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I need to begin this by saying that I am not a beach person. I realize this may seem confusing, as the past few blog posts have been from locations such as Anaheim, San Diego, and Myrtle Beach. Places that have beaches, and if not beaches, sand, and if not sand, then sun.

I don’t really do sun either.

I’m more like . . . lichen. Wherever you can find lichen, that is where I would like to be.

vacation lichen

There is no lichen in Myrtle Beach.

But my in-laws were there, as well as Lover and Thing 1 and Thing 2. Whether I was a beach person or not was irrelevant. Because this, my readers, was Family Beach Vacation. And the important part of this was not the beach, but the other two words. Family. Vacation. (If you rearrange the letters in those two words, you can also get CAVITY OF ANIMAL and TACO INFAMY VIAL. Coincidence? I think not).

I would be there, beach or not. So this is what I did.

1. My first act upon arrival at Myrtle Beach was to climb into the ocean with Things 1 & 2 and NephewMan. This was delightful, but upon returning to the beach house, I noticed that my thumb was beginning to feel funny. Warm. Nay. Hot. Nay! IT WAS BURNING! I slapped an ice cube on it. MORE BURNING. With my one useful hand, I clumsily typed NEMATOCYST into the search engine and discovered that when you have been stung by a jellyfish, freshwater makes the sting angry. Even if it is an ice cube. What is required, reader, when you have been stung on the thumb in the ocean, is vinegar, for that calms the nematocysts on your skin and makes them stop abusing you.

Which is how I came to spend an hour of the first day with my hand submerged in a bowl of vinegar.

vacation nematocysts

Later I used the remaining vinegar as a buttermilk substitute in some cornbread. But that is a different story for a different blog.

2. My second notable act at the beach house was to become fixated on sand sculptures. I had never really set my mind to one before, and in my head, I thought I could possibly resolve my not-a-beach-person-mentality by constructing a sand sculpture the size of an SUV. I know, it’s classic over-compensatory behavior, but that wasn’t obvious until after the fact. Anyway, I spent a few hours googling how to make sand castles the size of SUVs, and then Thing 1, Thing 2 and I journeyed out to the beach together. While they dug up marine life and put it in pails, I constructed a sea horse about forty times smaller than an SUV. The building itself was uneventful, unless you could the three 13-year-old boys who approached me to compliment both my pile of sand and my Ray-bans. Sure, it was warm and I was going to have sand in my arm pits forever, but I was pleased with my results.

My Sand Horse

And then I got into the beach house (are you sensing a trend here?) and I began to itch. Not just a little. A lot. And everywhere that my bikini had not been. Everywhere that sand had been. I tried showering and lotioning and complaining, but nothing seemed to help.

And then the bumps appeared.

They covered my entire body, like angry goosebumps or vehement orange peel. My. entire. body. I’m not sure I can describe the sex appeal here.

vacation itch

Or the itching.

3. Which brings us to the end of the week. At this point, I was cranky and itchy and fearful of anything that looked like sand or sun or beach or fun. I lurked indoors while Things 1 & 2 played with my in-laws outside. This, I felt, was safe. Surely.

Now, the beach house (you should by now be uneasy when you hear it mentioned) was not terrible. A little small, a little tired, but it was right on the ocean and it only swayed a little bit when the wind blew. The kitchen was separated from the living room by two strangely formal columns. The chief purpose of these columns seemed to be tripping my father-in-law, who kept catching one side or another of his sandal on the square base of them before flying from one room to the other. Partway through the vacation I had moved chairs to block easy access to the columns but now, at the end of the vacation, we had to move all of the furniture back to where it belonged.

Which was when I mashed my toe into one of the columns.

Now, you know how when you stub your toe, you gasp and swear and shout that it is broken, it’s broken, and you’ll never walk again! But it’s really just the shock and dismay of the moment that makes you say those things. You really just jam your toe and ten minutes later, you’re fine. Because, really, when you break your toe for real, you’ll know it. It’ll swell up to twice its usual size and then it will turn purple-gray like a zombie, and then it will stop moving.

vacation toe

I can’t wear shoes until the middle of August. So now I am home and slowly the steroids are making the bumps and the itching go away, but my toe is still giant, and I think I just broke my manuscript. This is the face I am making at it.

Photo on 7-31-12 at 5.47 PM

I cling to the hope of being able to put shoes on in just a few weeks. That is just before when I leave for rally driving school, which is MY idea of a family vacation. Surely, surely it will go better.

Although, when you rearrange the letters of RALLY DRIVING SCHOOL, you get:  SCHOLARLY OLD VIRGIN. So. There’s that.

  • Christina

    I’m glad I’m not your manuscript. I don’t think I could handle that look!

  • Anonymous

    Next vacation, stay at home and watch old Disney movies with Lover, Thing 1 and Thing 2.
    48 days and counting…

  • There’s this thing where I love you. And every word you write. And every drawing you draw. Sorry about the sand and sun and beach and fun and general suckiness of it all. But I have to go look up lichen now.

    • Aww. Why thank you. A lichen-like-girl never had such a great compliment.

  • Becky

    Oh Maggie! I hope you’re able to fix your manuscript! Here’s some music that’s been really lovely for me at least: David Arkenstone. It’s mostly instrumental and he’s got a really lovely Celtic CD.

    P.S. That is why even though I live surrounded by the ocean, I do not go in it. But that’s mostly because of the sharks.

    • Oh, I have heard his music before!

      Our ocean seemed empty of sharks, but there were dolphins. I’m sure if they could’ve harmed me, they would have.

  • Lisailj

    Did they figure out what is causing the itching? I am having the same problem sans beach and the drs are still trying to figure it out.

    • Oh, mine was an allergic reaction to bites, they think. From sand chiggers? So the bumps were not bites, but hives. I got Prednisone for it and that seemed to work.

  • I dropped a table on my foot in elementary school… luckily it was the middle of the winter, because I had to wear really big snow boots to school until it healed.

    And, unfortunately, nematocyst rearranges as SCANTY TOME. :/

    • It is such not the weather for really big snow boots right now.

      Also, re: SCANTY TOME. This is ominous.

  • I am so glad I found you. And your books, and your music, and your art, and ALL the things. *eyes sparkle with admiration*

    Good luck with the jellyfish sting… and the rash… and the toe… And any other beach-related misery you may have/may still be enduring.

    • Ah, thank you. For your nice things on Twitter as well. 🙂 (that was you, right?)

  • Gwyneth

    I agree with the comments above..sorry about your terrible vacation(s)! The sand horse is, once again, wonderful, also lovin the bakini and sunglasses. The drawings were fantastic, I cracked up when I saw the one of your toe. Poor manuscript, please forgive it, it wasn’t its fault. Have fun with your Rally Driving School thing, not sure what that is, but it sounds cool!

    • I am struggling to forgive the beach for its mistreatment of me. One day. One day, I will.

  • Kaida

    Just how do you DROP a TABLE on your foot? As for the beach, I think it hates you. No worries. I’m sure it hates other people too. Maybe. Somewhere in this massive universe. Probably not. Or maybe it’s the jellyfish that has turned the sea against you! *Starts fantasizing about evil jellyfish* Well, come join those of us who prefer the forest. Maybe you’ll find Sam and Grace while your at it! I hope your summer had SOME good points!

    • Gwyneth

      Lolz love the Sam and Grace part…very nice Kaida

      • Kaida

        XD haha, I like to involve characters I like into my vocabulary. A lot of the time I reference a book, movie, tv show, or song and nobody knows what I’m talking about…

    • It was a folding table – one of those big metal banquet ones. Way too heavy for a 12-year old to be folding by herself, as I learned.

      • Kaida

        Ah, that makes much more sense. I was thinking like a huge dinning table or something and was like “What?!”.

    • Oh, thanks — don’t worry, summer has been pretty delightful. It is only one unfortunate week of sand.

      • Kaida

        Ah sand, and its many discomforts…

  • Beth

    But did you get the sand out of your armpits?

  • JP

    This is one of the most hilarious things I’ve read all year. Your blog posts are just perf. Good luck with Phase Two of the Green Slime. < 3 🙂

  • I think maybe that’s a sign that you should stay away from the beach. Some people are just not made for certain things.

    When I was little I went ice skating with my family, and while I loved it, skating was not my thing and I ended up with huge bruises on my knees. I’ve been skating a few more times over the years all with the same results but finally last year I went roller skating with my youth group and I noticed something.; I was getting better the more I got used to it but I still fell down the same amount of times (which was probably triple the amount that anyone else fell down) if not more then I did when I first stepped onto the rink. I finally realized that this was not natural, and despite the fact that I was taking a beating I still loved skating. That soon changed. About 5 minutes before skating time ended I face planted into the floor. I stayed where I was on the ground and unlaced my skates right then and there. I FINALLY discovered that skating was not something I should ever do again, whether it be ice or roller skating, I was done.

    I’m sorry your trip had so many horrible things happen. I hope there were plenty of good times in the trip to make up for the bad.

    • Oh, but see, now that starts to make it sound like a challenge. Whenever anyone says “that’s IMPOSSIBLE FOR YOU!” it makes me want to do it more.

  • Sue Reincke

    Bless your heart. The sea horse was awesome though! I hope your toe heals quickly!!

    • Thank you! The broken toe will last longer than the sea horse, unfortunately, but it is more interesting colors.

  • Maybe The Beach read Scorpio Races, and The Beach was inadvertently offended. Bad, bad Beach!

    I loved The Scorpio Races & I can’t wait to receive my 3 copies of Raven Boys from @FountainBkstore.

    Thank you for sharing so much of yourself with your fans. You make me happy.

    • Ah, thank you for your faith in me! I hope you and your giftees enjoy The Raven Boys.

  • Ooo ouch. Sorry for the Summer Rash of Doom and Toe of Zombiepocalypse there…

    I *am* a beach person and my husband’s more the lichen type and I find that I am similarly covered in bug bites when I’d much rather be basking in harmful UV light. That said, I love the beach sculpture and spent many a summer making large sand sculptures of mermaids and giant sea turtles but that horse is a WIN!

    Hope the grumpy face clears up soon, too. <3

    • Perhaps it is possible that I get bug bites when I am among lichen but I forgive it, because I like it. And possibly you get itchy at the beach, and you forgive it. We are so tolerant of the terrible things we love.

  • Leanne

    Look at those arms! A flabby author you are not. 😛

    • Hey, they’ve got some muscles on them. I would be good eatin’.

      • Anonymous

        Ha ha! I didn’t mean they were skinny! I meant fit!

  • Sheepa

    The sand horse is AMAZING!!!! You must have put all those sand castles to shame 🙂

    So you’re allergic to sand and sun? What a horrible way to find out.
    Hope your toe gets better soon!!!

  • Rachael

    Im sorry for the immense amount of trauma that you had to go through on your trip, but it sounds like you had a good time besides the bad parts. (Plus, it gave you a very good and amusing blog entry, i must say haha.)
    That is an AMAZING sand horse, i would never have had the patience or ability to make something that creative with sand. (ive also never been a beach person, just so you know. There’s jellyfish in the water, and sand gets into places that i never enjoy it being.)
    I do hope you feel better though! I would hate for my favorite author to feel bad for long 🙂 well i’d hate you to feel bad at all. . but you get the idea. C:

  • Sounds like you had an interesting family vacation!! I had an interesting family vaction too. Well more of an interesting family camping trip. We went through two huge storms (one of which pushed our tent trailer over a foot) and then our friends showed up, and we had a wolf walk right in front of our campsite walk down to the water and take a drink, completly minding his own buisness. We started calling him Sam!!

  • Anne-Sophie

    MAGGIE. I have a CRUCIAL question that, if unanswered, will hamper me from finishing – er, starting – my novel, which means that if you don’t hand over the secret answer you keep hidden behind bars and fire breathing dragons you’ll have a dead novel on your conscience. You wouldn’t like that, right?

    Ahem. I digress.

    My question is (and I apologize, because it IS unrelated): how do you go about compiling the playlists you write to, and how do you find all these beautiful obscure songs that somehow fit your novel so well?

  • I am a beach person, but not a sun person, so i tend to go the beach on days when people don’t go…like windy, cold etc.
    MY visit to the beach a few weeks ago on a slightly sunny but not hot day ended up with me being crispyfried and looking like a lobster >_<, so I feel your pain.

    Hope the toe gets better soon.

  • Mandy

    That horse sculpture deserves to be on a postcard. Wow.

  • Meggles

    I wish I could go outside in summer and not burn up like something you find in the bottom of your oven. Australian weather. If you value your life, I recommend you stay indoors at ALL COSTS! But when you do, the fan breaks and you loose your keys in the mad rush to fix the fan so you give up and fall into the pool during the mad rush to find the closest mechanic that fixes fans. And in the end your clothes are soaked and the fan is still broken and your keys are still missing. That was pretty much my summer.

  • Lordy that sounds like a whole lotta something! I am not a beach person either and this was further enforced when I found out I was horribly allergic to sunscreen. (Result: Lots of itching and feeling very self-conscious about the inability to stop itching.)

    I hope returning from said vacation you are resting up lots in your nice office and able to enjoy environments appropriate for you and lichen.

    Also, started “Raven Boys” loves it, as usual. Good luck with the new manuscript. Probably not broken, perhaps it’s just had a sprain?

  • Oh wow, I thought my family vacation was bad but yours topped it in the “everything will go wrong” category :(. I hope your toe is feeling a lot better now or is completely healed. I don’t know how long they take to heal just that a pinky takes two weeks.

  • Sherie

    It has just occurred to me that if you are allergic to components of vinegar (sulfites) and you stuck your hand in vinegar for some time, could this possibly have contributed to the hives which appeared later during the vacation? Just a thought.

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  • Maud Moine

    A beach house is a house on or near a beach, sometimes used as a vacation or second home for people who commute to the house on weekends or during vacation periods. Beach houses are often designed to weather the type of climate they are built in and the building materials and construction methods used in beach housing vary widely around the world..

    Current posting straight from our new web blog

Maggie Stiefvater
Hi, I'm Maggie Stiefvater

Professional novelist by day and artist by night. I live an eccentric life in the middle of nowhere, Virginia with my charmingly straight-laced husband, two kids, and neurotic dogs. I’m the author of the Books of Faerie (LAMENT and BALLAD); the bestselling SHIVER trilogy (SHIVER, LINGER, FOREVER), and THE SCORPIO RACES.

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