Eclipse 2017: Visiting with Astronaut Linda Godwin

Please join me in offering a warm welcome to Dr. Linda Godwin, who served as an astronaut and currently teaches at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Personally, I’ve always been fascinated by space, so I couldn’t resist the opportunity to chat with her. If you want to hear more about Linda, check out the Ted Talk at the bottom of the interview.

I understand you majored in math and physics in college. What influenced you to follow the STEM path?

I always like Math and Science in high school and I give a lot of credit for that to my teachers.  My parents were also encouraging.

When I was young, I dreamed of becoming a lab technician, because I wanted to do research in a lab. Obviously, I didn’t follow that path. I know you grew up in a small town in Missouri, likely not surrounded by astronauts. What did you dream of being when you grew up?

I never did have a big plan.  I was very  interested in NASA when I was growing up as we followed the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo flights.  NASA seemed a very long way from where I lived however.

Who encouraged you to follow your dreams?

Somehow I just went through life selecting the next thing to do, which had me getting my BS in Physics and Math at Southeast Missouri State and then on to Mizzou for my PhD in physics – I guess I didn’t feel like I was done.  During that time I had no thought of being an astronaut until near the end of my graduate school time at MU.

You joined NASA in 1980. What made you decide to join the program? How did you end up on that path?

While I was in grad school at Mizzou, NASA announced they were going to hire astronauts for the space shuttle program and for the first time they intended to include women in this astronaut class.   The educational background requirement specified some field of science, engineering, or medicine, so I was eligible.  I did apply then but was not interviewed that year.  It turned out I needed another two years to finish my PhD anyway, and during that time I managed to scrape together some money by doing tutoring to take flying lessons.  When there was another change two years later, I applied again and made it to an interview week with NASA.  I did not get the astronaut job, but was offered a job with Flight Operations supporting missions in Mission Control which I accepted.  That work was good experience and I was accepted into a later astronaut class.

What was the culture in NASA like in 1980 for women? Did you have mentors? Have you served as a mentor to younger women coming into the program?

I cannot identify a mentor.   The culture was ok, probably better than many other places.  Women were also just started to work in mission control, but I had many female colleagues.

I’ve visited Johnson Space Center a couple of times, and am always awed by the campus and, in particular, Mission Control. Can you give us an idea of what it feels like to be in Mission Control during an active mission? (i.e., do you live on caffeine? what are the hours like? do you experience depression when it’s over?)

I began to develop my coffee habit in grad school and I would say that it carried over to the shifts in mission control.  Mission Control has many positions, but I only worked in the area that supported the payloads on the missions – the unique part that changed every time.  We would be assigned to work specific shuttle missions, and that include getting familiar with the payloads/experiments, arranging and scheduling operation working groups, plus other meetings -so lots of meetings, and were the interface to work on the crew procedures and get them published prior to missions.  We participated in the many hours of simulations from either a front room position in mission control or from a back room support room.  The actual mission support was always very busy and it was great to be a a part of the team.  I enjoyed the fact that there was a conclusion to these individual missions and there was always another one coming up.

Where were you and what were you doing when you found out you were going to be an astronaut on the Space Shuttle? How did your family take the news? Did you ever have any doubts or second thoughts?

I was in a meeting at NASA when I got a call I was selected to be in an astronaut class.   I’m sure my parents were a little worried about it but they supported me.  I did not ever have any second thoughts.

I’ve seen video of you on the Space Shuttle and I can’t even imagine what that would feel like. Can you give us mere mortals a glimpse into that life? Is there a particular memory that stands out?

A shuttle flight was very busy.  Each day was carefully planned.  Obviously the primary difference in working in a free-fall orbit around the Earth, where the space shuttles went and where space station is, is that everything seems weightless and floats which means tasks are a little more challenging and its as easy to lose items as they floated away.  Floating was awesome and there was a learning curve to moving around gracefully.  Looking at the Earth is one of the best memories.  Orbits were about 90 minutes so in that time, if there was a chance to look out a window, one would see a lot of water along with land masses and a sunrise and sunset every time around.  Often we were too busy to look out, but it was the best thing if there was time.

Some people are savers (me, included). I have souvenirs from every vacation I’ve ever been on, I think. Do you have any souvenirs from your astronaut days that are particularly meaningful?

There are many photos and video from all the missions – that is the best way to recapture those moments.

Ahem, that brings me to my next question – I understand your husband is also an astronaut? Were your dual demanding careers ever an issue? Any competitiveness between you?

It was very special that Steve and I both shared these NASA experiences together.  by the time we married he was finished flying on the shuttle and finished his NASA career continuing to fly as a research pilot in the Aircraft Operations Division in T-38’s and Gulfstreams.  I had two more missions on the shuttle after we married.  We each had 4 flights.   I lost him 3 years ago to cancer.

You participated in many experiments during your missions. Are there any that stand out in particular, perhaps that you think might have the biggest impact on the scientific community (or humanity, for that matter)?

I can’t pick just one.  Each was different and special.  STS-37 had Gamma Ray Observatory which we deployed on orbit and remained in orbit around the Earth for 9 years collecting gamma ray data, the more energetic wavelengths of light, providing information about intense astrophysical phenomenon in the universe.  STS-59 was a mission to learn about our own planet, STS76 went to the Russian Space Station which was extremely interesting and my last flight STS-108 docked with the International Space Station which I’m very glad I got to experience.

Now that you’ve retired from NASA, I understand you are a professor of physics. What do you think we can do, at the college level and beyond, to encourage women who want to work, research and teach in STEM fields?

I hope to encourage everyone to see that science is very interesting, even if it is not going to be their career, and we all need to understand the physics of our world.  I want young women to know they are equally capable to compete in these fields.  I use many of my NASA experiences to make this as interesting as possible.

There is talk about us returning to the moon, or preparing for a trip to Mars. What do you think the future holds, in terms of the space program?

This is very difficult to predict.  We can solve the technical problems, but budget and political issues are much more challenging.  I hope we go to Mars some day.  It will be very expensive and the Moon is much more achievable.

The eclipse is just around the corner and is being talked about everywhere. I’ve heard that NASA will be in Jeff City for the event. Do you keep in touch with folks at NASA, or ever go back for a visit?

I keep in touch with some and there are periodic reunions which I try to attend.

Last, but not least – Was it difficult returning to Earth, both literally and figuratively, after being an astronaut?

Literally, with missions of about a week, readapting is not too bad upon return.  It is, I am sure, more difficult for the astronauts returning from a 6-month stay on the space station.  I miss some of the experience of participating in the astronaut program, but life moves on and I like what I am doing now.

A lot of my readers are women, many who are struggling, clawing and digging to make their dreams come true (whatever those might be). Do you have any advice for a reader who may be gazing into the distance at that dream that calls to them?

Just keep going and take a step at a time.  As you can see from my story I had to apply several times before I became an astronaut.

The Birth of a Novel

I was cleaning up my home office today (because I always feel the need to purge at the end of the calendar year), and ran across the critiques from my writers’ group on a piece that was the very first inkling of Diamond in the Rough.

Whether or not you’ve read Diamond in the Rough, I thought you might enjoy this peek behind the curtain, to see how my novel was born. Hope you like it. is a cowhand at the Domino Ranch, where he’s been for years. He lives in a small house, which he shares with Beau, Joe and a couple of other guys. Thursday nights he spends at a neighboring ranch, playing poker with the guys. He drives an old gray Chevy pickup that has more miles on it than he does.

He was with Beau and Beth the night that Bert’s herd was stolen by rustlers. The mutilated steer affected him deeply. A love of animals is what led him to life on the ranch. Growing up, he was responsible for taking care of the family dog and made money summers taking care of neighborhood pets. That was back when he was known as Russell Warner. He dreamed of living in the country, surrounded by rolling green hills and dogs and cats and horses. Once in high school, he joined 4-H. Other kids made fun of him for his project – he raised rabbits. It was the only project he could do in city limits. The girl he had a crush on – her name was Penny – raised a bottle calf every year. Her brother Mike was the one who had given him the name Bunny Boy. His high school years were a blur of embarrassment. He had been a country boy stuck in the city, a disappointment to his college educated parents and an outcast in the FFA / 4-H circles that he desperately wanted to join.

The day after he graduated high school, he packed his meager belongings into the used maroon Toyota Tercel that his parents had given him as a graduation present and headed west out of St. Louis. He stopped for gas in Kingdom City, picked up a newspaper and went to Denny’s to peruse the want ads while he wolfed down a Grand Slam. The girl who was waiting tables chatted him up, and told him about her cousin who worked at the sale barn just down the outer road and how they always needed extra hands on sale days. She jotted her cousin’s name on the back of his receipt and told him to go on down to the sale barn and introduce himself.

The girl’s cousin showed him around, and Bill, the owner, hired him on the spot. The crusty old man gripped Russell’s hand and give it one firm shake. “Welcome aboard, Rusty.”

And in that moment, Russell the Bunny Boy became a distant memory and Rusty the cowhand was born.


<SIGH> I always feel nostalgic when I come across a piece like this, that grew into an entire novel. If you want to keep up to date with my new releases and other book news, make sure you sign up for my mailing list – and if you’re intrigued by how stories like this kernel of an idea become a full-fledged novel, sign up for my WriteScouts newsletter.

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The Ecstacy of The End

I finished the rough draft of Diamond in the Rough last week. This is the second in the Diamond J series, set in Missouri, featuring Aidan and Gina. If you haven’t read Denim & Diamonds yet, make sure you do before Rough comes out next year! was incredibly exciting and fulfilling . . . an adrenaline fueled push to that last scene. I knew what had to happen, I just had to get there. I took two days off work and PUSHED myself. I wrote over 10,000 words in those two days. Once I got going, the words were flying from my fingers so fast. It was . . . awesome. And I don’t mean that in the overused way that it falls from our tongues these days. I mean it in the true sense of the word. I was in awe of the way the words flowed through my fingers and appeared on the screen, as if I did not actually play any part in the creation of them.

It gives me chills just to think about it.

Now, that manuscript is on the back burner. It needs to rest for a bit. I’m too close to it now. I’d never be able to see the flaws that I know exist, because in my mind, that manuscript is perfect as it is right this moment.

And, in a way, it is.

Simply because it exists.

So, for the month of November, I will escape into another Widow’s Web novel . . . The Danger Within. Sophie Kendrick will be chattering away in my head, as she goes on the run and tries to escape the clutches of Blake Chaney. First, I need to decide . . . will this happen in Maine, Colorado, or Missouri? What’s your vote? Reply to this post (or comment) and let me know where you want it set.

Oh, I can’t wait!

Returning to the Diamond J some of you know, I’ve been working on the 2nd novel in the Diamond J series. The working title is Diamond in the Rough. Though it still needs a lot of revision, it is coming together quite well.

The story takes place in the Diamond J world, shortly after Denim & Diamonds occurs. The male lead is Aidan, who was a ranch hand in the first book. The female lead is Gina, who makes a brief appearance in the first book as owner of the local scrapbook store. Want a peek into what I think the Diamond J world looks like? Pop over to Pinterest and look at my Rough board.

And I’m happy to announce that CaryPress has indicated that they are interested in publishing it.

So . . . help me celebrate this little accomplishment this evening.

SuperFans most of you know, my second book was just released. My hobby is quickly becoming a second job. As I work harder, I’m looking for a few special SuperFans to help me beta-test ideas. If you are selected, you will get to:

  • read some of my work before anyone else
  • have some say in what makes it to print – and what doesn’t
  • have input about book covers.
  • attend launch parties (virtual and real)
  • enter exclusive giveaways only available to my SuperFans.

As part of the planning process, I am trying to decide whether to just call this group “SuperFans” or give the group a name. What do you think? Do you want to be SuperFans? Or Lori’s Gems? Other suggestions? I’m just spitballin’ here . . .

If you are interested, please send an email to lori(at) and answer the following questions:

  • How many books do you estimate you read a year?
  • What social media outlets are you active in/on?
  • Are you interested in live or virtual events?
  • Do you leave reviews anywhere online? Where?
  • Do you have an e-reader? If yes, Nook, Kindle or Other (please specify)

Virtual #BookTour: Sunshine Book Promotions

Do you like to win? Do you like free stuff? Pop on over to Sunshine Book Promotions today, read an excerpt of Denim & Diamonds and sign up for a free Amazon gift certificate! Have you gotten your free ebook? If not, go get it!!

Bonus: Throwback Thursday picture from vacation 2010 at my favorite family vacation spot.

Katelyn & me at Silver Beach

I Heart Reading: First #BookReview #4Stars

Going on this virtual tour hosted by Enchanted Book Promotions has been very exciting. The biggest part of this, for me, was getting a review. I was curious to see what someone who reviews books regularly would think of Denim & Diamonds. Of course, it’s a double-edged sword. It could be good, or it could be bad. It took me a while to gather up

Book Tour August 2014

enough courage to read the review. I finally did. And, yup, I’m feeling pretty good about it.

Please, stop by I Heart Reading and see the review for yourself. Then pop on over to Amazon and download a FREE copy of the ebook for yourself.

If you enjoy reading, be sure to support the authors you like. Buy their books. Download free books (even if you already have the paperback!). Review their books on Amazon and Barnes and Noble and Goodreads. Tell people about their books. Your favorite authors will appreciate the love. 🙂

Going on Tour: Countdown to Launch #giveaway #romance

As you likely know, my book, Denim & Diamonds, recently was released. I’m going on a blog tour this next week, and one lucky winner will receive a $20 Amazon gift card. Please mark your calendars, visit these sites and help me spread the word!

Book Tour August 2014

August 3rdI Heart Reading

August 3rd: Underneath The Covers

August 4th: 100 Pages A Day

August 5thI Heart Reading

August 7th: Sunshine Book Promotions

August 9th: Books and Tales

Personal Appearance at Village Books in Columbia, Missouri

August 10th: Cajun Book Lover

Amazon . . . It’s Heeeeeere . . . .

Denim & Diamonds

Denim & Diamonds

I popped onto Amazon yesterday to check on my Author Page and was surprised to see this on my page! Yup – Denim & Diamonds is available on Amazon!

I don’t want to be one of those buy-my-book authors. That kinda drives me crazy. Still – I need the support of readers if I’m ever going to claw my way up the best seller charts (it could happen, right?). But what does that mean? How do readers support writers?

I’ve been feeling very Zen over the last year, and truly feel that what goes around, comes around. In that spirit, I thought I’d share what I do to help support and encourage the writers I like:

  • Like and share their Facebook posts (those with book-related links, not their pics of the tropical drink they’re enjoying while lounging on the beach)
  • Like their Amazon author page
  • Like their Goodreads author page
  • Mark their books to-read on Goodreads
  • As I’m reading their books, I TELL people what I’m reading – in person, on Facebook, on Twitter
  • After I read their books, I leave reviews on Amazon and Goodreads

I know a lot of my friends are readers. What else can we do to support and encourage writers?


Margo Dill: Caught Between Two Curses

I met Margo Dill at the first Missouri Writers Guild conference I attended (2005). She immediately struck me as someone who was going to succeed. I’ve seen her at subsequent conferences, heard her speak, and have had several opportunities to chat with her over the years. As I predicted when I first met her, she has become a published author and a well-regarded editor and speaker.

Margo Dill

Margo Dill

Margo L. Dill is the author of Caught Between Two Curses, a YA light paranormal romance novel about the Curse of the Billy Goat on the Chicago Cubs, and Finding My Place: One Girl’s Strength at Vicksburg, a historical fiction, middle-grade novel. She currently has two more books under contract–both are picture books–with High Hill Press and Guardian Angel Publishing. Besides being a children’s author, she is also a freelance editor with the business, Editor 911: Your Projects Are My Emergency! and she is part of the WOW! Women On Writing e-zine’s staff as an editor, blogger, instructor, and social media manager. When she is not writing, editing or teaching online, Margo loves to spend time with her husband, stepson, daughter, and crazy Boxer dog, Chester in St. Louis, Missouri.

Take it away, Margo!

With the release of my young adult novel, Caught Between Two Curses, in March 2014, Lori asked me to reflect on my path as a children’s writer. When I stopped to do this, I realized that my path has been going on for almost 15 years. Like most writers, it’s been bumpy, full of success and failure, highs and lows, but I wouldn’t change it. I love being a children’s writer!

People ask me how I got started, and so I thought I would focus on that because maybe it will help someone who is looking for that answer. Then I will also go into how Caught Between Two Curses was published, in case any one has a novel manuscript looking for a home.

In 1999, I saw an ad in Family Circle magazine for the Institute of Children’s Literature, and I decided to take their correspondence course, where I learned more than I ever thought I could. I learned that nonfiction is easier to get published than fiction, how to read magazine submission guidelines, how to find and enter contests, and how to research and start a novel. (I actually started my first novel that got published in 2012 in that class, titled Finding My Place, historical fiction middle-grade.) My teacher was amazing and offered wonderful feedback and guidance. A couple of the stories I wrote for the class placed in contests—once I had that taste of success, that’s all I needed.

From there, I found a critique group. Once you have a basic knowledge of writing for kids or adults—whatever your goal—I believe you need a critique group to offer you feedback on a regular basis. Not only did the members help me become a better writer, but they also challenged me to write pieces outside my comfort zone, including essays, short stories, and poetry for adults. I learned the most about writing in this group, and I went to many writing conferences with them, too, where I learned even more. Each step of the way, I had some success and acceptances, and then I had many rejections. But the successes helped keep me going.

Now onto Caught Between Two Curses, I worked on it some with this first critique group and at the same time as Finding My Place, but I didn’t start seriously working on the manuscript until I got the contract for the middle-grade. I wrote CBTC as a young adult novel, and I had two different critique groups that offered advice and suggestions on it. I pitched it at several conferences—some agents told me that they just didn’t get the storyline with the Cubs and the Curse of the Billy Goat. I tried to explain that it was just a small part of the novel—the real story was Julie’s, and her life as a teenager with a boyfriend pressuring her to have sex and a family that was stuck in the past with the curse. So either I was terrible at pitching my book or they hated baseball that much—or both. I had a couple ask for more pages, which resulted in more rejection. Then I revised it ONE LAST TIME and pitched it in April 2013 at the Missouri Writers Guild in St. Louis to Robin Tidwell of Rocking Horse Publishing. She said, “I love baseball. The novel sounds fun. Send it to me.”

So, I did, and the rest has been nothing short of a homerun. If you are looking for a publishing house, consider Rocking Horse Publishing! Robin has been great to work with. If you are looking for a fun, quirky read with a bit of baseball, magic, and romance thrown in, I would love for you to check out Caught Between Two Curses!

Find out more at

Group blog:
WOW! Women On Writing:
Book trailer:

Caught Between Two Curses

Caught Between Two Curses

SYNOPSIS of Caught Between Two Curses:
Seventeen-year-old Julie Nigelson is cursed. So is her entire family. And it’s not just any-old-regular curse, either—it’s strangely connected to the famous “Curse of the Billy Goat” on the Chicago Cubs.
Julie must figure out this mystery while her uncle lies in a coma and her entire love life is in ruins: her boyfriend Gus is pressuring her to have sex, while her best friend Matt is growing more attractive to her all the time.
Somehow, Julie must figure out how to save her uncle, her family’s future, and her own love life—and time is running out!