Monday, January 25, 2010

Back in orbit

Perhaps because I am finishing a novel I started five years ago, I found myself jumping back into the opening chapters of a memoir I finished just before starting the novel. The memoir is the reason I started this blog, on the advice of my agent, who thought a blog would be a great platform for building an audience for Rocket Lessons, the story of growing up with the bipolar rocket scientist.

After my father's death a few months ago, I found myself back in orbit around those days in the 1950s, when the rocket cowboys were blowing up missiles on test stands almost as fast as they could light cigarettes, in an effort to catch up with the Russians after the launch of Sputnik. My dad blew up quite a few rockets, and even managed to hit Cuba with one stage of a missile's miscalculated trajectory, nearly igniting a war until the State Department did a lot of fast explaining. It's a testament to the desperation of America to beat the Reds into outer space and nuclear superiority that he didn't lose his job over that one.

Being a rocket kid -- my name really is on a piece of space junk still floating up there -- conferred a special feeling of being in the avante garde and a love for technology I'll never lose. We got all this cool stuff like computers, the Internet, iPods, Facebook, as the fallout from the space program (pun intended). Without the space program, we wouldn't have developed any of it, and wouldn't remain the leader in technological innovation.

I'm thinking that after having revised Rocket Lessons at least fifteen times, nearly sold it to several big New York publishers, then stashed it in the trunk to be my "second book," it's time to get back into orbit with memories of the early space era and growing up on the beaches of southern California. The world has changed, publishing has changed, and five or six years in space time is a lifetime. Who knows what might be possible now?

What's in your trunk? What do you have that's never been quite finished (or sold) to your satisfaction?


  1. Anonymous10:15 PM

    Please publish this!

  2. Thanks for that request. I made the rounds of the New York houses, but haven't tried smaller presses yet. I want to revise (this must be about the 14th time!) again once before sending it out. But I promise to give it a good try, once I have it in shape. I'm happy to know it interests you. They were quite some days, those rocket days. I'll never forget the sight of my first computer, at Space Technology Laboratories. It filled two rooms and had less computing power than my phone, according to my dad.

  3. Back In Orbit -- what do you think of that as a book title?

    I really never liked Rocket Lessons that much, and my agent wasn't crazy about it either, but we couldn't find anything we liked better.

    I'm taking votes on Back In Orbit.

  4. Renee Oleari5:13 PM

    I seriously like the title Rocket Lessons. I think because my grandfather was somewhat of a "Rocket Scientist" (at least an engineer) - so it more or less speaks to (my) generation (and also baby boomers) who might have used the phrase "it is not rocket science "