A Scidmore Sisterhood, Across Cultures

April 1, 2024 /

A documentary of Eliza Scidmore is now in the works! Thanks go to Japanese TV reporter Miki Ebara, who produced a 12-minute feature on Scidmore and my first-ever biography of her for Japan’s NHK World (an English-language channel). The segment aired on March 27, 2024, during cherry blossom season in Washington and Japan. You can view it here. March 27 is regarded as “Sakura Day” in Japan, acccording to Chiaki Umemoto, representative director of the Eliza Scidmore Cherry Blossom Society in Yokohama. Sakura is Japanese for cherry blossoms. The date is the anniversary of the first cherry trees from Japan…

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Biographers, From Superstar to Novice, Gather in New York

May 26, 2023 /
Molly Peacock and Diana Parsell

How do you go about writing and publishing a biography when you’ve never done anything like that before? I owe Biographers International Organization (BIO) a lot in getting me to the finish line of my newly published book. For years, biography was a neglected stepchild of the literary world. A mashup of history, literature, area studies and other disciplines. Most people had no idea how you went about writing one. That’s changed dramatically since the founding of BIO, which grew out of a modest email newsletter in which prize-winning biographer James McGrath Morris and others exchanged tips on the craft.…

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“Today” Show Airs My Eliza Scidmore Story

March 31, 2023 /

Pretty amazing experience for this first-time author, when I was interviewed for NBC’s “Today” show in a program that aired March 30. It spotlighted the life and career of Eliza Scidmore, the subject of my new book, and her critical role in bringing Japanese cherry blossoms to Washington a century ago. You can see the clip here. I was in awe at how skillfully the producer, Caroline Virenius, and NBC correspondent Kristen Welker grasped the essence of Scidmore’s story, then crunched down several hours of filming and interviews into a three-minute segment. Both had clearly done their homework in reading…

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Major Book Event: Meetup With Taft Descendent

March 26, 2023 /
flyer for Cherry Blossom Festival luncheon

In events surrounding the launch of my bool on Eliza Scidmore, it was thrilling — and great fun — to share the stage with presidential great-granddaughter Patricia Taft. We were the featured speakers at a sold-out “Still Blooming Luncheon” on March 23 at the University Club in Washington. The event, sponsored by the National Cherry Blossom Festival, featured a discussion on First Lady Helen Taft and travel writer Eliza Scidmore, whose collaboration a century ago led to the gift of flowering cherry trees from Tokyo to Washington, D.C. Patricia Taft, of Santa Monica, California,  Los Angleles, was born into the…

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Q&A: On Ups and Downs of Writing a Book

March 1, 2023 /

I’ve been an independent writer and editor a long time. But no one I know does a better job of running a professional writing business than Paula Tarnapol Whitacre. She kindly devoted space this month in her newsletter to interviewing me about my new book. Here’s the link to read it. Paula seems to quickly master all the tools writers need for marketing and promotion, while I can’t seem to learn all this fast enough. Publishing a newsletter, growing a mailing list of followers, maintaining a blog, promoting a book through different avenues — it’s practically a full-time job! And…

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Scidmore Biography Set for March 1 Release

September 28, 2022 /
Scidmore book cover

  The book, published by Oxford University Press, is set for launch in U.S. bookstores on March 1, 2023. If you order from Oxford’s website (at, you can use the promotion code AAFLYG6 to get a 30% discount. Here are some other sources: benefits independent bookstores with the convenience of online shopping. Politics & Prose is Washington’s premier bookstore. I’ll be speaking there on March 27 at 7 p.m. Barnes & Noble Amazon Oxford is publishing the book simultaneously in the U.K. The press’s large international reach is a boon for the broad scope of Scidmore’s fascinating story,…

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Recalling My Fabulous Glacier Bay Research Trip

July 25, 2022 /
Caitlin Campbell Glacier Bay

(Reposted from August 2018) An email out of the blue from U.S. park ranger Caitlin Campbell sparked my first trip to Alaska this summer, capped by a special experience at Glacier Bay. Caiti first contacted me a year ago after stumbling across the original website and blog I started to chronicle my progress on a biography of Eliza Scidmore. Caiti and her colleagues at Glacier Bay National Park knew vaguely about Scidmore’s historic travels to Alaska in the 1880s. But they didn’t know much about her life. When Caiti and I arranged to talk, several folks at Glacier Bay joined…

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Scidmore’s Alaska Travel Airs on BBC

September 6, 2020 /

Thanks to a recent posting, my brief appearance on BBC2’s “Great American Railroad Journeys” is now online. My interview with the program’s host, Michael Portillo, took place in Juneau in the summer of 2018 during my research trip to Alaska. [Watch the program via this Facebook link.]     I was in Alaska at the time for both research and to lecture on my book subject, Eliza Scidmore, to staff and members of the public at Glacier Bay National Park. The producers of the popular British TV series, then in its fourth season, had tracked me down because Michael drew…

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Eliza Scidmore Sports a New Look

July 10, 2020 /
Eliza Scidmore in woodcut

On a research run through the Internet I come across this woodcut illustration of my book subject, Eliza Scidmore. It was made by an L.A. artist named Bijou Karman for an online National Geographic series on “21 Women Travelers Who Changed the World.” You can see the list of women and their portraits here. I recognized Scidmore at once because of what she’s wearing. The striking costume is from the original photograph this illustration is based on. There’s a copy of the original at the end of this post. Seeing this gave me a moment of “research rapture” at knowing…

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The Englishman Who Saved Cherry Trees

April 18, 2019 /
Book cover "The Sakura Obsession," by Naoko Abe

Cherry blossom viewers love the variety known as “yoshino.” The white petals tinged in pink make up the clouds that encircle the Tidal Basin in Washington every spring. In “The Sakura Obsession,” the author Naoko Abe shows a flip side of that enthusiasm. Her new book tells the story of an Englishman so concerned about the growing fixation with yoshinos that he set out to save other cherry tree varieties. Collingwood Ingram, born in 1880, gardened passionately at his home in rural England. His fixation with Japan’s most treasured plant earned him the name “Cherry” Ingram. Ingram first admired “sakura”…

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