Beach Trip by Cathy Holton

“Writing wasn’t about telling the truth at all; it was about rearranging truth, stretching it, and warping it to fit some safe and less-chaotic world of the writer’s own making. And Mel has been doing that, in one way or another, all her life.” (Page 215)

Cathy Holton’s Beach Trip is Southern women’s fiction with a twist. Mel, Annie, Sara, and Lola were college roommates and reunite in this novel two decades later. Like the heavy surf churned up by an offshore hurricane, their relationships are wrought with tension, love, jealousy, and forgiveness. Each chapter shifts between the past and the present–the mid-1980s to the early 2000s.

“‘Twenty years from now,’ Annie said, looking thin and melancholy. ‘I don’t want to be sitting around regretting the past. I don’t want to be sitting around thinking about what I should have done.’

Mel gave her a heavy look. ‘Twenty years from now, none of us will remember any of this.'” (Page 5)

Each woman embarks upon their own path and makes her way in the world. Sara, Annie, and Lola each marry and have children, while Mel marries and divorces a few men and concentrates on her career as a novelist. Mel is the independent, strong-willed feminist, while Sara is a follower and tough attorney fighting for the rights of children caught in the middle of parental divorce. Lola is laid back and pushed around by her husband, friends, and mother, and Annie is obsessive compulsive and striving for perfection. Each of these characters juxtaposes the other, and these characteristics weigh heavily on their relationships in college and beyond.

“‘I’m so glad you’re here,’ Sara said, smiling at Annie. ‘We need someone to keep us in line.’

Mel swung her arm around her head like she was twirling a lasso. ‘Crack that whip,’ she said.

‘Crack it yourself,’ Annie said. ‘I’m on vacation.'” (Page 25)

Holton creates deep characters with simple flaws, placing them in situations of their own making. Readers just have to sit back and watch how they make their way out. The secrets revealed by these women as they reflect on the past are sometimes cliche, but the end of this novel will leave many readers agape. Overall, Beach Trip examines the complicated relationships of women with a flare of wit, humor, and sarcasm.

If you missed Cathy Holton’s guest post, you should check it out.


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Guest Post: Cathy Holton, Author of Beach Trip

Please welcome Cathy Holton, author of Beach Trip, to Savvy Verse & Wit. She kindly offered to discuss her writing process with my readers.

The Writer at Work

I love watching television shows or movies that portray writers at work. It is amazing to me that in this day of advanced electronic technology, the slightly eccentric, vaguely attractive, bespectacled author is always shown sitting at a typewriter. Well, not always, but more likely than not there is a typewriter in the background.

Sure, I can remember banging away at an old IBM Selectric, neatly stacking my finished pages in a box on my desk. And even before that, I can remember writing in long hand on an endless supply of yellow legal pads. I was cleaning out a closet the other day and found an old suitcase stuffed with a novel written on crinkly, ink-stained pages in a faded hand.

And it amazes me that I ever wrote this way, because the truth is, it was a time consuming and inefficient way to work. There are writers that insist long hand is the only way to write; that the act of stringing together long looping words, and long looping sentences is the art of writing at its most organic. They may be right. But I would guess that these are writers who’ve never had to meet a tight deadline, who can afford to keep an army of typists busy with their drafts and constant rewrites.

Me, I enjoy the wizardry of my trusty Sony laptop. I take pleasure in composing a sentence and then watching it materialize on the screen, much as it will appear on the printed page. It helps me to see clearly whether the rhythm of the sentence works, whether the word order should be changed, whether a word should be modified or deleted. And during the long, dreary rewrites, when I realize that a paragraph I’ve put at the end of a chapter needs to be moved to the beginning, or a particularly boring scene needs to be trimmed, or a bit of dialogue “freshened up”, how wonderful to be able to make my changes with a few deft clicks of a mouse. Compare that to the tedious hours it used to take to redline a draft and then retype the entire chapter (only, in some cases, to find that I had it right the first time.)

Having established that I’m a fan of technology, what about the rest of my daily writing routine?

I rise promptly at eight o’clock (give or take an hour). I make a pot of coffee and contemplate taking the dog for a walk in the woods. Usually I decide to drink the coffee because it smells so great and, hey, I can always take the dog for a walk later. After two cups, I’m beginning to feel almost energetic so I go to my computer and read my emails. This can take anywhere from a couple of minutes to two hours depending on the news of the day and whether I choose to follow links trying to find out, once and for all, whether Brad is cheating on Angelina, and whether he intends to return to Jen.

Now I’m ready to get down to business. But first, even though I’ve told myself repeatedly not to do this, I go online and check the reviews on my latest novel. Now I’m either deliriously happy or hopelessly depressed. If I’m happy, I’m ready to get down to work right away. If not, I spend anywhere from ten minutes to two hours trying to purge myself of anxiety and self-doubt. I repeat my mantra, “I am a good writer. I am a good writer.” I imagine myself accepting the Pulitzer. I visualize myself on the red carpet in Hollywood. Now I’m ready to work.

A layperson would call this “wasting time.” I call it “getting ready to write.” It can take anywhere from ten minutes to six hours but here’s the thing; regardless of how long it takes, regardless of the medium I use, eventually I sit down and write. I don’t give up. I don’t walk away and call it a day and this, I think, is what makes me a writer.

In an essay he once wrote on the craft of writing, Sinclair Lewis said that most writers don’t understand that the process begins by actually sitting down.

See, I get that.

Thanks, Cathy, for joining us today at Savvy Verse & Wit. Stay tuned tomorrow for my review of her novel, Beach Trip.

From her Website:

Cathy Holton entertained her classmates with tales of a scaled creature that lived in her carport shed and a magical phone that hung in her family’s bathroom that could be used to summon an English butler (this was in North Carolina in the 1960’s and her family lived in married student housing).

She is the author of Beach Trip, Revenge of the Kudzu Debutantes, and Secret Lives of the Kudzu Debutantes, all published through Ballantine/Random House Books. She lives in the mountains of Tennessee with her husband and three children, in a house that has both electricity and running water but, alas, no magical phone to summon an English butler.

Check out Beach Trip today.


You have until Aug. 28 to vote for Charlee in the Dog Days of Summer Photo Contest. Help a Hot Dog out!