68°Rain

by ARLnow.com October 3, 2017 at 8:30 am 0

Construction at Shirlington Library — Construction is expected to begin this week on renovations to the Shirlington Branch Library, to bring the library into Americans with Disabilities Act compliance. Library administrators caution that “certain areas of the building may be closed for short periods, and noise may be unavoidable at times.” [Arlington Public Library]

Millennials Leaving D.C. for Cheaper Cities — “A new analysis by George Mason University researchers finds that… more people are leaving the region than arriving for the first time since the Great Recession. Millennial deserters — ages 20 to 29 — are one factor. But another big one is baby boomers leaving to begin retirement life elsewhere. Families and the unemployed are also going.” [Washington Post]

‘Anti-Muslim’ Group Holding Conference — Despite opposition, ACT for America — which describes itself as “a nonprofit national security organization” but which is described by critics as “the largest anti-Muslim organization in the U.S.” — kicked off its annual conference yesterday at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Crystal City. [Southern Poverty Law Center]

Yorktown Teacher Publishes Third Book — “Melanie McCabe, an English teacher at Yorktown High School and now three-time author, will debut her new work, His Other Life: Searching For My Father, His First Wife, and Tennessee Williams at the Arlington Central Library (1015 N Quincy St., Arlington) on Thursday, Oct. 5.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Region’s Dry Spell Continues — Today is expected to be the 20th straight day without measurable precipitation at Reagan National Airport. But it is still far from the region’s record of 34 straight rainless days in the fall of 2007. [Washington Post]

Photo courtesy Leslie Aun

by ARLnow.com September 27, 2017 at 8:30 am 0

County Celebrates ART Maintenance Facility Opening — Arlington County officials drove a bus through the ribbons at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Arlington Transit Light Maintenance Facility near Crystal City. “The facility provides… fueling, maintenance and wash services for the entire ART fleet,” noted a press release. “Washing and fueling services for ART buses had been contracted from an adjacent Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) facility at a higher cost and with restricted hours.” [Arlington County]

Banned Books Week at Libraries — Arlington Public Library is marking Banned Books Week, which runs through Sept. 30, by encouraging readers to check out at least one “challenged” book this week. [Arlington Public Library]

Lamenting Construction Inconveniences — From “Our Man in Arlington” columnist Charlie Clark: “My East Falls Church neighbors and I are at nerves’ end about a seemingly perpetual construction project we drive or walk past daily. The county’s stormwater drainage system expansion has been underway for a year at N. 24th and Rockingham streets. It has necessitated countless automobile and pedestrian detours… Construction improves our shared living space and boosts the economy. But it’s tough on neighbors.” [Falls Church News-Press]

W-L HOF Noms — The Washington-Lee High School Athletic Hall of Fame is accepting nominations for new inductees through Nov. 1. [W-L Athletics]

Lost Puppy in Va. Square-Ballston Area — A local resident is searching for her puppy, named Faith, who got loose Sunday night and was “lost by Quincy Park running towards Washington Blvd.” The dog is described as “a very sweet, incredibly timid boxer mix. Her identifying markings are: light brown body, black/white muzzle, white dipped paws, and a large spot of missing hair on her right hind thigh.” [Facebook]

Legal Drama for Matchbox — Matchbox Food Group, which counts a large Matchbox restaurant in Pentagon City among its locations, is locked in a messy legal battle between two of its cofounders and two of its financiers: a bank and the bank’s CEO, who is also an investor in the company. [Washington Business Journal]

by ARLnow.com August 14, 2017 at 10:00 am 0

Historian, author and Falls Church News-Press columnist Charlie Clark has released his latest book: “Hidden History of Arlington County.”

The book chronicles “forgotten stories from the nation’s smallest county,” though some stories are less forgotten than others. From the book’s description:

Arlington County, for two centuries a center for government institutions, is a vibrant part of the Washington, D.C., community. Many notable figures made their home in the area, like Supreme Court chief justice Warren Burger, General George “Blood ‘n’ Guts” Patton and a beauty queen who almost married crooner Dean Martin. The drama of Virginia’s first school integration unfolded in Arlington beginning in the late 1950s. In the 1960s, two motorcycle gangs clashed in public at a suburban shopping center. Local author, historian and “Our Man in Arlington” Charlie Clark uncovers the vivid, and hidden, history of a capital community.

With Clark’s permission, an excerpt from the book is below.

In producing my weekly “Our Man in Arlington” column for the Falls Church News-Press, I come across many juicy factoids that leap out as being, not literally hidden, but little known. Sometime to find the tidbits, I had to dig. I wouldn’t have found them all in the texts of the 80 historical signs that dot our county’s streets and landmarks (though I’d wager that those signs are not sufficiently read).

Some I found did not inspire a full essay but merited presentation as stand-alone squibs. In reading a 1955 magazine essay by Arlington-based state Del. Kathryn Stone, I stumbled on an astonishing fact: When the new Wakefield school combining junior and senior high students scheduled a PTA meeting in the gym in 1954, 2000 parents showed up!

Some finds were personal. I inherited a 1943 photo of my parents when they were dating during World War II. I knew they’d lived in Arlington but didn’t know the street. I took the black-and-white shot with its 603 house number and drove into South Arlington. Magically, when I emerged from 6th Street onto Walter Reed Drive, I stared across a courtyard and immediately recognized the exact entranceway of the Fillmore Gardens apartments still intact after 70 years. (I knocked on the door and wowed a bewildered resident with my time-travel find.)

In my reporting I get to glimpse some amazing private documents. The Washington Golf and Country Club (founded 1894), which boasts five U.S. presidents as past members, has a 1920s directory listing Woodrow Wilson with the address: The White House.

One story was once hidden but now can be told. Famed Watergate scandal reporter Bob Woodward of The Washington Post in 2005 revealed that he used to meet his highly placed source “Deep Throat” in a parking garage in Arlington’s Rosslyn neighborhood. Demand was met for erecting an historic plaque. The garage itself, however, at this writing is slated to be torn down to make way for an apartment building. Still, developer Monday Properties is preserving the sidewalk historic sign on North Nash Street.

The global Marriott hotel chain likes to report that its first motor hotel was in Arlington, the Twin Bridges Marriott built in 1957 near the 14th Street Bridge and the George Washington Memorial Parkway. It was torn down in 1990. But baby-boomer rock fans recall it as the site where Little Feat guitarist Lowell George met his end there in 1979 from a heart attack.

Last but not least, fewer and fewer Arlington old-timers recall a time when many teenagers, right after they got their driver’s license, ventured over to Speed Hill. It’s still there, hidden off Nellie Custis Drive and hugging the Potomac along the 2700 block of North Quebec Street. Many a rookie driver as far back as the 1960s tested his (parents’) speedometer on what was reputed to be the steepest hill in Arlington. I recall at one point worried authorities made it one-way–going up. Today it’s two-way street, lined by beautiful upscale homes, inhabitants of which, I was recently told, call it Death Hill. May all who experience it — and all who read these essays — travel Arlington safely. –Charlie Clark

Copyright 2017 The History Press, republished with permission.

by Chris Teale August 1, 2017 at 3:35 pm 0

A local nonprofit that helps encourage at-risk children and their families to develop a love of reading will close next week after 28 years.

The Reading Connection, which has offices at 1501 Lee Highway near Rosslyn, will close its doors on Friday, August 11. It will hold its last “Read-Aloud,” where volunteers read to children at shelters and community centers, on Wednesday, August 9.

The nonprofit is dedicated to providing low-income children and their families with opportunities to read and be read to, as well as giving them free books when they might otherwise not have any.

Its volunteers held Read-Alouds at over a dozen locations — mostly apartment complexes — across the D.C. metropolitan area, including at Columbia Grove, New Hope Housing, The Shelton, The Springs, Sullivan House, Virginia Gardens and Woodbury Park in Arlington. Other locations are in Alexandria, Annandale, Bethesda and D.C.

The nonprofit’s director of program operations Stephanie Berman Hopkins announced the closure earlier today in an email to volunteers, which was obtained by ARLnow.com.

“I am so proud of the work we have done together and all of the children we have inspired to love reading,” Berman Hopkins wrote. “The impact our programs have had will continue to live on. Thank you for your dedication to this organization, the Read-Aloud program and the kids and families we serve. It has been an honor and a pleasure to work with you all. Our programs would not have been as strong as they have been without all of your efforts.”

In the email, Berman Hopkins said The Reading Connection’s board of directors reviewed the organization and determined it is not financially viable. TRC’s annual budget was $600,000, according to its website.

Berman Hopkins and The Reading Connection’s executive director, Catherine Keightley, declined to comment on the review, citing privacy considerations for those involved, but Keightley said finding continued funding would have been too difficult.

“What lots of reports are telling us is that funding is going to become more challenging, I think locally and regionally,” she said in a brief interview. “There may be a shift in funding priorities given some of the actions with the new [presidential] administration.”

Prior to its closing The Reading Connection will hold a book and supply sale from Monday, August 7 until Wednesday, August 9.

The email to The Reading Connection volunteers is below, after the jump.

(more…)

by ARLnow.com July 13, 2017 at 9:00 am 0

DOE Highlights Discovery Elementary — The U.S. Department of Energy has profiled Arlington’s Discovery Elementary in a new video. DOE lauds the school for its net zero energy design, which “saves $100,000 per year in utility costs, enough to cover the salaries of two teachers” and was implemented under-budget. [YouTube, Blue Virginia]

Hackathon in Clarendon — Capital One is holding a Women in Tech hackathon at its Clarendon “lab” office next week. “Attendees will have the opportunity to ‘create a technical solution for Women Who Code that empowers girls and women to stay in the tech field.'” [Technical.ly DC,  Women in Tech Demo Day]

Arlington Native Pens New Bodice Ripper — On the heels of the success of her debut novel, Seven Days, Arlington’s Ariel Atwell (the pen name of Leslie Aun) has written a follow-up, Twenty-One Nights. The Regency romance is No. 28 on Amazon’s chart for that category. [Amazon]

Nearby: JBG Announces New HQ in Bethesda — In a bit of a blow to Arlington, JBG has announced that it will be opening a new headquarters in downtown Bethesda. JBG has numerous properties in Arlington and will soon be merging with Vornado’s D.C. division, which includes extensive holdings in Arlington. [Bethesda Beat]

Flickr pool photo by Bekah Richards

by ARLnow.com July 12, 2017 at 9:20 am 0

‘Meeting Bowls’ Coming to Courthouse — A new, temporary public art installation is coming to Courthouse. Workers will be building 5-foot high “meeting bowls,” designed by the Spanish art collective “mmmm….,” and featuring an 8-foot long circular bench inside. The bowls, which are meant to be used by passersby, are expected to be completed by Monday, July 17 and will remain in place until November. [Washingtonian]

Roosevelt Island Back Open — Roosevelt Island is open again after being temporarily closed by the National Park Service for the removal of diseased trees. [DCist]

Pentagon City Residents Peeved by Shopping Carts — Legions of stray shopping carts are getting on the nerves of Pentagon City residents, NBC 4’s Julie Carey reported during a news broadcast last night. [NBC Washington, Twitter]

Scholarships Awarded to Wakefield Students — “The Wakefield High School Education Foundation recently awarded 27 scholarships totaling $201,000, bringing the total number of scholarships presented over the history of the foundation to 400 and the total dollar amount of scholarships and teacher grants to more than $2.25 million.” [InsideNova]

Local Author Pens New Thriller — Arlington resident Bill Schweigart, author of the Beast of Barcroft, a supernatural thriller set in Arlington, has penned another book of local interest: The Devil’s Colony, which features a fictional Arlington resident as its main character. [Penguin Random House]

Nearby: Montgomery Co. Consider Plane Noise Suit — Montgomery County, Maryland has hired a law firm to explore legal action against the Federal Aviation Administration in response to new flight paths that have produced a dramatic increase in aircraft noise complaints. The flight paths were implemented in 2015 as part of the FAA’s NextGen system and have prompted some complaints in Arlington and D.C. as well. [Bethesda Beat]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

by Kalina Newman June 15, 2017 at 4:15 pm 0

(Updated at 6:20 p.m.) Nostalgia is the most dangerous emotion for Andrew Gifford, the grandson of John Gifford, founder of beloved former area ice cream chain Gifford’s Ice Cream.

Last month Gifford released his first book, “We All Scream: The Rise and Fall of the Gifford’s Ice Cream Empire. The book depicts Gifford’s abusive relationship with his parents growing up, the deaths of his grandparents and how his father ruined Washington’s largest ice cream empire.

When Robert Gifford, one of John Gifford’s other sons, took over the company, things quickly went downhill. Gifford described his father’s actions during the reading, explaining how he would never pay his taxes, cheated his customers and didn’t pay employees, ultimately leaving the company in financial ruin.

Despite the collapse, many local residents still remember Gifford’s fondly. And that means the brand is still valuable.

“It doesn’t matter what’s in the cup,” a person trying to reboot the company said last year, according to Gifford. “As long as I say it’s Gifford’s Swiss Chocolate, people will pay me anything I ask.”

“It’s these people who are so focused on this fantasy and nostalgia that frustrate me,” said Gifford. “I want the lesson to be nostalgia is dangerous, don’t give into it. Don’t buy $6 ice cream from someone who said they once bought machines from the people who once supplied Gifford’s 50 years ago.”

Gifford was at One More Page Books in Arlington’s East Falls Church neighborhood earlier this week, where he read two excerpts from his book, held a Q&A session and signed copies.

In the excerpt Gifford read during the event, he described how his mother decided to sit him down at the age of 6 and tell him that his grandmother was murdered by his grandfather. This was a lie: his grandmother had passed several years beforehand, but Gifford had been told she was still alive during his entire childhood.

“We All Scream” made an impression on members of the audience, most of whom grew up in the area and had warm memories of Gifford’s Ice Cream.

During the Q&A session, many questions were about what happened to the old Gifford’s ice cream flavors and recipes people adored, and if anyone could find any remaining Gifford’s products. Instead of focusing on the horror and abuse around the Gifford story, the questions were full of yearning and nostalgia.

“This was a beautiful thing that people loved but it needs to die,” said Gifford after the event. “It needs to end. There’s this obsession with the Gifford’s of old, when really it wasn’t that fairytale.”

by ARLnow.com March 14, 2017 at 9:35 am 0

Frozen daffodil buds in the snow (Flickr pool photo by Lisa Novak)

Arlington Sports Hall of Fame Seeks Permanent Venue — There is an Arlington Sports Hall of Fame, but it does not have a permanent home. Boosters are seeking to change that, discussing a possible display in Arlington Central Library. [InsideNova]

Local Man Graduates Parris Island With Honors — Arlington native Allen M. Gibbs has graduated from Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island with honors. [Beaufort Gazette]

Police, Fire Departments Hold Book Drive — Starting Wednesday and running through April 30, Arlington police and firefighters will be holding a “For the Love of Reading” book drive, collecting specific books for elementary school students at Arlington Public Schools. Donation boxes are located at police headquarters in Courthouse and at local fire stations. [Arlington County]

Avalon Bay Donates to APAH — Arlington-based apartment, publicly traded building owner AvalonBay has made a $35,000 donation to the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing. The company has raised $85,000 for APAH since 2015. [Yahoo Finance]

Flickr pool photo by Lisa Novak

by ARLnow.com Sponsor March 1, 2017 at 4:30 pm 0

Dan Lesniak Orange Line Living founder Dan Lesniak is pleased to announce his new book, written to help agents grow their real estate businesses in innovative and competitive ways.

The new book, The HyperLocal, HyperFast Real Estate Agent, tells how Lesniak, an Arlington-based real estate agent in the D.C. area, started his career and rose to become one of the top agents in one of the most competitive real estate markets in the country, all in his freshman year.

All proceeds from the book’s purchase from March 1-8 will benefit The Folded Flag Foundation.

Lesniak started in real estate in 2012 after a successful career as a Naval Submarine Officer and a Defense Contractor.  In his first year, he closed over $22 million in sales, a feat matched by only a small fraction of agents, regardless of experience.

“Whether you are a new agent looking to start your career, an experienced agent looking for more growth, or a top agent looking to break into a new market, this book will give you plenty of strategies for how to compress time, quickly grow your business and provide more value to your clients,” says Lesniak.

HLHF Cover - frontThe release of The HyperLocal, HyperFast Real Estate Agent is timely. With recent events in the United States bringing uncertainty to many areas, Lesniak looks to show agents that they can use these strategies regardless of the state of the market.

“There is no greater opportunity right now in the real estate industry than there is in the expansion market,” says Noah Ostroff, CEO of Global Living and a top-selling Keller Williams agent.  “This will require you to grow in your existing market and know how to expand in new ones. This book is a great example of how to rapidly expand in any market and is a must read for expansion team leaders.”

For more information about Dan Lesniak and The HyperLocal, HyperFast Real Estate Agent, visit www.hyperlocalhyperfast.com.

To purchase the book on Kindle and support the spouses and children of the U.S. military, click here.

The preceding post was written and sponsored by Orange Line Living.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor February 28, 2017 at 6:00 am 0

'Complacent Class' cover imageIn 1835, French diplomat Alexis de Tocqueville published Democracy in America, in which he wrote of a United States that was perpetually in motion — full of restlessness, energy, and ambition.

Now, over 180 years later, America’s national character seems to be changing. Americans across income classes are moving less, starting fewer businesses, marrying people more like themselves, and basing choices on algorithms that wall them off from anything new or different.

In other words, Americans have become complacent. They are working harder than ever to postpone or avoid change. A focus on safety and caution over everything else has resulted in an America that is less dynamic and more conformist than ever before.

That’s the primary observation George Mason economist Tyler Cowen makes in his new book, The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream. In it he documents the rising trends of self-segregation, stagnation, and risk avoidance in America. Of the book, author Malcolm Gladwell said, “His brilliant new book…has been on my nightstand after I devoured it in one sitting. I am at round-the-clock Cowen saturation right now.” At Foreign Affairs, Edward Luce said, “Cowen does a marvelous job of turning his Tocquevillian eye to today’s America.”

On Monday, March 6, from 6-7 p.m., the Mercatus Center at George Mason University will host a live interview at George Mason’s Arlington Campus (3351 Fairfax Drive) between Reason Magazine’s Katherine Mangu-Ward and Tyler Cowen on American complacency and what it means for the future of politics, the economy, and the very foundation of our culture.

The event is free of charge and open to the public, and copies of the book will be available for purchase after the discussion.

The discussion is especially timely given the current state of politics. In his book, Tyler Cowen notes that the short-term peace and calm that results from American complacency simply cannot last. He predicts a chaotic future as more Americans rebel against the economic stagnation and lack of mobility that result from maintaining the status quo.

While America may currently seem less stable and more restless than before, The Complacent Class suggests there is reason for long-term optimism as the upcoming process of social, economic, and legal transformation could ultimately reinvigorate Americans to bring back the dynamism, energy and ambition that Tocqueville observed in his time. Nevertheless, many Americans may soon wish to have the era of complacency back.

Click here to register for the free event.

Click here to pre-order a copy of The Complacent Class:The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream.

The preceding was written and sponsored by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

by Katie Pyzyk December 29, 2016 at 11:15 am 0

So many notable people died in 2016 that the losses have contributed to some Twitter users dubbing this the #WorstYearEver. Now the Arlington Public Library has compiled a list of its books, DVDs, and music files that users can borrow to find out what made some of these people stand out from the crowd.

The list is not comprehensive because the library does not own items relating to every single notable person who died this year. It does, however, include items related to 67 well-known authors, performers, activists, scientists, and public figures.

Some of the items on the list are:

  • All You Need Is Ears by George Martin: An autobiography of the record producer and composer best known for his work with The Beatles.
  • "Starman" by Paul TrynkaDavid Bowie: Starman by Paul Trynka: The book examines Bowie’s many artistic reinventions and broad influence on the entertainment world.
  • Heimlich’s Maneuvers: My Seventy Years of Lifesaving Innovations by Henry J. Heimlich: An autobiography of the thoracic surgeon best known for inventing the technique to stop choking.
  • Arnold Palmer: Memories, Stories, and Memorabilia by Arnold Palmer: An autobiography of the professional golfer who many consider the greatest player in the sport’s history.
  • The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama by Gwen Ifill: The Peabody-Award winning journalist’s continuation of her long-time coverage of America’s race issues.
  • "I'm Your Man" by Leonard CohenI’m Your Man by Leonard Cohen (DVD): The documentary covers Cohen’s life and work and includes interviews with artists he inspired.
  • Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope (DVD): The sci-fi film features Carrie Fisher in her iconic role as Princess Leia.
  • Crazy Town: The Rob Ford Story by Robyn Doolittle: The biography covers the life of the controversial former Toronto mayor known for his drug- and alcohol-fueled antics.
  • 40 Greatest Hits by Merle Haggard (eMusic): The music file includes songs spanning the country legend’s career.

by ARLnow.com December 5, 2016 at 10:45 am 0

'The End of White Christian America' author talk image

An author talk at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington (4444 Arlington Blvd) will examine Donald Trump’s election and the implications of the U.S. no longer being a majority white Christian nation.

The talk by Robert P. Jones, author of the “The End of White Christian America,”  is scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 11 at 1 p.m.

From a press release:

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington will host a talk with Robert P. Jones, the CEO of Public Religion Research Institute on Sunday, December 11, at 1:00 p.m. Jones will discuss his new book, The End of White Christian America, which has been hailed by The New York Times Review of Books as “quite possibly the most illuminating text for this election year.” Drawing on decades of public opinion and demographic research, Jones challenges us to grasp a new reality — that America is no longer a majority white Christian nation — and examines what influence this had on the 2016 presidential election.

The presentation and discussion will provide unique insight into:

  • The ways both political parties are responding to these shifts, including Donald Trump’s surprising appeal to white conservative Christian voters;
  • The stark disagreements between white and black Americans over the fairness of the justice system and the #BlackLivesMatter movement;
  • The apocalyptic tone of arguments over same-sex marriage and LGBT rights;
  • How these recent demographic and cultural changes are shaping — and often distorting — our understanding of principles such as equality, fairness, and religious freedom.

Image courtesy Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington

by ARLnow.com September 29, 2016 at 8:55 am 0

Pumpkins at the Columbia Pike farmers market (Flickr pool photo by Alan Kotok)

Garvey to Hold Book Discussion — Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey is launching a series of community book discussions on various topics. Tonight Garvey and School Board Chair Nancy Van Doren will discuss the best-selling book “Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School.” The discussion will take place at Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street) from 7:30-9 p.m. [Facebook]

Beer Store, TechShop Collaborate for New Kegerator — Crystal City Wine Shop (220 20th Street S.) has teamed up with nearby TechShop to create a new kegerator. The custom-modified refrigerator allows the store to offer varieties of craft beer that aren’t available in bottles or cans. Customers can take the beer home in fillable cans known as crowlers. [Washington Business Journal]

Cosi Files for Bankruptcy — The Cosi chain of sandwich and salad restaurants has filed for bankruptcy and closed 40 percent of its locations. Among the closed stores: the Cosi in Courthouse. A rep for the company told us yesterday: “The decision to close this restaurant was based on its financial performance and market density. At this time, we do not have any plans to reopen this restaurant.” [Nation’s Restaurant News]

Flash Flood Watch Continues — Forecasters are expecting several more inches of rain to fall between now and Saturday. The potential for flash flooding along streams and low-lying areas remains and a Flash Flood Watch is still in effect. [Twitter, Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Alan Kotok

by ARLnow.com September 1, 2016 at 9:05 am 0

Bunny rabbit (Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley)

It’s September — Bid an especially hot and sweaty August adieu, September is here. Get ready for kids going back to school, fall beer tastingsoutdoor festivals, Pumpkin Spice Lattes and cooler weather. As a reminder, however: it’s still summer until Sept. 22.

Author Talk at Kenmore — Best-selling author Ann Patchett will be discussing her new book Commonwealth, which is set in part in Arlington, at an event on Thursday, Sept. 15. The event, at the Kenmore Middle School auditorium, is open to the public, with RSVP; it’s sponsored by One More Page Books and Arlington Public Library. [Eventbrite]

CEB CEO Stepping Down — Tom Monahan, the CEO of the publicly traded, Rosslyn-based firm CEB, is stepping down. The search is now on for a new chief executive for the 4,500-employee company, which will be moving to a gleaming new office tower after construction wraps up, likely in 2018. [Washington Business Journal]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

by Adrian Cruz August 24, 2016 at 4:45 pm 0

"We Are Still Tornadoes" cover (Photo courtesy of Amazon.com)Arlington lawyer Susan Mullen’s journey to becoming a novelist began with an encounter with an old friend on Facebook.

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

×

Subscribe to our mailing list