Tuesday, October 16, 2012

My journey to the Fountain of Youth

I feel like I need to go to confession, even though I am not Catholic. Father, forgive me for I have not blogged in almost six weeks–I'd confess to my readers. But the reason is good–my Fountain of Youth project is going to be published and be included in a museum exhibit!

In past blogs I've revealed my obsession with Poncebilia, the Fountain of Youth, and Florida's springs. As I traveled to sites around the state, I began to see a narrative develop and my initial thought was to create an exhibit for the Orange County Regional History Center. So I started collecting ephemera and taking photos to support that exhibit. When it became apparent the exhibit space wasn't available at the History Center, I shifted my goals to a book. Originally I thought I would merely collect images, create an outline and hand it over to my friend Joy to write. But as the project came more into view, we decided that I really need to be the one to write it. So I soldiered on–collecting, photographing and writing whenever I had a free moment.

As I was working on the project, I got an email from an individual in Gainesville who was collecting images for a similar book about the Fountain of Youth. While I couldn't share my images, (because of my own project), I found that this individual was a kindred spirit and she introduced me to the work of Gainesville artist Margaret Tolbert and her Aquiferious facebook page. This opened up a whole new world and the book grew to not only include images and text about Florida's Fountains of Youth in the past, but also content about the current and future states of Florida's springs. That's how I learned about the proposed  project threatening Silver Springs. When the Save Silver Springs artwork I created caught the eye of nature photgrapher John Moran and his girlfriend Leslie Gamble, we collaborated on posters for a protest. I ran into John again at a Glen Springs clean-up in Gainesville and he wanted to learn more about my book project. After showing him the content for my book and my original exhibit proposal, he invited me to be part of an exhibit he was planning for 2013 at the Florida Museum of Natural History, then titled "Amnesia Springs." He also loved my book and sent an email to the publisher of his book "Journal of Light," University Press of Florida.

Photo by John Moran of me at Glen Springs
Poster I created with John Moran and Leslie Gamble at the Silver Springs protest

Weeks passed after that initial email introduction and I kept collecting materials for the book, and refining the text with the intent of self publishing. Then I received a call from the publisher expressing interest in my project. From that point on, events happened at a rapid pace. The text was finalized and sent to readers with a pdf of a preliminary layout. The manuscript was sent two experts on the subject, both of whom are authors of books on similar subjects, and they both gave glowing recommendations. The book was then submitted for approval by the editorial board. After the board gave thumbs up the project was rushed into production so it would be ready for spring of 2013 and the 500th anniversary of Ponce's landing in La Florida. The final manuscript was submitted, a contract was signed and I went to work on the layout, expanding it to 144 pages.

Before I finalized the layout I delivered a paper at the Society for Commercial Archeology's Conference in New Jersey titled: "Finding the Fountain of Youth: Florida's Magical Waters as Roadside Attraction." As I am a graphic designer by occupation, not a writer, the book is driven by the layout, and I was fortunate that the publisher allowed me design it. The final layout was submitted last week, and the book is now in the publisher's hands. I am currently waiting for edits, and in order to make our print date the book needs to go to the printer by December.

My goal with the book was to create something that would appeal to an audience that would not normally purchase a book about Florida history. Full of pop culture imagery, it is designed to be eye-catching and easily readable. It explores how the myth of the fountain of youth has become part of the branding of Florida and how our adoption of that paradigm has led Floridians to make choices that aren't necessarily the best for our state. In a way the book chronicles my own journey that started at the Fountain of Youth and grew into my desire to document Ponce de Leon imagery throughout the state, and culminated in recent trips to Florida's magical springs. At each step on this journey, I had no idea what the next step would be. I was committed to making the project happen, but I didn't know how. But I kept pressing onward.

So 2013 looks to be a big year for Ponce and me. The book should hit the shelves sometime around the 500th anniversary of Ponce's arrival and my part of the exhibit at the Florida Museum of Natural History should open in March. There is much work to be done, and there are many details that still need to be worked out. But I'll keep on taking one small step at a time, believing that somehow it is going to work out to be something fabulous and wonderful, and that it can make a real difference for our state in the end.


  1. Amazing job Rick. Looking forward to read the book.

    1. Way to go! I can't wait to get your book Rick. When I do I will put it on the shelf with my Aquiferious and Journal of Light books.
      Karen Chadwick

  2. That is a great story. Been enjoying your FB posts and definitely look forward to the book.

  3. Looks great.....Most of all I want to know more about the Watersking elephant :)