Friday, February 12, 2010

SKYSCRAPER--R.I.P


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…

Skyscraper
2004-2010

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.

SKYSCRAPER
R.I.P.

10 comments:

Linda Zajac said...

What is interesting to me is that you made the comment about skyscrapers being "tall enough to touch the sky." The last photograph reminds me of the crude wing of one of the first airplanes. I really like that photograph--the action, the simplicity, the color. Great shot.

Melissa Stewart said...

I'm sorry to hear the book is going OP. It was a fun one. My nephew loved it.

David Elliott said...

Skyscraper: Out of Print

SpongeBob Takes a Leak: A billion sold.

I feel like crying.

matt jacob said...

This is a terrific book with great teaching potential. It is an abject shame that it is going out of print. Be nice if bean counters stopped making editorial decisions but that's obviously asking way too much.

Shame on them.

Gretchen Woelfle said...

What great experiences for you in writing it, and for kids in reading it. Can you get the rights back and print on demand?

Vicki Cobb said...

I know how you feel, Susan. I, too wrote about the construction of a skyscraper. My book was called Skyscrapter Going Up! and I chronicaled the building of the Equitable Tower in NYC. Mine was an interactive pop-up book so I was involved with the paper engineering as well as the text. Alas, it, too is op. However, I've seen copies on E-Bay for $99. It has become a collectible! Of course, I don't get any revenue from it.

Susan E. Goodman said...

Thanks for your condolences everyone. And Vickie, I feel your pain! Gretchen, we are going to try to get our rights back--to what end, I'm not sure yet. Hey Linda, that last photograph is one of my favorites. I have a big copy of it hanging in my office--along with my hard hat.

Harold Underdown said...

This isn't just a story about beancounters and inventory decisions. It's a story about the continued slow decline of the library market. Keeping the backlist alive is harder when the bookstore market is more and more the place publishers have to sell. So I blame politics. If publishers could account for inventory like they used to, and if libraries were healthy, decisions like this wouldn't be made.

Susan E. Goodman said...

Harold--I wasn't blaming the publisher when I wrote this. I absolutely agree with you, the "cause of death" for this patient is a combination and complication of illnesses!

ann malaspina said...

I recently visited the Skyscraper Museum in Manhattan, and your book would be a great addition to the slim number of children's books in the museum shop. Maybe you can find another publisher to re-release it!