Meet the author: Sarah Wassner Flynn

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Sarah Wassner Flynn has authored several children’s nonfiction books for National Geographic. Her most recent titles include This Book Stinks!: Gross Garbage, Rotten Rubbish, and the Science of Trash (out March 2017), Awesome 8 Extreme (out April 2017), and 1,000 Facts About the White House (out September, 2017) as well as Animal Records and Awesome 8. She has also contributed to the New York Times-bestselling National Geographic Kids Almanac for several volumes, as well as the popular Weird But True series books, including Weird But True GrossWeird But True Food, and Weird But True Christmas.

A competitive amateur triathlete, Sarah has twice earned All-American honors from USA Triathlon and represented Team USA at the 2016 International Triathlon Union World Championships in Cozumel, Mexico, placing 10th in her age-group. She often contributes to USA Triathlon Magazine, Triathlete Magazine, Girls’ Life Magazine, and other health and fitness-focused websites and publications.

Sarah lives, writes, and trains in the suburbs of Washington, DC with her husband and three small children.
When you were my age, did you like to read?
Of course! While I loved to play outside and spent many, many hours riding my bike around my neighborhood or digging for worms in my backyard, I always ended the day with reading. My parents are big both big readers and encouraged me and my three sisters to read often. It seemed like we were always going to the library to return and pick up books; I loved scanning the shelves for new titles and discovering authors that appealed to me. At your age, I think I was very much into Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume…authors whose books are still read today!

What was your favorite story?
 What environmental book do you recommend for kids?
As a young kid, I loved anything by Richard Scarry–and now I share these books with my own children! They are timeless, interesting, and so much fun to read.

As I grew a bit older–say, third or fourth grade, I got into Judy Blume, as I mentioned above. I probably read Superfudge five times in a row!

As for an environmental book, I have to recommend my brand new book published by National Geographic, This Book Stinks: Gross Garbage, Rotten Rubbish, and the Science of Trash. In it, you can read about how trash is impacting our environment and what’s being done about it. My mission with This Book Stinks is to inspire all kids to become “waste warriors” since reducing the amount of trash we send to landfills is a huge, important step in protecting our planet. Plus, there’s a bunch of cool infographics and feature stories on all things trash–it’s a fun read, if I do say so myself. 🙂

How do you get your ideas?
My ideas usually come to me when I least expect them. I’m a triathlete, so I tend to have my best “a-ha” moments when I’m swimming, biking, or running. When I limit distractions of my phone, computer, and other screens, I can focus so much better! And since I mostly write books for kids, I often talk to kids to hear about what they are interested in.You guys are full of amazing thoughts and ideas!

why do you write about the environment for kids?
The more kids know about the environment, the better off we will be in the future. You have the power to make changes now that will, hopefully, shift things for the better years from now. Plus, many issues having to do with our environment are quite complicated. It’s even hard for adults to understand! In This Book Stinks, I break down certain topics like landfills, climate change, ocean waste, recycling in an approachable, informative way. I hope that both kids and adults can learn from and enjoy the book.

Do you have a favorite among the books you have written?
This Book Stinks was quite a labor of love, and I am so proud of the finished product. Other than that, while I have enjoyed every book I’ve written for National Geographic, my favorites are probably Animal Records and 1,000 Facts about the White House. The Weird But True books are always a blast to write–and I have some upcoming books on sharks and mythology that I am very excited about.

What author do you really like right now?
I’m actually working on an article about the Harry Potter series right now, so I guess you could say I’m all about J.K. Rowling! I admire everything she’s done and see her as such a creative force.

What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author?
Write as much as you can! I discovered my love of writing very early on and would write stories about anything and everything. Some were silly, some didn’t make sense, and there were plenty I never actually finished. But for every story I wrote, I was able to develop my voice, learn more about the craft of writing, and figure out the best way to communicate thoughts from my heads into a cohesive story. Just like any habit or career, the more practice you have, the better you will be.

Also, write about what you love. Crazy about Star Wars? Come up with your own characters or recreate one of the stories with your own plot twists. Same goes for nonfiction writing: If you are passionate about baseball, do some research into your favorite player and write about his life. When you are excited about what you’re writing about, the words will fly out of your head and onto the screen.

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