Lynn Brunelle remembers that her “inner geek” first began to show itself in the middle of her fifth and sixth grade “horse phase.” She didn’t just like horses; she wanted to know every single scientific and beautiful thing about them. “Science and art are really where my heart beats,” says Brunelle, who has written about 45 books, mostly how-to titles for parents like her bestsellers Camp Out! The Ultimate Kids Guide and Pop Bottle Science (both published by Workman, where she once worked as an editor).
Brunelle moved from her native Maine and started her professional career as an editorial assistant at Scientific American Books, where she was given the task of editing some of the best scientific minds to a kid-friendly level. When she moved to Workman, science continued to be part of her specialty. Always a fan of the television program Bill Nye the Science Guy, the author got the courage to cold-call Nye’s show in Seattle and ask if they ever used freelance writers. Not even knowing what a spec script was, Brunelle wrote a dozen and landed a job.
“Nothing was holding me in New York, so I went to Seattle,” she says. Brunelle won four Emmys writing for Bill Nye, and now creates videos for NPR’s Science Friday and is often featured on Martha Stewart’s radio network—when she is not writing kid-related books or enjoying life on Bainbridge Island, Wash., with her husband and two young sons.
For her memoir, Mama Gone Geek: Calling on My Inner Science Nerd to Help Navigate the Ups and Down of Parenthood (Shambhala/Roost, Oct.), Brunelle knew she did not want to write a how-to and she definitely did not want to sugarcoat things. “I didn’t want to come across as a know-it-all, because I don’t know it all,” she says.
Mama Gone Geek consists of essays about different events in Brunelle’s life—some funny, like when she showed her sons how to make a battery from a lemon and copper pennies during a blackout. But some things were really hard to write about, as when her husband had sepsis and nearly died, and her mother had Alzheimer’s.
“In our culture, we hide the hard things,” says Brunelle. “But I wanted to teach my kids that these things we go through are part of life.” One of the essays explores the juxtaposition of her older son’s letting go of Santa at the same time her mother’s diseased brain had her believing in him again.
Brunelle is signing today, 11:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m., at Table 5 in the Autographing Area.