May 13, 2010

Non-Fiction Proposal- Canary in a Coalmine: How One Southern State is leading the Nation to a Renewable Energy Future

In 1933, unemployment in America was estimated to be nearly 25 percent.

     As part of President Franklin Roosevelt's first 100 days in office, on May 18, 1933, he signed the Tennessee Valley Authority Act, creating the first effort in America to create a government-sponsored clean energy system.

     The first damn built to create non-polluting, clean energy was the Norris damn on the Tennessee River near Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The federal government had purchased the land years before, but the project languished until the desire for free, clean, easy-to-create electricity met the need for skilled and unskilled labor.

     In 2009, unemployment in America is just over 10 percent with most of the job losses in manufacturing. Again, the government was looking for ways to create new jobs required skilled and unskilled labor with the goal of making the country more energy independent.

     It seems that history is repeating itself and Tennessee is again in the spotlight.

Historic Announcements

     Two major international firms recently decided to build multibillion-dollar plants in Tennessee. Two government-sponsored, clean energy research institutions are being established in Tennessee with federal stimulus money.

Here is a link to the groundbreaking celebration for the Hemlock semi-conductor and photovoltaic plant being built just north of Nashville.


Here is the link for the groundbreaking announcement for the new Wacker Chemie chemical plant being built southeast of Nashville.

Wacker Chemie announcementHttp://

A billion-dollar Volkswagen assembly plant recently broke ground just outside Chattanooga. The facility will assemble a small, energy efficient sedan for the North American market. Http://   

     Most recently, Nissan Motor Manufacturing, North America has announced their intention to build between 50,000 and 100,000 battery powered cars at the assembly plant in Smyrna, just south of Nashville with funds from a federal loan designated to help America switch from fossil-fueled transportation to electric vehicles.

     Meanwhile, in the time period before these announcements, Tennessee was sighted as one of the top three states in the country in creation of clean energy producing jobs.

The Pugh Charitable Trust names Tennessee one of the top three in creation of clean energy manufacturing in this link.


Here's my story from that same news conference.

Government Support

Federal stimulus spending of over 62 million dollars will create two new clean energy/solar power entities in Tennessee.

     In west Tennessee, a "solar farm" with row after row of solar collectors will power hundreds of homes in Haywood County near Brownsville. It would be operated in partnership with TVA and coordinate with research conducted in Knoxville.

     The five-megawatt, 20-acre solar farm would be part of a proposed industrial development "mega site" and one of the largest solar installations in the Southeast.

     While in east Tennessee, research would be conducted at a new Tennessee Solar Institute that would be headquartered in Knoxville at the University of Tennessee's planned Cherokee Farm Innovation Campus and would be operated by UT and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Why I Should Write This Book…

     For over thirty years, Middle Tennessee has been my beat. While I've covered just about every kind of story you can imagine, I've always felt that part of my job at the News Director at a public radio station licensed to a university was to find ways of making subjects involving science and history pertinent to the listener.

Here are links from the Publish2 website that show a variety of profiles and articles I've recently published.

A very entertaining article about essayist David Sedaris:

An interview about an award-winning science book:

A profile of author Dennis LeHane:

     Over the years I've met hundreds of people, many with very unusual stories that I was happy to cover. There once was a young congressman who represented the multicounty district in middle Tennessee. His father had been a Congressman and Senator, but up until that time he'd shied away from the "family business."

     Al Gore Jr. was a well-schooled and disciplined campaigner. And while I didn't talk with him every day, I have several pictures of the two of us when we were both much thinner and much less gray. The story of this father's efforts to help "electrify" the Southeast United States and his efforts to bring "renewable" energy sources to this same region will allow me the opportunity to attempt to interview him again after all these years.

     Given the scope of the book and his family's involvement, there's at least a faint hope that he might even contribute a blurb or a forward.

Technical assistance

     A friend of mine, Jonathan Gilligan (Ph.D. Yale University 1991 and currently Research Assistant Professor and former Senior Lecturer, Dept. of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Vanderbilt University) has agreed to help guide the organization of the book from outline to checking the facts and figures in the final draft. He has also offered to write a blurb for the cover.


gj said...

You've thrown a bunch of facts out there, but you're missing what should be the real focus: why anyone would care.

Get your facts down to a single sentence (or short paragraph), e.g., now is just like the days of FDR, in terms of unemployment, etc., and just like then, my state is leading the recovery with X, Y and Z.

Then explain why anyone cares. If this is going to be a general-interest book, rather than a niche book, you need a thesis, along the lines of "aspiring entrepreneurs will be inspired ..." or "environmentalists will take heart from ...." or "people who think environmental and employment issues are mutually incompatible will learn ...." or whatever it is.

You may be so close to it that you're thinking, "Well, of course, people will want to read it because it's fascinating," but you need to define why it's fascinating, state it explictly, and focus your pitch around that. It's not really about facts (unless it's a reference book, but generally it's assumed you'll have the facts to back up your work), it's about the story, the lesson, or whatever reason a READER, who doesn't know any of these facts, will see the cover and the back cover copy and think, "Hmm, I really do need to read that." It's the angle, not the facts, per se.

So, turn it on its head. Not "here are the facts," but "here is why YOU (and readers generally or within your niche) would care about these facts."

Anonymous said...

A query should be short and pithy. This one is long and rambling. Is your book about what happened in 1933? No? Then leave it out.

It's not customary to include links in queries. Maybe one link at the end, to your own website, but not a whole slew of them.

Try to come up with a single brief paragraph explaining what your book is about.