Paul Chutkow


The Writing Life


As Robert Mondavi often said, greatness begins with a glorious vision.

When I was 13, President John F. Kennedy launched this nation on a bold and noble mission: To put a man on the moon by the end of the decade, the 1960s. That was indeed a glorious vision, a true call to greatness, and a singular act of leadership that put America on a course to slip our earthly shackles and explore the heavens.

Inspired by John Kennedy’s vision, I threw myself into math and science, and I entered Johns Hopkins University with dreams of one day working for NASA. Alas, it took me about a month, no, a week, to realize that most of my classmates were far more gifted in math and science than I would ever be. I had to find a different path.

Then I met Elliott Coleman, the head of The Writing Seminars at Hopkins, and, bless him, Elliott encouraged me to write. As you know, America rose to the challenge and fulfilled Kennedy’s mission, and I watched the moon landing from where I was meant to be: the newsroom of The Baltimore Sun. Three years later, I was working at the New York headquarters of the Associated Press. Two years later, I was posted to India and then it was on to Paris, now with a wonderful wife and two terrific young sons, Justin and Ethan. We also had a crazy Indian street dog in tow, whom we simply had to name Zelda. You can read all about it in “Zelda, The Queen of Paris.”

Oh, and there’s one more thing, one more twist to my adventures in The Writing Life: as a journalist in Paris, I got to witness the birth of Europe’s own space program, Ariane. And when I left the AP to freelance and begin writing books, I had the honor of working with the scientists and engineers at Arianespace. For the next decade, I made regular trips to French Guyana, home of the European launch center, and there I would do live broadcasts of European space launches, always with an Ariane specialist sitting beside me. I was just an observer, but it was my own little taste of the excitement of exploring the heavens. What more could a writer dream of? Well, two sons like mine and dogs like Charlie and Zelda! 
Europe’s Ariane 5 rocket roaring into space
Zelda hears a burglar -- a wine burglar!

The French cops arrest the culprit -- and 
Zelda the pariah street dog becomes The Queen of Paris!
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