Long-time Bloomington Alternative readers know that we operate on an academic calendar here in our utopian little university town. But in our case that doesn't mean we go on vacation when the school year ends at the beginning of May. It means we really get down to work.

My obligations as a lecturer at IU effectively end this time of year, allowing the time I truly need for my writing projects. More on those in a minute, but this summer they include a book proposal on my autism-and-the-Indiana-environment exploration, some investigative reporting in northern Kentucky and a series of first-person accounts of my experiences with the medical industry over the past two years, emphasis on "industry."

And one of the perks that come with teaching at a journalism school is access to some of the best aspiring journalists the place has to offer. The last two editions have introduced Alternative readers to three of them -- Clinton Lake, Megan Erbacher and Kara Gentry. They enable us to recapture some of the local focus that we tend to lose during the school year, not to mention adding some new young voices to our biweekly journalistic fare.

While our regular contributors aren't as tied to the temporal demands of higher education -- with the obvious exception of our media columnist, Depauw University Professor Kevin Howley -- they do not fade in the summer light. To the contrary, Dr. Rob Stone is now posting his columns on The Huffington Post, Linda Greene is recently retired from the publishing life, and Fran Quigley also publishes in the Indianapolis Star. So their regular contributions on health care reform, social activism and social justice will continue unabated.
"I would be following my own advice here and showing you more of what we have planned for the summer by simply doing it, but I'm not in the best shape right now to do that. I had the inside half of my right knee replaced last Monday, May 10."
And, as long-time readers also know, new writers find us all the time.

As any of my students will attest, I advocate the show-don't-tell approach to reporting and writing. Don't tell readers a chemical is dangerous. Show them by citing its list of possible health effects and telling the stories of those it has harmed. Don't tell them health insurance companies are evil. Show them by identifying the ways they harm American citizens and, again, telling the stories of those they have damaged.

I would be following my own advice here and showing you more of what we have planned for the summer by simply doing it, but I'm not in the best shape right now to do that. I had the inside half of my right knee replaced last Monday, May 10, and my survival instincts are overwhelming my creative ones this week. So I'm reduced to telling you what I plan, while under the influence of heavy narcotics.

For example, today I am only going to tell you that I should have been back on my bicycle a year ago. I will show you in the coming weeks why I'm not and am, in fact, in more pain today than I've been in my entire life. I'm not about to tell you that what we did on Monday has me any closer to the saddle than I was on Dec. 17, 2008, when I had my first knee surgery. Hopefully, I can show you soon.

I can also tell you that I will be concentrating on stories outside Bloomington. It's not that I'll be ignoring the town. There's one story I am determined to tell, when I am mobile and coherent. But truth be told, I will be getting paid for these out-of-town stories. And like I said, I've become a card-carrying slave of the American "health-care" system.

I expect to continue making regular contributions to NUVO in Indianapolis, where, I am pleased to report, fellow environmental writer Dan Ferber and I won first and second place awards, respectively, from the Society of Professional Journalists for best 2009 coverage of the environment in publications with less than 40,000 circulations.

I am working with an editor to prepare a formal proposal for a book on my ongoing reporting project on the triplet epidemics of autism, developmental disabilities and toxic pollution in the Ohio River Valley. Our schedule is to have a formal proposal to submit at the end of the summer, with a target publication date of the Fall 2012.

And just as I was making plans to spend time in the Ohio Valley getting the personal stories I need to show the connections, I was offered an opportunity by a journalistically oriented foundation to do some investigative reporting in Owensboro, Ky. Quality of life there is impacted by some of the worst sources of environmental pollution in the world situated directly across the river in Spencer County, Ind.

Finally, tied to that project and my university connections, Alternative readers will also see more multi-media storytelling this summer. Recent IU grad Georgia Perry, for whom I served as faculty sponsor for a Hutton Honors College grant her senior year, is going to be contributing to the Alternative and the Owensboro project.

Georgia served as photography editor at the Indiana Daily Student, and she is going to be shooting and editing still and video imagery for us this summer.

I could tell you more, but instead I'm going to take some drugs and show you a lot more in the weeks ahead.

Once I get back on my knees, that is.

Steven Higgs can be reached at editor@BloomingtonAlternative.com.