Saturday, July 27, 2019

One Giant Leap

I'm doing a book signing today at an indie bookstore in downtown Lenoir, North Carolina, Tybrisa Books, and to garner a bit of interest, I offered a free copy of my Back on Earth: When Men First Landed on the Moon to the first person who tells me the secret password. When I was selecting the word, I wanted one that meant a lot to me. At first I thought of "one small step," but that seemed too used. Instead I went for "Giant Leap."
My own giant leap
The past few weeks have been giant whirlwinds for me, mostly connected to the Apollo Eleven moon landing. A feature article about my book was on the front page...FRONT PAGE!!!...of the Hickory Daily Record. I also made presentations to several groups. Unfortunately I missed the parade and fun and fireworks at the nearby Rhodhiss community where a textile mill produced the material for the flag that is still there on the moon. What a celebration they had! Their one small step of the process was important to the  American people and they earned those bragging rights.

Instead I was celebrating "Apollo at the Ball Park" in Atlanta, Georgia. Interesting thing about that, major league baseball had their own textile connections to Apollo Eleven's success, and they also bragged. I took these pictures at the Atlanta/Washington ball game on July 20, the very day of the anniversary of the moon landing.
I've been amazed at the contributions I've found of ordinary people fifty some years ago going about their daily work that ended up making history. I've also been amazed at the stories individuals told about where they were at the exact moment Neil Armstrong made his one small step statement.
We might not have been doing such giant leaps as a first major league home run, but we did have our own stories that we shared with this new generation. That was the whole purpose behind my writing this book. Have you shared your story? Have you listened to others as they shared their stories?

Catch of the day,


PS: I've been seeing rustlings about the fiftieth anniversary of Woodstock coming now and people's stories about that. I have none to tell except that I heard about it, but I probably couldn't write a children's picture book about that anyway.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

The Eagle Has Landed!

Those words, "The Eagle has landed," sends a chill up my spine even fifty years later. We knew back then how monumental this accomplishment was, and that feeling of pure pride has not diminished in the time since.

Wow! Just Wow! Men walked on the moon. Imagine that! We couldn't, not really. No nonbelievers will shake my faith. Not then, not now.
All week long I've watched programs about this event. I've read articles. I've learned so much that I could have put in the picture book. Or not. There is only so much room in a book designed to keep a young child's attention span from wandering. I think I reached that limit with what I chose to include.

I could have told the story about the textile mill near here that wove the material that was used for the flag on the moon. I interviewed the Rhodhiss town clerk so I could share the story with the fourth graders I met when I made author visits this spring. The town is having a huge celebration this evening to commemorate their small part in this grand step for mankind.

I learned from an article in Parade Magazine that because astronauts were in a high risk occupation, they could not purchase life insurance at a decent rate. Each of these three astronauts signed several cards in the case that anything happened and they could not return, their wives could sell the autographs for a tidy sum that would support them for years to come. Didn't happen, but just in case!

So much of a deal has been made this week of Apollo Eleven, that everyone might be on overload. I hope people from my generation have shared their own personal stories with today's children. That was the purpose behind my book, after all. For us to tell about those of us Back on Earth When Men First Landed on the Moon. It's on kindle, so it's not too late to share the wisdom.
In Friday's local newspaper, a tribute column by Brent Tomberlin included interesting facts about Apollo Eleven I had never heard before. One touched my heart. Someone placed a card on President John Kennedy's grave while the men were walking on the moon. It read "Mr. President, the Eagle has landed."


Just Wow to this whole week.

Catch of the day,


Friday, July 19, 2019

Dedicated to...

I've not had a problem with deciding the dedication of my books, Lessons Learned to the children and teachers who were connected to the school, and When Christmas Feels Like Home, to children who move, since main character Eduardo, had moved to a new country and a new life. Those decisions were no brainers. My other book dedications were to the individuals I wrote about. Again, no brainers. Those dedications were made before I wrote the first word.

Then I came to the dedication of my moon book, Back on Earth: When Men First Landed on the Moon. Who should receive the honor? The three Apollo Eleven astronauts? No, they've had plenty of accolades. What about NASA? No, although these workers were essential, they didn't match I wanted to get across to the reader.

I mulled proper names and common nouns over and over. Who am I really honoring in this picture book? The title suggests those of us back on earth, those of us in front of the television set biting our fingernails and squeezing our mother's hands. Those of us cheering. I wondered what were they thinking when they clapped.
What about those of us on the sidewalks looking into storefront television displays? I wondered why they took time to stop by the window and look in.
And then it hit me. What I really wanted to honor was those people back on earth who were awed about the whole concept of putting a man on the moon, those who sat on a bench and wondered what was going to happen, those who let their imaginations soar along with the Columbia.
But that was then. I wanted to include more. I wanted to pay homage to those children (and grownups) who wonder about what is next. Could a child reading my book become the grownup who one day walks on Mars? 

I wondered.

In the end, I dedicated this sliver of a picture book finding its place in the great cosmos, to cover past, present and future, all wrapped into one phrase. I lift my wine glass to you who wonder about space and about life. I honor your drive and your passion.

Dedicated to those who wonder.

Catch of the day,


Thursday, July 18, 2019

Counting down on Kindle, too!

The countdown to the fifty year anniversary of men first walking on the moon continues! I've seen an increasing amount of information about the Apollo Eleven moon mission the last few days. I've tasted the commemorative Krispy Kreme Donuts, the kind that you can't eat just one. I've eaten more than my fair share of moon pies this week. I've consumed a glass or two of Tang. Life is good five decades past the July 20, 1969 moon walk.

After many days of trial and error (mostly error) of trying to fit a square picture book into the oblong rectangle shape of kindle, I finally succeeded, at least I think I did. From all indications on my view options, things fit right in there once I selected the comic book format. This, my friends, is not a comic book, but call it that if you must, because it fit! This children's picture book is not a scientific report. It is an account of those of us back on earth watching, worrying, and cheering.
And there it is, with a completely redesigned cover showing "Liftoff! We have liftoff!" What the world needs now is a glimpse at the time when America was at its best.

Available now from amazon kindle. Back on Earth: When Men First Landed on the Moon.

Catch of the day,


Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Illustrated By...

Fifty years ago on the day after the rocket blasted off towards the moon, those of us back on earth went into a holding pattern. We waited and for little kids it was like waiting for Christmas in the middle of the summer. I feel like that now, after watching a day of Apollo Eleven features on the television set. We had liftoff on every channel, over and over and over. More hype is to come on Saturday when we watch Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the moon. Until then we wait.

Which gives me a chance to introduce the artist who illustrated Back on Earth: When Men First Landed on the Moon. Bobbie (Roberta to be exact) Gumbert.
Look at those fantastic medals hanging around her next. She earned them at this year's North Carolina Senior Games, one of them for the painting beside her.
I took this picture the day we sat down together with her Apollo Eleven artwork. I was blown away. She nailed it! And our book with her art is featured in today's edition of the Hickory Daily Record.
The reporter, Emily Willis, chose pages from the book to showcase.
Thank you Emily for your article. This is what good reporters do. And thank you Bobbie for interpreting my words so a child can better understand. That's what good illustrators do.

Catch of the day,


Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Liftoff! We Have Liftoff!

Fifty years ago today something magical started in action. . . liftoff of the Apollo Eleven mission to the moon. I wasn't anywhere near the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, but I can imagine. I've never felt the ground shake from a man-made monster such as this, but I can imagine. I've never heard the roar of Saturn V rocket engines, but I can imagine. Or maybe I can't, since this power was unimaginable to those of us merely watching on TV.
I can picture the crowds shading their eyes, watching from the distance. I can see the birds rousted from their nests as liftoff grew louder and louder and even louder.
We weren't just idle bystanders. We didn't say, "They are going to the moon." We said, "We are going to the moon." Big difference. We were caught up in the drama, in the possibilities, and deep inside, maybe in the fear that something could go wrong.

But it didn't, and now fifty years later we review and relive the experience. My heart still thumps extra hard just imagining.

Catch of the day,


Monday, July 15, 2019


The countdown is on! This is the week I have anticipated for well over a year, probably even longer since I wrote Back on Earth: When Men First Landed on the Moon five years ago. It's arrived! The fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo Eleven Moon Mission, in case you haven't noticed all the hype floating around the internet.
My homage to those who wonder
Maybe I have anticipated this for fifty years, because this book is me, or at least what I remember from this week of July, 1969. It also is partly what other people remembered about their experiences. My artist, Bobbie Gumbert, lined her youngsters up in front of the TV set and watched with them. 
The purpose of my book was to start the conversation between generations about this historical event. My wish is that the children of today realize what a monumental accomplishment going to the moon actually was. As I've watched flashbacks on television and read articles in newspapers and online, I've developed a deeper appreciation. Maybe because I'm older. Maybe because I so passionately want us to return to that moment of unity. Our American pride was at its best as all eyes were looking upward at three men racing away from earth. 

Spread the word. Fifty years ago, we accomplished the impossible. If we can do that, we can do anything.

Catch of the day,


Monday, July 1, 2019

Closer, Closer, Closer

Today I'm taking a page from my own book to say that July 20 and the Apollo Eleven moon landing fiftieth anniversary celebration is getting closer and closer and closer.

The "we" in this excerpt is those of here, back on earth, watching the action unfold above. And there we sat, glued to the ancient television set, waiting, waiting, waiting.
There were many of us who had a personal connection to what was going on thousands of miles above our heads. One was Kristy Dempsey, a fellow children's author from the Carolinas. Along with illustrator Sarah Green, she relates the story of her father's contribution to the Apollo Eleven's success through the South Carolina textile mill that manufactured the space suit the astronauts wore. In her picture book, Papa Put a Man on the Moon, she pays homage to him in a most beautiful way. The artist shows what my artist shows in the picture above, watching the landing together. Kristy goes on to show commentator Walter Cronkite and his "Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy" exclamations. She captures our emotions that, awe, more than a tinge of fear, and most of all in her book, pride. Pride in what America accomplished. Pride in what her father accomplished. What a wonderful honor to her father and to all those thousands and thousands around the globe that had even a tiny bit part in this.

Catch of the day,