Friday, October 27, 2017

Featuring My Talented - And Definitely Busy - Husband

It's just me connecting with readers and Disney-philes today. My dear husband R.J., is so busy with painting commissions he had to forego his usual Friday afternoon FB Live hour. That has actually given me a chance to make him the subject of my post today.

Watching him at work is just as interesting for me as it is for his "fans" - and I've been watching him for over fifty years. His attention to detail, his total concentration and commitment to a canvas never waivers. I try not to interrupt him when he's at work because I know how involved he is in the process, so I was actually surprised when he started doing the video logs, painting and talking at the same time - and loving it! It's my belief that all of you who follow him on FB both inspire and invigorate him because he really looks forward to, and totally enjoys, his Friday work-time chats with all of you.

In addition, I have to thank those who have been so patient, waiting for their commission works. Our searching for, buying and moving to our new home has really put both of back several months in our work. Please know how much it means to him that none of you have complained. And I can attest to the fact that he is working every day, and into the evenings, to get caught up.

I know he will read this post, and smile, and state that I've gone overboard praising him. But I like to think he deserved this attention on my blog today, and I hope lots of you send me comments about your experiences watching him at work. And for those of you who follow my blog, but haven't seen R.J.'s video logs, tune in next week at 4 p.m. Central Time. I guarantee you'll be hooked!

Friday, October 20, 2017

"I'm Working On It"

I suppose the correct title for this blog should be, "WE'RE working on it" because the words refer to the new Disney book R.J. and I are in the process of writing. But it really is just me at the moment.

That's because R.J. is really busy, creating lots of commission paintings just now, so I am reading, researching, and notating, in preparation for us actually putting words on the computer screen, and getting this done by next spring.

For those who don't know, we have been asked by our publisher, Theme Park Press, to pen a book about the history of Walt Disney World, from our unique perspective. That will include stories from other WDW cast members, as well as new tales from us. The book will begin with Walt's ideas for a Florida project, and continue to present day. 

The title for the book is: It Will Always Be WALT Disney World. It was Walt's brother, Roy, who was determined that WDW be a living legacy to Walt's creativity and genius, and that will be the theme throughout.

It is nostalgic to thumb though old newspapers, magazines, and Disney publications as I'm organizing our chapters and making notes. Some writers find this process tedious, but this part always gets my creative brain juices percolating. I'm rediscovering so many facts, moments in time and memories that the hardest part is deciding how to keep it fun for our readers, rather than making it just a textbook about the building and growth of the Parks.

R.J. is just as eager as I am to see this one come to fruition, and we don't want to disappoint those who have given us such positive reviews about our previous Disney books. We know this one will be  unique from the others, but we will be certain it is done with our personal style.

So, if you're wondering what the "Disney Ogrens" are doing on any given work day, just picture R.J. in his studio, at his easel, painting away. Meanwhile, upstairs I am in my study, surrounded by papers and books spread about, with note cards in stacks on my desk as I fill legal pads with chapter ideas. And I'll keep you updated on our progress.

Friday, October 13, 2017

My Novel, "Ribbons", and How It Came To Be

For those of you who follow my husband, R.J., on his Facebook vlog each Friday, we both really appreciate your interest in his artwork and his stories about Walt Disney World. For the last couple of weeks, he has been mentioning my blog to you all because he knows I'm trying to build up a following of my own here. So if he is the reason you are reading this post, I thank you. And please leave a comment, so I can gauge where my new readers are hearing about me.

Writing has been an important part of my life since I was quite young. I wrote my first short story at the age of nine, was the drama columnist of my high school paper. Personality profiles and travel articles for various magazines followed, after I was married, and I even penned a few screenplays (none of which ever made it to the screen).

My published novel, "Ribbons" began as an idea over thirty years ago,while staying at a bed and breakfast one weekend, with R.J. I wrote a couple of chapters longhand, sitting on the porch of the Victorian getaway, and put them away when I got home.

Whenever I had some free time - not often when you're raising a family and working full-time - I would sit at my typewriter (yes, it was that long ago - no computer in our house then) and add to what I'd already written. Once I had a finished draft, I actually played with the idea of changing it to a screenplay. Wrote it, but didn't like it.

After quite a few years, and several drafts, I put the novel away because it just never had the spark, or the finish, that I knew it needed. It wasn't until we moved from Florida to Virginia, and were living in an historic town that I got the itch to begin again, with that town as the setting.

That's when I became excited about this work again. The location and the people there inspired me, and "Ribbons" was finally becoming something I could send to potential agents and publishers. I got some positive feedback, but no offers. (It really is true that there are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. A famous writer said that.)

Finally, a few years ago, now living in the Chicago suburbs, I joined a writers group, made up mostly of male writers, and revised, rewrote and enlarged on "Ribbons", with their comments, caring and critical help. The best compliment I got from one of the men in the group was when he said that, though he wasn't normally a reader of this type of novel, he was so invested in the characters, he really wanted to find out what happened to them.

There it was! The characters were the stars; the plot the background for them. That was what I'd been striving for all along, and his remark let me know I'd achieved my goal at last, and I am so proud of this work.

I always wanted to appeal to both women and men with this novel. Getting the nod to publish it by Theme Park Press was the final accolade for me. So, whether you are a reader of novels, or you're not, please give "Ribbons" a try - and let me know what you think.

Friday, October 6, 2017

My Personal - And Favorite - Source of Emotion and Discovery

I've kept a journal since May of 1976. I'm currently writing in Volume #86, and I have no plans to stop recording the everyday happenings, the special moments, or my thoughts about life as it happens. These volumes have served me well over the years. I consult them for specific details about important dates, and our children have even asked me to look up specific remembrances over time.

These handwritten tomes were of primary importance when R.J. and I were writing our first books about Walt Disney World, and, currently, I'm delving into them for our latest co-writing effort - about our take on Walt Disney World history - due to be published in the spring of 2018.

All of these journals reside in the glass-enclosed bookshelves above my secretary desk in my study. Today, I took Volume 34 from the shelf, and sat down to read about the week I spent waiting for the birth of our first grandson, Alex Michael. And why that one today? Because Alex turned 22 years old today, and I wanted to relive the day he entered our lives.

My mother had passed away in late July of that year, and I was still dealing with my immense sadness. On October 1st, I was greeted at the airport in Florida by my dad. He had paid for my flight so that I could be in Orlando when our daughter, Dawn, gave birth. I'm always surprised, whenever I re-read any of these pages, by the many details I've forgotten after so many years.

The complex emotions of that week touched me in ways I did remember today, and I could still  visualize many of the moments I had penned. I didn't recall, however, that Dawn and I finished decorating Alex's nursery the day after I arrived, with Winnie the Pooh cut-out figures that R.J. had made and painted. I was reminded as well that the baby border in the nursery was in a Mickey and Minnie theme. In addition, though I vividly remembered how long it took Alex to make his debut, I learned that, for years, I have incorrectly told people he was born at 7 p.m. in the evening, when the correct time was 8:40 p.m.!

I tell you all this because I've always encouraged writers, friends, and others to keep a journal. After all these years, it is still a source of joy, emotion, remembrance and discovery for me. I often open a random volume and just sit and relive a part of my life again. I learn from it, and I treasure it for a multitude of reasons. It's my hope that, someday, when I'm no longer on earth, our children will read my journals, and not only enjoy the years I've recorded, but maybe learn a bit more about me as well that they never knew.

Even if you're not a writer, you can just record what is important to you on a blank page. I guarantee that when you look back, you won't be disappointed - and you'll have a unique legacy that is totally yours.