Fluid Musings

Alumnus David (Dave) Saari ’71, who recently self-published his sixth novel, discusses how his experience in AEM provided him with the desire to take his writing to the next level. 

With family working in various engineering fields, Dave Saari heard plenty of stories about mechanical engineering growing up. It was only natural that he, too, would pursue an engineering degree. However, he found himself writing on the side early on. At the age of seven, he attempted his first novel called My Dog and I, which was handwritten on about twenty pages of lined paper. Although Saari continued to demonstrate a knack for writing throughout high school, he stayed the course and majored in Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics at the University of Minnesota where he became fascinated with the field of Fluid Mechanics.

Upon joining Dr. H. G. Heinrich’s research team, Dr. Heinrich soon learned he was a capable writer and invited Saari to collaborate with him on multiple technical reports and journal articles. He remained at the University of Minnesota where he completed his Ph.D. in Mechanics in 1976.

Only three days after defending his thesis, Saari began working at FluiDyne Engineering Corporation as a research engineer, eventually moving into a role as the main technical proposal writer within the marketing department due to his experience and capability of writing understandable technical reports.

Saari remained in the engineering industry but continued to nurture his creative pursuits. During the 1990s, he took creative writing classes for enjoyment. Recalling a time when the students were asked to write one chapter of a novel, Saari said, “I came up with three chapters and an outline for the rest. The instructor was so excited about my effort that he encouraged me to submit it to several editors whom he knew at publishing houses. Naturally, all I received in reply were polite rejection letters.” 

He set the story aside until around 2006 when he heard a segment on National Public Radio about the emerging self-publishing industry. Shortly after, Saari decided to take a sabbatical from work, using the time to help care for his mother and to take another look at the three chapters and outline. He eventually turned it into his first novel, Snowman, published in late 2006. 

It wasn’t until his retirement in 2016 that he was able to revisit his writing. Using Minnesota’s North Shore for his settings, particularly Grand Marais where Saari now resides from May through October, he has since written and self-published five more novels. His most recent novel Watery Grave, features a fictitious AEM Professor, a team of AEM students, and “forensic engineering” using Computational Fluid Dynamics and wind tunnel testing. 

Former AEM student Isaac Nistler stands in the wind tunnel depicted in Saari's novel, 'Watery Grave.'

When asked what made him decide to feature UMN and AEM in this novel, he stated, “A reader suggested that I should capitalize on my aerospace background by incorporating wind tunnel testing into the solution of a mystery. After some thought, I came up with the “forensic engineering” idea, and I incorporated the AEM Department because of my fond memories of the years I spent there.” The response to Saari’s use of “forensic engineering” has been well received and readers are looking forward to more on the topic. 

For others who may want to incorporate writing into their engineering career, Saari advises putting yourself in the mindset of the reading audience and trying to present the material in an informative and engaging manner. The level of detail and the specific language used will be different depending on the intended readers, but the goal should be the same; “Write clearly and concisely so your readers can understand the message and try to keep them awake long enough to absorb it. That's what I've always tried to do -- my readers will have to judge whether or not I've succeeded.”

Since completing Watery Grave, Saari is taking a break from writing to enjoy a little traveling. He does, however, have many ideas for a seventh novel which he expects to begin working on during the upcoming winter months. 

Stay up to date on Dave Saari’s adventures and writing by visiting his website, MYSTERIOUS MUSINGS.