Mullen reconnected with fellow lawyer and University of Virginia School of Law alum Michael Kun, who sought her help with what became “We Are Still Tornadoes,” a novel about best friends who follow different paths after high school. Kun, an author whose books include “The Locklear Letters” and “My Wife and My Dead Wife,” shocked Mullen with his writing proposal.
“I thought, ‘Why would you want to do that?'” Mullen said. “He’s a successful novelist, and I’ve never written anything before. We talked it through and basically agreed that we’d be honest with each other, and if it wasn’t going well, we’d just say, ‘Well this was fun,’ and move on.”
The novel centers around Scott and Cath, who grew up together in a small Maryland town. Through the use of letters between the friends, Mullen and Kun weave together a story of what happens when Cath goes to Wake Forest University and Scott stays behind to follow his musical dreams.
In order to keep the concept of writing letters back and forth a realistic one, the book is set in 1982, before online communication became widespread.
“It was a time when people wrote letters,” Mullen said. “It had to pre-date email because I don’t think that email has the same charm as writing letters, although members of the younger generations might disagree.”
To add authenticity to the missives, Mullen and Kun actually sent letters to each other throughout the writing process, with Mullen drafting Cath’s dispatches and Kun penning Scott’s notes.
Mullen and Kun discussed little beyond the novel’s framework and basic plot before starting the process, leaving the rest to the individual writer.
“We exchanged letters back and forth, and we just let it evolve,” Mullen said. “We surprised each other with the letters to a certain extent, and we would give each other a little bit of feedback along the way.”
The exchange of letters took over three years, something that Mullen attributes to both her and Kun’s busy lives as lawyers with families.
“I would only write when I had a significant block of time to really sit down and pay attention to do my best work,” Mullen said. “I really wanted to respect the process.”
When she was writing, Mullen’s oldest daughter was beginning her freshman year at Harvard University, giving her somebody to base the collegiate experience on. Both of her daughters also provided feedback in terms of how authentic the letters sounded. One major change was the inclusion of profanity, something her daughters felt came off as more authentic.
“Mike previously had a rule that he did not want his characters to curse because he wanted his daughter to eventually read his books,” Mullen said. “When my girls read it, they were like, ‘Mom, they have to curse, its just not realistic. It’s the way teenagers talk.'”
One challenge they faced while writing the book was finding a way to describe events that occurred while both characters were in the same location.
“You’re not going to write to each other about things that you have experienced together,” Mullen said. “It’s challenging sometimes to describe events with enough detail to be interesting to the reader and at the same time not include so much detail that its unrealistic from a letter-writing standpoint.”
At the same time, she said that the epistolary format helped make the writing process easier for her as a rookie novelist.
“I only had to write one letter at a time,” Mullen said. “For a lot of first-time authors, what stops them is trying to figure out what they’re going to say from start to finish.”
“We Are Still Tornadoes” is set to come out Nov. 1.
Photo courtesy of Amazon.com
Steamy Stretch Starting — It’s hot and humid outside today and through the end of the week. Afternoon storms are possible each day. During this hot stretch, authorities are warning people to stay hydrated and to make sure their air conditioners are in good working condition. [Washington Post, Twitter, Twitter]
Ultra-Nationalist Group Based in Arlington — The National Policy Institute, the “institutional center” of the nationalist movement that has come out of the woodwork in the U.S. thanks to the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump, is based here in Arlington. The Southern Poverty Law Center has called the think tank a “white supremacist” group. [Forward]
New Book About Arlington — Local author HK Park has published another book about Arlington. This kid-oriented, 44-page paperback is called “How Your City Works!! Behind The Scenes In Arlington, VA.”
Discussion of Pike Development — Arlington County Board members Libby Garvey and Christian Dorsey discussed the approval of the Rappahannock Coffee site redevelopment in the county’s Board meeting wrap-up video. [YouTube]
Signature Theatre Announces New Cast — The cast for the Signature Theatre production of “Jelly’s Last Jam” includes a Tony Award winner, a Helen Hayes Award winner and a star jazz pianist. The musical begins at the Shirlington theater in August. [Playbill]
Arlington’s Got Talent Winner — Lyfe, a spoken word artist, is the 2016 winner of the Arlington’s Got Talent competition. [InsideNova]
Photo courtesy B. Heather
Crystal City Bus-Only Lanes Opening Soon — Bus-only lanes in Crystal City, part of the Crystal City Potomac Yard Transitway, are set to open April 17. It’s the region’s first Bus Rapid Transit line. [Washington Post]
Civ Fed Wants Lower Taxes — The Arlington Civic Federation voted Tuesday to call for a one cent reduction in property taxes. The current annual rate is 99.6 cents for every $100 of assessed value. [InsideNova]
Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author Visits Today — Anthony Doerr, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “All the Light We Cannot See,” will discuss this best-selling novel at the Washington-Lee High School auditorium from 7-8:30 tonight. The discussion is part of Arlington Public Library’s 2016 Arlington Reads program, the theme of which is “the human displacement of World War II.” [ARLnow]
WW2 Exhibit at Library — In addition to the Doerr event and two other author talks, Arlington Central Library is hosting “an artifact-rich exhibition on Arlington County in World War II. It’s the story of a community undergoing rapid transition from fading farms to new home to the Pentagon, all while sending its young men to fight in Europe and the Pacific. ” [Arlington County]
GMU to Hold Talk With Camille Paglia — On Tuesday, the Mercatus Center at George Mason University’s Arlington campus will be holding a discussion with Camille Paglia, the “cultural critic, intellectual provocateur, and feminist icon.” The discussion will be hosted by GMU’s noted economics professor Tyler Cowen. RSVP is required. [Mercatus Center]
Former Willow Team is Now at the Watergate — Tracy O’Grady, the chef and owner of the former Willow restaurant in Ballston, is now running Campono, an Italian restaurant in the Watergate complex. O’Grady’s husband Brian, who also worked at Willow, is on the Campono team as well. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Anthony Doerr will be the featured speaker for Arlington Reads 2016.
Doerr’s “All the Light We Cannot See” earned him widespread literary fame after it was published in 2014. The New York Times bestseller won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction last year.
The novel tells the story of “a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.”
Doerr is scheduled to speak at Washington-Lee High School’s auditorium on Thursday, April 7 from 7-8:30 p.m. Doors will open to the public at 6 p.m.
Two other authors will speak as part Arlington Reads 2016, the theme of which is “the human displacement of World War II.”
Julie Otsuka, author of “When the Empire Was Divine,” will speak on Thursday, May 5 and author Richard Reeves of “Infamy: The Shocking Story of the Japanese American Internment in World War II” will speak on Thursday, May 19. Both events will take place from 7-8:30 p.m. at Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street).
Widening Critics Still Questioning I-66 Deal — “Widening the highway for four miles from Beltway to Ballston will not relieve traffic congestion, according to every expert I’ve spoken to,” writes WAMU transportation reporter Martin Di Caro, regarding the I-66 deal struck by Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D). Arlington County Board member Jay Fisette, meanwhile, says the overall plan for tolling I-66 is worth the compromise. [Twitter, WAMU]
Arlington Probably Won’t Sue Over I-395 HOT Lanes — After mounting an expensive legal battle over a plan by Gov. Bob McDonnell’s (R) administration to convert the HOV lanes on I-395 to High Occupancy Toll lanes, Arlington appears poised to accept a similar HOT lane plan by VDOT and the McAuliffe administration. There are some key differences between the two proposals, observers say. [Greater Greater Washington]
Arlington Man Arrested in D.C. Cold Case — Arlington resident Benito Valdez, 45, has been arrested and charged with an alleged accomplice in a 1991 triple homicide cold case in the District. [Associated Press]
Chamber Concert in Lyon Park This Weekend — On Saturday, IBIS Chamber Music will hold a free concert of chamber music in the newly-renovated Lyon Park Community Center (414 N. Fillmore Street). The concert will start at 7:30 p.m. and feature music by Schubert, Beethoven and Debussy. [ARLnow]
Local Resident’s Cat Story Appears in Book — A story by Arlington resident April Riser is featured in the new book, “Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Cat,” according to a PR rep for the publisher.
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
That’s the takeaway from the library’s list of top books and DVDs for 2015, which was released Thursday.
The top 10 print books in circulation last year:
1. “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins
2. “All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel” by Anthony Doerr
3. “Gray Mountain” by John Grisham
4. “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt
5. “Yes Please” by Amy Poehler
6. “The Paying Guests” by Sarah Waters
7. “Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania” by Erik Larson
8. “A Spool of Blue Thread” by Anne Tyler
9. “Go Set a Watchman” by Harper Lee
10. “Gone Girl: A Novel” by Gillian Flynn
2. “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
5. “Despicable Me 2”
7. “House of Cards: The Complete First Season”
8. “The Wolf of Wall Street”
9. “Gone Girl”
10. “Saving Mr. Banks”
See the full list of books, eBooks and DVDs here.
The session will be held at the Central Library at 1015 N. Quincy Street on Wednesday, Feb. 24 from 7-8:30 p.m.
It will involve both a book discussion focusing on the need for pet emergency preparedness across the country, as well as a talk about ways residents can train their pets in case of an emergency, such as unusual or extreme weather events.
The discussion will focus on Cathy Scott’s book “Pawprints of Katrina: Pets Saved and Lessons Learned.” It’s a journalistic account of the aftermath of the hurricane that hit Louisiana more than a decade ago, telling the stories of pets who were separated from their owners because of the storm. The book recounts the rescues of these pets as well as the reunions with their families.
After discussing the book and the issue, participants will receive safety advice and a free pet preparedness starter kit. The kit will include a collar strobe light, a collapsible food/water bowl and a waste bag dispenser.
Copies of the book will be available to borrow from the Central Library reference desk starting on Jan. 25.
Photo via Turner Publishing
Two Carlin Springs Elementary School staff members have created a new book series to help kids learn U.S. geography.
Gretchen Schuyler Brenckle and Kathryn Belcher Frazier recently released “A Cat Named Denali: An Outer Banks Adventure,” the first book in the series. In the children’s book, Denali goes on adventures while traveling with her family and learns fun facts about the United States, according to the book’s summary.
Brenckle, a counselor at Carlin Springs, wrote the story, and Frazier, a third grade teacher at Carlin Springs, illustrated the book. Brenckle said that she was inspired to write the book to give kids a fun way to learn geography.
“I am so excited to help children of all ages learn more about our country with Denali the Cat, who is on the adventure of a lifetime as she travels with her family, meeting new friends and learning fun facts about the United States,” she said in a press releases.
Frazier added: “Though I always remind my students not to judge a book by its cover, I hope these illustrations will entice and encourage young readers everywhere.”
Both Brenckle and Frazier live in Arlington and are Yorktown High School graduates.
“A Cat Named Denali: An Outer Banks Adventure” is available for purchase on Amazon or at Barnes and Nobles and Books A Million. The book costs $14.95.
H.K. Park and his two children, Avery and Spencer, created “The Arlington Playground Guide!!,” a review book of 70 playgrounds in the county.
“It’s a Zagat’s guide for kids written by kids,” Park said.
The Parks visited each playground, excluding ones at schools, and ranked them on the different features, like how challenging the playground was, how much shade each has and if it had bathrooms, Park said.
Each playground was giving a ranking out of five stars, with five stars denoting an “epic” experience.
“For a small county, there are a lot of playgrounds,” Park noted.
Park’s kids liked playgrounds that had more challenging features, like rock climbing walls or climbing nets.
Six-year-old Spencer Park gave the playground at Penrose Park (2200 6th Street S.) four stars, saying it had a good jungle gym. His sister gave it five stars.
“Cool! This is really big but not shady. It was super hot but it was worth it,” Avery Park, 9, wrote in the book.
Avery and Spencer liked the bigger playgrounds, Park said. They also liked ones with swings and seesaws, as well as newly-installed equipment.
The playground at Quincy Park (1021 N. Quincy Street) received two stars from the Park kids, who wrote it was too small.
“This place is boring,” Spencer wrote. “Sometimes I think it’s a little cuckoo.”
Park also included “Dad views” for each playground, which looked at the amount of shade at a park or how many bathrooms it had.
Park gave a copy of the book, which contains pictures of each playground, to Arlington Public Library. Families can also request a copy from Park, he said.
“The Beast of Barcroft,” set to be released as an e-book in November, is based on a series of actual animal attacks in Barcroft during 1974.
“Something for weeks in 1974 was scaring the residents of Arlington,” Schweigart said.
At least 23 pets near the Four Mile Run Trail were killed by an animal nicknamed “The Beast of Barcroft,” according to 1974 newspaper reports. Residents could hear a fearsome screeching a night, made even more terrifying by the fact that for a time no one knew what kind of a creature was making it.
“What is it that screams so, down there in the dark hollow of Four Mile Run?” read one contemporary newspaper article. “What is it that howls and kills and goes crash in the Arlington night; that tears the eyes from cats; that strips the hides from rabbits; that raises the hackles on the backs of terrified dogs and cats?”
Eventually the National Zoo was called in to capture the “beast,” which turned out to be a civet.
When Schweigart came across the story, he said it was the “lightning bolt that struck.”
Schweigart’s story takes plenty of artistic liberty with the actual history, he said, but he does reference it in his story. For instance, he includes a character who is a zoologist at the National Zoo.
“My bad guy is considerably more dangerous than what was caught in 1974,” he said.
“The Beast of Barcroft” is the first in a series featuring characters living in Arlington, he said. The second is already finished and set to be released in February 2016.
“Arlington is where I live and where I make my stand, and that’s where my characters are making their stands,” Schweigart said.
The book is a supernatural thriller and for adults only, he said, adding that he won’t let his own daughter read it.
“It would make me a very bad parent letting her read that book,” he said.
“The Beast of Barcroft” is Schweigart’s second book. His first, “Slipping the Cable,” is a thriller about a Coast Guard junior officer.
Schweigart started writing while at the Coast Guard Academy, he said. He wrote a story as part of assignment that ended up placing in a writing competition.
“That’s when I caught the bug,” he said.
Schweigart eventually wants to start writing as a full time profession, but for now, he writes in the morning before going to work, he said.
“If all the lovely readers would buy 100 copies of the book that would certainly help me in a huge way,” he joked.
“The Beast of Barcroft” is currently available for pre-order and will be released in November. The book’s plot summary, after the jump.
“Go Set a Watchman,” author Harper Lee’s follow-up to the American classic “To Kill a Mockingbird,” is being released on Tuesday. Despite some mixed reviews, some 300 library patrons have already lined up — by placing holds at the circulation desk or online — to read about Scout’s return to Maycomb.
The library has 50 copies of the book, plus two copies in Spanish and eight audiobooks — which are all either at the library now or being delivered soon, according to spokesman Peter Golkin. It will also have eBook and eAudiobook copies via its Overdrive system, starting tomorrow.
Golkin said the library adjusted its orders in response to strong demand.
“There’s always strong demand for the latest titles by acclaimed authors like Donna Tartt and James Patterson and pretty much any name you see toward the top of the best-seller list,” he said. “But Harper Lee is a very special case, this being only her second book published and also because it involves the characters from her first. ‘Mockingbird’ is one of the most revered titles in American literature and also a classic film adaptation so the anticipation is certainly understandable.”
Images of America “Arlington County Police Department” was released by Arcadia Publishing as part of its ongoing pictorial history series. The author is Janet Rowe, a former ACPD patrol officer who compiled photos from the 75-year history of the ACPD, many of which have never previously been published, according to a press release from Arcadia.
“This photographic history covers law enforcement from the early days of rumrunners to the present day, showing the changes in uniforms, equipment, methods of policing, and the department’s response to the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon,” the release states. “Officers are shown training for the line of duty, investigating crimes, serving in specialized units, and promoting public safety.”
The profits from the book will be donated to the ACPD Friends and Family Fund, which supports the family of officers in times of crisis. The book is available now online and in bookstores for $21.99.
Rowe served in the ACPD for 31 years, from 1981 to 2012, in evening patrol and as a member of the Crisis Negotiation Team. According to her bio, she is a recipient of two meritorious service awards, a life-saving award, the medal of valor and was named officer of the year by the ACPD.
“She hopes that this book will help highlight the police department through the decades and will bring another piece of history to the local community and reviving memories of those that have been part of the community through the years,” her bio reads.
County Board to Consider Concrete Contract — The Arlington County Board is set to consider an on-call concrete maintenance contract this weekend. The contract is intended to reduce the cost of repeatedly bidding out small contracts for road, sidewalk and curb work. The low bidder, Arthur Construction Company, is expected to bill about $3.8 million annually under the contract, according to county staff estimates. [Arlington County]
Bistro 360 Profiled — Bistro 360, the Rosslyn eatery opened last year by the owner of Cassatt’s Kiwi Café, is winning plaudits for its unique food offerings, which feature Asian, Central European and French influences. [Arlington Magazine]
Flickr pool photo by Michael Coffman
Blue, Orange, Silver Lines Suspended — Metrorail service on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines was suspended during the morning rush hour due to a water main break in D.C. Those in Arlington hoping to get to work via Uber were being charged four times the normal rate, thanks to the company’s “surge pricing” practices. An Arlington Alert, meanwhile, contained an oddly appropriate typo — it noted that service was suspended at “Farragut Wet” due to the water main break. [Washington Post]
Board: Traffic Light Coming in 18 Months — The Arlington County Board had good news for activists at its Saturday meeting: the traffic light they’re seeking at Columbia Pike and S. Frederick Street is coming. The bad news is that it could take up to 18 months. Board member Walter Tejada said that is “too long” and “we have to find a way to make it happen.” [InsideNova]
Zoning Change Advertised for Wendy’s Redevelopment — The County Board on Saturday voted to advertise a potential zoning change for 2026 and 2038 Wilson Blvd, the current site of the Wendy’s restaurant in Courthouse, which is slated for a redevelopment. Developer Carr Properties wants to build a 12-story office building on the site. Public hearings will now be held in advance of Board consideration of the rezoning request. [Arlington County]
Arlington Book Store Wins Grant — East Falls Church bookstore One More Page Books has won a $9,000 grant from novelist James Patterson. The store plans to use the grant to launch a “bookmobile” — a modified food truck that sells books around the community. [Washington Post]
(Updated at 9:50 a.m.) New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D) is no fan of living in Arlington, apparently.
In her new book, “Off The Sidelines,” which is due out today, Gillibrand recounts her move from New York to the D.C. area — to Arlington, specifically — when she was first elected to the House of Representatives. It was a move Gillibrand would come to regret.
From the book:
Our move to Washington was hard — on me and my marriage. I had a new job; [my husband] Jonathan didn’t; and we were trying to find our legs with a toddler in a new city. We started having the same argument over and over. I’d say, “What’s wrong?”
Jonathan would say, “I have no job and I hate D.C.”
I appreciated Jonathan’s viewpoint. We lived in a soulless suburb. It wasn’t the right place for us, and we needed a change. I could see that, but it took me at least a year to figure out that racing 100 miles an hour to do my job well was leaving no time for us… Eventually we moved from Arlington, Virginia, to Capitol Hill, and Jonathan found a job he liked.
Update at 6:00 p.m. — In a tweet, Gillibrand says she’s sorry.
Sorry, Arlington, didn't mean to hurt your feelings. #OffTheSidelines
— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) September 9, 2014