Professor of journalism at FGCU publishes book
Just seven miles away from FGCU is the Koreshan State Historic Site. The site is one of Florida’s many state parks, and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In the late 1800s, a man named Cyrus Teed moved to Estero and founded a utopian community where the park is today. One of Teed’s main beliefs was that we live inside of the earth.
With more than 200 followers at one point, the Koreshan community thrived.
Lyn Millner, associate professor of journalism at FGCU, became fascinated with the Koreshans and their way of life about five years ago. At the time, as a freelance writer, she pitched the idea to write a story about the Koreshans to the editor of a magazine, who loved it, so she got to researching and writing. Two thousand words and an editorial shift later, the story was no longer of interest to the magazine.
“It didn’t even matter, though. I was in too deep at that point,” Millner said. “I had uncovered too much.”
So, she wrote a book. “The Allure of Immortality: An American Cult, A Florida Swamp, and a Renegade Prophet” officially releases Oct. 20.
On Friday, Oct. 22, there will be a launch party to celebrate the book. Amy Bennett Williams of The News-Press will be doing a special introduction.
Those in attendance will not only have the opportunity to have Millner sign their copy of the book, but will also have the option to get a bookplate with a stamped signature of Cyrus Teed himself. The bookplate is exclusive to the launch party.
Reviews of the book describe it as “brilliantly written and strangely moving,” and “a riveting tale … written with style and panache,” as per authors Steve Almond and Martin Tolchin.
The book is nonfiction and research-based but reads like a story. Millner’s research included the Koreshans’ old newspapers, journals, artifacts and railroad maps from the 1800s, which helped her make the book scenic.
“I love research,” Miller said. “I’m a hound. The more I found out about these people who followed this guy here to mosquito-infested Florida, the more they didn’t seem crazy.
The story is strange. A lot of stuff that’s been written about them stops at strange, but that didn’t do them justice,” Miller said.
When asked why a FGCU student would want to read the book, Millner responded with, “to study how journalism can lift above news and features and how it can be used to re-create a world that’s lost.”
Millner has had works published in newspapers such as the New York Times and USA Today, while her radio stories and essays have been broadcast on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition and Weekend Edition. “The Allure of Immortality” is her first published book.
Those who would like to attend the launch party are welcome to Room 114 in Sugden Hall from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 22; admission is free. There will be refreshments and a cash bar. Millner’s book will be available to purchase for $24.99.