I teach at Lesley University’s low-residency MFA in Creative Writing Program (such a mouthful, I will end this sentence right there). And while I was last on campus, a colleague told me how much she enjoyed reading my book Skyscraper, which followed the building of a NY skyscraper from the ground up. More importantly, she told me how much her son loves it too. I enjoyed the compliment, but also the bitter irony of telling her that it was a few copies away from going out of print.
Books go out of print all the time: it’s something authors (most of us, anyway) have to get used to. But Skyscraper was a good one, a book I was quite proud of. So…
• Booklist’s Editor’s Choice 2004
• Booklist: One of the Top 10 Sci-Tech Books for Youth
• Book Links’ Lasting Connection 2004
“A soaring, stirring account.” --Kirkus Reviews
Skyscraper--here are some reasons I loved writing you:
1. Reading research is really fun, but it’s great knowing your subject up close and personal. For over three years, I walked amongst backhoes and dump trucks, climbed on the steel, watched countless workers construct the building’s innards, and eventually saw it take on a life of its own. As a regular visitor to its 678-foot summit, I had the most beautiful view of Manhattan you could imagine.
2. With this amount of time to ponder my subject, I had many insights about it. Lots of people probably had the same ones before me, but I still felt I had discovered something whenever I thought of them. Two that made it into the book: “Some artists paint and draw. Architects are artists who sculpt the city.” And, “Skyscrapers are tall. The fact that we can build them makes us feel tall—tall enough to touch the sky.”
3. I talked to everyone from the architect to the plumbers about their part in this truly collaborative project. I got and used some great quotations that showed their different their perspectives. A favorite: “My grandfather worked on the Empire State Building, and my dad built the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. I worked on the World Trade Center. Sometimes I look around and think, ‘Yup, we helped make this city.’” Mike Emerson, ironworker
4. Kids love statistics and I enjoyed figuring out how to imbue the huge numbers that accompany a skyscraper with meaning for them. It took me days to come up with the idea of converting the cubic feet of the basement/foundation into a giant swimming pool that would take over four and a half years to fill with a garden hose.
5. Maybe best of all, every time I got an email with an attachment from the wonderful photographer, Mike Doolittle, I knew I was in for a treat—jpgs of fabulous geometric forms of men and steel.