How many of you remember the song from the 1960s, “The Little Old Lady from Pasadena”? This week, I want to talk about “The Little Old Lady from Long Beach.” There might not be a song about her, but I think you will love her story.
Back in 2015, about six weeks before The Wisdom of Walt first released, my publisher sent me a single printed copy for final review. These are known as “galley proofs” and trust me, when it’s your first book, seeing your dream finally in print—it’s a Big Deal!
Now my job was to read through the entire book, letter by letter…word by word…to ensure that everything was exactly as it should be before the first full print run. At 65,000-plus words, this was no small task. Especially when you consider that I was exhausted with the project and thought I was finally “finished” when I sent everything to my editor several months earlier.
I was also in the middle of teaching my History of Disneyland class, so when it was time to take the class on a tour of the Park, it was also a chance to bring The Wisdom of Walt “home” to Disneyland for the first time. I was still recovering from my first brain surgery, so while I sat out on some of the attractions, I could continue to read through the galley proof and make progress toward my next deadline.
Around 11 a.m., my students boarded Splash Mountain and I took a seat at the nearby Hungry Bear Restaurant (no Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah fifty-two-foot drops for me), and opened up my hardcover copy of The Wisdom of Walt. An older couple was sitting next to me, and the woman elbowed her husband, pointed to my book, and asked him if he “had ever seen that one.”
“Yeah,” he replied, gruffly. “I’ve already got that one….”
And with that, he went back to eating his lunch, and she went back to feeling dismissed and ignored. When he got up and went to the bathroom, I used that opportunity to introduce myself and explain to her what The Wisdom of Walt was all about and left her with a business card.
Before I got home that night, she had ordered an advanced copy as a gift, for her husband, for Father’s Day!
Fast forward a few weeks and copies from the first run arrived on pallets in my driveway, for me to sign and fill pre-orders, the Friday before Father’s Day. I specifically remembered my newfound friend from the Hungry Bear and knew that her copy needed to be in Long Beach by Saturday so she could give it as a gift on Sunday. I could take a chance and trust that the U.S. Post Office would deliver in a day; Long Beach is local after all. Or I could get up early on Saturday morning and drive the seventy-plus miles (one-way) and personally ensure she had her husband’s Father’s Day gift early Saturday morning, without worries, before Sunday.
What should I do? What would you do? What would Walt do?
I personally pulled her book aside, woke up early the next morning, and hand-delivered that one book to Long Beach, California. She emailed me on Monday, letting me know how happy and relieved she was to wake up on Saturday morning and find her signed copy sitting on the doorstep well before breakfast. Better yet, on Sunday her husband was thrilled to receive a new Disney book he had never seen before for Father’s Day.
Over the next several months, I continued to receive random orders for books from Long Beach. The pattern repeated itself when Beyond the Wisdom of Walt released a few years later. To date, I’ve been fortunate to sell somewhere between 50,000 and 60,000 books. Why don’t I know the number exactly? Because at some point, I was blessed with not being able to keep up anymore. How did that happen?
By not ignoring the one.
And delivering to “The Little Old Lady from Long Beach!”