Exploring the city on foot

An interview with Holly Day and Sherman Wick, authors of ‘Walking Twin Cities’

After many months of strenuous walking and extensive research, Holly Day and her husband Sherman Wick’s book, “Walking Twin Cities,” was finally released June 30.

The portable guide book features 34 walking tours exploring historic neighborhoods, lakeside parks, gangster hideouts, dive bars and cultural centers of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

The Southwest Journal spoke with the authors to discuss the book, including their favorite walks, the research involved and everything else it took to bring the book together.

SWJ: There are other books in the “Walking” series. Why did you decide to write one for the Twin Cities?

Holly Day:
Well, the short story is we got hired to do it. I’d been bugging my agent for a good year-and-a-half saying we really want to write another Minnesota book because we originally did the “Insider’s Guide to the Twin Cities,” and we had a pretty good time doing that. We were pretty much ready to do another one like that.

What was the process from day one of writing this book and bringing it together?

Day: We were in the car with a notebook, trying to brainstorm all of the places that we wanted to have in the book. And then we had to decide how those were going to fit into a walk. And then we went out with the car, driving and trying to figure out the path.
As soon as it got warm, we went and walked. The first time we did walks was kind of messy because when you’re driving a path it’s totally different than when you’re going to walk it. So there was a lot of ‘We can’t tell people to take six turns up here, so we’re going to cut through here instead.’ We had our maps along and we’d redraw the maps while we were walking. Then we’d go home and fuss over the maps and over directions, then we’d go out the next day and do the walk again, and then do another walk.

Sherman Wick: And neither one of us is a technical writer, so it was a big surprise. You think ‘Oh, this will be really easy,’ but then you get out and actually have to do it. There’s a lot more revisions than you’d think. You want to make it smooth. You want to simplify it, but also put as much information in there as possible. The first couple times we did it, it was really klutzy, then it got better. … Some of the most difficult walks, we probably did four or five times.

What was one of your favorite places you visited?

I think the Bruce Vento Trail in the springtime was really beautiful, and Swede Hollow, as well. I think those are places that people don’t see as much and there’s a lot of nature there. By the bluffs especially, because you actually get to see the water coming out of there, and there are little springs.

There are a lot of descriptions and cultural references for each of the places and each of the walks. How did you go about doing all the research for it?

Sherm was a history major. He’s got his degree in history. We have a whole library on Minnesota history.

There’s so much more detail that you have to take away. They just want an overview. It’s a walking guide; it’s not meant to be detailed. I tried to put the best information I could in there.

That was really hard. There was a lot of stuff that ended up getting cut because there just wasn’t room. There was more history on some of the buildings and that sort of thing. We were limited to 10 points of interest per chapter. Finding the 10 that you want to mention is just painful.

What was most rewarding about writing this book?

Day: When you write a book like this, it really gives you an excuse to go out and see everything. You can’t say ‘Well, this is my normal routine, so I’d like to go to this park and this restaurant.’ It forces you to go out and you have to see everything again. It’s really fun.

To whom would you recommend it?

Day: I think we tried to include everybody, because we took our kids on a lot of the walks, so we know that kids can do them. Older people can do it. And then I think we tried to include enough of our own favorite hip spots and cool things that I think the 20- to 40-year-old crowd would like it, too. We really worked hard to include as many people as possible.

Why do you think this book works for both tourists and for people who have always lived here?

It gives you a perspective of walking from the ground, and a lot of people don’t think about doing that. Sometimes you have to put a book out to get people to do that.

It’s a different way of seeing things. You see a lot more than if you’re in a car, when you’re busy concentrating on driving, and you might miss some things.

How do you feel now that it’s over? Would you do it again?

Oh, yeah. Definitely. … I think we covered over 300 miles in a three-month period. But I would certainly do it again.

Holly Day and Sherman Wick live near Downtown with their two children.

Book signing
Holly Day and Sherman Wick will be signing copies of “Walking Twin Cities,” at the Barnes & Noble in Midwest Plaza on 8th Street South & Nicollet Mall on Aug. 14 at noon.