Thursday, November 3, 2016

What "Unretiring" has Wrought!!

First big regatta on Schuylkill, 1835, Nicolino Calyo
It took me three years, but my book, Boathouse Row, Waves of Change in the Birthplace of American Rowing is finally out. Taking on this project has been transformational.
First of all, I was totally absorbed by the crumbling minute books, old newspapers, photo archives, and documents stashed in boathouses, people's homes and such repositories as the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the Library Company. The stories I discovered fascinated me. They took me inside a time when immigrants were pouring into Philadelphia and the country, a time when people clung to clubs and traditions for a sense of belonging somewhere. They had costumes, nicknames, and other strange customs. Gambling was rife, races were thrown, and Boathouse Row pushed for amateur rules for the sport. (They were the first amateur rules for any sport in the U.S.)  Hundreds of thousands would descend on the river to watch the most popular spectator sport of its era. You can find lots of photos and information on my website, BoathouseRowTheBook.
Then, too, I got to interview a lot of people with long memories of more recent times. Such fun, having an excuse to get to know some fascinating folks.
Signing my book at the Head of the Schuylkill Regatta
And picking the more than 160 photos for the book tapped into my experience as a projects editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer, where I focused not only on words, but how a big story would appear visually.
In other words, every skill I ever learned as a journalist -- reporting, writing, research, fact checking, visuals -- all came into play in this, the biggest project of my career.
As I look at the book on my kitchen counter, with its gorgeous cover, color photos, many stories and its heft, I'm stunned that I was able to create this.
Of course,  I could not have done so without Temple University Press and a generous grant to the press from philanthropist H. F. Gerry Lenfest. Daniel J. Boyne, author of several important rowing books, wrote a gracious blurb for the jacket.
As I am interviewed on public radio's WHYY  Radio Times  or excerpted in the Philadelphia Inquirer , or in Main Line Today, it's like an out-of-body experience for me. My calendar is filling with appearances and book signings.
Never could I have imagined that my journey to the "next great thing" would be so much fun.

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