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:

NASW members: will your book be published soon? Take advantage of this opportunity for shameless self-promotion. Submit your report for Advance Copy.

Tell your fellow NASW members how you came up with the idea for your book, developed a proposal, found an agent and publisher, funded and conducted research, and put the book together. Include what you wish you had known before you began working on your book, or had done differently.


View Advance Copy archives at

Thinking of writing a book? If you are a NASW member, you may access a list of more than 150 books and online resources to help you craft your book proposal, find an agent and funding sources, negotiate your contract, learn about self-publishing, publicize and market your book, and more at

Send book info and questions about book publishing to Lynne Lamberg, NASW book editor,

May 6, 2020

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.

Biedler Prize for Cancer Journalism

IFoRE #SciCommSunday