Laura Castañón is a collector. As a child in the Boston suburbs, she filled her parents’ home with deconstructed electronics, insect molts, unidentified bones, and assorted furry sidekicks. She probably should have been a biologist or an engineer, but instead, she majored in theater design and technology (for the job potential) and environmental studies (for the fresh air) at Washington University in St. Louis. Then she promptly ran away to sea to work as a deckhand, educator, and bosun on traditionally rigged tall ships.
At sea, she learned to spin yarns from shantymen and taught everything from maritime history to plankton identification. Upon her return to land, she picked up more tales as a carpenter building elaborate opera sets and as a “dockmaster” pulling more than her share of capsized sailors from Boston’s Charles River. She also spent three years working at the New England Aquarium, where she led shark dissections, gave talks on climate change, and showed children how to pet snails.
Only recently did it occur to Castañón that she could write and publish stories. She will receive a master’s in science writing from MIT in September 2018. Her muses include two adoring dogs and an indifferent gecko. And she still picks up dead things in the woods.