Author Spotlight: Rachel Sarah
March 19, 2021
We are excited to feature author Rachel Sarah and her nonfiction middle grade book, GIRL WARRIORS: HOW 25 YOUNG ACTIVISTS ARE SAVING THE EARTH (Chicago Review Press), coming out April 6! Enter to win a copy!
Cover and interior design: Sadie Teper
Cover illustrations: Ana Copenicker
Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.
Thanks for having me on Kidlit411. I've followed your site for years, and I'm so happy to be here.
I'm a writer and journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I was born and raised. I shifted the focus of my writing to the climate during the devastating California wildfires of 2018. As mother of my two daughters, I felt desperate to use my skills and experience to do what I could to create a sustainable future.
My life has not followed a straight line. I dropped out of Reed College and got a staff job as a reporter when I was 21. Then, I moved to the Czech Republic and wrote for The Prague Post, and eventually I earned my journalism degree at The New School in New York City. I've worked in many areas of publishing: as a fact-checker, a textbook writer, and a developmental book editor. Yet my intention as a writer has remained the same: to inspire, create community, and rise up for change.
Congrats on your upcoming middle grade nonfiction book, Girl Warriors: How 25 Young Activists are Saving the Earth! Tell us about the book and what inspired it.
Girl Warriors tells the stories of 25 climate leaders under age 25. From Ireland and Pakistan to Colombia and Uganda, these fearless girls and young women from all over the world are standing up to demand action to for their futures.
I appreciate how meteorologist and climate writer Eric Holthaus, describes the book: "With courage, struggle, and triumph, these 25 fearless girls and women aren't just telling their own stories. They're telling the story of a world that was always possible and is now bursting into being. The message in Rachel Sarah's book is clear: You, yes you, have a story worth telling and it is revolutionary."
I wrote this book during a time of despair as we all went into lockdown during the pandemic, yet just as I was finalizing the last edits, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the election and brought a new sense of hope, so I jumped back in to revise my introduction to include our hopeful future.
I'm so grateful to all of the activists in this book for sharing their hopes and their struggles, for trusting me.
You recently announced another book about contemporary women solving the climate crisis. Tell us about that book.
I'm overjoyed to be writing another book for my editor Kara Rota at Chicago Review Press. Building onto Girl Warriors, this book for young adult readers (ages 12-17) will be part of the Women of Power Series.
Part narrative nonfiction, part climate science, part environmental activism, and all-parts empowering, I'm currently interviewing 15 climate scientists, academics, researchers, and policy makers from around the world, including women who draft climate policies, lead nonprofits to protect the environment, and run science labs. I'm so inspired!
Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?
Long and winding for sure. My first book was a memoir (for adults!) about trying to date again as a single mom. When I was pregnant with my second daughter, I felt pulled to write for younger readers. The transition was a big change and took longer than I would've anticipated. I am so grateful to all of my writing friends who've been in the trenches with me over the years and have supported me. I've worked hard and persistently to get where I am today.
Oh, I'm so grateful for the recent Kirkus starred review for Girl Warriors: "Engaging, brilliant, and intersectional: a must for shelves everywhere."
What other projects are you working on?
I'm currently writing a contemporary YA love story that's set during the climate crisis. It's loosely drawn from my own life as a teen and I'm currently in the midst of some deep revising.
What are the one or two best things you did for you career? Would you give this advice to aspiring authors?
If I could tell my younger self anything, it would be:
"Believe in your future self."
I have a postcard above my desk that says exactly this.
Other practices that I've learned over the years are:
Surround yourself with people who support you and lift you up. (This might not be your family of origin.) Writing takes so much perseverance, so having people on your team who love you means everything.
Also, remember to have joyful discipline. (Thanks to Nina LaCour for this one.)
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
I'm a former (and proud!) band geek who plays the alto saxophone.
At the end of 2020, our family had a holiday party, so I got to play "Georgia on My Mind" via Zoom to about 50 of our friends. It was just before the Georgia election runoffs with Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock, so I was thrilled to send some positive energy their way.
Where can people find you online?
And here's my website http://www.rachelsarah.com/
Rachel Sarah is a writer and journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her writing has been published in places like the Washington Post and POPSUGAR. She shifted the focus of her writing to the climate during the devastating California wildfires of 2018. She's also the mother of two incredible daughters who are twelve years apart.
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