Get To Know Sandra Markle--Sarasota Herald Tribune
Inspiration for writer Sandra Markle comes from her life experiences, current events and natural curiosity about science, nature and the world around us.
From kernels of ideas, she polishes her poetic prose, pitches her work to a stable of publishers and, in collaboration with artists and photographs, releases several books a year. She has about 200 children's book titles to her credit.
Sandra took her university's flag with her to the South Pole.
Her life has taken her to the South Pole, where she met her husband, Skip, and they were the third couple to marry there. She starred as “Ms. Whiz,” doing science projects on an Atlanta TV show, and has earned numerous national awards for her books.
Recognize the series “What if You Had Animal Teeth,” or hair or feet? That's Markle's work. She tells true stories about animal heroes, like the guide dog Roselle, who saved owner Michael Hingson in the World Trade Center terrorist attacks. “The Great Monkey Rescue” is about people who are trying to save the golden lion tamarin monkeys from extinction. A health series includes books on leukemia, hearts and eyes.
“I love telling those kinds of stories,” Markle said.
Markle calls her work “faction,” marrying scientific facts with a fictional story to engage young readers.
“Part of what I want to do with my books is to inspire people, especially young women, to discover science as a career,” she said.
The former junior high science teacher with an education degree from Bowling Green State University took a leap of faith years ago that she could succeed in a writing career. She still hones her craft as a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators-Florida critique group. They call themselves the Skyway Writers because some live in Sarasota and others are from St. Petersburg.
Member Rob Sanders, who also is a children's book author, teaches fourth grade at Mintz Elementary, a Title I school in Brandon. For the recent Great American Teach-In, he said he begged another author, Dianne Ochiltree, of Sarasota, and Markle to talk to the students, for free, and they agreed.
“All of the fourth-graders, about 150 of them, went to hear her speak in the media center,” Sanders said. “They were just in awe of the science things in particular. She calls it science magic.”
Markle relied on her experiences as Ms. Whiz, doing simple science experiments and recruiting a few of the students to assist her.
“I always blow things up,” she said, smiling.
They saw spores from ferns explode when tossed into a candle flame and a ping-pong ball suspended in air with the help of a blow dryer, just simple stuff, Markle said.
“She made it real for them,” Sanders said.
He said the experience gave the students a chance to see a nonfiction writer from a different perspective, and they learned how she uses research. Some of Markle's books were featured in the school's Scholastic Book Fair, and several of her titles already were on teachers' shelves.
“To me, it's stealth learning,” Markle said. “I sneak the information in there.”
After living in New Zealand for 14 years, Markle and her husband decided two and a half years ago to return to the United States, selecting the Sarasota area. The home they had built in Lakewood Ranch features her original paintings throughout. They have a blended family; each has an adult son and daughter, and there are three grandchildren.
From a favorite couch in her writing room, with her feet propped up on an ottoman, Markle fires up her laptop, using the mornings as her creative writing time and the afternoons to focus on revisions, interview book subjects and answer correspondence from collaborators, children and teachers. Maine coon cat Beau is often by her side.
Markle offers free learning activities that adults can use with children at sandra-markle.blogspot.com. She makes appearances at schools and also visits faraway places via Skype. Her books are available in a number of languages, including Chinese, Korean, German, Finnish and Afrikaans.
She has no intentions to quit anytime soon. There are too many ideas waiting to become stories. Six books are currently under contract and are in various stages of completion.
“I tell people that I get tired, but I don't want to be retired,” she said.
— Christi Womack covers Manatee County for the Herald-Tribune.