Diana (Pabst) Parsell is a nonfiction writer and journalist whose 40-year career has spanned a range of editorial work.
Like Eliza Scidmore, the subject of her forthcoming book, she was born in the American Midwest and made Washington, D.C., her adopted home. Other parallels: working for National Geographic and extensive travel in Southeast Asia.
Parsell began her career in the editorial layout division of National Geographic, and later wrote as a contractor for the maps, travel books and online news divisions. After completing a master’s in journalism at the University of Missouri, she spent many years as a science writer in Washington and Southeast Asia. It was in Indonesia that she stumbled onto Eliza Scidmore through her 1897 travelogue Java, the Garden of the East.
Parsell has worked for The Washington Post, The Chronicles of Higher Education and Philanthropy, National Institutes of Health and American Association for the Advancement of Science. Her writing has also appeared in outlets such as Smithsonian.com, Humanities, Science News, Washingtonian, Ford Foundation Report and the Washington Independent Review of Books. (See sample clips.)
In support of her book project, Parsell received a Mayborn Fellowship in Biography and the 2017 Hazel Rowley Prize from Biographers International Organization (BIO). She previously had fellowships from the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing and Rotary International, and a residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Johns Hopkins University named her an outstanding nonfiction graduate of its master’s program in writing.
Before the Covid pandemic, Parsell lectured regularly on Scidmore and Washington’s cherry trees. She also gave public tours of the Library of Congress for a decade as a volunteer docent.
She and her husband, Bruce, live in Falls Church, Va., where they hang out often with neighbors on their front porch.
“There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place.”