That little idiot light came on in my car yesterday. “Maint Req’d.” I know what it means; the first time it happened I called the dealership because the nowhere in the manual could I find an explanation of the meaning of the light. Turns out that it simply means it’s time to change the oil. I was traveling long distance at the time (on my way back to Florida) and the woman I spoke to said I could wait until I got home to bring it in for an oil change, since I was only 300 miles or so away. This time I’m in Virginia and I think waiting would be pressing my luck. Besides, that little orange light was driving me crazy. I swear it was screaming at me.
Since it was lunchtime, I decided to look for a town with a Toyota dealership or a quick lube place and get the oil changed while I ate. Luck was with me. I pulled off I-81 into Staunton, Virginia since I have long wanted to see this town anyway, and quickly found a Toyota dealership that could fit me in. After lunch I took a quick driving tour of the town and was extremely impressed by what I saw.
Staunton is tucked into a pocket valley at the head of the Shenandoah Valley. The city is built on rolling hills and its picturesque downtown features scores of historic red-brick Continue reading
My wanderings didn’t take me far from Richmond. Monday morning, just 50 miles north of Richmond, I pulled off I-95 into Fredericksburg to fill up the gas tank. I was standing at the pump in this cute little town when I suddenly remembered that friends of mine live in Fredericksburg. Even better, it was the Columbus Day holiday and they were likely to be home. ‘Maybe we can get together for lunch,’ I thought as I dialed their number.
It’s now Wednesday and I am just leaving Fredericksburg, having spent two wonderful days with my long-time friends, Steve and Annette Hussmann and their son Matthew. It is always a privilege to learn about a city/area from people who live there, and this was no exception. Matt insisted upon being my tour guide for the day.
By the time my writers conference ended in Richmond, Virginia, I had been sitting for two days and I desperately needed to move. Serendipitously, I discovered that the conference fell on the same weekend as Richmond’s Annual Folk Music Festival, and so I decided to extend my stay by a day to enjoy this historic city and attend the festival on the shores of the James River.
I set out early yesterday morning, determined to see as much of Richmond as possible on foot. From the center of downtown, I followed Broad Street toward Virginia Commonwealth University. Many of the lovely old buildings in this part of downtown are in disrepair and a large percentage of the storefronts are empty, but signs of rebirth abound. Coffee shops, crafters, retailers, and art galleries are moving into this Soho-like neighborhood as the old buildings are painstakingly restored. This former dairy and police station are just two examples of the inner city revitalization:
For the last two days I’ve been in Richmond, Virginia, attending the James River Writers Conference. Since this is the first writers conference I have ever attended, I really did not know what to expect, but the event exceeded my every expectation. Not only were the various plenary and breakout sessions incredibly informative, but without exception, everyone associated with JRW bent over backward to offer assistance. One of the keynote speakers, author Adriana Trigiani, even went so far as to encourage us to send her our manuscripts, promising that she would force her agent to read them.
Prior to attending JRW, I was somewhat discouraged. I was beginning to think that writing a book and getting it published was a pipe dream. When I first started to pursue a career in writing I quickly discovered that I needed to be able to show potential publishers clippings of my articles that have appeared in print. Since I had not previously been published, I spent the last ten months begging local magazine editors to publish my writing for little or no pay in order to develop a portfolio of by-lined articles. My efforts resulted in three published magazine pieces and two online articles, with two more scheduled to appear in the next couple of months. My progress seemed agonizingly Continue reading