neuroimmunology. She also published articles for her college newspaper on scientific research topics.
After working in medical publishing at Rockefeller University Press (Journal of Clinical Investigation), she received her master’s degree and PhD in infectious disease epidemiology (the study of diseases) and immunology from Yale University.
After leaving Yale, Nina pursued postdoctoral research in London and Oxford, England. Nina’s research focused on human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and related viruses and their interaction with the immune system. Nina also taught science to schoolchildren of different ages and abilities in New Mexico and volunteered at a hospital-based Cancer Information Centre in England. She worked in the field of evidence-based medicine and contributed to the Cochrane Library (a medical database). She is also the author of Living with Hepatitis C For Dummies.
Nina believes in a multifaceted approach to health. She became a master of Reiki, which is a universal life-force energy that is transmitted through the hands. She is both a practitioner and a teacher of Reiki and uses Reiki as a way to help herself and others.
How I Came to Write Dummies Books
by Nina L Paul
First I should say that I have always wanted to write books. It was a girlhood dream. But it didn't seem practical. I saved some story ideas, including one from second grade. But I pursued other interests.
I loved science and nature and ended up studying the interactions of viruses and the immune system. I had the idea to write a general book on the immune system. This idea remained in my consciousness for many years.
Oregon Coast in 2002. I was living in a dream location where I received lots of inspiration. One day while hiking in the coastal mountain range, the word came to me: "Dummies." I knew this was important, and took out my pen and paper and wrote it down. Of course I had heard of the Dummies books but I had never thought of writing for them.
When I returned home, I did research on the Dummies books and within a month came up with two proposals. Next, I needed to know who to contact at the Dummies office.
After telephoning the Wiley Dummies office in New York City, I ended up speaking with the acquisitions editor who was then in charge of health books! She was wonderful but told me honestly that she didn't think my topics matched their marketing goals. She mentioned that she wanted to do a book on hepatitis C. Was I interested?
At that time, I was focused on my own topics, and didn't know a huge amount about hepatitis C. After all, it was called hepatitis non A non B when I went to graduate school. Also she had other requirements of me that I wasn't sure I could meet. I started the research about doing a book on hepatitis C but then my attention was diverted.
My Dad was diagnosed with lung cancer less than a year after my mother died suddenly from a stroke. I was flying back to the East Coast too often. I decided to move back to the East Coast to be nearer to family.
New York, February 2003. I was hiking alongside the Atlantic Ocean on Long Island, New York. When I returned home, I had an email from the Wiley editor! It was one and a half years after our previous corresondence. She wanted to know if I was still interested in the hepatitis C book as it had received the green light from sales to go ahead.
At that time, I was attracted to other pet projects. But two of my good friends convinced me to step up and take this fantastic offer. One friend reminded me of that story about the man who is stuck on his roof with the flood water quickly ascending. He asks God "Why haven't you helped me?" God says "I tried to help you, but you turned down the life boat and the helicopter I sent to you."
My friend said, "Nina, this is your life boat." I had wanted to write books all my life and now an opportunity was knocking at my door. It was time to say "Yes!"
I went through the hoops and jumps required for a first-time author to be signed onto a new project. It's not fun or easy to work and get critiqued over and over with no evidence that a contract would be forthcoming. Grueling is the only word that comes to mind. But success arrived when I finally got a contract for the hepatitis C book in April of 2003.
It turned out that my original acquisitions editor left Wiley - for another publishing house -just a week after I signed the contract! What a miracle of timing, I thought. My feeling was that she was an angel who brought me to my first published book!
One Dummies book sometimes leads to another. After writing "Living with Hepatitis C For Dummies," I began work on "Reiki For Dummies." People sometimes asked me which was tougher to write; the truth is both had their challenging and fun aspects, to be sure!
Writing a Dummies book is not an easy task. The deadlines are tight; the rules, many; and the editing, intense. I had already completed one PhD dissertation and writing the two Dummies books was like completing two more PhD's!
So, this is the story of how I came to write two Dummies books. I hope this inspires you to say "Yes" when opportunities present themselves in your life.