In just a few days, I get to share the magic of Disneyland with my children--something I always dreamed about, but never imagined would actually happen. It's pretty amazing, and I wanted to share with you a look back at what I did when I worked for the Mouse.
Just out of college, I got to work at the Happiest Place on Earth. Yes, I'm speaking of Disneyland. The Magic Kingdom. The Mouse. The Park. Whatever name you'd like to call it. I thought I'd share some of my adventures with you.
I was hired for Grad Nites 1996. I had no clue what to expect, but I soon learned I'd be in charge of a band called The Funky Hippies at the French Market stage in New Orleans Square. Yes, that was as awesome as it sounds. A flashy, gaudy 70s tribute band playing everything from Rick James to (my favorite) the BeeGees to Gloria Gaynor.
On one of my nights off, I got to ride in the Main Street Electrical Parade! I wagged Eliott's tail...the dragon from Pete's Dragon. That was awesome!
As the Grad Nites gig wrapped, I wasn't sure what I was going to do. I was under the impression I was hired for the 6 week stint. Then, my supervisor asked if I'd found a place to live. I'd been staying with a friend who also worked at the Park. I quickly found an apartment and settled in as an assistant stage manager for the Entertainment department.
I trained as a stage manager for The Hunchback of Notre Dame's Festival of Fools and Fantasmic! FOF was my favorite. I loved the wide set, the colorful costumes, and the amazing cast. Fantasmic! was a blast, too, but wet, since it's set on the Rivers of America. I have many stories from my nights on the River. I loved sitting on the far side of the fort to watch Fantasy in the Sky--the fireworks spectacular--between shows. Another show I was in charge of periodically was Aladdin and Jasmine's StoryTale Adventures.
I also did a variety of events. We did a cute little skit for a very fancy dinner at the Disneyland Hotel. I stage managed weddings, including Mickey and Minnie. I assisted with many big name stars. Two events stand out as the most exciting, though. The re-dedication of Star Tours with Chewbacca, C-3PO, and Carrie Fisher (yes, I got to tell Carrie Fisher when to go onstage!), and a press event for the release of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella starring Brandi (Jason Alexander blessed me at this event!) I also did a fun event with Robin Williams to celebrate the release of Aladdin and the King of Thieves.
My work even led me to be in charge of entertainment at the Disneyland Hotel! From time to time, I'd get to act as Entertainment-1, roaming the hotel's various clubs and restaurants to touch base with the talent. Another wet spot, I'd start up Fantasy Waters--a fun fountain and light show set to Disney music.
Yes, it was a good run. I was there for three and a half years. I still have lots of memorabilia, including a beautiful jacket from the FOF show. I'll never forget my time with the Mouse. And I shall always be grateful.
I don’t know exactly when it started. There wasn’t a sudden switch that turned on or a moment when the lightning struck. It probably happened gradually.
I’m talking about my love for science-fiction.
I do remember living in a small mountain town long before cable television distracted every home. Our programming selection was minimal, and my dad oftentimes had control of what we watched. When he found Star Trek on one of those stations, we never ventured far. I hated it at the time, but those moments in our family room, curled up on our old yellow couch next to the wood stove as we watched Captain James T. Kirk lead the magnificent crew of the Enterprise will never be forgotten.
By the time Star Trek: The Next Generation came about, I had started to develop an interest. I’d seen the Star Wars movies in the theater. Having an older brother and a younger brother pretty much ensured my nerd-dom. But I boarded the new Enterprise with Captain Picard and Commander Riker and loved every moment of it. It’s actually what prompted my writing. A couple of friends and I would write stories for each other in the Star Trek universe. It was an even greater escape than just watching Gene Roddenberry’s masterpiece on the box in the living room.
While my love of sci-fi never really died, it did get shoved off to the side during high school. My other love, musical theatre, became my passion and started me down the career path. I was going to be a stage manager on Broadway. My world was full of fresnels, fly systems, sound boards, prompt scripts, and fabulous costumes. Escape in a different form. This time, I was helping to create magic on stage to invite others to join in.
I didn’t quite make it to Broadway. After I graduated, I took a job at Disneyland. Ever avoiding this crazy world, I stayed in the Magic Kingdom for close to three years. While I was there, the hype over the new Star Wars trilogy began. Episode One was on its way, and I rediscovered the original trilogy. I also ventured into online role playing games, immersing myself completely in a new universe. By the time Attack of the Clones released, I swore I would name my firstborn Anakin and my car’s license plate read “JEDIKNT.”
It had begun.
In the following years, my nerd-dom grew. I discovered the re-imagining of Battlestar Galactica, Firefly, and many other amazing tales of other worlds. I even slipped back into writing.
I met the love of my life and married him. (Even though he's not a sci-fi fan!) This came with a slew of changes—leaving my job and career, moving across country, and becoming a mom. I needed to find my identity before I lost myself completely in the whirlwind of change.
Writing grounded me. I pulled out my characters from my RPG days and created a new universe. I listened carefully to the internal whispers of my characters as they related their stories. As I typed them into that first document, I was all-powerful. The mighty author with a New York Times bestseller breakout novel.
It was terrible.
I knew nothing about writing other than what I had learned in my grade school English classes. But I sent off my final draft, expecting all kinds of offers from agents and publishers alike. I was stunned to receive my first rejection. Were these people crazy?
I stumbled on a site with tips for writers, and my eyes were opened. Greatly humbled, I placed that first novel aside and started to work on another story. It took far greater discipline to remember the “rules” about point of view and showing versus telling, but the final product shined with the effort. No, it wasn’t perfect, but it was something I was proud of. And it spurred me on to write more. To keep creating. To keep trying.
I never would have pegged myself as a writer. It wasn’t something I set out to do. It’s a passion I uncovered in the midst of depression and turmoil. But I am so thankful for this beautiful art form. It’s binding, uplifting, and satisfying. It’s terrible and wonderful at the same time.
My advice for aspiring authors? Keep going. As Captain Taggert says in the historical documentary film Galaxy Quest, “Never give up. Never surrender.” Be willing to learn. Get involved in a writers’ group. Do all you can to improve your craft every day. And remember—the world is full of amazing tales, but it still needs your story. Go for it.
I am an active (although sometimes unwilling) participant in this world we're all familiar with. But this isn't the only world I live in. As a writer, I get to indulge my imagination and live in multiple universes. Right now, I'm fully engaged in four. Talk about a mixed-up head!
I'm working on two different projects in the Circeae system. This is the universe where The Crown's Call takes place. It's a vast system with three stars. You can check it out here or take a gander at the pic to the left. The two projects are set hundreds of years apart, so that's almost like two different worlds. We'll call it one and a half.
Also on my plate is a romance project I'm doing with a friend. It's set in modern-day Colorado (of which I should know), but in a small mountain town (of which I'm learning). While there are elements of the everyday, it's still a matter of world-building. (And by the way, it's awesome!)
There are other imagined worlds I dabble in here and there, but I've tried to hone my focus on these right now. I can only fit so many worlds In my brain. Limiting myself is helpful.
I also try to keep an eternal perspective. My beliefs, my faith draw me to dwell in that realm. I know that doesn't work for everyone, but it helps to keep me grounded and sane.
And now, we're back to reality, which is totally overrated. And because I figured in one and a half worlds with my Crown's Call work, we'll just tally in a half to equal four. (I know I'm completely bonkers, but I'm okay with that.)
Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? That's the question every writer asks their writing buddies. It's this funny code between us. When outsiders hear it, they look at us like we have three heads. We share the joy with them, then puff ourselves up like we've taught them algebra or something.
So...am I participating in NaNo this year?
No. I've done it previous years, and it's been great. I've written a couple novels that way. Granted, they are in desperate need of revision (which I plan to get to someday...), but as far as cranking it out, NaNo is the way to go. It's encouraging, motivating, and focusing.
Which is the precise reason I'm stepping back this year. If you're in the NaNo zone, those elements drive you toward finishing. If not, they are guilt-inducing. I'm just not there, so I'm going to let my fellow writers proceed while I sit back, write s-l-o-w-l-y, and applaud.
So if you're doing NaNo, go get 'em! I wish you the best. If not, grab some chocolate (or a nap) and join me.
Happy (No-No) NaNo-ing!
Award-winning sci-fi author * Christ follower, wife, and mom * broadcast content producer. And yes, I am a real duchess. http://amzn.to/2eLTlH3