Sunday, December 23, 2007

Happy Holidays!

I'm about to take some time off between Christmas and New Year, so from my family to yours (and this is my family at our annual 'ugly sweater party'), happy holidays, and a wonderful new year!

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Down the Shore with...John Alvarez

What better way to start off Christmas week than with a Santa Q&A? Well, not quite a chat with Santa, but John Alvarez of Cape May Stage, who happens to sometimes play Santa (I met John the night of the Cape May tree lighting, sans big red Santa suit).

1. How did you make your way to Cape May?
Kicking and screaming (lol). I was born and raised in Northeast Philadelphia, with my nine other brothers and sisters. When most of my older siblings had moved out of the house, my parents moved to Cape May. This was 1983 and in the middle of my senior of high school. Believe me, I wasn'’t to happy to move. It really wasn'’t until after I had graduated college and was on my first theatrical tour that I started missing walking the beaches of Cape May. At the end of the tour, I was taking NJ Transit back to Cape May. I was looking out the window as the bus was coming over the Cape May bridge. I had a great view of the canal, the docks and Lobster House. I smiled and said “I’'m home”.

3. What does it take to play Santa?
I’'ve played Santa, at different times, for twenty years. I can tell you that it takes more than just being a big, jolly man. You need patience, compassion, and great sense of humor. And that'’s just for the adults who want to tell Santa their Christmas list (I blush at some of the requests). Seriously, it'’s surprising what you are asked as Santa. I’ve had children ask anything from toys finding their parents a job. The worst question I was ever asked: A boy asked me to bring back his brother who was killed in a car accident a few months before. The best question: A little girl, about four years old, had asked me for a lump of coal. When I asked her why she wanted a lump of coal, she said, "“So I can give it to my brother. He’'s so mean to me”." I laughed for a good five minutes at that.

4. What's the toughest part about the costume? Having to navigate it when using the restroom. Enough said.

5. Tell me about the Christmas show, and how that came to be.
The show is called “Every Christmas Story Ever Told” and it depends on which person who created the show (Michael Carleton, James Fitzgerald and myself) you'’re talking to at any given time. We all have our different take on how the show came to be. My interpretation is simple. It was all my idea (lol). Seriously, it was summer of 2003 and the theatre was having their weekly “clambake”, a party where anyone can show up. I was bouncing the idea of doing a show about every Christmas story ever told to friends who were also writers. All of them laughed at me, except for Michael and James. We went to the kitchen of the actor’s house, sat at the table, opened a beer and talked. By the end of the second beer, we had an outline of the play. Basically, it’s about three guys doing “A Christmas Carol” when one actor (my character) confesses that he can’'t do another version of this story again. From that point on, we spoof Christmas stories, traditions, carols, commercials, parades and TV specials. I would love to tell you more, but that would give too much away. Let me just with the fact that, four years ago, Michael, James and I were sitting in Cape May Stage’s theatre, twenty-four hours before opening night, wondering if the show was going to work. Four years later, the play is published and is being done in over ten theatre’s in the US, two in Canada and one in Tokyo, Japan. Not bad for a show that got start in a kitchen over a beer.

6. What's up next for the 2008 season?
2008 is the twentieth anniversary of Cape May Stage'’s first year. We will also be done with our renovation campaign called Project Encore. For four seasons now, Project Encore has been raising funds to fix up the theatre. Also, for far too many years, we have had folding chairs for our patrons and only about a dozen lighting instruments for our shows. (I won’t even tell you abut our sound system - uggh) Hopefully, and after nearly $1.5 million raised, we will be done with the renovations. As for our shows, our season has been picked and we are doing six (or seven) shows, one children’s production, and after the success that had last October with a staged reading of Macbeth, we are doing four staged reading ranging from “The Tempest” to Orson Wells'’ radio version of “War of the Worlds”. Now, all of this is subject to change so check out our website at and check out our schedule.

7. What are two places in Cape May that everyone MUST see/do if they're coming down for vacation?
Well, one of the things that people should do is take one of the tours sponsored by the Mid Atlantic Center of the Arts. Through this organization’s efforts, many of the Victorian houses in town were saved. They helped Cape May get it’s National Historic Landmark status. Many of the reasons why people come to Cape May are through their efforts. Sadly, they do these great tours and a lot people don’'t go to them. When you’'re in Cape May (especially if it’s raining) go take one of the MAC tours. They’'re fun.

The second thing is to go walk the beach. I know, I’'m crazy to mention walking the beach in South Jersey. But how many time do people actually walk the beach? The run to it to get tanned, or go body surf they waves. But how many just actually walk the beach? It’'s a beautiful walk. Tranquil and inspiring. It'’s a great place for people watching. You'’ll see anything from a child’'s first steps to the ocean to older people who have been on the beach for most of their life. And everything else in between. And if you are dating someone one or you’'re happily married, there is nothing more romantic than kissing the love of your life with the taste of see mist on your lips. Go take a walk on the beach. It’s fun. And, after that, you can walk up the stree to this little theatre called Cape May Stage.

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

News from Around the South Jersey Shore

Let's start with the big story: the Tropicana has managed to stay out of bankruptcy so far.

Here's an overall picture of Atlantic City's future as a gaming city, and what the decision to not renew the Tropicana gaming license means for that future.

The man allegedly behind a 1982 murder in North Cape May has been caught.

Cape May Point's going to be getting more help to stop the sea from washing it away (though I think having a convent on the tip of the state is still a great idea).

Cape May County's going to be keeping a closer eye on Sea Isle City.

Sea Isle City' Colonnade Inn gets a nice write up here.

This isn't exactly news, but here's a cute blog post from Zoey Castelino, a Sea Isle City native who now lives in Toronto. She writes about how things have changed in a blog post titled "How far must one redhead go" where she marks the distances to Wal-Mart, Starbucks and Target from Sea Isle City -- all things that hadn't been in the area when she last lived in town.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

South Jersey Girl on Film -- Really!

In October, I posted about being interviewed for a documentary about where is the middle of NJ, and the footage is now online. Check that out here.

I never like hearing/seeing myself on tape/camera, but this isn't too bad. I also love the random dog in the background.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Down the Shore with...Scott Neumyer

Scott Neumyer is the guy behind the camera -- literally. I forget how I found out about the work of this photographer, who is based on Central Jersey (it's okay -- I don't judge...that much). In any case, Scott found this blog in the way that we find most blogs (by accident, I'm guessing). He wrote me about his very strong South Jersey shore ties, and I liked the recent beach wedding pictures he posted on his blog at, so, viola! He's the latest interviewee of the "Down the Shore with..." series.

1. What do you consider your favorite shore town? Why?
Easily Stone Harbor. Of all the shore towns I've visited in my life (and that's probably just about all of them), Stone Harbor is just so quiet, clean, and peaceful. We spent a lot of time in Wildwood when I was a child and I always thought that was the shore town of choice. That was until I first visited Stone Harbor and was completely blown away by how relaxing it is. My wife and I spend at least a week there every summer. I proposed to her on the beach in front of the Windrift, and it's where we spent our honeymoon. Sure, it's not the hippest or most exciting of all the shore towns, but it's definitely where I'd choose to rest my head were I able to move there permanently.

2. A lot of people go to the shore just to eat. Any foodie memories?
Absolutely! I mean, where do you begin with foodie memories of the shore? Greasy pizza at Seaside and Point Pleasant, Kohr Bros. ice cream at just about any boardwalk. Salt water taffy in Cape May. They all share a little place in my memories, but my main memory is from Donna's Place in Stone Harbor. It's tiny and mostly non-descript, but the food is just fantastic. I'm not a huge seafood eater (go figure), but the first time I went to Donna's Place was with my girlfriend (now wife) on her recommendation. It's pretty much become "our place" and is the restaurant of choice for us every summer. I think we actually ate there at least once a day for the week we spent in Stone Harbor this last summer.

3. Do you have a favorite spot to photograph at the shore, or is everything a possible target?
Everything is probably the easy answer, but if I had to choose only one thing it's people. I'm a portrait and lifestyle photographer, for the most part, and I just love to people watch. Strolling through town (be it in Stone Harbor or Cape May, etc) or down the boardwalk, there are so many different types of people at the Jersey shore and they're all great subjects in one way or another. It's as easy as watching the people, having the guts to approach them and as to make their photo, and then creating something interesting and beautiful. If I could, I'd do that every single day for the rest of my life. People are far more willing to let you make their photo than you might expect, and you can come away with some really cool shots.

4. I see that you've photographed beach weddings you change what you do because of the environmental factors of the beach?

Aside from making sure your gear is protected, the most important thing is probably knowing your surroundings well enough to adjust to whatever conditions may arise. If you know how the wind, the sand, the air, and the water will react (to a certain degree), you can still make great photos in bad situations. The last wedding I shot was in Point Pleasant in early November. It was absolutely freezing and the wind was blowing like crazy, but if you push through those small factors, you can get some really great images. I just kept reminding myself how great the clouds would look (because of the incoming storm) in the final photos and that kept me going through the freezing cold.

5. Aside from weddings, portraits and a whole host of other things, you photograph dogs. I have one -- a somewhat crazy Jack Russell Terrier mix. Any tips on how to get her to sit straight for pictures?
Wow. Yeah, I wish I did. Ha! It's tough to get animals and children to sit still for you, but you have to be persistent. Especially hyper dogs are even tougher. The only advice I could offer is to get down on their level. Play with them (this works for animals and children). Show them that you love them and then start picking up the camera. Take a ton of shots and eventually you'll get some that you love. With dogs, you end up throwing a lot away, but all that only makes you faster. The faster you are, the better chance of grabbing a great dog portrait. There are photographers I know that specialize in Dog Portraiture and they're some of the quickest and best photographers you'll ever find.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Retro Down the Shore with Jen

Got some good news last night: I'm writing an essay for the 2008 issue of Cool Cape May, which is a fab hardback book that goes into a lot of Cape May's B&Bs, inns and hotels (and is also available for sale online at the Exit Zero store, which is located in Congress Hall).

The editor sent me to my mother's photo albums to find a few retro Jen shots to include with the essay. In these pictures, I'm 3 years old, then 7 years old, then 16 years old.

Fortunately, these bathing suits aren't frightening, unlike every Easter dress I wore from about 1983 through 1998.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

What's Up, Trop?

This is about the time of week when I'd write up a "News Around the South Jersey Shore" post, but there's only one story I really care about right now: the Tropicana.

Yesterday, New Jersey Casino Control Commission refused to renew the Tropicana's gaming license. They've put the property in the trustee hands of former New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Gary Stein.

Big news? Absolutely. It's only the second time this has happened since gambling became legal in Atlantic City. Things have hit rock bottom if the gaming comission is shutting down a casino.

So what happened? On January 3, Columbia Sussex Corp., which owned (and lost control through this ruling) of the Trop slashed 900 jobs, and now the casino/resort is in a state of chaos. It's understaffed and, as I heard, "filthy" because a lot of the jobs cut were those of housekeepers.

I've stayed at the Trop twice and didn't see a problem, but if it's bad enough that the state has shut down a casino, then something's really wrong here.

If you're headed to the Trop, know this: the casino is still open. Why? That magic word of "appeal." Stay tuned. This will be an interesting one.

For more information, check out articles in Newsday, The New York Times, and the Philadelphia Inquirer.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Cover! The Cover!

Here it is, kids, the cover to the book. I'm told that this will also be up on Amazon within the week.

Congrats, Wildwood, on making the cover!

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Get Your Copy! Or at Least Schedule to Get Your Copy!

Big day in the offices of Jen A. Miller. The Jersey Shore, Atlantic City to Cape May: Great Destinations: A Complete Guide: Including the Wildwoods (Great Destinations) is now up for pre-sale on

It's a bit surreal to see that considering the proof, with my marks, is still on my dining room table. But now if you ask me when you can buy your copy, there's the answer. Of course, you won't actually get the book until May, but it's a start!

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Fish Out of (or Without) Water

I'm finally, after a series of delays and debacles, back from Arizona. It's a shame my wonderful trip was capped off with terrible service trying to get back from Phoenix (Delta, expect a letter of complaint soon).

In any case, I had a good time, and I was fascinated by just about every aspect of the trip. I'd never been so far west, or even seen a mountain that was not part of the Appalachians. As you can imagine, I was shocked by the size of those in Arizona, from the moment I landed -- heck, even before! As we flew into Arizona, I was like a kid with my face plastered against the airplane window.

If you'd like to see my pictures, and what I'm calling my fish-out-of-water-story-told-through-pictures recount of the trip, the Flickr set is here. Notice the address in that link -- I've created my own "Down the Shore with Jen" spot on Flickr, and I hope to be adding shore pictures soon. And if you're still not enticed, maybe this picture will grab your interest:

For the full story, check out the Flickr set.

I went on this trip for work, so I was asked a lot what I do. When I said anything about "travel writing," most people wanted to know about all the exotic locales I go to. They're shocked when I say that my main focus, travel writing wise, is New Jersey (and those jokes about Newark and Joisey, which is not even how we pronounce it in South Jersey, are really lame, especially after the fifth time I heard them last week).

Why travel write about your own back yard? Because it's my own backyard, and who knows it better than I do? There's only so much you can learn on a short trip -- while I visited a lot of different places in the Phoenix area, I wasn't able to find that corner BYOB that demands reservations even for lunch, or who has the best bike tour in the region. There wasn't enough time. With New Jersey, especially South Jersey, I'm a life-time expert. I was born here. I live here. And I'll probably die here. Who better to delve into the nooks and crannies and figure out what would be of interest to a traveler? I guarantee you that if you looked within a 10 mile radius of your home, you'd find something of interest to a visitor. So take a closer look -- you'll be surprised at what you might find.

This also reminded me of my grandfather. After returning from World War II, he vowed that he wouldn't go overseas again until he saw all 50 states in his own country (and he was close to reaching that mark before he passed away in May). What a neat idea. And after my short trip out west, I've realized that he was right -- our own country, which is a very big backyard, has a lot of wonders to be seen.

With that, I'm off to edit. As I mentioned, the page proofs of The Jersey Shore, Atlantic City to Cape May: A Complete Guide are on my dining room table. I'm through the Atlantic City chapter already. It's a bit scary to think that this is the absolute last chance I'll have for changes, but exciting, too. It'll be nice to see the dang thing in print.

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Down the Shore with...James Lilliefors

Back in August, I went to the Rutgers University-Camden library to delve into the history of the South Jersey Shore towns. One of the books I referenced, which I wrote about, was America's Boardwalks: From Coney Island to California by James Lilliefors.

Even though the book is about a lot of different boardwalks, Lilliefors chapters about Jersey shore boards are fascinating (hint, hint, making the book a great gift for shore fans), and helped me with my research. So let's welcome him to the blog today as the "Down the Shore with..." interviewee.

1. How did you come up with the idea to write a book about boardwalks?
I’ve enjoyed boardwalks all of my life. I grew up two and a half hours from the nearest one (Ocean City, Maryland) so there was always a delicious sense of anticipation in traveling there and, once we arrived, a feeling that boardwalk life was a little more wild and free than the lives we were leading back home. Later, I lived in Ocean City for about 10 years, editing the town’s newspaper, and became interested in the boardwalk for different reasons – not just as a place to hang out but also as an enduring part of Americana. The first American boardwalks date back to the early 1870s – and there aren’t many things in this country that have survived so long. As I traveled to other boardwalks, primarily in New Jersey, I began to discover common denominators. Early boardwalk towns represented an intoxicating alternative to urban American life, offering cheap, exotic products and pleasures that couldn’t be found at home; they were also refreshingly democratic, inviting visitors from all social and economic strata to join the same parade. These traits are still at the heart of the most successful boardwalks today. It seemed that the phenomenon of America’s boardwalks hadn’t really been written about, and it interested me.

2. You write about three towns I cover in my book: Atlantic City, Wildwood and Cape May. I have to admit I found the Wildwood chapter most interesting. Do you think the town really has a shot at holding off developers and saving all that great Doo Wop architecture?

Unlike its remarkable beach – which, as you know, actually grows each year – Wildwood’s Doo Wop movement appears to have eroded a bit. It’s a terrific idea – preserving those space age and tropical-theme motels, which could give Wildwood a look unlike anyplace else in the country. It’s sort of akin to what South Miami Beach did with art deco. But the economic realities have sometimes gotten in the way – there’s more money to be made in tearing down motels and replacing them with condos than in refurbishing 50- or 60-year-old buildings. On the other hand, Wildwood has some real visionaries and, as I discuss in the book, some exciting plans on the drawing board. I’m optimistic about Wildwood, one of my favorite boardwalk towns.

3. You’ve obviously seen a lot of boardwalks and learned a lot about their history. Why do you think they are so popular – still – today?
Unfortunately, not all of them are. Since I wrote the book, the Pavilion in Myrtle Beach and Astroland in Coney Island have shut down. The ones that are still thriving are able to strike a balance, carrying on traditions while staying current, offering the latest music and fashion fads, for example. They’re both hip and nostalgic, in other words. All of the successful boardwalks have food traditions that go back decades – Mack’s pizza and Douglass Fudge, in Wildwood, for instance. Fralinger’s Saltwater Taffy, in Atlantic City, dates to the 1880s. But, really, the appeal of the boardwalk is largely sensual and a little intangible – the spinning lights of pier rides reflecting on the ocean, the smell of frying funnel cakes and caramel corn in the sea breeze, the sounds folding into one another, the excitement of so many people sharing space on a warm summer evening.

4. What is unique about the Boardwalk in Atlantic City?

Mystique. It has a remarkable history, which it could do more to promote. A.C. is the first and most-famous Boardwalk, the most valuable property in Monopoly, and a place that is coming back from some rough times. It’s inspiringly resilient (and I haven’t even mentioned casinos).

5. Wildwood?
Wildwood has more amusement rides there than at any other boardwalk, giving summer nights there a perpetual carnival backdrop. It’s wild and whimsical, a lot of fun.

6. Cape May?
Unlike most New Jersey boardwalks, Cape May’s is for walking, not for people-watching or letting your senses be bombarded. It’s “the anti-Wildwood,” as one business owner said. When I was doing interviews for the book, I spent a few days hanging around Wildwood, then drove down to Cape May one afternoon, walked the length of the boardwalk and was struck by how enchanting the place is.

10. And what happened to poor Ocean City? That’s one of my favorites.
Ocean City has a wonderful boardwalk, with lots of great amusements. Several boardwalk towns call themselves “family resorts” and really aren’t – but Ocean City, New Jersey clearly is. When I began putting this book together, I decided not to write about the “best” boardwalks but to present a cross-section that seemed to best tell the tale of America’s boardwalks. I also decided to limit the number to 12. As it is, there are more boardwalks from New Jersey than anywhere else, which is fitting because Jersey is the boardwalk capital of the country. But I wanted to include other examples, so there are two from California and others farther south on the East Coast. Nothing against Ocean City (unless it's a hot summer evening and you’re thirsty for a beer).

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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

And Now for Something Completely Different

Hello from Arizona! This is the view from my room out in the middle of nowhere. Well, sort of. I've never been to the desert before, so this feels like the middle of nowhere. And isn't that mountain amazing? I've never been this far west, so I'm seeing something new everywhere I turn. Right now, though, I'm trying to stay awake and adjust myself to the time zone out here -- I'm having moderate succe...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Kidding. I'm still awake. I won't be posting again until Monday, but I did want to point you to an interview I did at The Urban Muse blog. It's about writing (and the book, of course), so check it out.

Also (and here's how I stay on topic): in giving introductions today, I mentioned the book and how much I love Cape May to a room of people who are from everywhere from New York to Texas to California. The response? At least four people said "Oh, I love Cape May. It's so beautiful there," and a discussion about how buys they are in the fall and spring ensued. It just goes to show that you can take the girl out of Jersey, but you can't take Jersey out of the girl...

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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

South Jersey Shore Holiday Shopping Guide

Ho ho's time to take in your holidays down the shore. Why now? Because you'll skip all the crowds that pack the beaches and meat market bars. Of course you can't lie in the sun on the sand, unless you REALLY like the cold, but you can still enjoy the food, the fun, the tranquility and the shopping that the South Jersey Shore offers.

Granted, not every store is open, but enough that I want to share a few tips on where to go. So rev up your engines, pop in your Ray Conniff Singers Christmas CD and zip down the Atlantic City Expressway. Here's what you can expect.

Atlantic City
Get the most bang for your buck -- or most stores per square mile -- in America's playground by the sea. To start, The Atlantic City Outlets - The Walk (1931 Atlantic Ave., Atlantic City, 609-872-7002) offer tons of top quality shops (I've already written about how my prep meter went berserk when the new JCrew outlet opened) at discount prices. I've also found great deals at The Pier at Caesars (1 Atlantic Ocean, Atlantic City, 609-345-3100), even though the stores aren't outlets. I've been trained by a pro bargain hunter and have found gems on the clearance racks of Banana Republic and Charles David at the Pier. If you're looking to spend big, the Pier is for you, too, with its luxe shops like Tiffany & Co., Louis Vuitton and Burberry.

If you're shopping on Thursday, December 6, bring new unwrapped toys, clothes and house ware items to the Walk -- they're collecting those items for the "Adopt a Family" program. If you're in town on Saturday, December 8, the Starbucks at the Walk will be hosting the 4th annual Holiday Cheer event where Santa will arrive to host a reading of "The Night Before Christmas. Starbucks will also accept new, unwrapped toys for the "Just for Kids" program.

If you're Hanukkah shopping, check out Zephyr Gallery, which is in the Quarter at the Tropicana (2801 Pacific Ave., Atlantic City, 609-340-0170). They stock gorgeous Judica items, including menorahs, Star of David necklaces and anything else you can imagine. They have lots of Christmas gifts, too.

Ocean City
Asbury Avenue has dolled itself up for the holidays and is offering specials all weekend long. I highly recommend stopping at Sun Rose Words & Music (756 Asbury Ave., Ocean City, 609-399-9190) -- and not just because they host local authors (hint hint). Sun Rose is the kind of independent bookstore you don't find in any Barnes and Noble-ized towns anymore. They know books, and they're champions of local titles. It's a great place to get something NJ-ish for a shore lover. I'm also a big fan of Colette Boutique (900 Asbury Ave., Ocean City, 609-525-0911). The clothes are gorgeous and the perfect spot to shop for that glamazon on your list.

And, of course, don't forget that you can order Upcakes for the holiday season. Check that out here.

Avalon/Stone Harbor
Sorry, Sea Isle. You're cozy and quiet in the winter, but not a spot I'd recommend for shopping. I could say the same for Avalon and Stone Harbor. I drove through on my way back from Cape May, and I felt like I was in a ghost town. BUT -- I recommend stopping in at Wave One Sports (221 96th St. #225, Stone Harbor, 609-368-0050). Their embroidered sweatshirts put all those cheap shore-named copies to shame. They're pricier, yes, but they last much longer. I was given my Avalon sweatshirt in high school, and it still looks great (no jokes about how ancient it must be, okay?). Pictured in this post is my new-ish Cape May sweatshirt. It's very warm and cozy right about now.

Also make sure to stop in Murdough's Christmas Shop (256 96th St., Stone Harbor, 609-368-1529). My advent calendars for, well, forever have come from Murdough's. In fact, my father bought me one from Murdough's that I'm picking up today so I can hang it in my office (a subtle and sparkly reminder that I have to finish my shopping ASAP!) Even in the summer, I love stopping in for a whiff of that piney, Christmas smell. Make sure to peek behind the counter to say hi to the Golden Retriever who's always keeping the cashier company.

Another great Christmas shop down the shore is Winterwood (3137 RT 9 S., Rio Grande, 609-465-3641). I'm a fan of their Rio Grande location, but they also have stores in Wildwood and Cape May. The Winterwood stores are big, sprawling winter wonderlands. They have just about every kind of Christmas decoration you could ever want -- and beyond.

Cape May
Ah, lovely, beautiful Cape May. The offerings are too many to list. My suggestion? If you're looking for something for that someone who already has everything -- and I mean EVERYTHING, right down to the bulk of the Sharper Image catalogue -- consider buying them a gift certificate to one of Cape May's many gorgeous and beautiful B&Bs. Not only are you giving that person something unique, but you're also providing an experience that you can't get in any catalogue.

If you're an animal lover, and make sure to stop by Whiskers (605 Hughes St., Cape May 609-898-1232. It's where I found the perfect Jack Russell Terrier ornament for my tiny Charlie Brown-style tree.

Since you can't just shop and run in Cape May, stick around a while and check out Cape May Stage's Every Christmas Story Ever Told. I hear it's a hoot.

And with that, I'm off for a mini vacation to Arizona. Sure, I'm a Jersey girl through and through, but even I could use a hit of desert sun right about now!

Quick reminder: if you haven't already, drop your email into the "Subscribe!" box if you'd like to get "Down the Shore with Jen" in your inbox.

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Monday, December 3, 2007

I'll Make a Mock Out of You

Well, it came today: the mock up of my book. This is more than just a manuscript -- it's a replica of what the book will look like, maps and pictures included.

I almost didn't open the package. I'm leaving for a trip on Wednesday and thought that, if I opened the FedEx bag, I'd worry about the changes for my entire Arizona trip. But how could I resist? So I ripped open the package and did a little jig around my dining room table. Why? Because I'm one step closer to seeing the darn thing in book form.

What's the next step? I'll read through the book one...last...time. If there were a god of good grammar, I'd be lighting candles at her alter in hope that she would lend me guidance in making sure there are as few errors as possible in the book. Hopefully the picture of a nun on a surfboard on the facing title page will distract anyone of any little mistakes.

What I'm Listening to: In Our Bedroomm after the War by Stars.

Quick reminder: if you haven't already, drop your email into the "Subscribe!" box if you'd like to get "Down the Shore with Jen" right to your inbox.

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If you'll look to the toolbars to your left, you'll notice that I've been moving the furniture around here at Down the Shore with Jen. Why? To make room for the "Subscribe!" box.

If you're like me, you can't keep up with all your favorite blogs. Now you can subscribe to Down the Shore with Jen by submitting your email address into that box. What happens? Every time I post on the blog, that post will be sent right to your inbox so you won't miss out on any Down the Shore with Jen fun.

Don't worry -- the only person who gets your email address is me, and I won't share them with anyone. Promise. Plus, if you get bored with me, unsubscribing is a snap.

So go ahead and drop your email into the box. It's much easier and eco-friendly than ansewring one of those million little white cards that fall out of magazines. Plus it's free. And if you know anyone else who might be interested in following along, tell them to drop on by.

P.S. This tip comes from Plug Your Book! Online Book Marketing for Authors by Steve Weber -- I highly recommend it if you've got a book to sell!

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Sunday, December 2, 2007

Down the Shore with...Lisa Rogak

This week's "Down the Shore With..." victim, er, subject is Lisa Rogak, author of A Boy Named Shel: The Life and Times of Shel Silverstein. Did you know the man behind The Giving Tree, Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic was also a go-to guy for musicians? Including Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash? I didn't. I just knew I liked that poem about picking your nose (because it was funny -- not because I'm gross). She's also written books about Barak Obama and Dan Brown, among others. Jealous yet? I know I am.

I haven't had a chance to read A Boy Named Shel yet (sorry, Lisa!), but it is on the to-read list for my "Book a Week" project. Eric Nuzum, author of The Dead Travel Fast, previous "Down the Shore with..." interviewee; and reader at the end of of his book a week project, reviewed it on his blog. Check that review out here.

Rogak has buckets of shore memories, too, including those of Atlantic City before gambling, let alone the recent construction boom, came to town.

1. What do you consider "your" shore town? Why?
Two: Asbury Park, because that's where we went when I was a kid, and Cape May, because I discovered this town later on, and I love the elaborate Victorian architecture.

2. Most people go down the shore just to eat. Any favorite restaurants or foodie memories?
In Cape May, I stayed at a place called The Packet Inn in a tower room that had a little fridge in it. Anyone who stayed in the tower room had to raise and lower the flag every day, but half the time I lost track of time and the owners -- Jay & Marianne Schatz, who are still in the business -- would have to do it. I would go to the supermarket and bring back a few things and eat in the tower room and look out at the ocean or take it down on the beach. My dream house will have a tower room that will serve as my office.

3. Do you still get to the shore now that you're a big famous author? ;-)
I haven't been to Cape May or Asbury Park in years, though I have been spending time on the beaches of South Carolina recently, in preparation for my move to Charleston in the spring.

4. How do you think Atlantic City's changed? For better or for worse?
It's changed, that's all. The Atlantic City I remember is from the 60s when we used to sit on the boardwalk and throw peanuts at the pigeons in between skee-ball games as the cigar smoke from old men wafted by. That's still one of my favorite smells in the world: peanuts, old wood, and cigar smoke. It's a rare combination these days.

5. How did you pick Shel for a biography subject?

There was no full-length adult biography on him. But the fact that he wrote "The Unicorn," my favorite song as a kid, sealed the deal.

6. Why do you think he's misunderstood? I was shocked to learn about his influence on Bob Dylan.
To the outside world, Shel was selfish: his creativity came first, and he never apologized for that. As a result, he could be brusque and rude, but he fiercely protected his work. And those people who stuck by him were rewarded by Shel's great generosity in time and spirit. He was a little boy who never really grew up, plus he lived in an era that was very different from ours.

6. You have written so many interesting books. How did you get your start? And how do you pick your subjects?
I started freelancing for magazines because I didn't like the idea of a j-o-b where I had to be in the same place for the same time five days a week. Fortunately, years spent reading everything in sight as a kid panned out. The subjects pick me, and then I decide with my agent whether it would be a good book for me to write.

7. What's next?
I'm finishing up a biography of Stephen King to be published next year, and then there are a few other projects I'm considering. I'm finishing two novels, one for adults, one for kids, so we'll see where they go.


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Saturday, December 1, 2007

Thank You

On July 23, I created this blog as an experiment because I'd read that blogging could help sell books. I didn't have a book out yet (May 5! May 5!), but I gave it a go anyway. This blog became a place for me to write about what was going on down the shore right now (as opposed to writing in 'timeless' guide book form), and a place for me to share and maybe vent about how the book writing process.

On Thursday, 420 people visited this blog. Never did I imagine that 420 people would visit the blog in one day when the book came out let alone months in advance. Thanks again to everyone who's linked to me (Preston and Steve, Philebrity, and Allison Winn Scotch to name a few), and everyone who's told another person about this South Jersey shore book coming out. Not only has this blog helped started a buzz about me and The Jersey Shore: Atlantic City to Cape May: A Complete Guide (the folks at Dixie Picnic call me "Down the Shore Jen!"), but it's also put me in a documentary, and hopefully an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer about where is the middle of NJ (should be out next week).

But let's not stop here. Tell your friends, and friends of friends. And keep coming back to read more about what's going on down the shore. I'm headed to Arizona on Wednesday but will be putting together a shore gift guide early next week. The shore in the winter is beautiful. Hope you get a chance to go down the shore yourself!

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