The Serenity of Monumental Church, Richmond, Virginia


Monumental Church, Richmond, Virginia. Photo: Tonya Rice

During a performance on the night after Christmas, 1811, fire destroyed the Richmond Theatre, killed many citizens, and left this city in mourning. Those who were left dazed by the sudden horrors they’d witnessed and survived acknowledged the heroic efforts of a local slave, Gilbert Hunt. Standing outside of a window under flames and falling debris, Hunt caught several women who were handed to him by Dr. James McCaw, a local physician. Before the building nearly collapsed around them, Hunt pulled McCaw to safety; miraculously, they escaped.

The city arranged to purchase the site and agreed to bury the victims, many of whom were charred or reduced to ashes, at the site. Their remains were placed in two mahogany coffins. It was soon decided to commemorate the lives of those lost by erecting a church over them.

Robert Mills, Thomas Jefferson’s sole architectural student, laid out the plans of this

Monumental Church, Richmond, Virginia. Photo: Tonya Rice

Greek Revival structure. Mills later designed the Washington Monument and the White House of the Confederacy. When the church opened in 1814, it was known as Monumental Episcopal Church and remained such until 1965. Chief Justice John Marshall and a young Edgar Allan Poe were a couple of its well-known parishioners.

The names of the dead are engraved on the memorial stone of the portico, as well as on the tablet next to the entrance of the church.

The VCU Medical Center (formerly Medical College of Virginia) has fully developed around the church. However, while standing inside the cast iron fence and the grounds, it’s easy to ignore the massive structures that now encapsulate it as well as the hustle and bustle of Broad Street that pass by.

The area creates a quiet, serene environment, so one is poised to stop and respect the purpose of the memorial. In 1814, the city decided to mark the resting area of those lost so suddenly and violently; today, those grounds continue to direct reverence.

In 1969, the church, located at 1224 E. Broad Street, was noted as a National Historic Landmark by the National Register of Historic Places. It is now owned by the Historic Richmond Foundation.

Originally posted on September 11, 2010 on


Indie Urban Lit Festival at the Richmond Public Library

RVA pic pngThe Richmond Public Library is hosting their Second Annual Indie Urban Lit Festival this Saturday, June 24, 2017 – tomorrow, as a matter of fact –  10:00 am – 5:00 pm at the Main Library, 101 E. Franklin Street, Richmond. Indie authors of the urban lit genre are featured but many other authors in other genres, like me, including poets and memoirists, will also be in attendance with our books and the chance to talk to readers. Over 40 of us!  Including, There will be workshops, discussions, music, and readings. A bibliophile’s love fest!

Yes, you read right… I will be there! With copies of my shiny, new paperback, bb shorts cover new (3)Burying the Bitter and Selected Short FictionHOT OFF THE PRESS!

Come to Downtown Richmond to mingle and meet with your favorite authors of the Richmond, Virginia area! Celebrate and support indie authors. Learn about the writing biz yourself! Participate in some of the workshops that include:

  • “Self-love and Walking in Your Purpose” – to be honest, this is the one I look forward to seeing myself… We writers are so damned hard on ourselves!!
  • “Books are a Business”
  • “How to Turn Your Book into a Best Seller”
  • “What is Urban Fiction”

Music and books… a great way to spend a Saturday, downtown! I hope to see you!!

List of authors below on this cool video produced by the Richmond Public Library:

More information here.

Richmond Public Library, Main
101 E. Franklin Street
Richmond, VA 23219

Saturday, June 24, 2017
10;00 am – 5:00 pm

Burying the Bitter and Selected Short Fiction – AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK!

bb shorts cover new (3)Relationships! It’s always about Relationships, isn’t it?

Well, as frustrating or even as lovely as they can be, they manage to inspire our best stories!

The spectacular news about all this?! “Burying the Bitter: A Boutique Series Short”, my Amazon Top 100 Kindle Short Story in Family Life Fiction, is now available in paperback along with three additional shorts, featuring such challenging relationships!

I’m so excited and even more thrilled to share this news with you!

About the Selected Short Fiction

In “Burying the Bitter”, Eveline must return home to her uncle’s funeral, a service she’d prefer to miss. Uncle Neville wasn’t the kind, old uncle the rest of the public deemed him to be and remembering his life is not what she wants to do.

In “Without Your Goodbye”, Shelby meets Mr. Right, soon after she was dumped by Mr. Wrong. The new man’s got an unexpected angle. Don’t they always? (Also available for Kindle)

In “Faye’s Cookout Day”, Faye discovers more than she desires about her husband and her marriage… in her ninth month of pregnancy.

“Arnie Somers” is a poignant tale about everlasting love and a cherished brooch that begins with a devastating accident. Choices are given, but what defining decisions will Arnie make? (Also available for Kindle)

Will the circumstances of their fragile relationships strengthen them or break them? The chance to find out is here. Their tales will linger with you for a long time.

Order your copy today!

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf (2015)


Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf (2015)
5 of 5 stars on Goodreads

I’d read in the Wall Street Journal some months ago, that Kent Haruf’s last book, Our Souls at Night, was inspired by the late night talks he and his wife would have as they lay next to each other in the dark. That sweet concept rushed it to my TBR list and I’m thankful to have read such an incredible vignette of life. Haruf passed away in November, 2014, leaving behind this gem. He’d written the first draft in less than two months and the completed manuscript was delivered to him less than a week before he died. After he was diagnosed with a terminal lung disease, he fought against it with the need to write this story. Upon learning that, I had to read it and I’m so grateful that I have. It was an elegy to aging, relationships, parenting, life, and most definitely, love.

I must say that after I finished reading it, the aching thought, which surprisingly hit me after going through much of the beauty there, was “some people are just assholes”. They are and there’s one prominent one in the book that shatters everyhthing. it’s no different that real life. One person can do that. Haruf’s point was subtle and soft, yet tremendously loud and clear.

Addie Moore and Louis Waters, both widowed and in their 70s, had been neighbors for years. However, they didn’t really know each other very well. He was her son’s high school English teacher and she was a friend of his wife’s before his wife had become very ill. One night, Addie walks two houses down to his, rings his doorbell, and asks him if he’d like to come over to her house at night and sleep with her. Yep – just what I wrote – just what she said – to sleep with her.

“I’m talking about getting through the night,” she says. “And lying warm in bed, companionably. Lying down in bed together and you staying the night. The nights are the worst. Don’t you think?”

“Yes. I think so,” he says.

Naturally, he was shocked and caught off guard as she’d stood in his doorway, but sure enough, later that night he showed up at her house with his pajamas and toothbrush in a brown bag. They lay next to one another each night, just talking, revealing secrets, thoughts, regrets, you name it -and one of the most lovely, touching, and true friendships soon unfolded within the pages of this short novel. It was just beautiful to read. In spite of the fact that I tore through it in less than a day, I wanted to take it slowly, but I couldn’t. Even though I’d started reading it after midnight, it wasn’t an easy book to set down. I was up for hours; I didn’t want to leave them and I didn’t want them to leave me. I cried to the heavens as it reached the confounded direction it had taken. It wasn’t at all unbelievable either, which made it sad and more damning. None of his twists and turns (and there were many – the mark of a great storyteller) were unbelievable. This was simply life in pages and no matter how much control you may think you have, you’re sometimes gravely reminded by circumstances and people that you don’t have shit. [Yes, I’m still fuming!] Addie and Louis – in their older ages, when you’d think they’d seen enough and all – were given such a lesson.

I’ve never read Haruf’s Plainsong trilogy nor his other acclaimed works, set primarily in Holt, Colorado – his fictitious town within his home state (brings to mind Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County in Mississippi). It’s filled with children, grandchildren, neighbors, long-time friends, and general patrons that make up a small, nosy town. Just as he captures humanity, he captured the grace of nature out west under the eye of the Rocky Mountains. Just as I saw the stars overhead he described, I felt the cool of the night, and saw the beautiful blue of the stream. I even saw their neighborhood and houses with their respective layouts so aptly described unwrapped for us to see. Our Souls at Night seems to speak in the same soft, yet meaty volume and tenor that led many readers to keep his books off the shelf when I was working in the library, so I now understand his following.

It’s a short, sweet, quite bittersweet, and simply honest read. It’s also harsh and beautiful. If you love family life fiction, this is the one for you.

(Oh, by the by – Just read that Robert Redford and Jane Fonda will do an adaptation of this book for Netflix. With them, I’m sure it’ll be a hit, but I’m quite happy I read it first… I simply suggest you do the same! Get Haruf’s tale as he told it firsthand.)

The Aluminum Statue of Bill “Bojangles” Robinson in Richmond, Virginia

Bill “Bojangles” Robinson Statue, Richmond, VA – Photo: Tonya Rice

Bill “Bojangles” Robinson (1878-1949), believed by many to be the best tap dancer of all time, hailed from Richmond’s Jackson Ward. Also known as Shirley Temple’s dancing partner in such movies as The Little Colonel (1935) and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1938), Mr. Robinson left a legacy that extends beyond the cameras of Hollywood. In his hometown, his memory is fondly revered; a statue now stands in his honor at the intersection of Adams Street and Leigh Street in Jackson Ward. Made of aluminum donated by the Richmond-based Reynolds Metals Company in 1973, it celebrated his love for children by marking the spot where he paid for a traffic light to be installed, during the 1930s, to protect those who walked to and from Armstrong High School, located across from the busy area.

The “Bojangles” Memorial Fund Committee of the local Astoria Beneficial Club lena,bojangles,cab - stormyweathercommissioned John Temple Witt to create the statue. Witt was a local sculptor and art professor at Randolph-Macon College in nearby Ashland. The sculpture captures the engaging image of a smiling Mr. Robinson dancing down a flight of stairs. On the plaque of the sculpture’s front base, Mr. Robinson’s humanitarian efforts are honored with the words: Dancer, Actor, Humanitarian, Native Son of Richmond; Internationally Famous Actor and Dancer Rendered Many Kindnesses to the Citizens of Richmond.

The iconic “Bojangles” statue of a shiny, silver hue is situated on a parcel of land of the intersection designated by the city to accommodate the monument, aptly called “Robinson Square”. In spite of its location in the middle of a constantly active intersection, it’s a welcoming environment featuring brick walking areas,

Bill “Bojangles” Robinson statue, Richmond, VA – Photo: Tonya Rice

floral landscaping, and park benches. A water fountain for horses and smaller domestic animals donated to the city by the National Humane Alliance in 1938 was relocated to the area. The committee members who shaped this tribute are also noted on a plaque on the rear base. They are Carroll W. Anderson, (Chairman), Marion Robertson (Vice-Chairman), George Taylor (Recording Secretary), Herbert H. Johnson, (Financial Secretary), J. Carroll Beard (Treasurer), Wesley T. Carter, Richard W. Foster, Willie L. Loving, Reginald M. Dyson, Bernard L. Jones, and Powell B. Williams. Each year, a festival takes place on the fourth Saturday in June to commemorate the unveiling of the statue dedicated to one of Richmond’s favorite sons.

Originally posted on September 27, 2010 on