"Kingdom Keepers" fans who will be visiting Walt Disney World next month are in for a treat. Author Ridley Pearson will be signing copies of the final installment of his series, and guests can purchase the book days ahead of its national release date.
"Kingdom Keepers: The Insider" is the seventh book in the popular Young Adult series that takes place inside the Walt Disney World theme parks and aboard Disney Cruise Line ships. But this book was created differently than the others in the series because Pearson allowed readers to help write the book. By using a free app, also called Kingdom Keepers Insider, fans were allowed to submit ideas and actual writing to be considered for publication.
When I interviewed Pearson at the start of this process last year, he said, "I really feel so grateful to the readers that I felt it a little unfair if I was the only one who decided how this whole world was going to come to a close."
“I'm going to post a chapter every Sunday and a piece of the outline for the next week. The readers will come in and vote on things and give me suggestions and write fan fiction that I will actually clip right into the book. Then I will finish that next chapter and post it Sunday, and we'll start the process over. So, in real time, the reader will be seeing what the book is going to be as I'm writing it and help me decide where it goes. Near the end, we'll stop that and I'll finish the book on my own … It's really going to be a fun process.”
Now, it's time to see what the collaboration has produced. The book, which will be released on April 1, is described this way: "In this, the final installment in the epic Kingdom Keepers series, betrayal and ambition push the boundaries of loyalty. Chasing scattered clues in pursuit of a long-lost icon, whose magic offers a fighting chance against an evil that Walt Disney himself created, the Keepers find their hearts and minds tested in the park where it all began. Bonds that once threatened to fray are renewed under the pressure for survival. As the five are pushed to their limits"and then beyond, feelings intensify behind self-imposed walls of well kept secrets."
As he has done for the past several years, Pearson will make two appearances at Walt Disney World to promote the book. On March 26, the author will be signing books from 4 to 6 p.m. at Once Upon a Toy at Downtown Disney Marketplace. The next day, March 27, Pearson will visit Writer's Stop at Hollywood Studios from 9 to 11 a.m.
My 11-year-old son is a huge Kingdom Keepers fan, and we have attended several book signings. Over the years, we have collected some tips that may be helpful to first-timers. Here's what you need to know:
** Lines will begin forming hours prior to the Downtown Disney signing, so plan to be there early. A limited number of wristbands will be distributed.
** In order to get an autograph, you are required to purchase KK7 at Walt Disney World. Each person with a wristband is allowed to purchase two copies of the book. Fans who want to purchase the book but don't want to wait for an autograph are directed to a separate queue. (Passholder discounts are applicable to these purchases.)
** Regular theme-park admission is required for the event at Hollywood Studios.
** Your time with Pearson is brief, so be prepared. If you'd like him to write something special in your book, jot it down ahead of time.
** Be on the lookout for surprises while waiting in line. Last year, Pearson took the time to walk through the queue, greeting all his Kingdom Keepers readers and posing for photos before the event started.
** If you arrive too late to obtain a wristband, which guarantees a meeting with Pearson, ask about the stand-by queue. Another group of guests are given different wristbands in case the author has time to meet additional fans during the event.
Finally, for the many fans who are sad to see this series end, don't fret too much. Pearson has indicated a new series would continue the adventures of the Kingdom Keepers.
“We were debating something considerably different for the second series, and I think it won't be all that different in a lot of ways because I'm having a hard time letting go of the characters and the readers polled are having a hard time letting go of it being about the [Disney] parks," he told me. "They'll be older. I hope it will be mostly the same characters and also set in the Disney parks."
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