Talent Q & A: Writer Ethan S
We are on a mission to get to know our talent better. This week we caught up with 6-star writer Ethan S., a wilderness enthusiast specializing in ecology and outdoor recreation.
Q: When did you realize you wanted to become a writer and how did you get your start?
A: I’ve been writing since I was a kid; I probably wrote approximately 6,000 stories about wolves and dogs in elementary school, inspired by too much Jack London and Ernest Thompson Seton.
I started writing professionally when my then-girlfriend (now wife) and I moved to a small town in Oregon after college.
After failing to muster up any wildlife/forestry jobs (my academic background’s in ecology), I somehow wound up writing for the local newspaper—despite a distinct lack of journalism experience.
An instructive trial-by-fire, to say the least—especially when it came to scribbling under deadlines. Springboarding off that stint, I became a full-time freelancer (writer and naturalist) a couple of years later.
Q: If you could give a new writer one piece of advice, what would it be?
A: It’s one he or she has probably heard before: read. As much as you can. In fact, treat it as occupational training.
And read broadly, too: books, newspapers, and magazines, for sure, but also repair manuals, instruction booklets—heck, I’ve been inspired by the writing on signage. (I’m not kidding.)
When I’ve been too busy to read—that is, when I haven’t made the time to read—it doesn’t take long for me to see the effects in my writing: a kind of staleness, falling back on rote language and technique.
Reading sharpens your writing tools, helps you better define your own voice, and all around stokes your creative fires.
Q: Who are some writers or industry professionals that you look up to?
A: Yikes, too many to name, but here are a few: Peter Matthiessen, Annie Dillard, Gary Snyder, Gretel Ehrlich, Ed Abbey, Ian Frazier, Wendell Berry, Robert Macfarlane, Doug Peacock, and J. Michael Fay (a National Geographic “Explorer-in-Residence,” a job title I aspire to).
Q: Is there a particular project (outside of WA) that you’re most proud of? Why?
A: Right now, I’m most passionate about a work-in-progress I’ve been making headway on lately: a field guide to the landscapes of the Pacific Northwest.
It’s helping me realize a total synthesis of my driving interests: natural history, writing, and—just as important—spending a lot of time outdoors, exploring. But I guess I’ll be proudest when I actually finish it.
Q: How do you stay up-to-date on industry trends?
A: Definitely an area of improvement for me.
Honestly I’ve stayed most abreast of industry trends (and I’m not just saying this) via WriterAccess: I’m always learning-on-the-job from my longtime clients here, and I’ve definitely gleaned a lot of valuable insight from both the WA resources (podcasts, webinars) and writer forums.
Q: We see you’re quite the traveler; do you have a favorite travel destination?
A: Usually my traveling has outdoor recreation as its focus (along with hole-in-the-wall pubs). Besides the wilds of my immediate backyard, some of the places I try to make pilgrimages to every year or two include the Olympic Peninsula, the Greater Yellowstone, the Everglades/Big Cypress, and the Central Forest of Wisconsin (my home state).
I also love Montreal, which I’ve learned is an excellent place to overeat.
Q: I bet the Pacific Northwest is great for outdoor activities. What are some of the things that you like to do for fun?
A: Hiking, backpacking, mountaineering, and paddling are my favorite pastimes.
And yeah: From Hells Canyon to the North Cascades to the Oregon Dunes, the Northwest is chockablock (man, I love using that word!) with spectacular places to carry out those pursuits.
His focus is on outdoor recreation, travel, and science with expertise in technical articles and journalism. Ethan has a B.S. in Wildlife Ecology and a Graduate Certificate in Geographic Information Systems.