Researching Wiley Post

Photo of pioneering pilot Wiley Post alongside his round-the-world plane, the Winnie Mae

I’m indulging one of my passions from my misspent childhood: binging on #biographies of #aviation and automotive pioneers and #dare-devils. There are so many interesting and quirky men—and women—from this age that it’s captivating reading.

Right now, I’m brushing up on my knowledge of Wiley Post, the record-breaking (cliche alert) “one-eyed pilot from Oklahoma.” He and his navigator, Aussie Harold Gatty, were the first to pair to fly a single engine plane around the world. Their 8-day trip besting the 21-day record set by the Graf Zeppelin in 1929 and crushing the 175-days required by the four US Army airmen who first completed this feat.

Post and Gatty’s historic flight ended safely–barely–almost 90 years ago, on July 1, 1931 when they landed at Roosevelt Field in Long Island.

It was a real zoo, by all accounts, when they landed. People climbed over the airport’s fences and the police couldn’t hold them back. Post stopped short of the hanger, cutting the engine, for fear that the propeller would chop someone to pieces.

Fortunately, it didn’t. But he and Gatty had a tough time getting from the plane, away from the crush of the crowd—literally—into the safety of the hanger.

One detail that I found interesting was that the two men wore suits rather than leather flying jacket so popular in that day. Still, I don’t think you could say there were ready fo a job interview. They’d been wearing the same suits for eight days, and their clothes were rumpled and grease-stained.

So, weird, but classy.

They made their flight in the hot-rod plane of the day, the Lockheed Vega. This model set many speed records and was also used by Amelia Earhart.

Post’s plane was named the “Winne Mae.”

I think I’m going to do some reading on the history of this plane, too. These things were the engineering marvels of their day, and the people who designed and built them were amazing in their own right.

My current read is about the rivalry between Post and another, more dashing Hollywood stunt pilot by the name of James “Jimmie” Mattern. More on him, soon.

#SFWC 2020

Another year volunteering at the #SFWC, and I’m convinced that the new venue was an excellent choice. It’s so much easier to navigate for both volunteers lugging equipment about and for anyone with accessibility issues. Nice.

I was pleased, too, that the consulting and agent conversations moved from a noisy area to the quieter location in the Pacifica area. Gone is the echo chamber from last year!

But the best thing of all was being back among the various professionals and aspiring writers. My goal this year was to begin the process of finding an agent. I’m proud of the work I’ve done to date, and self-publishing was/is fun and great way to launch. But I’m at a point that I need to have other people helping me get the word out and freeing me to spend more time writing. I met several agents that seemed to be a good fit, and I’m going to put together proposals for them. The biggest challenge for me is (as always) to focus on a specific project and not be working on a dozen things at once. For now, that project will be a narrative non-fiction project, a biography. More on this later.

My thanks to all the organizers and volunteers at the #SFWC2020. You create opportunities and pathways to success. It’s an honor to work alongside you all.

Another View #SFWC – Web Pages Analysis

From Robb Lightfoot's thesis analysis, a look at the SFWC's public presence-web pages. A copyrighted image, 2019, by Robb Lightfoot.

Here’s another look at the San Francisco Writers Conference as seen through a word frequency analysis af all the publicly presented pages on their website, This includes all pages, contact information and media releases. It has a good deal of information from their recent event, #SFWC19. Notice how the theme of community jumps right out at you. Elsewhere, in my analysis, I spend almost 8 hours transcribing 45 minutes of a panel discussion to get a scripted narrative. I’ll be reviewing that for publication, soon. But I think there is a subtle difference here between what emerges in the “business of them being themselves” and what they say about themselves. Spoiler alert, it all seems to track. Their actions are aligned with their words. 🙂

Also, this aligns well with the earlier image of the presenters. Note: Even though the presenter information is on the web page, I excluded it from this data analysis.

What the #SFWC19 Presenters Said – A Word Frequency Analysis

Image copyright, 2019, Robb Lightfoot – contact

Thesis analysis of #SFWC19 presenter's words as seen from their publicly available handouts. Image copyrighted, 2019, by Robb Lightfoot -

I’m plugging away with my thesis analysis, and here’s a word-frequency graph drawn from the publicly-available handouts provided by the #SFWC19 presenters. These sort of visual analysis often form the starting point of successive, deep, re-readings of the materials and can reveal trends not apparent in any one document.

But I LOVE THIS CHART! Look at the most prominent themes, drawn from more than 14 breakout periods with 5-8 sessions per. Writing! Community! Content! Change! and even Active! and, of of course, Author!

Kudos the SFWC leadership for their work. This tracks with what they say about themselves, COMMUNITY is the biggest word in my analysis of their narratives, drawn from a 45 minute video explaining what the SFWC is. So, what they say, what others say, and (from my initial results of a survey), it’s what the various attendees and volunteers say.

More to come, but I thought I’d share this. It’s taken me many hours, and more money than I care to admit, to get on top of this data and the specialized software needed to do this sort of analysis. My thanks to all, and in particular to my wife, who has been very supportive of a love of writing and my author-friends that borders on the obsessive. Well, OK, that crosses into obsessive and borders on being totally insane. 🙂