Saturday, September 30, 2006

365 Starry Nights

A long, long time ago, in the late-1970s, when my family was living close to the edge, I said to my spouse one evening, half in jest, "I'm not going to sleep until I figure out a way to make $10,000." At that time, $10,000 seemed a fabulous fortune.

Sometime after midnight, I dreamed up the idea of a book called 365 Starry Nights, which I would write and illustrate, with a little astronomy lesson for every day of the year.

I did up a month's worth of words and sketches -- January -- and sent it off to a dozen publishers. And waited. And waited. And waited.

More than a year passed with not a peep from anyone. Then out of the blue (or the black) an editor at Prentice-Hall said she wanted to publish the book (bless her for that and for much that followed, thank you, Mary). The book is still in print and made considerably more than $10,000.

It did not have an index, and over the years several people undertook to index the book for their own use, most recently Dan Schroeder, a physicist at Weber State University in Utah. With Dan's kind permission, readers of this blog who own the book can access his index here. Thanks, Dan.

365 Starry Nights had two younger siblings in the same illustrated format -- Crust of the Earth: An Armchair Traveler's Guide To the New Geology, and Biography of a Planet: Geology, Astronomy and the Evolution of Life on Earth -- which had, alas, a brief shelf life.