Let’s be honest, traveling with a writer is an ordeal. Most people pack swimsuits and sunscreen for the beach. Writers need a swimsuit, sunscreen, twelve books, three notebooks, fifteen blue million pens, devices, chargers, E-readers, bookmarks, headphones… These are necessities. A writer is always writing. Even if the view behind their notebook is perfect white sand and salty waves, words wait for no scribbler.
I recently received the Christenberry Award from the Big South Conference. It was a fantastic honor, and I was very excited. But I’m not going to lie, I was far more excited about traveling to Hilton Head, SC for the awards dinner.
A few days before the dinner, my mom and I packed up the rental car and headed east. We stopped at Isle of Palms for a night, soaked in some rays, and then hauled it over to Hilton Head.
But let me back up. Packing.
We’re all writers here. We know the drill. Spend two minutes packing clothes and toiletries and two hours staring at the bookshelf, trying to decide between horror and romance—and eventually taking both.
In this case, I opted for Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes and Jacquelyn Mitchard’s Cage of Stars.
Then, we have to choose a notebook. Now this is not a decision to be taken lightly. A beach notebook must meet certain specifications. Traditionally, my favorite notebook is soft and leather, with lightly lined pages. But when beach-writing, there’s nothing bear down on so I need something with a hard cover. I also like heavier lines—easier to see with my shades on—and the smaller the notebook is, the better. It needs to fit in the pocket of my beach bag for quick access.
Also, I really don’t like to take notebooks I use all the time. Because sand.
Here’s the one I went with. It's a cute little hardback thing, about five-by-seven. A little more colorful than I typically use, but hey, it's vacation!
Then there’s the pen. Oh, the dear pen.
Let me tell you, I am strictly Sharpie. They don’t bleed. They go on smooth, but don’t pour ink so that it smudges everywhere. And they give a nice, black line. When they introduced the refillable stainless steel pens, I swore my allegiance to the Sharpie overlords. So pen choice was a no-brainer. But I did take a disposable sharpie pen, just in case. Writer Rule #82: Never, ever, for all that is good in this world and every other, be without a pen. [Click to Tweet]
Books, check. Notebook, check. Pen, check.
Once I had laptop, headphones, and chargers packed, I was ready to roll. Up at 5am. Grab breakfast from the fridge (if you want to start up the foodie in me, ask about overnight oats), and hop in the car—a rental, which meant my mom had to drive (isn’t being 22 great?) and I got to work on editing a novel for the fantastic Michael Murphy.
If you’re wondering why we left at 5am, it was to make sure we could soak up every millisecond of beachy sunshine. Well, when we arrived at Isle of Palms, the sky looked like this.
“Oh, it won’t rain,” we said. “Let’s go to the beach,” we said.
We stepped out of the car, paid for parking, took two steps toward the beach, and the sky opened up like a new bag of cereal. It poured. Good news is my books were in plastic bags (aka sand blockers), and the weather was beautiful for the rest of the trip.
So, you ask, what did I walk away from this beach trip with?
1. A nice sunburn.
2. A starfish.
3. Some new knowledge: Saltwater hermit crabs are in fact not the same as the cute little critters you buy from the store, and you cannot take them home, no matter how adorably they crawl around your hand.
4. Lots of horseshoe crab encounters. Man, those things are everywhere.
5. A nifty silver dish award-type deal.
By the way, the awards dinner produced a semi-interesting anecdote. The folks who put this shindig together sent a survey beforehand, asking for each guest's choice of steak or salmon. I, being me, requested steak. When the server came to our table, here’s how the conversation went.
Server to my mom: “Steak or salmon?”
Thirty minutes went by. Thirty minutes. Everyone at our table was force fed salmon except myself and the wife of the president of my university. We asked for salmon. We begged for salmon. Nope. Everyone else was halfway through their dessert, and it was almost time for me to go on stage to accept the award when the server finally brought us food. It was salmon. It was the same salmon she had refused to give us earlier. It was cold, and it made me sick later. I should have known better than to go to a "nice" dinner hungry. (Plus side, we found a fantastic diner afterward.)
Okay, moving onto the pretty beach pictures.
I got a beach trip, and I got some writing done. Winning all the way around. The sunburn was collateral damage.
Do you have any tips for beach-writing?