On Thursday, November 7th, 2013, science writer David Quammen spent a very busy day as Piper’s Distinguished Visiting Writer: all in one day he filmed a segment for PBS’s Books & Co. interview series; he answered questions for our Piper Center Video Series; he met with ASU students in the MFA Creative Writing program and graduate science programs to discuss the relationship between science and storytelling; he filmed an episode of Five Burning Questions with ASU’s Center for Science and Imagination; he talked with fans during a catered reception; he lectured on zoonotic disease and his most recent book, Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic, at ASU’s Marston Theater; and then Quammen ended the night with a Q&A session and book signing. Co-sponsored by the Center for Science and Imagination, the Institute for Humanities Research, the School of Letters and Sciences, and Barrett, The Honors College, it was a wonderful series of events, celebrating the power of storytelling to connect audiences with important scientific issues and other real-world subjects.
Quammen sat with the Piper Center to discuss his writing. Take a look at the following videos we shot during his visit:
Spillover author David Quammen offers advice to those wanting to break into the world of nonfiction writing.
David Quammen discusses how he came to research and write Spillover.
“Spillover” author David Quammen discusses writing fiction and nonfiction, their connections and the transition from writing from one genre to the other.
David Quammen was born in 1948 and raised in the suburbs of Cincinnati, closely adjacent to a hardwood forest. It was here he spent much of his boyhood, until bulldozers came and scraped the forest away, a formative experience. In 1973, after education at Yale and Oxford and the publication of one novel, he moved to Montana. His second book, a spy novel, was released in 1983, and another spy novel, The Soul of Viktor Tronko, based on historical events in the case of a certain Russian defector, was published by Doubleday in 1987. Blood Line: Stories of Fathers and Sons was published by Graywolf Press a year later.
Quammen began to develop into a nonfiction writer, working as a columnist for Outside Magazine for 15 years. Selections of these columns, along with those from other magazines, comprise his four books of short nonfiction: Natural Acts (1985), The Flight of the Iguana (1988), Wild Thoughts from Wild Places (1998), and The Boilerplate Rhino (2000). A revised, culled, and re-expanded edition of Natural Acts was published by W.W. Norton in 2008, and he has written four full-length nonfiction books: The Song of the Dodo (1996), Monster of God (2003), The Reluctant Mr. Darwin (2006), and Spillover (2012).
Since 1999, Quammen has worked with National Geographic, beginning with a series of three stories about J. Michael Fay’s epic 2000-mile survey hike through the forests of Central Africa, an expedition that became known as the Megatransect. He now holds a position as Contributing Writer, and in 2004 wrote the National Geographic cover story “Was Darwin Wrong?,” which won the third of his National Magazine Awards. He holds honorary doctorates from Montana State University and Colorado College, and has received a Rhodes scholarship, a Guggenheim fellowship, and a Lannan Literary Award for nonfiction. From 2007 to 2009 he served a full three-year term as Wallace Stegner Professor of Western American Studies at Montana State University. He lives in Bozeman with his wife, Betsy Gaines Quammen.Website