Prologue
A Night of Frost
a novel I wrote in the 50s

In the 1950s, I was light years away from education. I spent a few years in exploratory oil development in Illinois. The outfit I worked for drilled some highly productive wells down near Olney, Illinois, and I received a royalty on every barrel. I quit the oil business two years later and became co-owner of Ford agencies in a couple of small Illinois towns, like Homer. I soon realized that automobile sales and repair was not my calling, so I got rid of the agencies and decided to become a writer. For a year I stayed at home, wrote, and babysat our first child, Eric, as my wife finished law school.

I wrote some novels and some short stories. I didn’t know anything about agents or how someone goes about finding a home for a novel, so I went to New York and, unannounced, walked into different publishing companies and asked to talk to an editor about the novel I had brought with me (several copies). Strangely enough, I met with an editor in every publishing house I went to—Doubleday, Scribners, Putman. Several of the editors pointed out that they had never heard of anybody actually going to their office to submit a novel. The last place I went to was Simon and Schuster. The editor I met was my age and just starting out. His name was Michael Korda, and he would later become Editor-in-Chief of Simon and Schuster. He was very British, and I was struck by how different he and I were and how much we were the same.

On May 21, 1959, the day that my wife delivered twin boys, Owen and Kurt, I received a correspondence from Michael that Simon and Schuster wanted to take out an option on the novel A Night of Frost. I was overwhelmed. What a day!

A couple of months later, I received a message of regret from Michael. Simon and Schuster had reorganized. For Michael it meant that he would move up the editorial ladder; however, the company decided not to publish any first-time authors who were not currently under contract. I was devastated.

The royalty money we had been receiving from the oil wells was diminishing, and I had to go out and get a job. I landed one at a children’s encyclopedia, Our Wonderful World, which was in Champaign, Illinois. I became the assistant science editor. I hated the job and hated my future. But after less than a year, I became research director for an advertising agency. And after a couple of more moves, I landed in education.

During this period and the years that followed, a copy of A Night of Frost not only yellowed in the bottom drawer of my desk; the pages started to disintegrate. When I discovered the condition of manuscript, I had Karen, my assistant, retype the novel.

Although I have mixed feelings, I’m putting it on the Web. I haven’t changed anything in it, and I haven’t reread all of it. Understand that it was written over 50 years ago, by a different me from a different world. But you may find it entertaining. Feel free to download it.

Featured Video

Kindergarteners Showing Off Their Math Skills 1966 Uncut demonstration of at-risk children who were taught math by Zig Engelmann as four year olds and five year olds. The session was filmed in front of a class of college students in August with no rehearsal. Children work addition, subtraction, multiplication, division problems, basic algebra problems, fraction problems, area problems, factoring, and simple simultaneous equations.

Watercolors by Zig



Picture of the Month
May 2017
Wildflowers east of Corvallis, Oregon

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