Friday, June 29, 2018

Interview with writer Mahlon (Dick) Palmer about his memoir, Destiny

Writer Mahlon (Dick) Palmer is helping me wrap up the month by chatting with me about his memoir, Destiny.

Dick grew up on the family dairy farm in upstate New York. At the age of seventeen, immediately following graduation from high school, he joined the US Air Force where he served four years as an Air Weather Observer. Although Dick has no college education, he began working in the field of data processing when that world consisted of IBM punched cards in the early 1960’s.

Almost immediately, Dick became fascinated with the IBM 650 computer when he quickly decided he must learn how to program it, thus the beginning of a thirty plus year career in the field. He has programmed virtually every make of computer up through the early 21st century, using the same methodology Dick began designing computer systems in the Bahamas on a large Navy Contract named AUTEC (Atlantic Underwater Test and Evaluation Center) when he built his first computer system for that contract. The design techniques that he developed and used on that system would become the blueprint that he used for the next twenty-five years while designing systems for the Air Force to include BMEWS and the DEW Line, NASA Apollo 11 and 12.

He then built the largest business system in Lockheed Martin Corporation that is still operational today after nearly thirty years of successful operation. Adding to his computer accomplishments, he has managed major portions of operations on the DEW Line and BMEWS contracts, stretching from Iceland, then across Greenland, Canada and throughout much of Alaska. All of the skills that were necessary to accomplish the above detailed tasks were self-taught. Those skills not only served him well throughout his professional career but also were invaluable in the pursuit of his many hobbies, adventures and ultimately retirement.

Welcome, Dick. Please tell us about your current release.
With Destiny, the writing just flowed, was just there when I sat down to the page. I tried to be as accurate as possible.

It’s the story of my life, starting when I was a small child on a dairy farm and following my career through my time in the Air Force and my work on software and computer systems with Lockheed Martin, the US Navy and Nasa’s Apollo 11 and 12 missions.

And I’ve got quite a story to tell about my destiny, how everything came together for me even when I didn’t realize it at the moment. I’ve taken a few thousand photos since 1954 so have a lot of memories to share and a story that I hope will encourage other people.

What inspired you to write this book?
One day, while selling our family’s honey at the farmers’ market near our house, I suddenly collapsed. Later, I woke up in the hospital after having survived a near-fatal heart attack.

Nurses had to visit my room every half hour to do blood draws in order to monitor my health. I entertained them by telling stories from my life to pass the time. When I left the hospital, they all agreed that I should write a book – which eventually became Destiny.

I’ve never written anything before, and – not to brag – but a friend and fellow farmers’ market vendor, who’s also a lawyer, took a look at this book and asked, ‘wow, who’s your ghostwriter?’

What exciting story are you working on next?
Well, I suspect this will be my only full-length book, but I might take some of the photos that I have collected over decades and put them together into a book, Destiny in Pictures.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I don’t consider myself a writer. I simply wanted to tell the story of my life.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I never wrote full time, I have a full life that includes reading, selling honey at the farmers’ market with my wife, and learning about my other interests – woodworking, small engine repair, dog training, and traveling.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
One of the quirks of my writing style is that I always tell stories, even my own story, in third person. Sounds more natural to me, and I find first person repetitious.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As a child I always wanted to grow up and become an adult, since farming was such hard work. On the farm, once you could get up and get places by yourself you were expected to work hard. By five or six years old you were doing as much work as an adult.
Even serving in the Air Force was easier than my farm chores!

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I came up with the title for this book last, after reading my story over and realizing that destiny was the thread that pulled my life together.

Some people think this book is about the border collie on the front cover. He was a dog I knew and loved, and I chose that photo for the cover after hiring an illustrator and falling in love with the image. But there’s so much more to this book, it’s the story of my entire life. I admire people who write novels, but I don’t have that much imagination, so I stuck with memoir.

Thanks for being here today, Dick.

No comments: