LINCOLN – Ashland native and retired NASA astronaut Clayton “Clay” Anderson has been named a 2019 Nebraska Book award winner for his children’s picture book, “A is for Astronaut: Blasting Through the Alphabet” by the Nebraska Center for the Book and the Nebraska Library Commission.
Anderson and the rest of the winners will be celebrated at an awards presentation ceremony at the Nebraska Center for the Book’s Celebration of Nebraska Books on Nov. 9 at the History Nebraska’s Nebraska History Museum, 131 Centennial Mall North, in downtown Lincoln.
It is Anderson’s first children’s book, but not the first book he has written. His first was a memoir, “The Ordinary Spaceman: From Boyhood Dreams to Astronaut.” It was published in 2015 and tells the story of his childhood in Ashland and his NASA career.
During NASA missions in 2007 and 2010, Anderson spent a total of 167 days in space and carried out six space walks on board the International Space Station. He retired from NASA in 2013.
He grew up in Ashland and graduated from Ashland-Greenwood High School in 1977.
Anderson was promoting “Ordinary Spaceman” and teaching part-time at Iowa State University when he was encouraged to write a children’s book by a bookstore manager in Omaha.
Anderson researched Sleeping Bear Press, a publishing company known for doing books that use the alphabet as a theme. He liked that the books included facts along with a poem for each letter. Once began writing, the words came quickly.
“I sat down and wrote “A,” astronaut, and…blast off!” he said during an interview last year.
Anderson was paired with illustrator Scott Brundage, who is known for drawing editorial cartoons and illustrating covers for young adult books.
The book was published in March 2018. Also in 2018, Anderson published a book for young adults called “It’s a Question of Space: An Ordinary Astronaut’s Answer to Sometimes Extraordinary Questions.” It is a compilation of answers Anderson gave to questions posted on the website Quora.com.
The book, published by the University of Nebraska Press, is geared toward young adults, but it can also be used in the classroom. Anderson said teachers can use it as a reference book to help with science class.
The book reached the No. 1 spot on Amazon in the New Releases for Teens and Young Adults category.
Anderson is working on another children's book with Standing Bear Press that will come out next year. The working title is "Letters from Space!"
Winners of the 2019 Nebraska Book Awards will be honored and the celebration will include readings by some of the winning authors, designers and illustrators of books with a Nebraska connection published in 2018.
The Nebraska Center for the Book annual meeting will be held at 1:30 p.m. just prior to the 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. celebration. An awards reception honoring the winning authors, book signings, and introduction of the 2020 One Book One Nebraska book choice will conclude the festivities.
The Celebration of Nebraska Books is sponsored by Nebraska Center for the Book and the Nebraska Library Commission, with support from History Nebraska’s Nebraska History Museum. Humanities Nebraska provides support for One Book One Nebraska.
The Nebraska Center for the Book is housed at the Nebraska Library Commission and brings together the state’s readers, writers, booksellers, librarians, publishers, printers, educators, and scholars to build the community of the book, supporting programs to celebrate and stimulate public interest in books, reading, and the written word.
The Nebraska Center for the Book is supported by the national Center for the Book in the Library of Congress and the Nebraska Library Commission.