Tag Archives: beach

Beach Blanket Bingo Summer Writing Program

So, this happened: I came across a promotion for a summer writing program at a prestigious college. Curious, I clicked through to see who would be there, what they were offering, and what the fee was. Several literary authors are on the bill, with promises of panel discussions with agents and editors. I recognized some of the authors’ names, but lately I’ve not been reading a lot of what passes for Lit-RAH-chure these days, so most of them were only vaguely familiar. I’m not judging them by my lack of awareness, though. But…

bookbannerParticipants have to shell out, oh, around $3,000 for this ten-day program. And they’re not guaranteed a slot. They have to submit writing samples first, to see if they’re worthy, I guess. And, in the FAQ section of the website, you learn: Participants stay in dorm rooms. Un-air-conditioned dorm rooms. Rooms do not have private baths. Baths are in the hallways. The dorms do not have elevators. There’s no parking. Breakfast and lunch are provided, but dinner, you’re on your own.

Sorry, but I started laughing then. I’m thinking: Why would I want to shell out several thousand dollars for ten days of what will most likely be at least some self-flagellation as I listen to critiques of my work or hear talks on what constitutes great literary effort these days (hint: probably not my stuff) and get to add to this “pleasure” by sweating away the nights in un-air-conditioned dorm rooms with hallway baths, while paying extra for dinners and having no place to park my car?

I have a better idea. I might try this writing seminar instead. I call it The Beach Blanket Bingo Writing Program (BBBWP, for short). Here are the deets:

For less than a third of what Prestigious Writing Program costs, you can rent a beautiful, comfortable two-bedroom, two-bathroom, air-conditioned condo with great parking on the Bethany Beach coast of Delaware. There is no writing sample requirement for the BBBWP. You are, however, encouraged to bring with you your favorite book(s) about writing, from Anne Lamott to Stephen King, and any novels/short story collections that inspire you. Also bring a computer, as BBBWP does not provide any, but Wi-Fi is available in each condo.

The BBBWP schedule is as follows for each of the ten days:


  • Rise early to view sunrise over the Atlantic.
  • Return to condo for yoga, meditation on your own.
  • Breakfast at nearby McCabe’s Gourmet Market on French pastry and coffee while engaging in amiable conversation with the Eastern European workers there.
  • Return to condo for either: reading or writing.

LUNCH in condo (in addition to bedrooms and baths and air-conditioning and parking, the condos also have fully equipped kitchens).


  • Spend time on beach thinking about writing.
  • Exercise in heated pool.
  • Nap.

DINNER ON YOUR OWN, either at the condo or at one of the many restaurants nearby.

As you can see, the BBBWP does have some drawbacks–you won’t be interacting with other aspiring writers or published authors or agents or editors. To compensate for this, the BBBWP will provide a phone line consultation daily. Because of call volume, however, you will hear only recorded messages, along the lines of:

  • AGENT RECORDING: “Your characters must be married to theme more.”
  • FAMOUS AUTHOR RECORDING: “The writing was beautiful and you are clearly highly skilled, but you seem to be stretching for a more literary feel than your writing actually achieves (unlike my writing, which is always spectacular and where everyone goes out for cigarettes and commits suicide at the end).”
  • EDITOR RECORDING: “I am so impressed. But I wanted more. More plot twists. Or something. I’m not sure – so I’m going to pass with thanks.”
  • EDITOR RECORDING: “I do see this working for someone else; it’s so well drawn.”
  • EDITOR RECORDING: “Surely some other editor will love this, and it will be a great success.”
  • EDITOR RECORDING: “I was very impressed with your unique premise, well-drawn characters and page-turning plot. But in this tight market, it won’t sell, so I have to pass.”

Most of these recordings, by the way, will have the advantage of being culled from the actual words of real editors and agents!

So, sign up today and get your BBBWP certificate (of need), along with the T-shirt and name tag lanyard (which will not have the BBBWP name on it, but will carry the name of the resort so you can get into the pool and private beach).

All kidding aside, if you do prefer the group experience with its promise of meet-ups with agents and editors, my advice is simple: Join Romance Writers of America (even if you don’t write romance) and go to a chapter conference or the big national one. You’ll find lots of supportive writers there. I’ve never come across a more supportive group of writers than those in RWA. They’re always eager to cheer you on, offer encouragement, suggest publishing routes and share information. As I said, even if romance isn’t your writing thing, you’ll still find something to like here and maybe, just maybe, a door will open. Unless you can be guaranteed one of those things — writing support and open doors — I’m not sure it’s worth shelling out thousands of bucks for any conference. But that’s just me.

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TGIW: A day at the beach

by Libby Sternberg

Summer’s end is now in the rearview mirror. And an end-of-summer ritual for us has become a beach excursion. We travel to Delaware’s Bethany Beach, a small resort community near the Maryland line, in September after the crowds leave and when the rates drop. We know we’re taking a chance on weather, but you do that every time you book a beach vacation, no?

Me at the beach. Not.

Me at the beach. Not.

When I was a young’un, living in Baltimore, Ocean City, Maryland was the place to go. “Danny Ocean” was not a name, it was Balmerese for where you went for vacation.  The summer after I graduated from high school, friends and I rented an apartment in Ocean City for a week in June. What fun! Later, my husband and I stayed at reasonable (okay, cheap) hotels to grab some sun and sand. Even though we live in Pennsylvania now, I still really enjoy seeing Ocean City’s “Rodney” television commercials, where a lifeguard rescues people from summer boredom by taking them Danny Ocean:

One year, however, a friend recommended staying in a townhouse at Bethany, rented out by a friend of hers. We took a chance and had a delightful time. The townhouse was a long walk or a short drive to the beach itself, and it was surrounded by trees, had a nice kitchen and living space, and a deck. Its community had a swimming pool and tennis court.

When we moved to Vermont, it was hard to get to the beach, even to closer Cape Cod. Something always seemed to get in the way. But one year we managed to cram in a vacation with two of our three kids (the other was doing an internship) at the same Bethany townhouse.

Now, all the kids are grown, out of the house, on their own. You know what that means–we are no longer tethered to school schedules! So, we could go “danny ocean”…in September. September when it’s still warm, when the water itself is warmer, when everyone else has gone home. Bliss!

Instead of heading back to the townhouse, we chose another resort community called Sea Colony. For those on the East Coast near the Delaware beaches, I recommend it. It offers either oceanfront high-rises or inland “tennis community” condos across the coastal highway. We choose the latter. I don’t play tennis, but my husband does. Besides, those condos are situated on lovely little ponds, with pleasant decks that beckon you at twilight, glass of wine in hand. They also feature a heated outdoor pool where this non-ocean-swimmer can joyfully paddle in the mornings.

The community is so quiet at this time of year that when we do see others out and about, we think: Don’t they know this is our time? 🙂

We’ve made two discoveries while there I’d like to share with other Bethany beachgoers: McCabe’s Gourmet Market and Catch 54 Restaurant.

McCabes is a little south of Bethany proper on the Coastal Highway, a small market crammed with essentials and delicacies–pastries that could compete with those from any French patisserie, specialty foods, coffees and…frozen prepared dishes. If you’re feeding a condo full of friends or family, try their frozen lasagna.

Catch 54 is a restaurant in nearby Fenwick Island, on the bay side (Assawoman Bay — I’m not making that up). The owners pride themselves on using as much local bounty as they can. The food tasted fresh and flavorful, portions were perfect (not oversized), service spot-on, and the view from the deck–outstanding.  Be warned–don’t bother putting the address in your GPS. Ours led us astray. The eatery is on Route 54, across from Harpoon Hannah’s, another bayside restaurant.

The deck of Catch54 restaurant.

The deck of Catch54 restaurant.

The past few years we’ve gone to Bethany Beach, we’ve been very fortunate with wonderful weather–sunny days, temperatures either hot or warm. Yet every visit, when we leave, the weather seems to change. This year, temps dropped the day before we exited, as if to say, summer’s over, you can go home now.

What a wonderful way to cap off a lovely season! Time to start planning for next year.

Libby Sternberg is a novelist. Buy her books so she can afford to go to the beach next year, too.

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