Writing with Nate (Instead of About Him)

One of Nate’s upcoming school assignments is a biographical paper, 3-5 pages long for Intro to Mass Media. He needed to come up with an influential figure in media and, of course, honed right in on Walt Disney. His professor approved.

This isn’t Nate’s first work on Disney. He worked on a poster board project in 11th grade that tackled Disney’s involvement in World War Two propaganda. It was all new to me and fascinating to learn about. Nate already knew about the rarely seen Victory Through Air Power film, Walt’s personal attempt to force the U.S. government to develop an Air Force. So Disney is solid turf for Nate.

How to get him to write a paper? I thought back to the personal essay he wrote last summer for his online English Class (check the “Cyber-summer School” post from June 2010). For that, I asked him to sit and write and, after he was done, prompted him to be more descriptive. Using his encyclopedic knowledge of cartoons, I asked him to do the same for Disney. For those of us who’ve done research papers, it’s unfathomable to start writing without the crutch of research. Not so for Nate, at least when it comes to Disney.

And that’s what he did yesterday. He had already told me of Disney’s influence – movie animation, theme parks and the Walt Disney Company. He wrote a solid introduction, though I needed to remind him of what he’d already said. Then he went through Disney’s animation history, pioneering work in television and creation of Disneyland and Disney World. We stopped before he could launch into the business angle; we’re waiting for a few books on that.

After 90 minutes, he was well into page three, almost done. When he’s in comfortable territory, that boy can perform. Once he’s finished, I’ll post it for all to read, but for now, I’m impressed.

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About Jeff Katz

Jeff Katz is Mayor of Cooperstown, the “Birthplace of Baseball” and home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. His latest book, Split Season:1981 - Fernandomania, the Bronx Zoo, and the Strike that Saved Baseball, (Thomas Dunne Books, 2015), received national attention, with coverage appearing in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Sporting News and NPR’s Only a Game, among others. Katz appeared on ESPN’s Olbermann and The Sporting Life with Jeremy Schaap and MLB Network’s MLB Now, with Brian Kenny. Split Season: 1981 was a finalist for the 2016 Casey Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year.
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