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Member Spotlights

Member Spotlight: John Seibert Farnsworth

Why is writing important to you and why do you think it’s an important medium for the world?
Writing helps me pay attention to the world in a more deliberate, mindful way. When I read the writing of others, I’m suddenly tuned in to what they’re paying attention to, and this becomes a pathway into the author’s humanity. The more I attend to the humanity of others, the more I become imbedded in a world community.

What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer’s block?
I put the keyboard away, clean off the desk, and pull out paper and pen. I use a Meisterstuck pen (ballpoint with medium Pacific Blue ink) and a Moleskine Cahir soft-cover journal, and I focus on the pleasant task of spreading ink neatly on the pages. Works every time.

What is your favorite time to write?
I’m a morning writer, especially now that I’m writing full-time. During my 21 years as an academic, I was a binge writer, working long hours during winter break, spring break and the summer. Now, I enjoy the fact that I can write in the mornings and then spend the afternoons birding, splitting firewood, or attempting to learn the fine art of nature photography.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received and would like to impart to other writers?
My PhD supervisor, the great Scottish poet/nature writer Kathleen Jamie, urged me to resist the hegemony of narrative. She had me post a sign over my writing desk that said, “Nae narrative.” She was teaching me to write prose the way a poet would.

What excites you most about being a writer in today’s age?
I feel a strong sense of community within the Comstock Publishing Associates imprint of Cornell University Press. CUP is not only the oldest university press in the country, but they are strongly mission-driven. In Comstock we’re all about natural history and the environment, and there’s always a sense of it being something more than just getting a book out. I’ve published two books with them now, one in 2018 and the other this year, and I enjoy the collaborative, collegial relationship I have with the staff, especially the editors.

John Seibert Farnsworth’s Nature Beyond Solitude: Notes from the Field is out now with Comstock Publishing.