Diana Parsell, like the subject of her book in progress, is a native of the Midwest who made Washington, D.C., her adopted home. Other parallels: a career in journalism and working for National Geographic.
A century ago, Eliza Scidmore was the first woman board member of National Geographic and contributed to the magazine in its formative years. Diana began her editorial career at National Geographic before leaving to get an M.A. in journalism at the University of Missouri. She returned later as an editorial contractor for several divisions of National Geographic.
Travel offers further overlap of subject and biographer.
While living and working in Southeast Asia, Diana bought a reprint of the 1897 book Java, the Garden of the East. She assumed the author, “E.R. Scidmore,” was a man, so it came as a great surprise to discover that the writer was actually a little-known American woman whose achievements included introducing Japanese cherry trees to Washington. Diana had lived in the Washington area for three decades and she went nearly every year to see the cherry trees in bloom. How had she never heard of Eliza Scidmore? Thus began the quest to uncover Scidmore’s life and tell her story.
In a wide-ranging editorial career, Diana has worked as a writer and editor for the National Institutes of Health, American Association for the Advancement of Science, National Geographic News and two environmental research centers in Southeast Asia, and as a copy editor for The Washington Post and The Chronicles of Higher Education and Philanthropy. Her articles, essays and book reviews have appeared in diverse media outlets such as Smithsonian.com, Science News, Humanities, Ford Foundation Report, Washingtonian, Trustee Quarterly, The New Physician, Potomac Review and the Washington Independent Review of Books. (See publication samples on this website.)
Besides a degree in journalism, Diana has an M.A. in (nonfiction) writing from John Hopkins University, which named her an outstanding graduate of the program. Other honors include fellowships from the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing and Rotary International, and a residency at VCCA. Diana has received two major awards to support work on her book project: the 2012 Mayborn Fellowship in Biography, sponsored by Pulitzer Prize-winning author James McGrath Morris, and the Hazel Rowley Award from Biographers International Organization (BIO) for the best proposal for a first biography.
A skilled speaker and presenter, Diana has led writing and editing workshops, gives monthly tours at the Library of Congress as a volunteer docent and lectures on her book to diverse audiences.
She lives with her husband, Bruce, in Falls Church, Va.
“There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place.”