A lot of work goes into these books

Published 10:33 pm Wednesday, August 19, 2009

From time to time, we here at the Suffolk News-Herald get releases promoting books that Suffolk citizens have written.

A lot of these books are published by Arcadia Publishing, which is the leading local history publisher in the United States, with more than 5,000 different books in print.

Authors are contacted to create these books about niche locations in the country, and they are charged with filling a book with the stories and photographs they pick up in their research.

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In fact, Suffolk has its own book — a complete history of the Suffolk Peanut Festival, which was written by Patrick Evans-Hylton and published in 2004.

Throughout the course of my time here at the paper, I’ve been able to meet a few people who have created these books. Every time I meet these authors, it’s really a cool thing to see how much work goes into making just one of these publications.

This week was no exception.

Tuesday night, I was out at the North Suffolk library to listen Chris Dickon give a presentation about his Arcadia book, “Eastern Shore Railroad.”

While stories about transportation or infrastructure tend to make my eyes glaze over a bit, Dickon’s tales had a different effect on me.

He retold the story of how a New York railroad man created three railroad lines from Philadelphia to Cape Charles in order to connect New York to Norfolk. These lines were then sent to a railroad that traveled on water via barges and passenger ferries. That railroad is now the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.

What made Dickon’s talk the most interesting were the images he selected for his PowerPoint presentation. He showed what Norfolk looked like more than 100 years ago. In one photo, you could see the empty waters and a single bridge where now reside the USS Wisconsin and Nauticus.

It was pretty cool to see.

After his talk, I had a few follow-up questions for Dickon. As we were talking, he mentioned that most people don’t realize that Arcadia requires its authors to have more than 200 pictures for their publications. Having written three books for Arcadia, it’s a process that has sent him to libraries, city halls and historical societies up and down the East Coast. All in all, he said, it takes him about a year to fill a book.

So, the next time you see an Arcadia book, take a minute to peruse it — you’re holding a lot of work in your hands.