Melissa L. Sevigny: Under Desert Skies

Under Desert Skies cover

Cover: Under Desert Skies: How Tucson Mapped the Way to the Moon and Planets by Melissa L. Sevigny


Melissa L. Sevigny
University of Arizona Press, Feb 28, 2016, $19.95
ISBN-10: 1941451047
ISBN-13: 9781941451045

Sevigny reports:

I began collecting the research materials that turned into this book in the fall of 2006. I’d been hired by Michael Drake, then director of the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, to “capture the memories of old-timers before they’re gone,” as he put it. I was also working as an education specialist for the Phoenix Mars Scout Mission, which landed on Mars in 2008. Those dual roles gave me a behind-the-scene glimpse of planetary science and space exploration.

It wasn’t until Dr. Drake passed away in 2011 — after I’d moved to Iowa and was busy writing my second book — that I seriously considered seeking publication for Under Desert Skies. It was a relatively simple manuscript: a collection of stories drawn from more than 50 interviews with planetary scientists, which explained how Tucson became a leader in space exploration, and more broadly, how the upstart field of planetary science evolved and diverged from the well-established field of astronomy.

Melissa Sevigny

Melissa Sevigny

I knew the University of Arizona Press was the best fit. The timing was good: the press launched their new Sentinel Peak Series for books about the university, and received financial support from the College of Science and the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory for my manuscript. I’d made the decision early on to donate the author royalties to LPL, as a tribute to Dr. Drake and several others who passed away while I was writing, and a way to say thanks for their support, which made the book possible.

The peer review process was both harrowing and immensely helpful for shaping the final manuscript. The last major revisions were challenging, because I was now picking up the book after several years’ hiatus, and no longer living in Tucson with close access to the people and resources I needed. If I could go back and do something differently, I’d digitize all my hard-copy records from the start–time-consuming process that I ended up tackling on a short visit back to Tucson.

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February 24, 2016

Advance Copy

The path from idea to book may take myriad routes. The Advance Copy column, started in 2000 by NASW volunteer book editor Lynne Lamberg, features NASW authors telling the stories behind their books. Authors are asked to report how they got their idea, honed it into a proposal, found an agent and a publisher, funded and conducted their research, and organized their writing process. They also are asked to share what they wish they’d known when they started or would do differently next time, and what advice they can offer aspiring authors. Lamberg edits the authors’ answers to produce the Advance Copy reports.

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