Sunday, February 10, 2008

Down the Shore with...Zoey Castelino

Zoey Castelino is no shoobie. This journalist and blogger grew up in Sea Isle City, and even though she's since moved to Toronto, she still holds a great love for the South Jersey shore.

Zoey's been a big promoter for this blog and book -- in fact, she gave me my first review based on the fact that I'd written a book about her hometown. So of course she's perfect for a blog trip down the shore.

1. What do you consider 'your' shore town and why?
My 'shore town' would have to be my hometown - Sea Isle City. I was born and raised there and spent 20 years of my life in that city. Interestingly enough, when it came time for family vacations, rather than go to a beach town, we went north to Canada. Which explains why I fell in love with Montreal and ended up moving there in 1995 for college. I guess my dad figured since we lived on the beach, why bother going to a beach for two weeks. Although we did do a few trips to Florida when I was teenager

2. How do you think Sea Isle -- and the rest of the South Jersey Shore -- has changed?
Surprisingly, Sea Isle hasn’t changed all that much. The Spinnaker is still the tallest building and the water tower still says, “Smile! You’re in Sea Isle City!” (Although it used to say Welcome to Sea Isle City) but for the most part, Sea Isle has kept its charm and its class. There are however, more and more people ‘discovering’ the town now. A lot of college kids rent places and more and more folks are coming from the mainland and the north.

3. How did you get to Toronto?
After I was finished college, I decided I wanted to live somewhere else. I moved to Ottawa (Canada’s capital city) for six months during the summer of ‘97 then after a road trip with a friend one weekend, thought that Toronto might be a fun city to live in. So in October of 97 I moved there. After six months was up, I moved back to Montreal where I became a columnist and freelancer. But in 2002 I thought maybe Toronto would be a fun place to live again, so I moved back – and I’ve been here ever since. I do miss the Jersey shore a lot and I think only once you move away do you really know what you left behind.

4. A lot of writers read this site -- tell us how you became one.
I started when I was a kid. I always loved to write. In college I had a weekly column as well as articles published in the campus paper. I also started to do more research for what I wrote and explored the idea of writing professionally. After my moves to Ottawa and Toronto, I put together a portfolio and crossed my fingers. However, even as a columnist, I knew I wouldn’t be able to live on that alone. (Sorry kids, Sex and the City is pure fiction!) So I started freelancing and that’s where the fun is. I get to write about a lot of different subjects, as well even work on the corporate side now and then and do freelance writing for companies too!

5. When did you start your blog?
I started blogging before people even called it a blog – at least that’s what it felt like. Some time in 2000 I began posting what I called “updates” where every so often I would give a one paragraph recap of what was new with my site or what I had been doing. Not much detail and just a little insight. Then those paragraphs got longer… and longer. And soon it was a diary. I decided to merge it all together and make a blog part of my site. Slowly I’ve been trying to bring over all my original posts (they were hosted on another server) so reader can really see how far things have come.

6. What do you like most about blogging? Least?
Blogging lets me reach people all over the world. People I wouldn’t normally be in contact with. It goes beyond my writing and what I do professionally. It acts a bridge for my work and my personal life. It opens a door and a window into the life of a Toronto writer and all of what goes on in my world. As it stands now, 4,000 people a week come to see what I’m doing. I only wish I could make it interesting all the time!

The biggest problem is making sure what I write is fresh and interesting. Some days it can be as boring as “I bought a new pair of leather pants” and other days, I can talk about what’s on my mind or what I’m up to. But one thing I always try to make sure that I do is providing my opinions and what I’m thinking – not just a news recap of what you can find somewhere else. After all, if people can read the news on some other site, then why come to mine?

Blogging is a form of social media and an excellent way to reach people. Most blogs offer some type of theme; they are either informative where they offer opinionated recaps of something relative to the field of interest, or they are diaries. I feel that I can do both, as I’ve said, my blog is the life of a writer living in Toronto.

7. You've been awesome in saying nice things about my book. Why are you so excited?
Because for years I’ve had to listen to people crap all over New Jersey when I try to tell them how nice a place it really is. A lot of the northern cities I find, ruin the south for many people because of the crime, the industry or even the Sopranos.

Your book will open people’s eyes to the fact that there is life south of the Amboys and that the shore is a beautiful place filled with friendly people. I knew already that I will probably get very homesick and probably very emotional reading your book as I have no doubt it will bring back wonderful childhood memories. It’s about time that someone shows the world how nice my home state really is.

8. A lot of people don't understand why the South Jersey shore gets so many Canadian visitors. Care to enlighten us?
Canadians love the beach, as most people do. But Maine is cold so Canadians (at least those living in Toronto and Montreal and Ottawa) want to go somewhere warm. For those who can’t make it to Florida, New Jersey is the next – and first – logical stop along the way. Jersey has everything. It has beaches, great food, leaglized gambling, a very warm summer and no sales tax on clothing! Not to metion you're close to Philly, DC and New York. Most things are affordable and it’s not too far a drive from Quebec and Ontario.

9. And as someone who grew up in Sea Isle, where is the best place to eat?
For seafood, Busch’s Seafood (in Townsend Inlet, Landis and 88th) remains a favorite for me. Also, Marie’s Lobster House on Park Road (near JFK and Landis) where everything is fresh. Sadly, the best pizza in town was at a place called the Charcoal House. Unfortunately the land was sold years ago and the neighborhood hangout was torn down to make way for a summer rental. But fear not, you can still get a good slice when you’re in town.


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ZoeyBella said...

Wow... you make me sound so smart! I owe you a big hug when I meet you.

Thanks again for asking me to be part of this series. It's such an honor and I'm touched to be a part of it.

Teena said...

Very cool, Zoey!!