Friday, February 29, 2008

Shore Break: Report on the NBCC Event

Click on over to Critical Mass, the blog of the National Book Critics Circle, for my write up of Wednesday's event. The direct link is here.

Special thanks to Daisy Fried, Kermit Roosevelt, Frank Wilson and Ben Yagoda for being part of the panel; and to Joseph Fox Bookshop and Friends Select for sponsoring the event.

Digg this

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Pardon the Interruption

Scrubs, my favorite TV show ever, is moving to ABC. In honor of this wonderful show getting another year of life, I present a montage of happy dances.

While I toiled away on my manuscript, I relied on DVDs of Scrubs to help me wind down after 12 hour writing days. It, along with Guster, were two non-shore things that go me through. So thanks, Scrubs, for giving me endless hours of relaxation and laughs. I might be leaning on you when book promo overtakes my life in the near future.

And while we're at it, here's another dance -- also one of the top 10 funniest Scrubs fantasy sequences, at least in my book:

Happy laughing :-)

Digg this

News from Around the South Jersey Shore

This is bad news: Pinnacle is saying it might not build their new casino after all. The reason? Bad credit market.

Here's a nice picture of two sanderlings.

This person is very passionate about no BYOB in Ocean City. Very passionate (I'm asked about this a lot in interviews about the South Jersey shore. I can't see the alcohol laws changing in Ocean City -- ever).

Cecil Fielder's
the new manager of the AC Surf.

Here's a great article about whether or not Atlantic City can continue to draw top grade chefs.

Hey writers, looks like there's a writer's conference in Wildwood on June 4 and 5.

Ann Delaney's seeing signs of spring over at her beach blog.

Thinking of buy a shore home? Here's a realtor's take on when that's not always a good idea.

Cape May-Lewes Ferry fares are going up.

Remember that bru ha ha over rainforest wood for the Ocean City boardwalk? Now the lumber company that was supposed to supply the wood is suing.

More from the Sea Isle City Polar Bear Plunge.

Take a peek at these new restaurants coming to Ocean City and Sea Isle City. The report comes from a blog called "Cape Cuisine," which is now on the Shore Blog Roll to your left. I've added a few new blogs in the last month, so check them out!

Digg this

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Book Event Tonight!

Just a quick reminder that on February 27 I'll be hosting a National Book Critics Circle event at 7pm at Friends Select in Philadelphia. So come out an listen to me, Ben Yagoda, Kermit Roosevelt, Frank Wilson and Daisy Fried discuss who's reading what now, why reviews are important, and the finalists for this NBCC 2007 book prize.

Can't beat the price: It's free! Hope to see you there...

Digg this

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Down the Shore with...Elizabeth McGlinn

When I got an email from the ladies at Atlantic Creations, I was intrigued. What a great idea! They create shore-themed gift baskets for any number of occassions, all of which you can check out on their website.

I emailed Rev. Elizabeth McGlinn, a partner in Atlantic City, to see what was up. She's a life-long shore gal, and, without further adou, this week's "Down the Shore with..." interviewee.

1. What do you consider 'your' shore town and why?
I actually have three towns that I have to consider as “my” shore towns. From the age of 11 until two years after college, I lived in Cape May for a total of eight years. Then, as a young adult and new mom I lived in Wildwood Crest for seven years. Currently, I have been a resident of Brigantine for the past 27 years. And I have loved living in each! On another note, as a wedding officiate who does beach ceremonies all along the Jersey Coast, I can actually say each town that I “celebrate love in” is my shore town for that day!

2. Some people go down the shore just to eat. What are your favorite spots?
With all the new dining venues at The Pier, The Quarter, and all the casinos, (and I have had great meals in each one!) I could not pick a “favorite.” You can pick a theme or cuisine and truly find a great restaurant, (casino and non-casino) in Atlantic City to accommodate your desires! I have to say that I am spoiled when it comes to having sampled so many fine fares, one of the benefits of networking groups, local associations and being involved with so many great women’s groups!

3. As someone who lives there, how different is Brigantine from Atlantic City?
Brigantine’s motto, on their signage as you drive in, is “An island you’ll love for life”, and I have to say I believe that. Having lived in Cape May and Wildwood, witnessing the huge influx of summer tourists there as well as in all the other shore communities I visit or work in, to me, a most wonderful aspect of Brigantine is that it is a shore town, without the typical “resort” features. With very few commercial businesses, as well as the fact that no one drives through Brigantine to get to another town, there is not the huge influx of seasonal tourism or traffic, only the increase of summer vacationing homeowners and their families. As a shore town, with a true small community feeling year round, we sit quietly along the ocean, with uncrowded beaches that rival the best.

4. Tell me about Atlantic Creations.
Atlantic Creations LLC is a Woman’s Certified, hospitality and specialty gift basket business featuring our custom-made, “Taste of the Jersey Shore” hospitality gift. Working together as professional bridal consultants and event planners my partner, Mari Dattolo and I listened to the needs of brides, couples and corporate clients who were looking for a unique hospitality gift for their guests. We designed our “Taste of the Jersey Shore” gift to fulfill those needs, and other markets are joining in to utilize this great gift.

This ideal piece combines the favorite tastes from the Jersey Shore, including seashore lemonade, salt water faffy, peanut brittle, caramel popcorn, and candy coated, chocolate dipped pretzels. We have even included a postcard from the area and a bottle opener for convenience, and it’s all beautifully hand wrapped in our reusable, custom gift box. This concept combines the best of a beautiful gift basket with the compactness of a powerfully delicious gift. The beverages and snacks for two make them ideal as a welcome amenity in a hotel room or bed and breakfast. Destination and area brides enjoy surprising their out of town guests with a gift in their rooms, just as hotels like having them on hand for their VIP Service and overnight packages. They work well to appease a disgruntled guest, to show appreciation for a job well done or to say thank you for a new idea presented. They also make the perfect closing gift for a new home at the shore, and as an alternative to wine for your next dinner party host or hostess gift!

We’ve brought the ease of online ordering together with unique, quality selections and value pricing, to one location where you know who is behind the screen, and what we represent in customer service. We truly believe a giving heart knows joy, and our goal is to not only enhance the experience of a guest, client or recipient, but to also enhance our customer’s joy of giving!

5. How long have you been in business?
Atlantic Creations, LLC was newly formed in November of 2007, becoming a Certified Women’s Business in January. We are currently awaiting our trademark for our signature gift 'A Taste of the Jersey Shore.” As Mari and I have over 60 years of combined experience in the hospitality, wedding, event planning and customer service fields, we have been “in the business” for many years!

6. Any new things in 2008 that we should know about?
We are excited to be growing and look forward to fulfilling the needs of our many markets with business depending upon referral business more than ever, companies competing for repeat business, couples looking for a meaningful way to welcome and thank their out-of-town guests,and when, in our hurried, stress-filled lives, feeling appreciated means more today than ever, providing a hospitality or thank you gift is the perfect way to accomplish fulfilling those needs and goals.

Digg this

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Weekend Wash Up: Surfing Cape May

Something warm to think about after yesterday's (New Jersey) snow fall:

Double feature this weekend because of the plethora of birthdays in my family. Today is my sister's birthday, and yesterday was my brother AND his fiance's birthday. Every year, I call my brother to sing a very specific birthday song. He told me that he wasn't going to answer his phone if I called yesterday because he did not want to hear the song. So I slipped him this Youtube clip and got him anyway:

Digg this

Friday, February 22, 2008

Review: Circle Tavern at the Princeton

Check out New Jersey Monthly's March issue for my review of The Circle Tavern at the Princeton. Or, click here for the online version.

For those of you used to late nights at "The P," yes, this article might seem out of sorts. But there is more to the Princeton than just really loud cover bands, crushing crowds, and expensive Miller Lites. Not that I have a problem with that, as is obvious in this picture:

This shot was taken on the last Saturday night of the 2007 summer season. I was three days away from finishing my book, and, boy did I need to blow off some steam.

Anyway, I visited the Circle Tavern for this review in January, and it was no different than any other local lunch spot. So give it a whirl if you're in town. Just get out before 9pm on summer nights if you want any sort of peace -- and space.

Digg this

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Toon Town

So did I mention that I have a ridiculously talented brother? Well, I have three ridiculously talented siblings, but my older brother, Jim Miller, not only designed my website but also did the maps for my book. He's an illustrator, too, and is drawing a cartoon Jen that will go with the official "Down the Shore with Jen" website -- which he, of course, is making.

What you see here is the prototype for the Jen cartoon. Isn't she lovely? She's a much...sleeker version of the original Jen cartoon, which I think Jim drew circa 2000. She had an adams apple. Much improved.

For more of Jim's designs, check out

Digg this

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

News from Around the Jersey Shore

Let's kick things off with Sea Isle City's Polar Bear plunge:

Here's what the Sea Isle City bloggers had to say:
Sea Isle City Real Estate News
Sea Isle City Real Estate
Tri for Our Veterans (this is a new blog I've added to the shore blog role)

Well, that's one way to get over a fear of heights: Good Morning America's Chris Cuomo jumped (while tethered) from the roof of the Trump Taj Mahal.

Feral cats get are all set to go in Cape May.

Speaking of Cape May, this town at the tip of the state apparently has quite a few rare plants.

Oh, those macho macho Atlantic City (can you really sing that song in your head without making macho two words? I can't.)

Don't believe me when I say some South Jersey Shore residences are over the top? This Stone Harbor house was named "Estate of the Day." Not home of the day. Estate.

More fuel for the "ban smoking in casinos" fire.

Looking for an easier way to book your Wildwood vacation? Check this out.

What's hotter than a guy with a guitar? Um....nothing comes to mind. If you think like me, you'll want to check out this event.

Digg this

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I Feel Pretty

I'm not feeling great today, so instead of catching up on reading or doing some other relaxing catch up work, I'm window shopping online. My goal? Find the perfect book launch party dress.

I want something summery and fun, but pretty. I don't want a cocktail dress, but something that suggests beach without screaming it (no sail boats printed on a skirt, please).

So far, I've ripped pages out of Lucky and Instyle, checked out the spring stuff at Anthropolie and Urban Outfitters, and scouted out the spring/summer Freepeople collection. I've also consulted with the owners of Six Clothing and Antoinette Garbrielle to see what they have coming in, and to get opinions on what styles I should be looking for. Bluefly has some neat stuff, but I'm wary of buying stuff online without trying it on first. I loved an Anthropologie dress I saw in the catalogue but hated it once I tried it on (extra pouf on the shoulders is not my friend). I tried JCrew, too, but nothing really struck me as a wow dress.

I've spent a lot of time on today, so here's a few possibilities:

So what do you think? Love love love any of these? Know of some places I should go? If you're wondering about coloring and fit, I look pretty much like my picture in my profile, though on most days I don't look like I'm advertising toothpaste, and I'm slimmer now (running does a body good).

Digg this

Went to the Chapel

On Thursday, more than 150 couples participated in Atlantic City's group wedding vows in Boardwalk Hall. I wrote about it, so I figured I'd post the picture.

I liked seeing what everyone's wearing -- the white with red trim dress you'll see on the right side of the picture is very pretty. I also love the look that the guy in jeans, also on the right, is giving the camera.

I think if I ever got married this way (and I wouldn't discount it -- I'm involved in planning three weddings right now, and I don't know if I'd have the patience), I think I'd have to wear something outrageous, like a bikini or feetie pajamas (yes, they do make them in adult sizes).

Digg this

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Down the Shore with...Laura Kiniry

We have another travel guide writer on the blog today for this week's "Down the Shore with..." Cat fight? Nah. Laura Kiniry is author of Moon New Jersey, which covers the entire state. I was a little nervous talking to Kiniry -- what if I missed something? Lucky for me (and you, assuming that you're on the edge of your seat, waiting to read my book), it looks like I got them all (phew).

Kiniry is currently working on a revision of Moon New Jersey. She might have relocated to San Francisco, but she's a South Jersey girl through and through, and, like me, has a lot of memories from the Ocean City boardwalk.

1. What do you consider 'your' shore town and why?
Without question, Ocean City is my shore town. I've been going there since I was a baby. When I was almost three my family rented a top floor apartment on St. Charles Place with my Aunt, Uncle, and their six kids. We spent six weeks with them, and I actually remember bits and pieces. I remember the ocean splashing up between boardwalk planks during high tide, and I remember standing on the front porch with my brother and my Nana —- my dad's mom —- and tossing a plastic beach ball into the street. My dad also grew up going to Ocean City, and whenever I'm in New Jersey, the two of us drive down and walk the boards. During my adolescence, my mom's family starting vacationing there as well (they were originally an LBI family), so I have a lot of Ocean City memories.

2. What's your favorite place to eat in Ocean City?
Mack and Manco's at 9th and Boardwalk. I like that location best because it's open all year. Their pizza's incredible: just the right blend of sauce and cheese, and a nice thin crust. You can't find pizza like that in San Francisco.

3. Any other favorite foodie spots?
I love boardwalk food in general, especially Kohrs Bros. soft serve vanilla cones, Johnson's Carmel Popcorn, and pierogies at the Boardwalk Promenade. As for in-town eateries, my friend Becky and I used to frequent Luigi's during high school. I haven't been there in years, but I remember some spectacular Italian dishes. I've always liked The Chatterbox because it's an OC institution and open year-round, 24/7 throughout summer. It's a good place to head for burgers and sandwiches. Just outside of the city in Beesley's Point is The Tuckahoe Inn, perfect for special occasions. I ate Thanksgiving dinner there this past year with my family. And for delicious breakfast pancakes, I recommend Oves at 5th and Boardwalk.

4. How did you get from Deptford to San Fran?
I grew up in Deptford —- my parents still live in the same home they brought me to from the hospital when I was born —- and stayed until I was 21. When I was 20, I visited Southern California with a friend who was thinking about moving there for college, and I really liked what I saw. My cousin Monica lived in San Francisco at the time, and she said, "If you like Southern California you're going to love Northern California." When she invited me out to stay with her I decided to give it a go, since I'm sort of a wanderer and have always loved traveling. I've been here on and off ever since. It's hard being so far from my family (most of my relatives -— parents, brothers, nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins —- are in the NJ tri-state region), but I've found I appreciate both them and New Jersey so much more being away. I really make the most of my New Jersey visits. And about 10 years ago I began collecting New Jersey books -- stories about shore history, the Jersey Devil, Jersey diners -— on trips back East, and reading them when I returned to San Francisco. It's like I was doing preliminary research for what was to come.

5. How did you get involved with the Moon book?
I actually came across a call for authors on Craigslist. It was back in 2003, and I didn't have a lot of professional writing experience. But I did have passion. I believe that's what got me a book deal in the end. Originally, due to my lack of experience, I was turned down for the position. But I knew I was the person to write this book, so —- after a crying a bit —- I pursued it. Relentlessly. It took a year acquiring writing samples, interning with local travel publications, completing a photography class (I photographed most pictures in Moon New Jersey 1st Ed.), checking in every once in a while with the editors, and ultimately rewriting my book proposal, before Avalon offered me a contract. Once the book was completed, I think they were pleasantly surprised.

6. What are you looking to do with this revision?
Surprisingly (to me), a lot has changed in New Jersey in only a couple years. In addition to updating Moon New Jersey to reflect these changes, I plan on adding new photos and new call-outs (short blocks of text highlighting interesting facts, figures, and places). I'd also like to include some noteworthy places I bypassed in the first edition due to time and space constraints, tighten the text, and focus more on outdoor activities and history. New Jersey has such interesting history —- especially pop culture history —- which I think a lot of readers would be interested in learning about. Also, any must-visit eateries, hotels, and attractions that have come about in the past couple years, will of course be included in Moon NJ's second edition.

7. Tell us some historical tid bits that we might not know about the South Jersey Shore.
In the 1950s Wildwood earned the nickname, "Little Vegas." An already established as a vacation resort, it was morphing into a notable music hotspot, with Bobby Rydell singing about his "Wildwood Days," Chubby Checker performing his first twist, Bill Haley and the Comets publicly debuting Rock Around the Clock," and Dick Clark hosting American Bandstand from the boardwalk's Starlight Ballroom, destroyed by fire in 1981.

By the 1970s the gingerbread Victorians Cape May is famous for had lost much of their charm. The city's outdated architecture was bypassed for more modern towns like Beach Haven and Ocean City. If it weren't for the Cape May Cottagers Association (now the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts), Cape May as we know it today might never had existed. The group went on to preserve many of the city's Victorian structures, revitalizing Cape May by hosting special events like walking tours, home tours, and trolley tours, catering to the Victorian theme.

The Wildwoods have a similar opportunity with their Doo Wop architecture, which was listed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation's "11 Most Endangered" list for 2006. A local organization, the Doo-Wop Preservation League, has been working non-stop to see that the Wildwoods' contribution to American history is recognized. With its angular roofs, flashy neon signs, and exotic themes, it's some of the most unique architecture out there. Preserving it could really solidify the Wildwoods' future as a one-of-a-kind resort.

And just a bit of nostalgia, does anyone remember the mummy who used to scare passer-bys from above the Playland marquee on the Ocean City boardwalk? It's probably been more than 20 years now. A crowd use to gather in front of Playland to watch him (I think there was a Dracula, too) perform his act. It was all part of a scary dark ride that began at the front of Playland, somewhere near the skeeball games. I loved that guy!

8. You mentioned in an email that you keep track of South Jersey news. How do you do that/where do you go for that information?

My parents are a big help. They read the Courier Post each morning and my Mom cuts out articles she thinks might be helpful and puts them in a scrapbook. My parent's have some good friends who live in the Pinelands, and they've been helpful as well. My dad's Mr. Personality. He chats up librarians, park rangers, etc. And I can't forget my friends. They've been wonderful when it comes to restaurants opening, neighborhoods changing, etc. I also subscribe to New Jersey Monthly, read several NJ blogs, and check occasionally. Wow, I hope my parents don't ask for pay after reading this!

9. When will the revised Moon book be published?

Spring 2009.

Digg this

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Weekend Wash Up: 5th Inning Drag

New feature alert!

I sometimes (okay, almost always) do a bit of work on the weekends, and I'm betting a bunch of you do, too, or at least spend some of your Saturday or Sunday wandering around the web. So, every weekend, I'm going to post a picture or video related to the South Jersey Shore shore.

In honor the start of spring training, this week's video comes from the Atlantic City Surf. Apparently, the fifth inning is a drag:

Got a picture or video to share? Send it to jenmiller27 [at] gmail[dot] com.

Digg this

Friday, February 15, 2008

On Networking

I've been thinking about networking a lot lately, mostly because I'm starting to see results from everything I've done to promote the book. Yesterday, I was interviewed by two major national magazines. While I thought that that the book would get attention in Philadelphia and New Jersey media, I didn't think that national outlets would come calling.

My publisher is amazed by the attention the book is already getting, and wanted to know how I was connected with these writers. One word: networking.

I do most of my networking with other writers through, a wonderful subscription-only website where I have met people who do exactly what I do. Subscribers are sent a weekly market report (which is where I found the publisher for my book), and have the opportunity to meet and talk and vent and gossip on extremely active message boards. I've found a wealth of information and guidance through the writers on that site, and I don't think I'd be in freelance business today without them. Yes, I've made thousands of dollars from leads I found through, but I've also been given the encouragement and mentoring I needed to move from giving this freelancing thing a whirl to going on three years in the business.

While the site is great, and I love the input and advice from my colleagues, it's a virtual network, and that can only go so far. I felt like I needed a local group to join so I could meet more people who do business in my area. I realized this right about the time that Marilyn Kleinberg of Cruise One told that she was starting a local chapter of eWomenNetwork.

Marilyn had worked at the Chamber of Commerce of Southern New Jersey, and when I was editor of SJ Magazine at the ripe age of 23 years old, she put me on a panel about how to get your news into the media. Speaking on that panel with a bunch of old war journalism vets was a big shot of confidence for someone who wasn't sure she was qualified for her job, and I appreciate all the connections Marilyn's made for me since. Plus she's a lot of fun. So I signed up to be part of the leadership committee that brought this wonderful organization to the area.

For anyone who doubts the power of South Jersey, know this: the Southern New Jersey chapter had the largest opening event of any eWomenNetwork chapter...ever. That's saying a lot about an organization that has chapters all over the US and Canada.

It also helps that it's a wonderful organization. Not only are you offered a wealth of sources and resources from the national organization, but the chapter's Accelerated Networking Luncheons are amazing ways to meet new people. This is a great way to wet your feet in the networking pool if you're naturally shy or not sure how to approach people at networking events because you are literally forced to talk to strangers -- you sit at a table and are given 60 seconds to talk about who you are, what you do, and what you need (sample script: Hi, I'm Jen A. Miller, author of The Jersey Shore; Atlantic City to Cape May: Great Destinations. I'm also a freelance writer, and my work has appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Psychology Today, Woman's Day, Men's Fitness and Men's Health, among others, and I write marketing and development materials for area universities and hospitals. What I need are marketing opportunities to promote my book, and I'm also looking to expand my base of corporate and marketing clients.). Then you listen to seven other women give their '60 second commercials.' Then you all get, switch tables, and do it all over again. This way, you make at least 14 connections -- and that's not counting anyone you meet in the pre- and post- luncheon networking times. I've gotten job leads, potential readers, and even interviewed people for stories I was working on -- one time right at the lunch table! I didn't know how a local networking group would help a lone ranger freelance writer, but it has been above and beyond worth the cost of membership (and, yes, men are welcome, too).

When I started out writing full time, I was hesitant to join networking groups -- who could blame a 25 year old who could barely afford the rent on a teeny tiny one bedroom apartment? But I wouldn't have made it without them. If you get one job or one customer or one client or lead out of the meeting, then you'll more than cover your costs. And that's worth networking for.

So If you're in the South Jersey area, the next luncheon is on March 7 at the Mansion in Voorhees (and you can go to two events as a guest before you join -- this lets you 'try it out' first). You can find out more information here. To find an event in your area, click here. And for more information on membership, click here.

Speaking of networking...if you're on Linkden or Facebook, I am too! Search for jenmiller27 [at] mac [dot] com and you should find me...

Digg this

Up the Shore with Jen

On Tuesday, I went to Monmouth county, which I consider North Jersey, but some might call central, for two meetings. The first was to tour the new construction a Jersey Shore University Medical Center (I write the marketing materials for L.F. Driscoll, Co., the general contractor building the building). I thought standing at the top of the Cape May Light House in January was cold. That was a beach stroll in the summer compared to Tuesday. I think the wind chill put the temperature at -5 degrees. I was even wearing work boots and a Carhartt jacket, but after I toured the site and got back inside, a few of the office folks on the jobsite were urging me to have some coffee and tea. Brr.

I was also in the area to interview Amy Hill Hearth, which I wrote about on my book blog.

It's a nice area, and it seems much more year round than the towns of the South Jersey shore, though their condo development projects look like massive apartment blocks rather than duplexes. Plus, this area is much closer to New York City, which makes it a viable year round option for people working in NYC.

Still cold, though. I don't know how people are going to get through tomorrow's Sea Isle City Polar Bear plunge. For me, it would take a little peer pressure and a lot of liquid courage. Actually, I think that's what works for a lot of people. Check out this video from last year's event. Weird. And cold.

Digg this

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Who ISN'T in Love With a Jersey Girl?

Happy Valentine's Day, people!

Digg this

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

News from Around the South Jersey Shore

Sea Isle City is all about blogging! Check this out: Michelle Jeffers of Sofroney Real Estate writes Sea Isle Real Estate News. Then there's Sea Isle City Reflections by Joe Prato at NJ Realty. And now I come to find that the Colonnade, a Sea Isle City, condotel, has its own blog. Brilliant! The Colonnade blog lists 10 great reasons to visit the Jersey shore, which you can read about here. P.S. Thanks, Michelle, for the book plug!

Sherlock Holmes (weekend) sleuths again in Cape May.

Speaking of Cape May, if you're going to be there over President's Day weekend, you will be able to get to the Washington Street shops (the street is being renovated).

I thought I didn't like paying tolls. These folks REALLY don't like paying tolls. If you read one article from this whole thing, make it this one.

Though this one runs a close second. It's about Strathmere's attempts to annex itself from Upper Township, and boy is this guy ticked.

Poor guy. He lived to 101 and died in a fire in Atlantic City.

Yet another article about how Atlantic City casinos have been hurt by Pa. casinos.

Legends is back!!!!

A rail line along the Garden State Parkway? Now that's a thought.

Digg this

Monday, February 11, 2008

Vote for the South Jersey Shore!

You know you love the South Jersey shore -- now let everyone else know it by clicking here to vote for your favorite shore town. You can name your top town in four different categories: family vacation, tourism, ectourism, and shore events.

Since this isn't the Oscars and I can say how I voted, here's which towns I picked for each category, and why:

Family Vacation, Ocean City: Ocean City is a dry town -- a completely dry town. You can't even BYO to restaurants. That's not to say people don't drink (Night in Venice anyone?) but this no alcohol thing puts families at ease, and rightfully so. The Boardwalk is one of the best in the country, too, and the town offers lots of things for the entire family to do.
Tourism, Cape May: What isn't there to do in Cape May? Aside from that whole Victorian thing, there's an alapca farm, a concrete ship, a diamond beach, birding, fab shopping and an entire inn dedicated to dogs.
Ecotourism, Stone Harbor: Stone Harbor has been going green since before Al Gore did or did not invent the internet. In 1947, the town created a bird sanctuary and heronry, which is still on the island today (111-117 St. and Second and Third Ave.) In 1970s, they ran a “Save the Point” beach preservation campaign, and the Wetlands Institute, which saves terrapin turtles from traffic (and even harvests eggs from victims in season) and educates about the ecosystems of the shore, opened in 1972. 1972!
Shore Events, Wildwood: You gotta give it to Wildwood -- they throw great parties. I went to Irish Festival in the fall and had a blast. There's more family friend events, too, including the Fabulous 50s weekend, International Kite Festival, a marbles tournament that celebrates its 85th year in 2008. Weekly fireworks put them over the top to get my vote.

Digg this

How to Have an Upcake Party

Friday's Upcake party was a huge success. Want to have one, too? Here's how.

1. Go to and sign up for their email list.
Not only will you stay up to date on Dixie Picnic goings on, but you'll get a coupon or two (I got 20% off my order).
2. Send an evite, and don't believe it. Up until three days before the party, my evite suggested that I'd only have a handful of people here. Three times that number showed up. Upcakes are powerful things. Make sure the evite is clear as to what you're serving -- this gave folks ideas of what to bring, namely alcohol and salty snacks for those not sweet inclined.
3. Make your selection, and vary it. I bought one special Valentine's Day package, and then designed two more dozen. Try to get two of each. You'll see why.
4. Prep for the party. For drinks, I bought champagne, milk, water and Tomasello's Cape May red table wine. If people ask what to bring, suggest dessert wines, or salt snacks (a few people ate a little bit of both).
5. Have the party. What else is there left to do? I highly recommend having a full supply of plates, forks and knives ready. Since a lot of guests wanted to try a few varieties of Upcakes, they halved and quartered them. What a great idea! Also, leave out descriptions of what you've ordered -- a list comes in the box.
6. Give away the extras. Or else you'll freeze them and be tempted by them all weekend. As I was. Good thing I have a long week of running ahead!

Digg this

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.


Digg this

So Long, marsRED

Excuse me for straying from the shore again, but I have to write something about this, especially when you consider that I listen to music while writing: My favorite indie music store, marsRED in Haddonfield, NJ is closing. It's the kind of music store you don't find much of anymore, which is probably one of the reasons Scott Wellborn decided to close its doors. It's a tough business to be in, and even though it seemed Scott had a lot of local support, music downloads has changed the way music works. Scott's a casualty.

I started shopping at marsRED when I lived in Haddonfield soon after college graduation (I went to high school there, too). I'd just left my full time job as editor of SJ Magazine to try my hand at this freelance thing. It's a lonely job, and in the times before Emily and distance running, I needed an excuse to get out of my apartment. I'd walk to Haddonfield's downtown, visit my friend Sumer at SIX Clothing, and then head down to marsRED to check out the used CDs.

I did a little music writing at the time, and had been shamed by a friend into getting my head out of top 40 radio and into better music (he even mailed 'food' for my iPod in the form of MP3 CDs). marsRED became an important source for me, especially when I'd been assigned to write about music acts I'd never heard of. He always knew who I was talking about, and if he didn't, he'd ask.

I ordered most of my music from him -- he even got me Pipettes's debut album before it was available in the US, and when they finally crossed the Atlantic, they played in his store, and he saved me an autographed print because I couldn't make it that day. As I look over at my CD collection now (and, yes, I buy CDs, I'm old fashioned like that), most of what's there came from marsRED -- Ben Lee, Richard Swift, Alexi Murdoch, Capitol Years, Dr. Dog, Thievery Corporation. I hadn't even heard of matt pond PA or Pete Yorn, two of my favorite bands, until marsRED. Sure, some of the artists I read about, some I heard while in the store, and some Scott recommended.

I even got my first clip in the New York Times because of marsRED. Scott sells Sara O'Brien's "I Really Like NJ" t-shirt. I thought it was an interesting shirt, and when Scott told me the story behind it, I pitched the article and -- boom -- I finally made it into the Times. You can read that article here.

My point in writing this? The 'store closing' sale starts tomorrow and will run until the doors are finally locked on March 15. So if you're within driving distance of 57A Kings Highway East in Haddonfield, stop by (I'm not doing my usual links in hopes that you'll head to the store instead of buying online, at least this one last time). Heck, even ask for a recommendation and try out someone new. Scott'll lead you the right way, even if he won't be behind the counter much longer.


Digg this

Shore Break: Dating Books for Guys

Stepping away from the shore stuff for a minute: I wrote an essay for the Image section of today's Philadelphia Inquirer about dating books for guys. Aside from my shore stuff, I'm also a freelance writer and book reviewer. This article came from a little bit of both roles -- I sometimes write dating articles for men's magazines, and I review a lot of books. Plus I'm opinionated, so this topic was the perfect storm, if you will. You can read that article here.

If you'd like more of my book opinions, hop over to my Book a Week with Jen blog. The three books mentioned in the article, The Pocket Idiot's Guide to Getting Girls, Rules of the Game and This Book Will Get You Laid, were books 23, 24 and 25 in the series.

If you're wondering about the "Love - the getting" title, you might want to take a peek at the article that ran alongside it called "Love - the giving". My article is on the left hand side of an image of a tree, and Lisa Scottoline's was on the right. And even though my mom's miffed they didn't run my picture, I don't mind. Maybe the guy I wrote about won't realize it was him (because, really, how often do you look at bylines? I read this article all the way through without knowing Kristin Graham wrote it -- and I'm a writer. You would expect I'd pay attention!)

Today also marks Frank Wilson's last review as book editor. I expected a farewell column, but, in true Frank style, he dedicated that space to a book review -- a review of a poetry book, at that.

Fortunately, Frank will continue to share his thoughts through the blogsphere -- he'll continue his wildly popular blog Books, Inq here.

Digg this

Friday, February 8, 2008

Updates! We've Got Updates!

Three great updates on this Friday afternoon:

1. As I've posted before, I'm moderating a National Book Critics Circle panel at in Philadelphia on February 27. I'm happy to announce that we've just added Ben Yagoda as our fifth panelist. The book dork in me is jumping for joy. I reviewed Yagoda's When You Catch an Adjective, Kill It: The Parts of Speech, for Better And/Or Worsefor the newsletter of the American Society of Journalists, and I love his work, which you can read about here. He's a great addition to our panel, which also includes poet and PEW fellow Daisy Fried; retired-as-of-5pm-today Philadelphia Inquirer book review editor Frank Wilson; author of In the Shadow of the Law: A Novel Kermit Roosevelt; and me. Just another reason to come out to this free -- yes, free -- event. Mark it: February 27 at 7pm, Friends Select (17th and Benjamin Franklin Parkway) in Philadelphia.

2. Speaking of Philadelphia, I've scheduled another signing! On May 10, I'm going to be part of Manayunk's Second Saturday event. Not sure where I'll be signing just yet, but I'm going to be part of it so all you shore fans on the other side of the river can get a signed copy of my book, too. For a run down of my other scheduled signings, click here.

3. And most importantly...the Upcakes are here.

I'm not taking them out of the box -- not even taking the plastic off -- until later tonight. Otherwise I know I'm going to eat one, and what kind of hostess would I be then?

Digg this

It's in the Details

If you haven't been over to the amazon pre-sale link for my bookin a while, check it out -- the back cover description is now up. Here's a sample:

"The Jersey Shore includes New Jersey trivia such as the other wooden elephants that didn't make it in Wildwood like Lucy the elephant did, Donald Trump's rise and fall in Atlantic City, and where to go to see authentic Miss America dresses (even if the pageant isn't in town anymore)."

Makes it sound interesting, right? Oh, wait -- that's because it is!

Right now I'm killing time while waiting for my shipment of Upcakes to arrive. I don't know how I'm going to wait until tonight to take a taste. Then again, if I have just one, I don't think anyone will notice :-)

Digg this

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

News from Around the South Jersey Shore

Need something to do in Sea Isle City? Check out these events. Not only is there that Polar Bear Plunge I mentioned before (I really am trying to clear my schedule to go), but a table tennis tournament, too. And nothing warms the heart like two paddles and a ping pong ball.

Rev your engines: the power boats are back in Atlantic City.

More about birding in Cape May.

Here's a closer look at how toll hikes could affect your shore drives.

When I think of "shore weddings," I think of Cape May (it is, after all, the third most popular destination wedding spot in the US). But this couple though "Sea Isle" for theirs. Remember, though, that if you want to get married quick, there's always Atlantic City on February 14.

This'll be great for Valentine's Day (or at least the day after): Boxing at the Showboat in Atlantic City.

SpongeBob!!! At the Wetlands Institute!!! This Saturday!!!

And a special welcome to all the Dixie Picnic fans stopping by today! If you're not part of their mailing list (and if not, why aren't you?), the Dixie Picnic folks just sent an email out to their list about this blog. If you did get that email, know this: Yes, I really am a big Dixie Picnic fan. No, I didn't ask the folks at Dixie Picnic to send around that email (though it was a big, fun, happy surprise, and I completely felt like I was watching one of those segments on Extra about how 'famous clients of Dixie Picnic include...Jen A. Miller!' but on the South Jersey shore level -- nothing like being a Z-list celebrity, I tell ya) and, yes, I really did order three dozen Upcakes for an event I'm hosting this weekend. They're that good -- really!

Digg this

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Old School Signing!

Get out your calendars! Jen's got another signing. I'm happy to announce that the Friends of the Haddonfield Public Library will be hosting me -- and selling copies of my book, of course -- on May 6 at 7pm. It'll be held at the Haddonfield Public Library) or, if there's a big enough response, Borough Hall.

Why is this old school? Because I am a proud graduate of Haddonfield Memorial High School. Even if I did take more science classes than English while a student at HMHS, it's where I learned the basics of writing. Maybe I'll peg my jeans for the, maybe not.

This event will also be the first signing in the Philadelphia area -- the day after the book comes out no less, so I hope we'll get a good crowd (bonus point if the Haddonfield Bulldawg mascot shows!)

When I have more details, I'll post them here. And here's a quick reminder about the other signings I've got lined up so far:

May 3: Sun Rose Words and Music in Ocean City, as part of Ocean City's Spring Block Party. This is the first place you'll be able to buy the book (2 days before it'll be available everywhere else)
June 5: Barnes & Noble in Marlton, as part of Rutgers University Camden's Cappuccino Academy. I'll be talking about how to write about your own back yard. Starts at 7:30pm.
June 14: Robert Jay's Unforgettables in Collingswood, as part of Collingswood's Second Saturday event. I think we'll kick things off around 7:30pm, but that's not quite final yet.
June 21: Harbor Fest in Cape May. Not sure of location or time, but I've been asked to be part of the festival and of course I said yes.

I thought about posting an embarassing high school-era picture of me for fun, but, well, it's been a long day, and why subject myself to that? So this picture of 16-year-old Jen will have to do:

Digg this

Monday, February 4, 2008

Event: National Book Critics Circle Does Good Reads in Philadelphia

Excuse me for a moment as I step into my "book reviewer" shoes...

If you happen to be in the Philadelphia area, mark February 27 on your calendar because the National Book Critics Circle is bringing the critics and authors to you.

On February 27, we'll be chatting about who's reading what now, why reviews are important, and the finalists for this NBCC 2007 book prize.

This event is being sponsored by Joseph Fox Bookshop and Friends Select (and moderated by, well, me!)

The details: February 27 at Friends Select (17th and Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia). We kick things off at 7pm. Panelists right now are me and Frank Wilson (book review editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer) and Kermit Roosevelt (author of In the Shadow of the Law: A Novel. We'll be adding a few more people shortly -- just have to finalize the details. Hope to see you there (and pass this long along!)

This is one of 15 such discussions being held around the country. To read more, check out the National Book Critics Circle blog here.

And to bring this completely full circle, Joseph Fox Bookshop will be selling my book when it comes out in May. See? I knew I could relate it to the shore.

Digg this

Down the Shore with...Tracey Deschaine

If you've poked around the blog, you know that I love love LOVE Upcakes, the tastey flip on a cupcake that's sold at Dixie Picnic in Ocean City. I love them so much that I'm even having an Upcake get together in a few days -- you see, you can order boxes of Upcakes, but I didn't trust myself with a dozen to myself, so I figured I'd bring a taste of Ocean City to my family and friends (and spread around the calories).

So of course I had to get Tracey Deschaine of Dixie Picnic for the Down the Shore with... series. Here's how she gets it done.

1. What do you consider 'your' shore town and why?
My shore town is without a doubt Ocean City. I grew up in North Jersey and never really visited the shore much because my parents weren't big ocean lovers. My husband took me to Ocean City when we were dating in our early twenties. Since then, I can re-live every important point in my life with Ocean City memories. We spent many summers here, owned our first home in Somers Point, and now I'm a business owner in the town. I still get sentimental every time I cross the bridge.

2. Why open a restaurant in Ocean City?
I chose Ocean City to open Dixie Picnic for several reasons. First, I love the town, as I said before. Ocean City has lost a lot of fine restaurants over the last decade and, as a visitor, I myself felt a void that maybe Dixie Picnic could fill. I also was lucky enough to find a great location. I have always had plans to open other Dixie Picnic locations in the Delaware Valley when we are ready, and the friends we've made in Ocean City have already been asking for us to build a Dixie Picnic near them. Our email list has over 600 members ranging all over the east coast, and we've shipped Upcakes all over the United States. I really think that the magic of Ocean City has rubbed off on Dixie Picnic.

3. When did you open?
Dixie Picnic opened its doors September 29, 2006. Bad timing, I know. Its not like I wanted to miss the summer season, but we totally renovated the building prior to opening, and a combination of contractor issues, and the work itself moved the opening back to September.

4. Explain the Dixie Picnic concept.
The Dixie Picnic Concept was conceived by a combination of happy childhood memories and recognition of something missing in the casual dining market. When my brothers and I were little, my Southern Mom, Bette, would take us to visit our Grandmother, Bucky, and our great Aunts, her sisters. Aunt Anne, Aunt Sadie, Aunt Myrtle, Aunt Bertha would spoil us rotten, and it seems that every time we would visit there would inevitably be a picnic involved. Many of the recipes we use at Dixie Picnic are right out of the family cookbooks. People take one bite of our food and they can immediately taste the difference. People have forgotten what freshly prepared non commercial food tastes like. I always tell them...there is no secret to our food. We start with better raw ingredients, prepare them fresh in our kitchen by hand. Yes...we cost a little more. But in the long run, that is what makes us worth visiting. We couldn't make our food any cheaper and have it taste the same. But the Dixie Picnic concept wouldn't be complete without taking the time to partake of our food in the company of family and friends. The best memories of our childhood Dixie Picnics wouldn't be complete without our great eccentric relatives.

5. Where did the Upcakes come from? Obviously, you know I love them.
My Great Aunt Bertha used to ice her cupcakes the same way we ice our Upcakes today. My mother, Bette, was a tempermental redhead child. It would drive Bertha crazy when she would eat the icing off the cupcakes and throw the rest of the cake away. So one day, so the family story goes, she decided to foil Bette's cake wasting by icing the cupcake on the top AND the sides. The rest is history. We named it the Upcake, and truly expanded the flavors beyond Bertha's vanilla and chocolate. One thing that has been really fun is having our customers send us suggestions for new Upcake flavors.

6. What do people need to know about shipping Upcakes?
This fall we started shipping Upcakes in our specially designed shipping boxes. The results have been fantastic! We've shipped to California, Florida, Maine, Washington State, and all sorts of places in between. The most important thing to remember is to follow the shipping rules. Nothing is more important to us than having your Upcakes arrive fresh. Therefore, we limit shipping transit time to two days. That means that any destination that would take longer than 2 days by UPS ground must be shipped by air. Yes, that does mean that shipping may get expensive, but when you compare a dozen Upcakes to a fairly nominal floral arrangement, we think that there are lots of folks who would really love a dozen Upcakes as much as a bouquet of flowers. We leave it up to the customer. Final Shipping Date for Valentine's Day is February 11, 2008. Final Ordering Date is February 10, 2008, because we'll be baking all day on the 11th. Order anytime now, and just write in the comments to deliver for Valentines day. Ordering early helps us to plan and get supplies. This coming winter, we hope to be featuring our Upcakes on QVC. Boy oh boy, we're going to need a lot more icers!

7. Do you have any winter hours? And when do you open for the year?
Last winter Dixie Picnic was open all year round. We loved our local customers, and we wish we could have made the decision to stay open in the winter. But having a years worth of numbers to guide us, we knew we had to close in order to keep the business healthy. In November and December we had a holiday kiosk at the King of Prussia Mall selling Upcakes and our Dixie Picnic retail line of items. This spring we will most likely be opening in May, although a date has not been finalized yet. I always tell folks to check the website...I try to keep it updated and when I change the hours that is the first thing I do. This summer we are hoping to have a visit by a very well known food show.....shhhh......nothing final yet, but its pretty exciting even at these early stages!

Read more (and order more) at

Digg this

Friday, February 1, 2008


Big day today: my book's going on press! I approved the final cover yesterday, so off it goes. If you're a shore business and have any ideas about closing, retiring, or changing in any way shape or form -- DON'T! Just kidding...I know the book can't be perfect because everything changes. I was made updates up until a few weeks ago, so I did the best I could.

To honor this wonderful occasion, I wanted to post the clip from that episode of Reading Rainbow where good ol' LeVar Burton took us to a printing press to see how books are made. It's one of my favorite episodes (as are those that take gave us behind the scenes looks at how crayons are made and how Star Trek the Next Generation was made). But I couldn't find it on the depths of Youtube, so I went with this clip instead. Butterflies in the sky, people. Butterflies in the sky.

Anyone else watch this clip and think: gee, this is ripe for a Scrubs parody? Donald Faison would make a wicked LeVar Burton. Make a note, Scrubs writers.

Digg this