Man, 2018 was a truly wild year for me as a writer.
When I began my journey as a published author four years ago, I thought I was just fulfilling my dream of getting something I wrote published. I was interested in writing for the sake of seeing my name on a paperback book on my bookshelf or on the screen of my Kindle. And in the spring of 2015, I accomplished that dream. I never imagined that A Historical Tour of Walt Disney World would spawn two more books, making it a series. Nor could I, ever in my wildest dreams, foresee that a book with my name on it would be sitting on the shelf of Barnes & Nobles all over the country for readers to pick up.
After A Historical Tour of Walt Disney World volume 3 was published this past summer, I had planned on calling it quits with the series, or at least taking an extended break from writing. I felt as though the interest in whether or not Disney attractions were historically accurate had waned. Besides, the concept of a book series based on the historical context behind popular Disney attractions was a very niche market: many people were often disappointed, after purchasing and reading my books, to find that my books were not about the development and inspiration Imagineers had in creating the attractions, but instead focused on whether the architecture for Pirates of the Caribbean was historically accurate or what the connection is between the Sunset Ranch Market dining location and Sunset Boulevard at Hollywood Studios. In other words, many readers didn’t really care about getting a world or American history lesson when they read my books.
This caused me to consider my future as a writer. My specialty is history. Heck, I’m a history teacher by profession. What could I possibly write about that people would be interested in and care about that hadn’t already been covered in books?
And then my wife gave me the idea of writing about the role Disney played in the 1964 New York World’s Fair. A quick search turned up that no one has yet, in the 55 years since the Fair, written a book solely dedicated to the Disney attractions at Flushing Meadow. I was surprised at this.
But the World’s Fair was an essential part of Disney history. I would even argue that it was a turning point for Walt and the Company. As a result, if I was going to write the first book about something so important, I needed to do it well, if not for my readers, then for my own sake.
I realized that I needed to do research. Luckily, my years serving as a research assistant at the university library when I was in college would come in handy for this. I found the usual Disney information about the attractions (such as memoirs written by Disney Imagineers), but I wanted more. How were the pavilions developed and who else, other than Disney folks, were involved in the process? I went out on a limb and contacted the different corporations and organizations that partnered with Disney for the world’s fair. In May, I received an email from the head archivist for the State of Illinois, and he invited me to Springfield to dig through the state archives. Over the span of 8 hours on a July afternoon, I took scans of more than 5000 pages of documents, all related to the Illinois Pavilion and the “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” attraction. I quickly realized how fascinating the story behind the Illinois State Pavilion was. I also quickly realized that I would not be able to include the whole story of Disney’s role in the World’s Fair within one book.
I would be writing a new book series: Walt Disney and the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair.
As I’ve been working on book one, Great Moments, more things have fallen into my lap to assist me with making sure this endeavor is thorough. In early December, I stumbled across a list of individuals that worked at the Illinois Pavilion when they were in their late teens, as well as their addresses. On a whim, I sent letters to ten of these individuals. I received phone calls from two people, now well into their seventies, who would love to recount their time at the Illinois Pavilion to me for my book. I have also been in contact with a Disney Legend, who I will be interviewing this afternoon. Altogether, these interviews will round out my historical narrative of the Illinois Pavilion, bringing to it a human side of things in addition to the official proceedings that occurred before and during the Fair.
I have also been working with a professional copy editor, who has been reading over my text and providing excellent feedback on content, grammar, and sentence structure to ensure that my story is as thorough and professional as possible.
My wife has been over-and-above supportive of this task. In mid-December, she surprised me by telling me that we were going to convert one of the empty bedrooms in our house into a professional author office for me, complete with bookshelves and a desk, so I could spend the next few years working on these monographs in a place of my own. I am not only eternally grateful to her for this surprise, but just for every ounce of support and encouragement she’s given me in this process of research and writing.
So here’s to the telling of a new story! I can’t wait to journey with you through the next few years!