History Professor Hits 100
Tim McNeese completes his 100th book manuscript
York College history professor Tim McNeese recently completed work on his 100th book manuscript, a professional achievement accomplished after more than 20 years of publishing.
The manuscript, slated for publication in the spring of 2009, focuses on the history of the Pony Express and is intended for high school readers. The book will be issued by the New York publishing company, Chelsea House Publishers, with whom McNeese has published more than three dozen books since 2002. Chelsea House is an imprint of Facts on File.
“I started thinking about the potential to reach this mark about a decade ago,” says McNeese, who has been a faculty member at York College since 1992, “but thought it would take much longer than it did. I reached the half-way point with 50 books by the early 2000s. Since then, the number of books I’ve written a year has steadily increased.”
McNeese saw the publication of his 75th book during the spring of 2005, which was a biography of the Italian explorer and merchant, Marco Polo, intended for middle grade readers. Writing assignments have continued to come his way, and he has kept up a steady pace over the past three years to help him reach his current publishing milestone.
His “Pony Express” book will be part of a Chelsea House series titled “Milestones in American History,” intended for high school readers. This book will be one of six he has been working on during the 2007-08 academic year. Other manuscripts in the series will focus on the Louisiana Purchase, the Sherman Antitrust Act, the Oregon Trail, the Donner Party, and the building of the Erie Canal.
Although he generally writes for audiences that include elementary, middle, and high school readers, some of his books were written for college and adult markets. His college textbook, Political Revolutions of the 18th, 19th, and 20th Centuries was published in the spring of 2005. He has also written for the adult market on American Indians, including a pair of books that include collections of traditional Native American stories, which were published by the London-based imprint, Cassell Books. But writing for younger readers remains his professional bread and butter.
“I enjoy writing for younger audiences,” says McNeese. “The manuscripts I’m writing now run between 30 and 35,000 words each. I can complete a manuscript of that length in about four or five weeks. But the work keeps me busy, knowing there is another manuscript waiting to be written.”
Currently, McNeese is booked to write four more titles for Chelsea House this spring and summer, including three titles for a new Civil War series. Former YC history professor and current Dean of Campus Life, Dr. Shane Mountjoy, is also writing for that same series. Tim is also contracted to write a 12-volume, chronological series presenting the sweep of American history. Again, the primary audience will be high school students. When that series is published in its entirety, it will place McNeese’s number of published books at 117.
“That series will be an exciting one for me,” notes McNeese. “It will encompass writing about 400,000 words on American history, with me choosing the content. It’s sort of a dream come true for a historian. When the series idea came up with Chelsea House, it was decided that the same person should write the entire series, rather than just contribute some of the volumes, so a big project fell in my lap.”
The YC professor will begin work on this new series next fall, which will be published incrementally between the fall of 2009 and the spring of 2010.
Tim wrote his first book for publication in 1985 while still teaching public school. It was for an eight-booklet series on American history, intended for classroom use for middle grades. Tim says the series is still in print, with the exception of the eighth booklet.
“That volume focused on predicting future trends that would have an impact on American history,” explains McNeese. “It was a strange request from the publisher, but I wrote it as best I could. Unfortunately, a lot of what I wrote about either did not pan out or other world events had a greater impact, such as the collapse of the Soviet Union by the early 90s. I just didn’t see that coming.”
Since the publication of that first series, he has managed to find additional publishers willing to put his words in print. In all, since the mid-1980s, McNeese has written for eight different publishing companies.
While most of McNeese’s books are connected to American history, others are not. He has written works on the Egyptian pyramids, the Great Wall of China, the Volga River, and biographies on Michelangelo, Picasso, Francisco Goya, and Galileo. He has even written books on contemporary figures, including salsa musician, Tito Puente, and South American writers, such as Isabel Allende and Jorge Luis Borges.
“Writing history has turned out to be one of the most important aspects of my professional career,” says McNeese. “I’ve always wanted to write for publication and began to imagine doing so back when I was a college student. I’ve been extremely blessed to have the opportunities I have had to contribute to the publishing market over the past twenty years.”
Tim’s writing has been recognized beyond just his readers. His writing has earned him a citation in the library reference work Contemporary Authors, and several of his books are included in the reference source, Best Books for Young Teen Readers. He has recently written entries for the World Book Encyclopedia.
One of his books, which focused on the history of the Colorado River, as well as a magazine article he published in American History Magazine in 2005 led to McNeese being tapped as the consulting historian for the History Channel program, “Risk Takers, History Makers: John Wesley Powell and the Grand Canyon,” which aired in the spring of 2006.Currently, McNeese has 10 books in production with two East Coast publishing houses. Four of those will be published this spring, including a title with Enslow Publishers on early American Indians. The others will be in print either this coming fall or next spring.