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Member Spotlights

Member Spotlight: David B. Williams

Why is writing important to you and why do you think it’s an important medium for the world? I have long viewed myself as a writer whose goal is to help people develop better connections to the world around them. I have tried to do this by focusing on place-based stories centered on where I live, in Seattle. In each of my books, which weave together human and natural history, I taken a deep dive into my subject, whether it’s finding carved and terracotta animals on buildings, addressing the reshaping of Seattle’s topography, or exploring the multi-thousand-year long history of plants, animals and people in Puget Sound. In taking this approach, I hope that my writing can help people better understand the world around; that it can encourage people to slow down, be more observant, and ask questions; and that they will be more respectful of all who live near them, human and more-than-human.

What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer’s block? Sitting on my butt in front of my computer and starting to write. I have been lucky that I haven’t had writer’s block. Certainly some days are better than others for writing and productivity but for the most what I do is a job, and a passion, so if I am supposed to write then that’s what I do.

What is your favorite time to write? I am an early morning person so am typically on the computer by 7am. I like it then because it’s quiet and my brain is fresh. This is particularly the case when I am camping and get up before everyone else to drink coffee, write, and savor the arrival of the day.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received and would like to impart to other writers? Read what you wrote out loud. For me this involves printing the document and reading it straight through while taking minimal notes. I am always amazed at how many errors I find and how this helps the editing process. And, this technique requires a physical document; if I try to do this on a screen, it is never as satisfying or as helpful. I usually don’t do this though until very late in the process, such as when I feel a manuscript is more or less ready to be sent in, which, of course, it really isn’t.

What excites you most about being a writer in today’s age? Access to virtual documents, such as archival material, scientific articles, photographs, scanned books, and maps. I would also combine this with the ease (via email) to reach out to scientists and historians and to engage them in conversation. This has allowed me to create much richer and detailed books.

David B. Williams’s Homewaters: A Human and Natural History of Puget Sound is out now with University of Washington Press.