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.

Contact info:

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Feb. 24, 2016

Advance Copy

For this column, NASW book editor Lynne Lamberg asks NASW authors to tell how they came up with the idea for their book, developed a proposal, found an agent and publisher, funded and conducted research, and put the book together. She also asks what they wish they had known before they began working on their book, what they might do differently the next time, and what tips they can offer aspiring authors. She then edits the A part of that Q&A to produce the author reports you see here.

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