On the Road: Isle of Palms

So I’m sitting in a condo on the Isle of Palms, listening to the ocean roll outside the window which I usually find infinitely comforting but since this complex is about to fall into the ocean, I am finding it less so at the moment. It’s 5AM, but I’ve woken up and now I can’t get back to sleep so here we are. And I have internet access which is not always the case here. In fact, there’s a good chance I’ll lose it before I finish this post, so don’t look at the time to see if it’s really 5AM when I posted. And for those of you who are wondering where the HWSW post is, WordPress refuses to let me on the damn blog.

All of this might lead you to think that I’m a little cranky, but actually I’m very happy. I’ve had a wonderful time in South Carolina at the beach house and now here for the weekend, lots of good things happened, I met terrific people, and tomorrow I start the drive home and it will be beautiful. In fact, I’m chipper as all hell even though 5AM is not my preferred time to write. Of course, my brain thinks it’s 6AM since we fell back into Daylight Savings Time this weekend and by the way, that makes no sense at all since it put kids at bus stops in the dark. I say, adjust to the seasons, people. Leave the clocks alone.

Where was I? Right, the weekend.

So I taught a class and terrorized people each day and then met my critique group on the third floor and terrorized them each night, so my work is done. My critique group, by the way, was spectacular and, even better, very sturdy. Cathy, Mary Jo, Allison, Suzanne, Shane, and (by the weekend) Ann all took some pretty stringent criticism and not only rolled with it but worked like crazy to revise. It is such a pleasure to work with people who sort through what you’ve said, take what seems right and discard the rest, and then make their stories better. I’d head out to walk the beach and there would be Allison, sitting on the porch with the ocean in front of her, eyes glued to her notes, scribbling like crazy, or Shane hiding around a corner, poring over her pages. I’d think, “Oh, look, writers, not people who want to be published,” and then go walk on the beach which is how I screwed up my knees, I think, but it was worth it. The ocean, in case I haven’t mentioned it, is a beautiful thing.

Of course, one problem with working with writers is that their grasp on reality isn’t strong. On the day I wore my beach skirt–let me tell you how much I love that beach skirt–I walked along the edge of the water and, surf being what it is, sometimes it came up higher and washed over my feet and I kicked at it because that felt good. These were not high kicks. Little ankle kicks as I walked, the kind that would also kick leaves out of your path or your writing partner on the ankle. Small, perfectly normal kicks. Then I got back to the porch and two writers who shall be nameless–let’s call them Ann and Shane–were laughing and told me that I looked like a Tampax commercial walking out there along the ocean, kicking them there waves. Okay, what they actually said was that I looked like a commercial, and I said, “Tampax?” but still. Then Shane said, “The best part was when you twirled around.” I said, “I do not twirl,” and I would like to make it very clear here that there is no way in hell I would have twirled on the beach. Many of you have met me and can attest to the fact that by nature, I am not a twirler. But Shane, who looks like an angel but is actually a child of the devil, “No, I’m sure you twirled. And maybe leaped.” And Ann, who is also evil, said, “Oh, I loved it when you twirled.” Or something like that.

Now here’s the thing about going out in public: people tease you and then somebody overhears and thinks it’s the truth and things just go all to hell on the internet. So I said firmly and loudly, “I did not twirl” and went inside before they added a dog and a guy on a horse to the story. Writers. But of course, the twirling thing did not die. So a couple of days later we’re at dinner, and Ann says, “Boy, I wish I’d had my cellphone with me because we could have taken a video of you twirling.” And Shane looked at her and said, “Ann, we couldn’t have taken a video, we made that up.” And Ann stopped and said, “Oh. Yeah. We did.” See. THIS is how rumors start.

There was no twirling.

There was, however, much hilarity and good times and interesting things, although I missed the return of the three-hundred pound sea turtles to the ocean which Mary Alice Monroe told us about because she’s part of the sea turtle rescue people. I understand it was touching although it took the male turtle longer than the female turtle, not because he wouldn’t ask for directions which somebody said but because (according to Mary Alice) once sea turtles are born, they head straight for the ocean where there is food and sex, and the females come back on land to lay eggs but the males never do (as Bob said, “No point”) so the females know how to get back to the water but the males are clueless. But he finally made it, and everybody said it was very touching, but I was at breakfast with Bob plotting the next book because I racked up my knee and couldn’t have made it down the beach anyway. So everybody else got a male sea turtle heading for the ocean, and I got Bob heading for a sausage and egg on a bagel. Not that he wasn’t as delightful as always, but you know, he’s not a giant sea turtle.

Meg and Jen also arrived on Friday so it was like old home week, the gang back together, and they brought Kathy Seidel whom I hadn’t seen since she tried to kill me in DC after that Smithsonian thing, so that was fun, too. They all looked fabulous and I looked like I’d been rode hard and put away wet since my fashion sense, never strong, had pretty much eroded by then. I remember feeling really put upon when I had to start wearing shoes again since we were moving to the condo. As much as I love shoes, they really seemed like a frill at the beach house. I also stared balefully at my mascara before I put it on. Reality. Bummer.

But it was good to be away from the house for awhile: twenty-five women in a beach house for a week can give you estrogen overload, but three days in a condo with Bob pretty much cures that. I was in front of the house loading my car when he pulled into driveway, and I waved, and he got out and looked at my hair–I’ve let it go gray and cut it short–and said, “You look better.” I said, “Just for the record, ‘You look better’ is not a compliment.” He said, “It is in Bob World.” Maybe some day I’ll work up to “You look good,” but I’m not holding my breath.

And the weekend was great although since some of the people from the week before left and many new people came in, it did seem odd to have all those strangers in Our Beach House. Or as Shane put it, “Somebody moved my peanut butter.” That same person drank my Diet Coke, too. Yes, we both realized that the house was stocked for everybody and that technically the peanut butter and Diet Coke were not ours, but frankly, we’d been there a week, and then here came these Janie-Come-Latelys who moved in and disrupted the beach . . . well, we knew how the sea turtles felt. The female ones.

There’s a lot more but I can’t remember anything now because it’s 5:45 and I need to go back to sleep. Well, I remember Meg telling a story about somebody who pitched to her at a conference and said that she couldn’t explain the story because it was a secret, and Meg said, “Maybe you need a secret agent.” Oh, and there is no picture of the shawl because after it was finished, I gave it to Meg so she could keep warm and she looked fantastic in it, so I said, “Keep it,” except that I didn’t put the shells on it so it’s just a boring shawl that’s about four thousand yards long–I may have lost my grip on the length–but she didn’t seem to mind, although she’s probably somewhere now going, “Crusie, this shawl needs edited.”

But I do need to thank Kieran and Sharon who schlepped us out to the condo and carried all our stuff up in the middle of the night–I’d heard of Southern hospitality but I had no idea how far Southern girls will go to make you feel taken care of–and Laura who said over and over again, “I’m going out, can I get you anything?” and brought magazines for collage and fed me Aleve, and Nina who put the whole thing together, and the Low Country Romance Writers for being the Low Country Romance Writers, which is a very good thing. And if they ever do this again, you should go.