Charlottesville Breaking News

Irish flashback: Sowing the seeds of the Afghan massacre

When I heard the news of the American soldier charged with the slaughter of 16 people in Afghanistan, I instantly flashed back to a ferry trip in the early 1970s from Liverpool to Belfast.

What could the tragedy in Afghanistan have in common with that trip so long ago in a different part of the world? Plenty.

On that ferry was a company of British soldiers headed for duty in Northern Ireland during the three-decade period of violence now called "The Troubles." I have never seen such a depressed group of people, before or since.

Those young soldiers were dreading our arrival in Belfast because they perceived everyone in Northern Ireland to be “hostiles.” It didn’t matter whether the civilians were Nationalists or Loyalists (what the American media portray as “Catholics” vs. “Protestants”). As far as these troops thought, they were all “the enemy.” And indeed, at that time, the soldiers were under guerrilla-style attack from both sides, subject to sniper attacks, and worse. While on the ground in Ireland, they were confined to gated and fortified compounds, except when they were on patrol—and on patrol they were in units of at least 10 or 15 soldiers, dressed in uniform with body armor, and all intensely observing every house, building, vehicle, and person in the area.

On an earlier visit to Belfast, I had learned proper deportment in the presence of British troops. When a...

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Controversial bills: How your legislators voted

The General Assembly adjourned March 10— without a budget, which some might consider the most important reason communities send legislators to Richmond.

Nonetheless, legislators got a lot of bills passed and signed into law, thanks to an overwhelmingly Republican majority in the House of Delegates and the evenly matched state Senate with Republican Lieutenant Bill Bolling as 20-20 tie breaker.

And several of them grabbed national attention. Here's a rundown of some of the more controversial bills, and how local legislators voted.

APPROVED BILLS

Abortion: Informed consent with a transvaginal probe ultrasound (HB462, SB484)
This is one of the two bills that subjected Virginia to national derision on Saturday Night Live— and elsewhere. The original bill required women seeking abortions to pay for an expensive, invasive procedure called a transvaginal ultrasound, wait 24 hours, and have it go on their permanent record. The bill was revised to require an abdominal ultrasound, and signed into law March 7 by Governor Bob McDonnell.

Yeas: Delegates Rob Bell, Matt Fariss, Steve Landes, Senator Bryce Reeves
Nay: Delegate David Toscano, Senator Creigh Deeds

It's okay to discriminate against gays wanting to adopt (HB189, SB3...

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Art of writing: Harbach knocks it out of the park

Literary phenom Chad Harbach credits the Hook for his runaway success with The Art of Fielding, the book that was on everyone's top 10 list for 2011.

Okay, that's not remotely true. What is true is that Harbach was a runner-up in the Hook's 2003 fiction contest with a story called "Kayley's Constellations."

"It was the first thing I ever had published," says Harbach, a UVA creative writing MFA. "One of the judges loved it. One thought it should be disqualified because it was so profane. Second place was a compromise. I got $50."

Since then, Harbach went on to co-found n+1, a well-regarded New York-based literary magazine that's now on a sound enough footing to have three employees, he says. But his major claim to fame these days is as a literary rarity: a first-time author who inspires a major bidding war.

All for a book ostensibly about baseball. The story of the making of The Art of Fielding was documented in Vanity Fair last fall by Harbach's friend and n+1 co-founder, Keith Gessen. It details the nine years it took for Harbach to write the book, the state of publishing, the rejections, and the ultimate race for the rights of a first-time novelist that didn't end until the price hit an u...

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Brennan's 223: County planner turns historic image-finder

At 34, historical preservationist and UVA grad Eryn Brennan knows Charlottesville almost as intimately as a decades-long resident. As co-author of Images of America: Charlottesville, Brennan’s research was beyond thorough.

“We searched through over 15,000 images from 30 different collections over a period of about four months,” Brennan says, who wrote the book with Margaret Maliszewski. “We then spent the next three months researching information for the 223 images we chose for the book.”

Her involvement with Charlottesville wasn’t just archival— she actually helped shape Central Virginia in her former job as a senior planner with Albemarle County. For three years, she headed the Agricultural and Forestal Districts program, which tries to preserve rural land through tax breaks. She also served on the staff of the County’s Planning Commission, and was a design planner on Albemarle and Charlottesville’s architectural review boards.

“So I had a unique perspective," she says, "on the area’s changes, growth, and future development."

In 2009, as president of local group Preservation Piedmont, she co-organized Preservation Week, where major preservationists lectured, and her cause raised $18,000.

“The focus,” she explains, “was to raise awareness about the mutually beneficial goals of preservation and sustainability in fostering dynamic urban places that embrace the past while creating space for the present and...

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eSuccess: How Jenny Gardiner bypassed the publishers

When we wrote about Jenny Gardiner back in 2008, she'd just published her first book, Sleeping with Ward Cleaver, a chick-lit title that she marketed like mad. For all her efforts, and despite a pair of print runs that she thinks topped 30,000 copies, Gardiner received a grand total of $165 in royalties from Dorchester Publishing before the company filed for bankruptcy.

"In the past seven or eight years, publishing has changed, and succeeding in making ends meet is almost impossible," says Gardiner, whose latest print offering is the anthology about man's best friend, I'm Not the Biggest Bitch in this Relationship.

For as many authors as there are in Charlottesville, the number who have had their publisher fund a book tour is minuscule. (Though Chad Harbach, also interviewed in this issue, stands out as the object of a bidding war, for crying out loud!) More typical is someone like Gardiner, sitting for TV appearances, trekking to conferences, and holding book signings— all on her own dime.

"I wasn't expecting to make a killing," says Gardiner, "but I was hoping to make money on it."

In debt and with two college tuitions to pay, the author started taking side jobs that left little time...

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