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The Stewarts of Garrett Park vie to become the

next literary dynasty, sort of
By

David and Matt Stewart once considered writing a family history together after taking a 2008 bicycle tour through the Eastern European homeland of David's grandparents.
"We each wrote a chapter-and then I got cold feet and didn't finish it," says

Alan Dessoff

David, 59. "I discovered I wasn't comfortable writing about myself." What he is comfortable writing about is American history-a subject he has mined successfully in two critically acclaimed nonfiction books. Meanwhile, his 31-year-old son-oldest of three kids-has gone on to make history:

48

March/April 2011

| BethesdaMagazine.com

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releasing the first novel ever on Twitter, the somewhat misleadingly trtled The
French Revolution.Thalbook came out in

Even before turning to books, father

print last year.
Today David writes from a converted bedroom in the family's 1880s Victorian h Garrett Park, while his son writes from a
marina-style condo in San Francisco, where he moved after graduating from Richard \{ontgomery High School in Rockville and rrom his father's alma matetYale. "It's terrific to have people in the family n'ho see the world through different eyes," says Nancy Floreen, the three-term mem-

and son were writers. David spent two years as a reporter for the Staten Island (N.Y.) Advance and 10 years writing a monthly column on the Supreme Court for the American Ber Association Journal. Matt has written short stories that have appeared in Instant City, McSweeney's and Opium Magazine, and he has blogged for
The Huffington Post.

David's first book arose from a case he was arguing. Long interested in American history, he became convinced his opponent was misstating what happened at the Constitutional Convention of 17 87 in Philadelphia. "I decided to check it out myselt," he says. During one weekend, he read all 500plus pages of James Madison's notes on the convention debates. "Once I started reading, I stopped worrying about my case," he says. "I wanted to tell that story." He relinquished his partnership at Ropes & Gray, becoming counsel to the firm instead, and wrote his first book over 18 months. Matt's book, by contrast, began as a
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ber of the Montgomery County Counci1 who happens to be David's wife and \{att's mother.
A constitutional lawyer, David gave up a partnership at the Washington, D.C., firm of Ropes & Gray to write The Summer of 1787 (Simon & Schuster,2007). Praised by
The New York Times and on The Washington Posls 2007 best-seller list, it takes readers

into the sweltering Philadelphia room

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rvhere delegates struggled for four months to produce the Constitution. He followed that up with Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and

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for Lincoln's Legacy (Simon &

short story. "I started writing the first character, the opening scenes> and I had a blast. I let my imagination fly," he says.

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Schuster, 2009). His third book, American Emperor: Aaron Burr's Challenge to son's America"will come out in the fall. Meanwhile, Matt gained attention world-

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With a full-time day job as marketing director for the Alliance for Climate Education, which teaches students nationwide about climate science, he writes in a home office before and after work and on weekends. His wife, Karla Zens, works in commercial real estate. David and Matt say they have read each other's books. Matt offers no comment on his father's writing, but David says his son writes "with zest, skill, humor and insight." I AIan Dessoff is a freelance writer who livei:s in Bethesda. To comment on this story, e - m ail comm ents@b ethes damagazine. co m.

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wide by releasing The French Revolutionvia Twitter on Bastille Day,2009.Its title notrvithstanding, the novel is a San Franciscobased "family saga cast in a unique historical structure-plus jokesl' Matt says. Published by Soft Skull Press last year, the book was named by the San Francisco Chronicle as one of the Best Books of 2010 by Bay Area authors. Matt recently

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completed his second nove7, Duct Tape, about "a homeless man in search of his imaginary self."

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