A week or so ago I was attending an Abraham Lincoln lecture at a private club in Washington, DC. Several people I knew were there, including a fellow Lincoln book author I’ve known for years but hadn’t seen for several months. She asked what I’ve been up to, then shocked me with the question: Is Lincoln all you do?
To be honest, I was a bit taken aback. After all, my official author website is nicknamed “Science Traveler.” My background is science and my entire working career was in science until I quit my job about six years ago to pursue writing full time. I’ve traveled a lot in the last few years and my first two books were biographies of two famous scientists, Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison. Recent travel took me to Cuba (where I admit to seeing two Lincoln statues), Costa Rica (no Lincoln), and New England (my father’s funeral).
In other words, I do a lot that doesn’t involve Abraham Lincoln.
Then I started to think more deeply about this question. It’s true that I haven’t spent as much time on scientific work or writing in recent times. I’ve let my scientific blog go dormant for the last year due to lack of time and the inconvenience of logging in (although I’ve been contemplating resurrecting it under a new name). I even write less about my travels, in part because I’ve been traveling so much that going through the photos upon my return is overwhelming. My Lincoln studies have paralleled my scientific career, unpaid but no less enthusiastically pursued in my spare time. Since I left my science job I’ve put more focus on my Lincoln interests. I even wrote a book on him, Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America. Lately it does seem my energies are mostly on Lincoln. Maybe Lincoln has taken over my life.
Admittedly, my role as Vice President of the Lincoln Group of DC has taken up a lot of my time, from organizing and/or attending activities to writing for the Lincolnian newsletter to writing all the website copy to actively participating in our book study group to helping my colleagues schedule dinner lecturers and other events. I’m also on the Board of the Abraham Lincoln Institute and active in the Lincoln Forum. My calendar is filled with Lincoln events.
Even the travel has had a Lincoln flavor. I drove to Charleston, South Carolina in the spring to see where the Civil War started and check out the Confederate submarine, the Hunley. A 2,500 mile road trip this summer took me to Illinois for Chasing Abraham Lincoln, Part 3. I’ll be heading to Gettysburg for the Lincoln Forum meeting in November and plan to squeeze in trips to two Civil War museums in the near future. I might even check out Lincoln in California (and yes, there is a such a thing, although he never visited there himself).
Much of this focus on Lincoln has to do with my work in progress, a book on a specific interest of Lincoln. I’ve also tentatively started a new Lincoln book idea and still plan to be editor-in-chief of a Lincoln compendium book written with my fellow Lincoln Group of DC colleagues, if I can ever find the time to pursue it.
But there is hope for more diversity. I am working on non-Lincoln books and other writing for magazines, something I hadn’t put much emphasis on until recently. I have a travel memoir about half finished, along with some ideas for travel-related articles. And there is the aforementioned scientific blog, which I anticipate turning into a science communication outlet.
And of course, there will be more travel. A lot more travel. Already planned are trips to Chicago (okay, in part for Lincoln sites) and the lower Caribbean, including upper South and lower Central America. Tentative plans for next year include a road trip in the middle United States and a tour in the Middle East.
So no, Lincoln is not all I do. But he is much of what I do. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
David J. Kent is a science traveler and the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, in Barnes and Noble stores now. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.