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Richmond is real, but doesn’t quite know it. Perhaps that’s part of its charm.  I had my shot at framing the real Richmond when I wrote Insiders’ Guide to Richmond, available at BN.com or  Amazon.com and in bookstores around the country and Richmond’s fabulous local gift shops and bookstores (Fountain Bookstore, Chop Suey Books, Book People) soon:

They just had to have a statue somewhere

 I wrote the durned thing so I’m responsible for much of what’s in the 312 page book–though I had little say in the cover and little control over the maps, including the screw up on the Richmond Overview map where Chesterfield County is missing its field. Sigh. [And I just found out today, Sept. 23rd, that a local photographer, Al Wekelo, took both photos on the cover and unfortunately Globe Pequot didn’t give him photo credits. Groan.]
It could have been worse–because it was for a while.  The first I heard about the cover was that it was a cityscape–snooze–and not the river shot I had suggested, but I was just the lowly work-for-hire writer, so what could I do? Months later my editor mentioned in passing that it wasn’t a cityscape after all, but “some statue.”  Apoplexy set in immediately. This is Richmond we are talking about. Statues mean war here.  I could see all my hard work framing Richmond as a dynamic, artsy, outdoorsy, historic town gone with the wind, so to speak….

I calmed down a tad when he sent me the cover shot of the George Washington Equestrian Statue in Capitol Square, but still not happy. Ok, not Monument Ave, so that was a relief, but it read as dull and static, and I knew most people would think it was one of those Confederates on Monument Ave. and think Richmond was the same old racist place it used to be.  I pushed back hard.

After several back and forths wherein I told them they were making a big mistake, and that of course, statues are static and Richmond isn’t, I heard there was a slight chance that they might use another photo. After a nerve-wracking weekend I got the image below from my very kind editor–the Poe Museum garden. Still not the river, and I wasn’t happy that they took out “and Emancipation” in the little sticker on the front…and there was one other slight problem.

Pictures are worth a thousand words and all that, but one wrong word can be bad news. Let’s just say you should click on this and look carefully: IG_Richmond poe

You see one capital, you’ve seen ’em all? So now I can say I’ve not only changed the face of Richmond, I’ve changed its name.  What a coup. Happy to report they straightened out the city confusion after I mentioned it.

But those Connecticut Yankees weren’t done messing with me yet. Unbeknownst to me until the advance copy arrived at my door the other day, they had switched out the photo of TJ’s State Capitol for a cannon that I bet a million dollars isn’t even in Richmond. Hey, I tried.  Who knew there was this much intrigue involved in putting together a travel book? And we haven’t even gotten to the part where all the foodies will have my head for not including their favorite spots….

For the first day in months, I haven’t spent most of my waking hours at this desk, having turned in the two dozen-plus chapter manuscript of the Insider’s Guide to Richmond yesterday. I am four months worth of  tired today.

Most people’s reaction to hearing I was writing a guidebook was something like, “Oh, how exciting!”  Who wouldn’t want to visit wineries, restaurants, and museums and such? 

pining for wine at New Kent Winery

 I certainly did some of that during the last four months, but mostly I gathered more material than I could possibly use. I even read some of it. And the computer has been my constant companion. We’ve shared a lot of mediocre meals together, especially cruel as I was writing the restaurant chapter. So now that I’ve done what I’ve done, I think it’s more accurate to say regarding writing a guidebook, “Oh, how mental-illness-inducing!” I’ve been single-minded–all Richmond all the time–yet at the same time my mind has been racing in many different directions simultaneously–architecture and NASCAR and boat ramps and art galleries and antique shops and battlefields and jewelry stores. Which means the day-to-day reality looks  a bit more like this:

looks good to me

Reading the newspaper makes you smart.

The scary thing is that when I took these photos in late February, I was horrified at how the office looked–too much like my brain–but the next month only intensified the messiness in both places.  I don’t feel the need to post proof of that.

I’m back!

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