Participant Testimonials

Nov 10 - Nov 15, 2013

I would sincerely like to thank and commend you for one of the most productful workshops I have attended. The workshop most definitely impacted my work and helped me to refine my creative science and math writing skills. The prominent participators in the workshop contributed to my professionality, as I hope my skills in digital creative writing in science and mathematics contributed to theirs. As a result of the workshop, I have already started to study the interaction between mathematics and poetry, a field which I most definitely would not have dreamt to enter had I not had the opportunity to meet the inspiring individuals that I met at the BIRS workshop. The workshop has inspired me to further deepen the knowledge, research and innovation in the interdisciplinary fields of creative writing and mathematics at our institute and I intend to hold local lectures, day workshops and perhaps even a weinar or conference on the topic. Once again many, many thanks.

Yossi Elran Technology in Education, Davidson Institute of Science Education, Weizmann Institute of Science

I took part in the BIRS workshop on Creative Writing in Mathematics and Science. I had never written a novel before. For the past two years I'd been working on one about a mathematician -- a German refugee in the United States -- who disappears suddenly many years after the war, and whose disappearance intrigues a young mathematician who tries to discover its causes. After she learns about his life in Germany and what happened to him there before he managed to get to the States, she hits a dead end and is forced to give up the search. But then a memoir he has penned turns up and explains all. The memoir, which forms the largest part of the book, is both a bildungsroman and an account of a mission to spy on the American scientific establishment before and during World War II. In it, a number of real-life figures -- among them Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, Professor Felix Hausdorff, and Professor Emil Artin -- play important roles. The comments I received from the various participants, both about the novel's plot and about the chapter I presented, were immensely helpful to me in delineating the aspects of my writing that I have to clarify, expand, and edit. Several participants were sufficiently interested in what they saw and heard to ask me to send them the entire draft, and I now eagerly await their critical comments.

Jacob E. Goodman Professor Emeritus
Mathematics, City College, City University of New York

I am a mathematician by training, but am currently spending my creative time writing poetry and blogging on the topic, "Intersections -- Poetry with Mathematics." I brought to Banff the beginnings of a poetry project -- I wish to develop a collection of verses that will focus on the properties of prime numbers and will convey to poets and other non-mathematicians the beauty and poetry of mathematics. Discussions with colleagues at BIRS helped me to see the strengths and weaknesses of my work-in-progress; they also suggested sources to tap for new ideas and directions for possible expansion of the original project-idea. For me a valuable week, a source of enrichment for the weeks and months to come! Thank you!

JoAnne Growney Mathematics and Poetry

I enjoyed the camaraderie and the intense atmosphere at BIRS. We had a very successful workshop, where each of us learned from one another. I was able to make substantial progress on a current manuscript and I left Banff with new ideas for how to revive an older project. Overall this has been an excellent opportunity for me. I met some old colleagues and made new connections with very interesting people. In terms of facilities and such, things went very smoothly. I was sad that the exercise facilities are not in Corbett Hall but it makes sense I suppose. The facilities were perfect otherwise. The food was great, the rooms were comfortable, and the conference room was convenient. I hope to one day lead a workshop at Banff myself (together with my philosopher colleague Emily Grosholz) on humanistic (aesthetic, historical, philosophical, literary) aspects of mathematics. This workshop will be a good model for us.

Gizem Karaali Mathematics, Pomona College

I came to the BIRS creative writing in mathematics and science workshop with a fictional work about an ambitious high school senior in the South Bronx, her progressive math class, and her mentors. It is a story built from a few solvable mathematical riddles, and loosely based on a true-life story. An excerpt (a half-dozen of the 47 chapters) circulated in advance of the workshop led to many valued intelligent conversations, discussions, opinions, and constructive ideas that could not have happened without the intelligence and collegiality of our wonderfully eclectic group of entirely egoless participants, all eager to hear and to know more about each other’s projects. Several perceptive ideas for improvements came during the time of my workshop presentation, and others came as residual ongoing discussions, sometimes late into the evening. I believe that everyone gained hugely from the wisdom of our wonderful group. In speaking with others, I understand that the whole event was an outstanding success, and that everyone felt both a sense of accomplishment and an awareness of work to be done. I am a nonfiction author, in particular, an author of narrative popular mathematics. The work I presented at the workshop is my untrained attempt at putting together a work of fiction incorporating narrative mathematics skills. With one whole week devoted to critiques in writing, I came away with a comfortable list of ideas for improvements and an exhilarating sense of accomplishment, a feeling that would be hard to come by in my usual world of solitary writing.

Joseph Mazur Marlboro College

I was thrilled when I received the invitation. Now that the workshop is over, I realize how lucky I was to be part of it. I had the opportunity to meet a wonderful group of writers/scientists and to benefit from their expertise. In particular, I highly appreciated their comments and constructive critique of the two pieces I submitted, and their advice as to possible venues for their publication. I'd like to believe that in a small way I also contributed to the success of the workshop by leading a discussion on the use of fiction to communicate mathematical, and more generally scientific, concepts and results to a wide audience. I wish to thank again Marjorie and Florin for inviting me to BIRS. I had a wonderful time, and not only on the professional front.

Arturo Sangalli The Writers’ Union of Canada