Kelly Brenner: Nature Obscura

Nature Obscura

Nature Obscura


Kelly Brenner
Mountaineers Books, April 1, 2020, $17.95
ISBN-10: 1680512072; ISBN-13: 978-1680512076

Brenner reports:

While earning my degree in Landscape Architecture over a decade ago, I became interested in the design of urban wildlife habitat. I began writing about that on my website.

The notion of writing a book solidified four years ago after I enrolled in a nonfiction writing certificate program at the University of Washington. During the program, I wrote the first chapters and shifted my focus from design to discovery and exploration of urban nature. I also changed the tone from academic to creative nonfiction.

In a stroke of luck, the publisher found me after I was quoted in the Seattle Times for an article about urban wildlife that mentioned I was working on a book about urban nature. Two local publishers contacted me asking for more information. I contacted agents and scrambled to put together a quick proposal. I had no luck with agents, however, despite the publishers’ interest. I switched my energy to putting together a full proposal and worked directly with the publisher I thought was the best fit.

Because the book is set in Seattle, my explorations were largely local. Since Seattle has multiple universities, I had access to many scientists and other experts. The furthest I had to travel was to British Columbia to interview scientists and visit natural history collections.

The book goes beyond Seattle, however. I investigate the range of habitats found in cities where many organisms like tardigrades and slime molds live alongside us urban dwellers, often unseen. I also tell how changes in our land use impact that nature.

I was fortunate to have several opportunities that fostered my book. The writing certificate program, along with writing conferences helped me learn about the industry and improve my craft. I take part in a small writing group that meets regularly to offer feedback on members’ work or offer other career advice. Twitter helped me network and created writing opportunities. It continues to help me connect with other experts.

I’ve learned that some of publishing is hard work like learning the craft and getting out there, and some is just luck.

Contact info:

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May. 6, 2020

Advance Copy

For this column, NASW book editor Lynne Lamberg asks NASW authors to tell how they came up with the idea for their book, developed a proposal, found an agent and publisher, funded and conducted research, and put the book together. She also asks what they wish they had known before they began working on their book, what they might do differently the next time, and what tips they can offer aspiring authors. She then edits the A part of that Q&A to produce the author reports you see here.

Publication of NASW members' reports in Advance Copy does not constitute NASW's endorsement of their books. NASW welcomes your comments and hopes this column stimulates productive discussions.