Moon Handbooks has just released its guide to Pennsylvania, written by Squirrel resident Anna Dubrovsky. While the 36-year-old writer and yoga instructor has lived all over the world, she attended Mount Lebanon High School and returned to Pittsburgh in 2007. Her mammoth tome is more than 600 pages long.
How do you like being a guidebook writer?
I had an Eat Pray Love idea of what it would be. Most of the travel writing I had done before was storytelling pieces. What I realized is that I'm not telling a story. It's sort of a catalogue more than anything else. I started judging and writing at a furious pace, and I actually went overboard. The contract called for a 400- to 450-page book. I just couldn't stop writing about the stuff I was seeing. My editor was not a happy camper.
How do you take on an entire, and fairly large, state?
I broke it up into regions. Sometimes I'd spend four or five days, just seeing sight after sight after sight. I took my boyfriend to Nemacolin and Bedford Springs. But a lot of places I found on my own, like Lancaster. I saw Dutch Country all by myself. I had to keep in mind that I wasn't experiencing these places the way a normal traveler would experience them. Most people aren't going to walk around a museum with the curator.
Any big surprises?
I was surprised by a lot of things. I thought I really knew the state, because I had lived in many different parts of Pennsylvania. But I had no idea we had this huge herd of free-roaming elk. I had a very low opinion of Erie, because I had an ex-boyfriend from there, but I was really impressed by Presque Isle. That's the thing: Pittsburghers, when they go to the shore, they leave the state. Nobody thinks to go a few hours north.
Does living here give you a Pittsburgh bias?
I don't think so. I lived in York, Pa., and I could talk about Central Pennsylvania all day. And until I started researching the book, I had no idea what Pittsburgh had to offer. Now I'm a much bigger fan of our half of the state. I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm a bigger fan of Philadelphia, too.