Clambering up volcanoes, riding elephants through the jungles of Nepal, diving for scallops, and crawling into sinkholes: it’s all in the fun of researching nonfiction for Florida author Sandra Friend. With explorer Henry Hudson as an ancestor and the blood of Lappi reindeer herders in her veins, Sandra can’t help but travel, be it to every small town in her beloved home state or to the distant corners of the globe.
Sandra wrote and illustrated her first book, Morton and the Big Surprise, when she was only eight years old, and continued into a school career as newsletter editor and member of the yearbook staff, while getting short pieces published in the local newspaper. During her 15-year career in information systems, she kept wielding a pen as corporate newsletter editor and with technical writing. But in 1997, Sandra returned to her roots, took a course in writing for children (thank you, Nancy Alberts!), and started to write Sunday features on outdoor recreation and local history for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Hanging out with members of the Western Pennsylvania SCBWI (thank you too, Pat & Dick Easton!), she discovered critique groups and began to formulate her first ideas for real childrens books. With the helpful mentoring of nonfiction author Dr. Fred Bortz, she explored her areas of interest and found fun stuff to write about, including minerals and sinkholes.
Returning to Florida, Sandra expanded on her award-winning series of children’s science books, Exploring Planet Earth (Twenty First Century Books) and took on a book contract that drew deeply on her love of the outdoors. The 50 Hikes series (Countryman Press) required nearly 1,000 miles of hiking throughout Florida, pushing a measuring wheel and taking photos and notes every step of the way! On the heels of this project came Along the Florida Trail and The Florida Trail: The Official Hiking Guide, with another 800 miles of backpacking and day hiking to sample enough of this 1,400-mile statewide resource to write authoritatively about it. While serving as the volunteer editor for the statewide newsletter of the Florida Trail Association, Sandra was offered a position with the organization and served as Communications Director for five years, managing public relations, publications, and the website. In 2004, she was appointed to the Nature-based Tourism committee for VISIT FLORIDA, the state tourism marketing board, and served to provide industry input to shape tourism products for the next several years.
Sandra is an active member of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association as well as the Society of American Travel Writers, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and the Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators. She has served as a past board member of FOWA, vice-chair of the Atlantic-Caribbean Chapter of SATW, and as Director of the SATW Institute for Travel Writing and Photography.
Sandra now serves on the Board of Directors of the Society of American Travel Writers as Chair of the Freelance Council, representing freelance travel journalists. She is also on the Board of Directors of the Friends of Florida State Parks.
With more than 3,000 miles of hiking in the state of Florida on her feet since 1999, Sandra is Florida’s expert on hiking trails, having hiked in every county from Escambia to Monroe. She lives in Sanford, FL.