Diana Parsell Writer

Diana Parsell Writer

Diana Parsell Writer

Eliza Scidmore

‘Drain the Swamp’ Gave Us Cherry Trees

Dredging in Washington river 1891

Donald Trump rode a populist wave to the White House promising to “drain the swamp” in Washington. Politicians have used the phrase for decades. Famously, President Ronald Reagan made it a catchphrase of his vow to reduce the federal bureaucracy. The “swamp” really did exist in Eliza Scidmore‘s day. Literally — but not quite. Many…

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‘She Persisted’ in Giving Us Cherry Trees

Hand-colored photo Eliza Scidmore from "Eliza's Cherry Trees"

Thanks, Andrea Zimmerman, for giving a nod to Eliza Scidmore as a woman who “persisted.” The Internet meme “she persisted” caught fire this month after a remark on the floor of the U.S. Congress. Sen. Elizabeth Warren opposed the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions as U.S. attorney general by attempting to read a letter from…

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Eliza Scidmore Inspires Wall Art in D.C.

Eliza Scidmore Artwork Carlyle Hotel

“Eliza and the Emperor.” That’s the title of an Eliza Scidmore-inspired mixed-media canvas produced last year for the Carlyle Hotel in Washington by artist Anna Rose Soevik.     Sovevik, who studied painting in London, lives and works near Washington. She likes big canvases and has done art installations at offices, bookshops, and galleries in Washington…

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Tokyo Park Inspired Washington’s Cherry Trees

Ramble Under Cherry Trees, Takashima 1897

  “No other flower in all the world is so beloved, so exalted, so worshipped, as sakura-no-hana, the cherry-blossom of Japan.” — Eliza Scidmore, The Century Magazine, May 1910 It’s now blooming season in Washington. That means cherry tree fever along the Tidal Basin in Potomac Park. The display offers our own “Mukojima on the…

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Eliza Scidmore, ‘Downton Abbey’ and a Debutante

OK, fellow “Downtown Abbey” addicts. I managed to find a connection between the TV series and Eliza Scidmore, the subject of my book. The line runs through Cora Grantham, the American-born mistress of Downton Abbey. Julian Fellowes, the show’s writer, has said Cora represents American heiresses of the late 19th century who married into the…

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LibriVox Adds Scidmore Writing on Alaska

LibriVox NatGeoMag Vol. 5

Eliza Scidmore has made her debut on LibriVox, the free online service of audio books in the public domain. LibriVox has started adding back volumes of National Geographic, some containing articles by Scidmore. I discovered LibriVox a couple of years ago and am now a big fan. The selections consist of only older works —…

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‘Pen Pal’ in Japan Aids My Book Research

Ichiro Fudai

This is Ichiro Fudai. We’ve never met. But he and I have corresponded online for many weeks, after he learned about my book project on Eliza Scidmore through a TV program that aired during my research trip to Japan in 2013. Ichiro, who has visited the United States and has an excellent command of English,…

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Robert Caro Stresses ‘Sense of Place’ in Biography

Robert Caro

There’s no greater master of biography writing today than Robert Caro. I recall being mightily impressed with his keynote speech at the 2011 conference of Biographers International Organization (BIO). So I’m grateful to Steve Weinberg, a journalist and biographer (and one of my former journalism profs at the University of Missouri), for flagging this article…

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In Boston, Biographers and a Special Letter

BIO conference 2014 in Boston

Anyone writing life stories has a great resource in Biographers International Organization. The group began five years ago through the efforts of Pulitzer Prize-winning author James McGrath Morris and others to provide collegiality and support in the often-long slog of writing biography. I’ve attended three of BIO’s annual conferences. They seem to get better every…

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At 1876 World’s Fair, Scidmore and … Irish Oatmeal!

McCann Oatmeal

When you’re working on a book involving U.S. history, you see connections everywhere. The latest for me is steel-cut oats, which I love for their chewy nuttiness. Oatmeal really fuels you to start the day, without the hunger pangs I usually get around 11:00 when I have my other standard breakfast: Greek yogurt with berries…

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