I was born and raised in Coalwood West Virginia, a small mining town in the middle of the woods. My time there was precious as that's where I my dreams of launching a rocket into space with my friends began. I plan to tell my story in this book to show what it was like growing up in this time as well as having big dreams like my own.
-Homer H. Hickman Jr.
I must credit the childhood I had, in the small town of Coalwood, West Virginia, for somehow shaping me into a NASA engineer. Coalwood is a small mining town, where everyone basically knew everyone, each child for generations learned from the same teachers and most boys grew up to follow in their fathers' paths of being a miner. My story features how, and why, I didn't follow that same path; and how I grew up and gained independence in a town only known for being covered lightly in coal dust. With this memoir of my youth, I hope to not only recollect on my own life, but also on the lives of many others in my small mining town who all taught me some valuable lesson in one way or another.
With chapter one, I felt the need to begin with background information, the history of Coalwood and the history of my family, so readers can practically relive my childhood with me while I write this and they read it.
I wanted to start off my book by introducing important characters, building background and explaining the setting of my hometown. Since this is a memoir, I wanted to get to the part of my life where I started building rockets as soon as possible. What's better than starting of with inspiration, a spark of an idea, that where Sputnik came in. That night Sputnik flew over head, I feat overwhelmed with a sense of importance I can't wait to get my readers hooked.
As I write this memoir, the memories that come flashing back to me are as vivid as ever. Mom's rose garden, her fence being thrown into the sky, my brother doing his hair up in that ridiculous curl. I have not considered my childhood for a very long time, and the memories that do come back are clear, but some are foggy. As I continue to write this novel, I am sure that my life will come back, in better detail.
The Alpha III
I am writing this book in addition to a movie script with the intent of showing the childhood I had and the profound impact of things around me (and above me) had on my childhood.
I used the first chapter as a way to introduce the rest of the story. In a way I almost told the entire story though the first paragraph, with the actual interesting parts having to be explained later. It's almost like an elongated essay, with the first paragraph being the thesis, the first few chapters being the introduction and the rest being the body and conclusion.
I am starting off the book with a little introduction of my early life as a child. I am going to write about how life was in Coalwood and how my family was. I really hope that the reader will be able to understand everything that is going on because there are a lot of charactacters being introduced and very quickly so I hope that the reader can keep up with it. I believe this book is going be really great and that many people are going to want to read it. I really hope it comes out as good as I think it will.
I grew up in a small mining town called Coalwood. When I was younger I found an arrowhead with an engraving on it. This motivated me to get my three friends together and create a new Indian tribe called coalhicens. We would go around with a bow and made up arrows and target the single miners on their way home from work. We were even in the news paper!! I loved that town
Writing out this memoir in addition to writing this book has helped me reflect back on my life and my childhood. I hope through writing both the book and the movie script I will begin to see how the people and interactions changed my life. Both in positive and negative ways. My goal for this book is to show how teenagers lived in the 1950's, and how the time period was different than the one before. The cultural changes and the changes within my own small town of Coalwood.
Today, I finished chapter 2. This chapter is important for a few vital reasons. One of those being that it's my introduction to my high school years, meaning the beginning of the rest of my life. These years are where I started building rockets, and with that, building a future for myself. The specific day that everything changed for me was also introduced in these pages. October 5, 1957, when Sputnik reached space. The Russians beat us at a game we thought we had created and mastered. But for me, in my little hometown, I was finally awakened and I realized what I wanted to do with myself, though I didn't know it right away...
Today I relived my first ever rocket launch. As I wrote about the fateful experiment, I saw my mothers fence flying sky high, a colorful inferno. I remembered the blast that sent us to our feet, and the ringing in my ears that only subsided after I stopped thinking about it. I remember especially the talk my mother gave to me, outlining her dreams for me. In retrospect I can understand why she did that. Why she prized me above Jim, and why she wanted me to prove my father wrong. Once I stop to think about it, it all becomes clear. Maybe this book was a good idea after all.
I felt it only right to start a memoir off with something a little special, giving the audience the whole story right off the bat will induce the perfect amount of mystery and context to make anyone want to keep reading. Then I can add all the details that filled up my four years of life I spent in high school building rockets and forging my own story, with this my memoir will be spectacular.
The Alpha III
I'd like to explain the purpose of my first chapter. I'm using the first chapter as a way to introduce the rest of the story. I started by telling the reader what I learned but not how I learned it and how I applied it to my later life. I've also started alluding to other parts of the story like my mom's perspective on the coal mining industry and later my relationship with my brother.
In the next chapter I plan to introduce a very key part of the story, the launch of Sputnik and my career in amateur rocketry.
I wanted the audience to understand my role in the family and how I was somewhat unwanted. As I mentioned my father preferred Jim and my mother wanted a girl. This was an important part of my childhood because it pushed me to want to be successful, and prove them wrong. This is one reason why I wanted to build a rocket. Although I almost burnt my mothers fence to the ground, I wanted to make a successful rocket and make my father proud.
I have just finished writing about my brother and I. A lot of memories are coming back to me. I remember how we always used to fight with each other and then one time we really damaged each other badly. We tried so hard to make sure the our mom didn't notice. After that we never fought that badly again. I really hope the reader finds the parts about my brother interesting.
Writing this has caused a flood of memories to flow back to me from a time that I have long since grown up from, left behind, and forgotten. With this book I've been able to relive moments from my past. I wanted to include moments like Jim and I fighting to make my book more relatable and more real to readers, instead of just focusing on my path to science and building rockets. Including details about my family members enhances the entire mood and theme of the book. The contrast between the first and second chapters are stark- the first chapter set the basis and background for the entire book, introducing characters and describing Coalwood in detail. The second chapter is where I started to grow and learn following Sputnik. I hope readers noticed this difference and took it into consideration.
Now that I have gotten my childhood out of the way I can finally begin writing about the time I spent in High school. After looking back on my first year of high school all my memories came roaring in, from the time I sat next to Dorthy Plunk to when I launched my first rocket. I plan on reliving my experience in school with both the readers and with myself, each little story should be chosen carefully to fully embrace the reader into my life, and make it as if they are there with me. It is my goal to make this book both relate able and original as possible to make it impossible to put down.
I feel nostalgic when first writing this book. All the memories of my brother, Coalhicans, and flat pennies are coming back to me. Like how i used to put pennies beneath moving coal carts or how the Coalhicans fought against the cowboys. The upcoming part is going to be the time where i started to make rockets and how i became me today.
The Alpha III
I've gotten my introductory first chapter out of the way and now I've just started introducing my love for rocketry. I started by showing the Sputnik flyover and the profound effect it had on not only me but also my father and the other members of coalwood.
Next I'm going to start talking about my introduction to rocketry and my initial mishaps before I finally got a successful rocket.
I have discovered a great literary technique which serves to introduce setting and develop characters: I take the characters on a bus rode, and as they go I have them tell stories about their associations with the places they're passing. I'm new to writing, but I think this technique will be quite successful.
-Homer Hickam, Jr.
I have finally gotten accustomed to writing a book, and now it just seems as though I am writing my past..well...I am really. It is interesting to write about ones past, knowing how many will read it, though I am truly glad and willing to share it. I am also finding new information about myself as I am going along.
I have just finished my second chapter, and I am taking a lot about the roles that the family plays in the town, the roles within the family, and how this affects my family members and me. Talking about the Coal mining Industry, my small town, and the small minds within it. The fear of Russia triggered by Sputnik one.
I am looking forward to continuing this book.
Chapter three is a turning point because it's when I realized how much of a huge supporter my mother was in me. She was so extremely invested in my future, in trying to get me out of the little town that held no opportunities. There's some clear irony here, because I was so convinced I'd get a horrible punishment like usual, but for the first time she saw an opportunity to open up to me and express her feelings. This chapter puts my mother in a more vulnerable light, when she stresses how important it is for her children to have a future. I hope this makes readers wonder why this is so important to her. Perhaps it's because she regrets her life decisions to settle down in a tiny town that held no growth. Perhaps it is because she's watching her husband fall ill and run himself into the ground due to his job? These conflicts, the internal one inside of my mother, and then one between my mother and father, were very influential and important to me.
The Alpha III
I have just introduced the announcement of Sputnik's launch and eventual flyover to the reader and shown Sonny's confusion that football still takes precedence over such a concerning and revolutionary feat. I'm still perplexed to this day that football players can go out and play while in full padding and come back as national heroes. What about hitting each other in padding is heroic? Surely the scientists that build rockets and advance humanity can be regarded as heroes.
I have just finished writing about when my friends, neighbors, and I watched Sputnik fly across the sky. I remember it being the most marvelous thing in the world. That was the day when my passion for building rocket came. It truly was a magnificent sight and I hope that my readers will be able to understand just how great it was. I don't think that it had the same impact on all my friends as it did on me. After that day I couldn't stop thinking about rockets.
I am excited about the way this book is turning out. Though I have only written the first three chapters, I have a clear start that conveys the style of a memoir and establishes the town and the characters. I plan to outline, in detail, the building of the rocket. These reflections make me miss that time, stressful as it was, because it was a time of change. Technology was improving so quickly, I only wish I could go back. This is the closest I can get.
Homer Hickam, Jr.
The Alpha III
Now that I've completed the part in my novel about Sputnik's launch and its flyover, I will now show my introduction to amateur rocketry. I will outline my initial attempts and their failures and eventually i'll describe my first successful launch and the feelings I received from it.
I will also expand on my father's view of me as opposed to my brother as well as my mother's perspective on the two of us.
The book is really starting to come together. I am only in the very beginning of the book, but I think that it starting off very well. I just wrote about how my friends and I built our rocket and how it destroyed my mom's rose garden fence. I will never forget that moment. Watching it as it shot up and hearing the loud sound it made as it did so. Writing this book has really brought back some of my memories that I didn't think I still remembered.
I am quite excited about this book because it is about my past and rockets, two of the things that matter most to me. I am feeling nervous because I have never written anything quite like this before, however, it should be exciting to write out the script and see the movie come together. How weird it will be to see a child play the part of me as a child! Sometimes those days seem like the good old days, despite all their troubles, because you only get to be a kid once. This book has served as a time travel machine for me already.
I revealed how 10th grade felt. How early I have to wake up for the bus and be see people asleep. Hearing about the Dugout or Little Daytona from Roy Lee. He always tells me how much fun you can have at those places and that one of the janitors is the DJ for the Dugout. I was jealous of Roy had a car before I did.
I am very excited about my new book because it shows how I became a NASA engineer and how I fell in love with building rockets! I only have a few chapters written but I think this will be my best book yet!
The Alpha III
In the coming chapters I will show my first experiences in rocketry as well as my first experience with girls in high school. I'm nearing the end of the introduction part of my book and I will soon start elaborating more on each sub-plot and topic.
Currently my novel is shaping up to really be a success, I look forward to seeing what direction it takes me.
The Alpha III
In these chapters I wanted to introduce the central plotline of the book which is the launch of Sputnik and the space race, and I've also begun to introduce the other subplots like my newfound love for girls, my father's lack of interest in me, and the peculiarities of my mom wanting to leave coaltown.
In the coming chapters I will elaborate on these subplots and introduce my career in amateur rocketry.
Chapter four introduces a lot of new things to the reader. This includes the character Pooky Suggs, an example of how the mines can tear apart families and leave remaining members hurt and full of rage. My father's story is also elaborated on, how far he went to try to please Jim with the Football Fathers court case for getting disqualified for the championships, and how he supported Jim in the parade but didn't even look at me. My mother is a solid rock, a voice of reason to my father, even though he never takes the advice, and a voice of encouragement to my young self. I also bring about my father's health condition with his lungs, showing again the damage mines have on people, with their health and with their families. Lastly, I touch base on the U.S.'s failure to launch Vanguard into space and foreshadow a new character, Quentin.
I have just written about when my mom talked to me after we launched our rocket. I think that the talk we had that day really inspired me and made me who I am today. I remember her telling me about how I could prove my dad wrong and that I would become something better than just a clerk at the mine. That day completely changed my life and I am glad that I have the chance to write this book to tell everyone my story.
I've decided to use my actual name as well as the actual names of most of the important characters in the book but I'm also going to take a few liberties and make the book more enjoyable by streamlining a few characters into one person or by making slight changes to the sequence of the events. I will make sure to keep to the truth but also make the story flow really nicely.
I really want everyone to know that I had a lot of help from my former classmates at Big Creek High School. One, in particular, who was a huge help to me was Emily Sue Buckberry. Not only did she help me remember things, she also boosted my morale throughout this process. I am so grateful to these friends of the past and of my future.
One of the things that really struck me as I was writing Chapter 1 was how unusual it must seem to the reader that I'm talking about "colored" camps. That was something that young people today must find hard to believe. Discrimination was a part of my everyday life back then but it wasn't part of my heart.
Chapter five introduced a very important new character- Quentin. He was strange, an outcast, a weirdo. He knew more than probably the entire people in my grade at Big Creek. That's why he proved to me, when I was young, that he was a valuable parter. I was expecting to find a weirdo like the stereotype they had created for him, but he taught me the important lesson that everything, even failures, hold knowledge that can further your success. He becomes a very vital teammate in my rocket building journey.
Earlier this month the great race to send a rocket into space had begun! It was between America and Russia! Who would take the title as the first country to send a rocket into space? Although unfortunate for America, Russia took the title. It just so happened to be that the rocket would being flying over my town during its trip. When the day came and I watched the rocket sour through the sky, I knew I had to make one. Me and my friend began so make a small rocket prototype. And I'll tell you what, it definitely did bot work. In fact, during being launched, it caught the fence on fire! Even tough this time was not a success, Building a rocket made me feel like I finally had a purpose in life.
The Alpha III
I've now described two very important events in my story, the launch of my first rocket and my mom's reaction to it. I say these are important because most of the remaining story revolves around them. My future model rockets are the core of the story with mom being the most interesting side plot. She'll stay optimistic about me and my career in rocketry and she'll work to drive my father to support me after I find success in rocketry.
In the coming chapters I will focus on other sub plots such as my newfound love and my relationship with Jim.
Within chapters 4-6, serious progress has been made, both with the rocket making and with Sonny's relationships. Throughout the process of making rockets, Quentin has become somebody Sonny relies on, even if he doesn't know it, or maybe doesn't want to accept it. Dorothy has also become a key person in Sonny's life. Around her he tries to hide who he is, and goes along with whatever Dorothy says. I will use this dynamic to show readers how Sonny will learn to accept himself. Homer is also beginning to interfere with Sonny's life. He serves as the antagonist, and it's interesting to see an antagonist within Sonny's own family. Within the forthcoming chapters I will try to serve Sonny with the decision of facing his father and keep building rockets, or give in to the challenges presented to him.
I have just written about the time when Jim and his football team weren't allowed to play one of the games. This part in the book was made to really show the reader how important football was for Jim and my dad. They valued it more than anything else in the world. They even took the thing to court just so they could get justice. I remember back then when I didn't understand what the big deal was. To me it was just a sport, but to them it was a way of living.
The Alpha III
I've begun to expand on the story a little bit more with the start of my Auk series of rockets and the BCMA. With this also comes my father's reaction to our rockets. At this point in the story he doesn't think there's any value to my rockets and that I'm just wasting my time, but he'll slowly change over the course of the book.
I've also started developing the story of me and Dorothy, and my reaction to merely being her friend.
I have just written about the argument Mr Dubonnet and my dad had one night. This was a very significant day in my life. Not because of their argument, but because of what happened afterwards. I wrote about later that night when my parents were talking and dad said that he had a spot in his lungs. I really hope that the reader can understand how I felt when I heard that. I really was shocked because I never thought my dad could get sick. I always thought he was tougher than everyone else.
I wanted to add the part about how Jims football team wasn't able to play in the playoffs, because I wanted to make it clear that Jim was Homers priority. Homer was so mad that they couldn't play, that he sued. I thought my father would be proud when I wanted to build a rocket, but he was angry. I really wanted the readers to see that he only cared about Jim. If my rockets failed, I am sure that he would not care as much to the point where he would sue someone.
The Alpha III
In these chapters I've begun to elaborate on the relationship between Elsie and Homer Sr. Elsie wants to leave coaltown and in a way she is regretting coming here in the first place. Homer generally wants to stay here because it's the only place he'll earn enough money to send his two sons to college. After all, he only has a high school education.
These chapters also marked the start of my Auk series of rockets. The next chapters will show the progression of these rockets as we experiment with different materials and designs as well as Homer's reaction to these progressions.
Before I started to write this book I knew I wanted to give the readers an idea of what life in the 50s was like, in many aspects. I wanted them to know current events, general life, life of a teenagers, mining family life style, etc. Life in the 50s was so different then life now. People had just began to discover space science and all its possibilities, and I/Sonny wanted to be apart of that. The only thing getting in his way was tradition. It was a life long tradition to go into the mining industry. But how long would mining really last? Somebody had to make a change and it all started with the discovery of space science.
In the beginning of my book I felt like I didn't really have any support and that I was such an outcast. My father thought I was failing because I wasn't choosing the path/future he wants. Then after my first rocket was a fail, and the fence burned down, I realized that I wasn't truly alone. My mother actually had my back and supported what I was doing. She believed in me. It was really nice to see that someone actually believed in me. That was actually a great message to anybody. Anyone who thinks that they are alone and that no-one believes in them should know that they really aren't alone, there is some one out there who believes in you
I am currently writing about the rocket club we made when we were young. It was such a crazy thing for us to be doing and dangerous too. We got really close to having some really bad disasters. We were taking a big risk by launching those rockets, but we didn't think that much about it back then. We were so into the idea of building a rocket that we never really thought much about what could happen if we messed up.
The latest chapters I've been writing have really shown readers the extreme differences my parents had. Chapter 7, where my father forbids me from continuing the BCMA and creating and launching rockets, also features my mother doing everything in her power to convince my father to let me continue rocket building. I realize now, looking back, how many other people I relied on for my own dream to come true. Mr. Bykovski risked his job for me, then there was my mom, the Great Six, and many others. Even though Coalwood was exactly what I was trying to escape, without it I wouldn't have gotten out.
The Alpha III
In these chapters I've begun to explain that Mom wants both me and Jim to leave coaltown, using college as our gateway. She's relieved to find that I have something that I'm good at that can get me into college and prove to my father that I can do better than clerking in the mine.
I've also begun to elaborate on the successes, failures and resulting improvements from our rocket tests. I remember we were particularly interested in the rocket fuel mixture.
Today I write about probably one of the most influential experiences of my life, the day we were finally free to create and test our rockets without worrying about causing any trouble. I want to make the reader feel the happiness and joy I felt at that moment and have them relive it as just did writing it.
The Alpha III
In the upcoming chapters I will describe a change of heart that my father had with me as well as some of the changes that this brought on with the relationship between us.
Throughout the writing, I have found myself looking deeper into my past failures and accomplishments. I recall small things that at the time were so great. Such as the fight I had with my brother and our bikes. Even how I and my friends had destroyed my mother's beloved fence. Everything is now is such detail that I haven't thought of in years and I love the feeling.
Through chapter 11-13, I have shown the major dynamic and social changes that have happened to the characters within the book. First off, the social changes within the high school have made the Rocket Boys gain confidence and overall happiness. This totally switches what first occurred with the football boys being popular. Sonny and Homer have also grown a positive, but slow, relationship. When Homer started taking it easy on Sonny and tried to understand where he was coming from. I am planning on expanding this relationship, or possibly having Elsie interfere. I have played on the idea that Elsie almost doesn't approve of this sudden positivity, or just doesn't trust Homer. I also plan that within the forthcoming chapters for there to be extreme progress for the rockets, possibly even a solid prototype.
Through the chapters 11-13, I have shown some huge changes for the characters, concerning their relationships with one another. First off, the changes within the high school, due to the football suspension, made our Rocket Boys group gain confidence and a higher social standing, which we took advantage of, especially my younger self, to expand our social circles. It's almost a complete opposite of what the chapters before consisted of. My younger self and my dad, Homer, have also grown a positive relationship, but it is moving very slowly, and sometimes it felt as if for every two steps forward, one step was taken back. My dad had started to accept my rockets, but was then disappointed when I told him I didn't want to be a mining engineer, which put a dent in our already feeble relationship. There's also Elsie, who didn't want her husband to draw me into the mines, and make me give up on my dreams. This was a huge conflict that has only grown through the book.
As we get through to about the middle of the book, I want to display the idea of change and difference. I wanted to show everyone that it is hard to be different, because of everyones expectations to be a carbon copy of the environment in Coalwood- which is to be either very athletic, or a miner. Sonny doesn't have any interest towards any of those things. Sonny's main thoughts are to build a rocket, and make a difference in the town, or at least break through the rough walls of Coalwood. Although, earlier in the book, it was harder to be different because of everyone that prefers tradition over change.
At this point in the book, I wanted to write about Sonny and his rocket friends earning more popularity and happiness from his peers at school, because of the football suspension. I wanted to show that because of his uniqueness, he is more determined to make a difference at this town.
In the latest chapters of the book people are their opinions are changing. The rocket boys are expeiriencing a sudden up look in the high school. Ever since the sudden positivety in the high school, the rocket boys have become so much more confident and determined. In the beginning of the book, the football team was the star of the show, and now the tables have turned and the rocket boys have become a popular topic of conversation. Everyone around town is experiencing a change in the area of tradition and current events. People were always so used to getting excited when they saw the local foot ball team, and now they have a sudden curiosity in the daily life of the rocket boys.
The Alpha III
These chapters marked the transition of my father from having no interest and actively hating our rockets to finally tolerating them. I've also hinted at him providing materials to us, and i've yet to decide whether or not to elaborate on this.
I've also introduced more girls in the story with my newfound success in rocketry, no longer was I the boy that blew up the fence.
The Alpha III
I have made the relationship between me and my father more intense in these past few chapters so that a reader knows how my father felt on my interest and how we shared this. This chapter reminds me a lot on how I had a rough relationship with my dad and how we both wanted improvements in it for a general good cause.
The main idea was how we both understood each other to form a bond stronger than that of an ionic one