After spending 15 years as a freelance food and drink writer in the Midwest, Geist-area resident Ashley Petry was thrilled when Reedy Press, a publishing firm, approached her about writing “100 Things To Do In Indianapolis Before You Die.”
“My publisher had a series called ‘100 Things To Do In (each city) Before You Die,’ and they approached me to write ‘100 Things To Do In Indianapolis Before You Die,’” Petry said. “I was very excited because I spent all this time telling these great Indiana stories, and it was a pleasure to have another way to tell some of these great stories.”
The first edition of the book was published in 2015. The second edition was published in 2018 with 70 percent revised material.
“It desperately needed an update,” Petry said. “The restaurant scene had changed so much, the theater scene had changed so much, a lot of places moved or closed, so it needed freshening up.”
Reedy Press also approached Petry about writing another book, “Secret Indianapolis: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure.” It was published this year.
“It includes weird stories from Indiana’s history, forgotten heroes from Indianapolis, weird museums and things to do,” Petry said.
Petry’s favorite topic in “100 Things To Do In Indianapolis Before You Die” is the Indianapolis 500 and the Indianapolis Children’s Museum.
“It also gave me an opportunity to talk about places like Rhythm! Discovery Center, a percussion museum downtown, the Holcomb Observatory at Butler University and a lot of wonderful cultural aspects people just don’t know much about,” she said.
One of her favorite stories from the “Secret Indianapolis: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure” is about Martin Van Buren, the eighth president of the United States.
“In the early years, Indianapolis was hugely dependent on U.S. 40,” she said. “We didn’t have a navigable waterway and trains hadn’t arrived yet. During Martin Van Buren’s presidency, federal funding for what is now U.S. 40 was cut off. A lot of Hoosiers held a grudge about that, so a couple of years later Van Buren was trying to drum up support for another presidential bid, and he decides to do a campaign tour on the national road. When he comes through Indiana and gets to Plainfield, the people of Plainfield are still mad and decide to show him how bad the road can be.”
Plainfield residents bribed Van Buren’s carriage driver to give him a rough journey.
“When he gets to Plainfield, he goes racing down a hill and over the roots of a huge elm tree which tips the carriage. Martin Van Buren goes tumbling into a mud puddle,” Petry said. “They erected a plaque at the Van Buren elm to commemorate this strange presidential prank. The original tree is dead but there’s a new tree there.”
Petry calls writing books is her dream job.
“I get to work from home and I get to travel,” she said. “I couldn’t imagine anything better.”
Petry will publish another book about Indianapolis, through the same publisher, in fall 2020.
“I can’t talk about details yet,” she said.
“100 Things To Do In Indianapolis Before You Die” is available at Amazon & Barnes and Noble for $16. “Secret Indianapolis: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure” is available for $20.95.
For more, visit ashleypetry.com.
Meet Ashley Petry
What a typical day looks like: “I have a sleep disorder, so a lot of my work gets done at night. And that’s nice because I can write without being interrupted by phone calls and emails,” Petry said. She sleeps during the day.
How she takes her coffee: Always decaf, generally a caramel macchiato
Last book she read: Currently in the middle of “Anna Karenina”
Binge TV show: “RuPaul’s Drag Race
Horoscope sign: Scorpio
What she does in her free time: “I do a lot of reading memoir, and I also have a weird obsession with quantum physics, so I read a lot of books about that and fiction as well.”
Favorite place she’s traveled (has visited 41 countries): “We went to Italy on our honeymoon, and that was my first foreign trip, so that will always have a special place in my heart.”
Pets: Cats Oliver, Benjamin, Franklin and Cornelius