Wynne Brown—The Forgotten Botanist: Sara Plummer Lemmon's Life of Science and Art

Forgotten Botanist

Forgotten Botanist


Wynne Brown
Bison Books/University of Nebraska Press, Nov 1, 2021; $27.99
Print ISBN: 9781496222817, ebook (PDF): 9781496229472

Brown reports:

In 2009, I learned that Southern Arizona’s Mount Lemmon was named for Sara Lemmon, a botanist who climbed the mountain in 1881 at age 44 while on her honeymoon.

Who wouldn’t be intrigued?

Wynne Brown, photo by Dave Peterson

Wynne Brown, photo by Dave Peterson

Several years later, I visited the University of California and Jepson Herbaria Archives in Berkeley to examine the material they had on Sara and John Lemmon. Once I discovered it included 1,200 pages of Sara’s handwritten letters, I knew I’d found a treasure. That was even before I saw the two boxes of Sara’s exquisite botanical illustrations, many of which were terribly damaged. I traveled to Berkeley twice more to photograph every page of the letters and hired a local art conservator to assess the watercolors while I photographed them.

While reading those letters I realized what a gutsy, determined, and multi-talented woman Sara was, and how fiercely determined I was that she not remain forgotten. As I started to weave the narrative of her little-known accomplishments, I began sending out proposals to agents, publishers, and presses, tailoring them to each recipient, 24 in all. I was working fulltime as a freelance writer/editor/graphic designer and eventually received a small advance and funding from two foundations that helped cover my research and travel.

Even though I have all the editorial and design tools to produce books, I wanted this particular story to have the heft of a traditional press behind it. While attending the 2018 NonfictioNOW conference in Phoenix, I met a University of Nebraska Press acquisition editor and signed a contract with UNP in October 2019.

Two years later UPS delivered The Forgotten Botanist: Sara Plummer Lemmon’s Life of Science and Art. I couldn’t be more pleased with every aspect of working with UNP!

This isn’t my first book, but it’s by far the most complex and far-reaching. Sometimes not knowing what you’re plunging into is a good thing. Had I known what I was in for, I’d have said, “No way do I have the time or ability to pull this off....”

My advice? If a topic grabs you and won’t let go — follow it. And don’t give up!

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.

See https://www.nasw.org/advance-copy-submission-guidelines.

Review Advance Copy archives at https://www.nasw.org/member-article/advance-copy.

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 create your book proposal, find an agent and funding sources, negotiate your contract, learn about self-publishing, publicize and market your book, and more at https://www.nasw.org/article/write-book.

Send book info and questions about book publishing to Lynne Lamberg, NASW book editor, llamberg@nasw.org.

Follow @LynneLamberg on Twitter for news about science/medical books and writing.

Hero image by Gosia K. from Pixabay.

January 19, 2022

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 www.nasw.org/advance-copy-submission-guidelines 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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