Chatting with Amanda E. Doyle
by Diana Davis, Walrus Contributor
When I was a child, I remember being given a wooden Advent calendar which had little doors on it. Each day, I got to open a door, and behind each was a surprise. This year, I came across a similar gift in the form of a book, and I hurriedly purchased it for myself. The book was written by Amanda E. Doyle with Kerri Bonasch and is titled, Finally! A Locally Produced Guidebook To St. Louis, By and For St. Louisans, Neighborhood by Neighborhood. Each chapter is its own wonderful surprise. I was so very lucky to catch up with Amanda to talk about her terrific new book – a book which remains on the St. Louis Independent Booksellers Best Sellers list!
Where did you live as a child?
I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, but I went to high school in Florida.
Then how did you get to St. Louis?
Well, first I got to Missouri by attending the Journalism School at University of Missouri in Columbia where I met my husband, Brian Marston. He had grown up in the Creve Coeur area. He was doing freelance computer work, and after I got my Master’s degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Illinois in Springfield, we moved to St. Louis so he could help his father with his business.
So you fell in love with Brian and he moved you to St. Louis.
Yes, then I fell in love all over again…this time with the greater St. Louis area. This is the love story which I chronicle in Finally! A Locally Produced Guidebook To St. Louis, By and For St. Louisans.
Where did you live when you moved here?
We lived for a year in the Lafayette Square area, and then we purchased our home in Tower Grove South. I love the area we live in; it’s so nice with our three-and-a- half-year-old son, Milo. There is a Farmer’s Market close by and it’s within walking distance of Tower Grove Park, which is a beautiful place. But, as lovely as it is, it is not the only area in St. Louis that I find fascinating.
What other areas do you like?
Milo and I just returned from a fish fry at a church up in Ferguson. I love that area with the train-station, ice-cream parlor, and the Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings. I am enchanted with Maplewood. I’m also partial to Cherokee Street and its antique shops. I like old town Florissant, I hear there’s a new restaurant up there in your neighborhood by the name of de.lish Cheesecake Bakery and Café. It’s located at 1060 St. Catherine Street—next to the tennis courts at the corner North Florissant Road. I’ve got to check that one out. That’s the wonderful thing about this town. Every neighborhood has a captivating shop or two, a restaurant, a park or a wildlife area–something unique that makes it special.
You wrote about high end restaurants like Annie Gunns, Als, Tony’s, etc. and also about economical dining like St. Raymond’s Maronite Cathedral’s regular Wednesday Lunch and Goody Goody Diner. That’s quite a variety.
Well, of course it’s nice to go someplace swanky, but now, I’ve got a tot in tow, so it’s good to have kid-friendly places as well. What I look for is atmosphere and good food. I look for little hole-in-the-wall places with lots of character.
You also highlighted museums, neighborhood parks, cultural centers, and jazz clubs.
That’s what’s so great about this town, It has pockets of literary events, pockets of musical delights, jazz clubs and the symphony with the family concerts on Sunday afternoons; you can take your three-year-old and not fear getting thrown out.
What I most like about the book is that the information revolves around neighborhoods. For instance, if I’m meeting friends in the Normandy area to see an event at the Touhill, I can choose to meet my friends at Vincenzo’s to dine before the performance and/or to go to Cork for a glass of wine and a tasty snack afterwards, and the entire evening’s activities would all be located within a three mile radius.
Yes, I wanted to gather venues where you could go out for the day or evening and not miss exceptional places when you are only a few blocks away. As a mother, I’ve also sought places to satisfy a child. That’s how we came up with sections called, KIDZONE which are in places children will love, such as, Crown Candy Kitchens, Circus Flora, and Gus’s Pretzels.
You also have a Master’s Degree in environmental studies; did you insert a plethora of outdoorsy places?
Yes, like Collinsville’s Willoughby Farm where the family can wander through a grape arbor and meet farm animals and Indian Camp Creek Park which boasts of has four-foot high frog statues and a 22-foot-high aluminum windmill and has miles of walking trails.
How are the sales on your book doing?
The book was released in October with a first run of 3,000 books. Those sold right away and Reedy Press did a second run of 3,000 books.
What prompted you to write this book?
I wrote it at the request of Josh Stevens and Matt Heidenry, the guiding forces behind Reedy Press. Brian Streeter, a film-maker friend, did the video trailer for me, and I was very pleased with the foreword written by Joe Edwards, owner of Blueberry Hill. He’s another enthusiastic St. Louis promoter.
What would you like to tell your readers that I have not asked you?
I feel fortunate to live in this wonderful city. You should too. No matter what your interests are, there are fantastic things for you to do and see here; many are low-cost, happy things. If you need fresh ideas to entertain yourselves or your guests, grab my book and get ready for fun. You’ll be glad you did.
You can read more about Amanda and her book, Finally! A Locally Produced Guidebook, To St. Louis, By and For St. Louisans, Neighborhood by Neighborhood, on the books website.