Rectangular photo of Erin Zimmerman’s office bookshelf showing works on botany, trees, naturalists, evolution, ontogeny and phylogeny, Darwin, and evolution, along with two antique student microscopes. Photo credit: Erin Zimmerman.

Erin Zimmerman—Unrooted: Botany, Motherhood, and the Fight to Save an Old Science

Cover of the book Unrooted: Botany, Motherhood, and the Fight to Save an Old Science by Erin Zimmerman showing the author’s name and title on a tan and red background, along with botanical drawings.



Melville House, April 16, 2024
Hardcover, $28.99, eBook, $15.99
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1685890704
eBook ISBN: 978-1685890711

Zimmerman reports:

I knew from the moment I walked away from my post-doctoral research position in 2016 that I would eventually write a book about my time in botany. There were two issues that I just couldn’t let go of and wanted to bring more attention to: the systematic underfunding of natural history research happening in spite of the current extinction crisis, and the massive brain drain of scientists who become mothers, find research is unwilling to allow them any accommodation for their caregiving responsibilities, and leave, as I did.

Portrait photo of Erin Zimmerman in an outdoor setting

Erin Zimmerman
Photo by Paula Tizzard

Because I was weaving memoir with science, history, and cultural commentary, it took me a long time to nail down the structure. I struggled a lot with how to pitch the project. I worked on my proposal for two years before using it to sign with my agent and then my publisher in 2021. I signed my book deal the same month I had my twins, so the entire writing of the manuscript happened alongside their infancy. To be honest, I wrote and illustrated much of this book in a sleep-deprived haze and can’t remember much from that time.

While I didn’t travel for research, I did conduct around a dozen interviews. These always required special arrangements to get the babies out of the house for a bit. The botanical interviews were fairly straightforward because I was speaking to people in my own field, but the historical ones were a challenge, as I had much less experience in that area.

As for research, I’d known I was going to write the book for such a long time that I’d been compulsively gathering resources for years. By the time I actually went to write the thing, nearly everything I needed was close at hand.

My advice: if you think you’ll be writing a book on a particular topic, start collecting information and potentially useful tidbits right away, even if you don’t know how they’ll fit in yet. That will leave you with a treasure trove to draw on when you’re ready to write.

Contact info:

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Banner image adapted from original photo by Erin Zimmerman.

April 30, 2024

Advance Copy

The path from idea to book may take myriad routes. The Advance Copy column, started in 2000 by NASW volunteer book editor Lynne Lamberg, features NASW authors telling the stories behind their books. Authors are asked to report how they got their idea, honed it into a proposal, found an agent and a publisher, funded and conducted their research, and organized their writing process. They also are asked to share what they wish they’d known when they started or would do differently next time, and what advice they can offer aspiring authors. Lamberg edits the authors’ answers to produce the Advance Copy reports.

NASW members: Will your book be published soon? Visit for information on submitting your report.

Publication of NASW author reports in Advance Copy does not constitute NASW's endorsement of any publication or the ideas, values, or material contained within or espoused by authors or their books. We hope this column stimulates productive discussions on important topics now and in the future as both science and societies progress. We welcome your discussion in the comments section below.

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