Monday, November 19, 2018

GUEST POST: "On Boogers and Barf" by Cara Bartek

I am good at a lot of things. Okay, maybe I think I am good at a lot of things. Inflated ego aside, being a writer means that I need to be good at one thing: communicating. And in the most eloquent words I can muster … good communication ain’t easy!

My goal as a writer is to communicate and connect with girls as they begin to undergo those mad, crazy changes during puberty. Puberty seems to be the “make or break” time in girls’ lives. In particular, this period of time has major effects on the way they perform in STEM subjects and how well they develop a sense of self-efficacy related to these fields. In other words, a girl’s experience between the ages of nine and 13 may have lifelong impacts on her academic performance, educational outcomes, and career choice. This is big stuff.

In the Serafina Loves Science! series, I have created a character who loves science. In fact, Serafina loves it so much that she uses it to navigate all the issues of her eleven-year-old life, like fitting in, dealing with parents divorcing, making and losing friends, and the pressure to achieve in school. The character Serafina is intended to connect with girls as they undergo similar situations. And to connect, I utilize one of the greatest tools in life: humor.

While we have established I may have a slightly inflated ego, I have to state one raw truth: I think I am funny. Like really funny. I laugh at my own jokes. Sometimes I snort at my own jokes. Sometimes I can see my husband or one of my daughters rolling their eyes as I guffaw and chuckle. But for the most part, I can make others laugh as well. Laughing and making others laugh is a great tool for me. It can make uncomfortable situations less tense. It can help ease the nervousness of meeting someone for the first time or of being in a bad situation, and can even help build relationships with other people.

Humor is the cornerstone of Serafina Loves Science! and this humor allows me to ease into science education. Yes, science can be completely boring and unpalatable. But why? In my experience it’s because it’s presented in an antiseptic fashion, a traditional educational dictate that kids think about science like a specimen — all theory, no application. With Serafina, I fashion her experiences to reflect hands-on-use of science. Not only that, I include the absurd: accidental chemical releases, spider invasions, student council candidates transforming into dinosaurs, and of course, boogers and barf.

Boogers and barf are great connectors between my humor as a writer and my middle school audience. And who doesn’t love a good fart joke? Let’s face it, lurking within all of us is a deep and abiding love for silliness.

Science can be boring. With Serafina Loves Science! I have made it exciting. My goal is to help more girls achieve in the STEM fields by creating a relatable character who achieves in STEM and does not apologize about that achievement. And if I can make a few fart jokes happen, then we all win!

Serafina Loves Science! is a middle grade fiction series that focuses on 11-year-old Serafina Sterling. Serafina is just like other kids who have to deal with issues like annoying older brothers, cliques at school, and parents who restrict her use of noxious chemicals. But she has a secret … Serafina loves science! Her passion for all things scientific helps her make new friends and figure out the old ones, understand her family, invent new devices for space travel, and appreciate the basic principles of the universe.

Cara Bartek, Ph.D. lives in Texas with her husband and two daughters. The Serafina Loves Science! series was inspired in part by her career path and in part by her two little girls. Her hope is to make this world a more equitable and opportune place for her daughters one silly story at a time. Visit

In Cosmic Conundrum, sixth grader Serafina Sterling finds herself accepted into the Ivy League of space adventures for commercial astronauts, where she’ll study with Jeronimo Musgrave, a famous and flamboyant scientist who brought jet-engine minivans to the suburbs. Unfortunately, Serafina also meets Ida Hammer, a 12-year-old superstar of science who has her own theorem, a Nobel-Prize-winning mother, impeccable fashion sense—and a million social media followers. Basically, she’s everything Serafina’s not. Or so Serafina thinks.

Even in an anti-gravity chamber, Serafina realizes surviving junior astronaut training will take more than just a thorough understanding of Newton’s Laws. She’ll have to conquer her fear of public speaking, stick to the rules, and overcome the antics of Ida. How will Serafina survive this cosmic conundrum?

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