“I wasn’t at all sure why anyone would be remotely interested in what I had to say
about my life.”
An author moves out of
her comfort zone to
write a memoir
By Lynn Brunelle
tell you how to make it. I have a book....”
He smiled. He gave me back my purse
(and I use the term lightly—it is rather
large for a purse, but it works) and placed
the bag of slimy dinosaurs in his coat
pocket. “My nephews will love it!
Thanks. Go on in. In fact, let me order
you a drink. And where can I buy your
“Being the geeky science writer sure
has its perks,” I said smugly to my friend.
“Well, yeah, with a bag of tricks like
that,” she agreed. “Who can compete
with lava lamps and slimy dinosaurs?”
I’ve made a living writing books for
parents and kids, sharing the joys of
making everything from pop-bottle
rockets to garden-hose tubas—all while
slipping in the wonders of science. I am
comfortable in the world of chemical
reactions that blow up balloons and
experiments that result in explosions.
But my new book, a memoir, is a little
I was challenged by a dear friend not
to dissect another frog or explain the
physics of armpit farts but to examine
my own life experiences and share them.
I took the challenge and chartered a
course into my own vulnerability.
It was a rocky road. I didn’t see myself
as a memoirist. I wasn’t at all sure why
anyone would be remotely interested
in what I had to say about my life. My
comfort zone was humor and activity
writing. Every time I started to write
anything, the scientist in me buffered all
the genuine feelings I was too afraid to
actually dive into. And then it clicked.
Why lose the passion I have for science?
Why not use it as a focusing outlook?
Why not embrace it and see where it
So I did. I ignited explosions as I
wrote, but this time they were the interior kind, as I relived the heart-bursting
experiences of almost losing my husband
to sepsis, getting “that” question about
where babies come from, trying to be eco
even when faced with an onslaught of
raccoons and rats, processing the agony
of watching my mother disappear into
Alzheimer’s, and having to explain to my
boys why their grandmother doesn’t
remember them. This exploration of
mine had reactions and eruptions of a different sort. They were raw, joyful, heartbreaking, and filled to the brim with
revelation. Thanks to my friend’s challenge, what I ended up with was a love
letter to my family informed by my passion for science.
As I start this particular book launch,
my trepidation has not ended. I realize
my trusty old bag won’t be the same
either. I may not be carrying around the
tin foil and dry ice of years and books
past, but I will be carrying my heart and
offering it to an audience that I hope is
as kind and curious as that bouncer. ■
Ionce went to a concert with a friend and was stopped for a bag check. The bouncer withdrew item after item
and looked at me. Twigs, crayons,
embroidery thread, cooking oil, food coloring, Alka Seltzer, baking soda, vinegar,
raisins, plus a few empty pop bottles. I
shrugged. It was my life.
I started to tell him, “I’m an author. I
wrote this book called Pop Bottle Science
for kids.... Did you know you can do
really cool science experiments with stuff
you have around the house and make
amazing things like lava lamps and...”
but I stopped when he pulled out the
baggie with slime and a handful of little
plastic dinosaurs. He held it in his meaty
hand and looked at it, and then at me, his
“What’s this?” he asked.
I looked at my friend, who seemed
rather horrified. “What do you have in
“Slime,” I said. “You can make it with
glue and borax.”
“You made this?” the bouncer asked.
“Well, yeah, so I’m an author...”
“Cool! Can I keep it?” the bouncer
asked. He began squishing it in his hands
and making dialogue for the dinosaurs
with a high-pitched voice: “Oh nooooo!
I’m slimed!” He looked at me, beaming.
“You can keep it,” I said. “I can even
Lynn Brunelle is a bestselling author and Emmy
Award–winning writer for Bill Nye the Science Guy. Her new book, Mama Gone Geek:
Calling on My Inner Science Nerd to Help
Navigate the Ups and Downs of Parenthood, was released by Roost Books in October.