Book Review – Race for the Sky by Dan Gutman

After years of planning and experimenting, Wilber and Orville Wright finally got the powered Wright Flyer off the ground on December 17, 1903. Look where we are one hundred and thirteen years later. According to Wikipedia, in 2016, an average of ninety three thousand commercial flights originate from nine thousand airports daily. And Boeing has a 787 Dreamliner which seats up to 335 passengers.

Race for the Sky is told to us through the diaries of fourteen year old Johnny Moore, a kid who lived in Kill Devil Hills at the turn of the twentieth century. He watched the Wright brothers create the Wright Flyer and he wrote about it in a journal that his mom gave him.

As a pilot myself, I love to read books about aviation. I visited Kill Devil Hills with my aunt and saw the place where powered flight began. I love going to the places where these things actually take place and imagine how it really happened. Reading this book added to my knowledge of Wright Brothers and how the Flyer took flight that day.

 

race-for-the-sky

 

Selma’s Book Review

Book Title

Race for the Sky

Author

Dan Gutman

Type of Book

Middle Grade Fiction

Background

The book was published November 1, 2003 just in time for the one hundredth anniversary of the first flight.

Summary of the story

Fourteen year old Johnny Moore is given a journal as a gift from his mom to ring in the new century (1900). She said he didn’t have to go school if he wrote in this book every day. At that time, it wasn’t uncommon for kids to not go to school. They would stay home and help with things around the house or go to work and earn money for their families. While he did fish to earn some money, Johnny wound up getting his education in a little different way, he spent time watching the Wright Brothers build the Wright Flyer.

The Wrights weren’t the only ones trying to build an airplane. The race to put a flying machine into the sky was being attempted by men all over the world. The Wrights even had visitors come to see what they were doing. Some were truly curious, but others acted as spies and were trying to steal ideas so they could be the first to built one.

Reactions to the book

Just like Dear Mr. Henshaw, this book is written in epistolary style, from the main character Johnny Moore’s point of view through the use of his personal diary. This style makes the story more personal by showing how Johnny feels and what happened through his eyes. I really enjoy that for middle grade reads.

Gutman does a great job of writing an engaging novel to describe one of the great moments in history. Reading stories like these are a fun way for kids to learn about these significant historical events. Having been to the site and reading this book brings the significance of the event full circle for me. I would definitely recommend this book.

To find out a little more information about the author, Dan Gutman, here is a link to his website Dan Gutman’s website

If you are interested in purchasing the book, here is the link to it on Amazon Race for the Sky

 

A Girl writes Mentoring a Dream

Happy Father’s Day to all of those special men in your world. I hope they got treated to the special day they deserve for all they do for us.

Along with working on this blog, I enjoyed the day with the fathers that mean the most to me yesterday. They are some of the most supportive people in my writing journey. Watching how they raised and are raising their kids has provided inspiration in my writing about kids and families.

In my first blog post this month, I mentioned the foundations of my first WIP Mentoring a Dream. When I think back to that Memorial Day weekend twenty-two years ago, I remember the drive I made on a cloudy day to get to Duluth, Minnesota. I had no plan other than getting out of town for the weekend. I was going to let the agenda create itself. All I really knew is that I was going to stay at a Bed and Breakfast, something I had always wanted to do.

Going away that weekend was my chance to think about what was important to me. My job and my life were both at a plateau and I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do. At the time, I worked for a college that included flight training as part of its curriculum. Through that part of the college, we offered kids programs to promote flying as a career. In my writing that weekend, I realized I wanted to be a part of that program and share the passion that I have for flying with them.

I really enjoy being around kids. It is fun to see what they are thinking. While I was growing up, I wanted to be a teacher. I was turned away from it while I was in college because there were a surplus of teachers and no jobs available. I wound up getting an accounting degree and worked in a private college’s accounting department for years.

After I got back from my weekend, I wrote a short story about my experiences. That short story wound up jump starting my passion for creative writing again and made me want to write more. That was my inspiration to start the rough draft of what would become Mentoring a Dream.

Mentoring A Dream is an appropriate title for my first WIP. The story is about a woman who mentors a young girl in the world of aviation and ultimately learns something about herself along the way. Writing this manuscript helped me to realize my passion to help others get where they want to be. Finding ourselves through writing is a very common thing that happens. It is just another part of the Writing Journey.

Not only do I find passion in helping others, I am a natural problem solver. I use my creative thinking to find a way to make things happen. I see in myself as a person who wants others to be happy and I do everything in my power to help people get there, sometimes putting my own goals aside to make things happen for them. But the one thing that I need to remember is that I have quite a few of my own dreams to make happen. They are important too.

This year, with a little urging from Sam, I’m on the brink of making one of my dreams come true. With my constantly putting my dreams aside, it took me a long time to get to this point. As I am getting ready to work on the edits of my first to be published WIP, The Hard Way, I remember back to the day that I started this draft that I’m getting ready to edit. And now I’m taking the steps to get it published almost three and a half years later. Sometimes things happen when they are supposed to and they have to be waited for. I work really hard and do all the right things. Sometimes I think that will be enough for me to just get what I want when I want it. Not always the case.

It’s very exciting to see other authors that I have been getting to know in social media groups do the things that I want to do with my writing. I’ve been adding their books to my Goodreads list so I can start enjoying them as well. It is good motivation to keep working and get my project done, but it can also make the waiting even tougher. Now I understand the path they followed to get there. It can be a long one.

My hope for the books I write is that they make an impression on the younger reader. Not only for enjoyment of the book, but to help them make the hard life changing decisions they may face. Sometimes kids need to get information on their own and not be influenced by other kids their age that may not be making the best decisions. What a better way to do it than read it in a book with a character that they can relate to? I hope that the trilogy I’m currently writing for middle grade readers will do just that very thing.

Maybe one day Mentoring a Dream will come off of the shelf, be edited, and published. For now, it will remain the inspiration for my about to be published middle grade novel. There are many fond memories attached to it, but it will always be my first completed rough draft. And my first step in my dream to publish a novel.

Writing Prompt #2

Snow White

Research for writing projects can become an interesting learning experience. Just like the act of looking something up on Wikipedia can turn into a two hour long journey starting with bears and winding up reading about Alaskan Explorers.

We are all familiar with the Disney movie, Snow White. I remember pulling the VCR tape out of the white box with her picture on the front. I wasn’t aware that it started off as a written story modified into a fairy tale, then into a Broadway Play and then into a black and white silent film before it even became the movie that I loved as a kid.

So, when I started looking into Snow White a little deeper, here are some of the interesting historical facts that came up. According to Wikipedia,

  • The original story of Snow White was published 1812 but the Grimms revision to make it more of a fairy tale came along in 1854.
  • The Broadway Play debuted on October 31, 1912 at Little Theater. Marguarite Clark played Snow White.
  • The seven dwarves were originally called Blick, Flick, Glick, Snick, Plick, Whick, and Quee, who was the youngest boy with a thievery issue.

When the story hit Broadway, Snow White was played by Marquarite Clark, an American stage and silent film actress, who made her Broadway debut in 1900, but her lead role in Snow White ultimately defined her persona as an actress. The first film version of Snow White was released December 25, 1916 as an American silent romantic fantasy. Walt Disney was fifteen when he saw the Broadway show in his hometown, Kansas City, and made it the subject of his first feature length animated film in 1937.

Digging a little bit deeper into the subject, I started looking at Clark’s personal life outside of the movie industry. She married Harry Palmerston Williams on August 15, 1918. Once I started on this path, I found out that not only was her life and career interesting, so was her husband’s. After closing a lumber company he had owned, he was looking for other interests to pursue. First it was fast boats, and then it was airplanes. He was prompted by Lindbergh’s solo flight across the Atlantic to buy a Ryan Monoplane from Jimmy Wedell, who he wound up going into the aviation business with.

Her husband’s company built air racers along with other aviation enterprises.  Her last film in 1921 was called Scrambled Wives, a silent comedy film which she took part in directing. After which she retired to her husband’s plantation.When her husband died in a plane crash on May 19, 1936, she became the sole owner of Wendell-Williams Air Service Corporation. Ironically, the other owners of the company had died in plane crashes before Harry. She wound up selling the company in 1937. The assets from the commercial airline piece of the company (the New Orleans to Houston air routes) wound up being the founding pieces of what would eventually become Eastern Airlines.

She died in 1940 at the Leroy Sanitorium of pneumonia.

Wow! And their story is a part of the Eastern Airlines story. Never knew that there was a connection between Snow White and an airline did you? Funny how life works out.

I’m trying to remember how the research got started about Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in the first place. Was is on purpose? Or was it something I stumbled upon while looking into some other topic? Whatever the reason, it ended up netting me some great information to start writing about. As I look back at my notes, the Snow White information that I stumbled onto was originally going to become some additional family history for Mrs. Stockton, a character I have written stories about in a previous blog. She was the main character in an episode story that I created in July and August of 2014. That blog story became the inspiration for a short story that I wrote called  Mrs. Stockton’s Journey

The rough draft I started with those notes, talks about Shirley Stockton and her Grandmother’s love of Snow White. Her Grandmother had gone to New York City to see Clark at the Little Theater in 1912. At that show, she received a Snow White figurine from her mother.This figurine was handed down through the family and now sat on a shelf in the office in Mrs. Stockton’s house. She had placed it next to a picture of her Granddaughter Shelby when she had been Snow White for Halloween. She knew in her heart that Shelby would be the one to get the figurine when she passed away. With this draft, I even went so far as to figure out what years would work for my characters to be able to see the Broadway show for Shirley’s Grandma and the animated film for her Mom. The 1937 Disney Animated film was the one that she would have seen to make my timeline work for that part of the story.

On some other notes I found with with this same theme, I started a story about an elementary school English teacher, Mrs. Abbott. She was an older lady that lived outside of town. She was a cat lady who owned seven cats that she named after each of the seven dwarfs from Snow White. Mrs. Abbott named her cats after the original characters to stay true to the original story. She, like Mrs. Stockton’s Grandmother, had a love for Snow White and her class even made it her nickname.

Not all creative ideas are destined to take off into a story right away. Some of them just provide writing practice to see where the writer can take them with their current creative flow. And some of them will take on a life of their own at a later time and place. My writing mentor who passed away six years ago told me that sometimes the first manuscript that you write, never gets published. It winds up being a practice one for you to hone your craft with. It kind of shocked me when she said it. She saw the look if surprise that I must have had on my face and said,

“It isn’t a bad thing. It only helps you to become a better writer.”

I still have my first manuscript that my mentor refers to. It isn’t the one that I’m getting ready to have edited in a week. That one sits in a binder on my shelf with some good practice in it.

 

Black History Month 2016 – Bessie Coleman

What a journey it has been! When I came up with the idea to write about Black Americans for Black History Month, I thought that I would focus on those women who made a statement in history. I decided to let inspiration take me where it would and I wound up writing about all men so far. From the creator of Black History Month, to the first black fighter pilot, to a man that fought for the rights of blacks, women and the Irish, and finally to the first Black American to play baseball in the major leagues.

For the final week of Black History Month of 2016, I’m going to blog about Bessie Coleman. What was the inspiration this time? I thought back to what my original plan for the Black History Month 2016 blog was and started researching. My interest in aviation drew me to looking at women pilots. When I started reading about Bessie Coleman, I found out there are many similarities between her and Eugene Bullard’s experiences in life and in Aviation. Then I was even more intrigued. Bullard was the first black fighter pilot that I blogged about earlier this month. Coleman and Bullard both broke through the color line, Bullard as a fighter pilot and Coleman as a woman barnstorming pilot. They both were forced to go to France to escape from the discrimination here in the US to do what they wanted to do, Bullard to make a life for himself in a place where he would be respected. Coleman went there to learn how to fly which gave her the tools to pursue her three life goals.

According to AvStop.com, Bessie Coleman was born on January 26, 1892, the 12th of 13 children. Her father, being part Indian, moved back to the Indian territory when Bessie was only seven, leaving her Mom to raise four daughters and a son. To support the family, her Mom picked cotton and took in laundry. The children all helped out and their mom encouraged them to learn as much as they could. Bessie would pick out books from the traveling library to read to her family in the evenings. This is where her quest for knowledge had begun.

Bessie finished high school and attended one semester of college before she had to drop out due to lack of finances. She moved back home for a short stint then headed to Chicago. She had a hard time finding a flight school in the United States that would teach a black person how to fly, much less a woman. So, she did some odd jobs to earn money for a trip to France, where they would teach her.

Part of her drive to fly was due to something her brother had told her. He said that there were many French women already flying planes, and because of her gender and race, she would never be allowed to fly. She eventually earned the money and took French lessons before heading over to France to learn how to fly in a Nieuport Biplane. While in France, Bullard enlisted in the French Foreign Legion. Upon his recovery from being seriously wounded in battle, he volunteered for the French Air Service and received pilot’s license #6950 on May 5, 1917. Bessie proved her brother wrong when she returned to the United States in 1921 as the first black woman pilot to earn a license.

After attaining goal number one, she would now be chasing goal number two, to become a recognized stunt and exhibition flier. Barnstorming was popular in the Roaring ’20s and was the main avenue for women pilots to pursue. It was a form of entertainment where stunt pilots performed aerial tricks. Some of these pilots went from airshow to airshow performing tricks and giving airplane rides to make a living. Again, since no one in the US would teach her the advance skills needed to be a stunt pilot, she went back to France in February of 1922 to complete the advanced flying course. Shortly after she got the training needed, she came back to the US and during Labor Day weekend in 1922 she made her first appearance in an airshow.

Her third goal was to establish a flying school where young black Americans could receive training. She started raising the funds by doing lectures and flying in airshows. In a letter to her sister, Bessie said that she was on the threshold of making this goal a reality too. But, on April 30, 1926 the day before an airshow she was going to fly in, Bessie and her mechanic, William Willis, went to do a test flight. William had some concerns while he flew the plane from Texas to Florida for the show and wanted to check things out. While doing an aerial maneuver, a wrench got caught in the flight controls, which caused it to roll and toss Bessie out of the airplane. Her mechanic was also killed when the plane subsequently crashed into the ground. Due to her death, she would not realize her final goal.

She achieved some things that most people at the time wouldn’t have been able to. Add into the equation that she was a black woman, made what she did even more remarkable. Through her accomplishments, she also became a positive role model for young girls. Her perserverance in battling discrimination helped to pave the way for other woman pilots to achieve their dream to fly, whether they were black or not.

Blogging in honor of Black History Month this year has opened my eyes to the different battles that many blacks had to fight to get where they wanted to be in life. Many people have fought against discrimination to achieve their goals when they are living in a country where they are a minority. Our country’s history seems to have made that achieving more for yourself harder on some, just because they are different.

With all of the different people in this country, we have the ability and resources to do some amazing things. We just need to support and respect each other, regardless of the color of our skin or the language that we speak.