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HOMER HICKAM QUARTERLY NEWSLETTER
Winter '01 Issue
Since I last wrote you, the world has been fundamentally changed by the atrocities of September 11, 2001. History has been written before our eyes. I think it's been a time of inspiration and courage. I am so proud of the men and women of our armed services who are willing to fight for the rest of us so that we might continue to live in freedom. I'm also proud of the police and fire departments in New York City and across the country who have responded so magnificently and often with great sacrifice. Your letters and e-mails have continued unabated, filled with tales of your own courage and perseverance. You've inspired me, enough so that I agreed to write another book in short order, this one titled We Are Not Afraid. But more on that below. For now, let me just say I continue to have the nicest, most intelligent fans of any author writing in the United States today!
THIS WRITER'S LIFE:
In September, Linda and I decided to get away to one of our favorite places in the world, St. John, United States Virgin Islands. We spent a wonderful four days there, September 7-10. On September 11, we were on our way to the airport in St. Thomas (you catch a ferry from tiny St. John to get to the big island) when we were told of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The airport was closed so we went back to our lodgings to watch on television the terrible events unfolding. For four days, we waited until we could catch a flight home. Some people have said how nice it was that at least we were stuck in a beautiful place but the truth was, we couldn't enjoy it. We just wanted to get home. The one wonderful thing was to observe all the American flags that suddenly sprouted on nearly every house on St. John. When we finally got home, my publisher wanted to know if I wanted to cancel my book tour. I told them that there was no way I was going to cancel. I even got on an airplane and flew to New York City to reemphasize directly with them my intention to go out and see my fans. I found New York to be the bravest place I'd seen in a very long time. The people were wonderful, going about their lives with courage. I was so proud to be with them at that moment. Soon after my return from New York, the Sky of Stone book tour began.
The first stop was in my hometown of Coalwood, West Virginia, at the third annual "October Sky Festival". It was a wonderful day. Roy Lee, Billy, and O'Dell of the Rocket Boys showed up along with Ginger the Rocket Girl, and a bunch of the real people I've written about in Rocket Boys (October Sky), The Coalwood Way, and Sky of Stone. I signed nearly a thousand copies of Sky of Stone for fans in Coalwood! Visitors came from around the country to participate in the festival and get their books autographed. The people of Coalwood love to have visitors. It looks like there might be a good chance that part of Coalwood is going to be turned into a state park next year. I hope so since I'm worried about the long-term survival of the Club House (where I lived during the summer of Sky of Stone), the machine shops (where the rockets of the Big Creek Missile Agency were built), and other town structures. Cape Coalwood, our old rocket range, has been completely rebuilt by Coalwood citizens and turned into a beautiful little mountain park.
My next stop on the Sky of Stone book tour was in Boise, Idaho, (a great town). After that, I visited the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville, TN. There, I gave a little speech which was taped by C-SPAN. I sensed that my audience wanted to hear more than about the new book so I started talking about the wisdom of Coalwood and some of the attitudes of its people, attitudes such as We are proud of who we are; We stand up for what we believe; and We are not afraid. It was so well received that it was suggested that maybe I should write a book based on those attitudes of strength and courage. I said I would give it thought and continued the tour, going to Atlanta, Memphis, Jackson (TN), Louisville, Lexington (KY), Dayton, New York City (92nd Street Y), Chicago, Salt Lake City, Huntsville (AL), Knoxville, and a swing through West Virginia followed by a return engagement in Nashville. We ended the tour with a trip to the Kentucky Book Festival. I would like to thank all the fans who came out for the book-signings. You're wonderful and I sure do appreciate seeing you out there.
With the book tour completed, I was looking forward to a couple of months of relaxation before getting going on the new book, presently titled The Keeper's Son, a novel about people who lived on the fabled Outer Banks of North Carolina during the time of the bloody World War II battles against the U-boats there. But it was not to be. In late October, I inked a contract with Health Communications, Inc. (the wonderful publisher that gave us the Chicken Soup for the Soul series) to write a book titled We Are Not Afraid, based on the speech I gave in Nashville. I had one month to write it and so got cracking. I've just completed it and I have to say I'm proud of the results. It's a book that can provide a model to follow in this post-Sept. 11 era. It tells of the wisdom of the people who built Coalwood, the town that inspired October Sky. It should be out on February 1, 2002. That means yet another book tour! But that's all right. This is a book that I feel our nation needs. It is filled with wisdom, not my own but that of the bravest people I've ever known, the coal miners and their families of my old home town.
Linda and I hope you and yours will have a wonderful holiday season. We're busy decorating the house (or at least Linda is) even as I write. Friends and family will be stopping by and we'll toast the coming new year, a year that I think will be a great one. To be a great nation, a nation has to do great things. It seems to me in fighting this war against the terrorists, we're doing a great thing. I'm just glad that I can do my part, even if it's only cheering the troops on and providing a little inspiration now and again.