Picture of writer Diana Parsell

Photo by Suz Redfearn

Diana (Pabst) Parsell is a nonfiction writer, editor and journalist now working on a forthcoming biography of the 19th-century American journalist and travel writer Eliza Scidmore. Like the subject of her book, Diana is a Midwest native who made Washington, D.C., her adopted home.

Other parallels: working for National Geographic and extensive travel in Southeast Asia. Diana began her editorial career at National Geographic, until leaving to attend j-school at the University of Missouri. She later worked as a contract writer for National Geographic’s Books, Maps and Online News Divisions.

Diana has also been a copy editor at The Washington Post; a writer for NIH and the American Association for the Advancement of Science; and a longtime freelance writer and editor. Her writing has been published by Smithsonian, National Geographic, Humanities, Science News, Ford Foundation Report, Washingtonian, Trustee Quarterly, Washington Independent Review of Books and many others. (See sample clips.)

After living two years in Jakarta in the late 1990s, Diana traveled regularly to Southeast Asia for a decade as a writer and editorial consultant for two international environmental research centers. She stumbled onto her book subject through Scidmore’s 1897 travelogue Java, the Garden of the East. 

In support of her book in progress, Diana received the 2012 Mayborn Fellowship in Biography and 2017 Hazel Rowley Prize from Biographers International Organization (BIO). She has also had fellowships from the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing and Rotary International,  and a residency at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. Johns Hopkins University named her an outstanding (nonfiction) graduate of its Master of Arts in Writing program in 2007.

A skilled speaker, Diana lectures on her book to diverse audiences and gives monthly tours at the Library of Congress as a volunteer docent.

She lives with her husband, Bruce, in Falls Church, Va.


“There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place.”