The Kindred Spirit Notebooks Go To UNCW

So many people ask what happens to the Kindred Spirit notebooks after they’re collected? Myself and other volunteers gather them up and take them home every week or so during the busy season, we try our best to de-sand them, and let them air out to dry. We gather and collect them for several months, storing them some place climate controlled to keep them intact.

After each summer season, I make the trek up to Wilmington to deliver the Kindred Spirit notebooks collected during the year to UNCW’s Special Collections Department. They catalog each and every notebook and note left in the mailbox, make sure photocopied, and then preserved. I know this must be a daunting task for them, below is a photo of the box of stray notes–ones I imagine people wrote ahead of time and brought there to leave behind. This year, I also brought both mailboxes (one brought down after Tropical Storm Ana and the other after Hurricane Joaquin).

Jerry Parnell, the Coordinator of Special Collections, is always helpful when I come for these visits. He and I keep in touch throughout the year and he always asks about Frank. He has a great interest in the mailbox and in preserving this type of folk-history for years to come. I love knowing these journals, the thoughts and prayers of so many, will be a part of North Carolina’s history forever.

Here are some photos from this year’s delivery:

The Kindred Spirit Notebooks Go To UNCW 2

The Kindred Spirit Notebooks Go To UNCW 3

The Kindred Spirit Notebooks Go To UNCW 4

The Kindred Spirit Notebooks Go To UNCW


Ocean Isle Beach: A History and A Remembrance (And a Long Time Coming!)

Customers often come into the bookstore where I work asking for a history book on Ocean Isle Beach—so many over the last few years that it seemed a shame that there was no longer one in print. Judging by all the history books major publishers are churning out, and their popularity with the masses, readers throughout the country are experiencing a thirst for knowledge about times past. It seemed like a good time to provide a much-needed local history book. Miller Pope, my partner in non-fiction historicals, and I started to plan what kind of book we wanted this to be.

I wanted to tell the story of the everyday working people, not necessarily the lives of the chief developers and movers and shakers, but those of the subsistence farmers and fishermen, the ferry tenders, the storekeepers, the people who ran the motels and restaurants. And I wanted it to encompass the early years, prior to development. To do that, I needed to search out people who lived during those times. Soon, we were contacting people, begging for pictures, and making appointments with those who knew the history.

Bill Benton was the first one to agree to an interview. So I put fresh batteries in my recorder and with notebook in hand (a déjà-vu feeling from the Sunset Beach History book), I went to learn what things were like on O.I.B. when things were just getting started on the island. Over the course of a year, I interviewed everybody we could pin down. When it seemed I didn’t have enough material, I went to talks at the Coastal Museum of North Carolina where twice, we had informal gatherings that included many of the old-timers. I loved the fascinating stories they told and met several people later on for a one-on-one.

I have to say that the hard part of writing a history book like this, one where I can’t really contribute anything myself, but have to rely on others, is finding the path to the people. Not being local myself, and not having lived on Ocean Isle, meant seeking out who to talk to and then convincing them they could trust me with their stories.

Once the interviews were done, it took weeks to transcribe the tapes and compile my notes. Then even longer to glean out the best parts and polish them so the stories flowed. Each story had to be re-read and re-written until I was happy with it, then passed around to proofers who would note mistakes, question parts they didn’t understand, and spot inaccuracies. After I made the necessary corrections I re-read everything again before sending it out to another proofer. By the time I did the final read before printing, I had actually memorized good chunks of the book.

We relied on my daughter and Miller’s son for securing old pictures and Miller was doing his best to make them publishable. In the last weeks before the book went to print, Miller and I worked together tirelessly in front of his computer tweaking things to structure the book the best way possible.

It was exciting when it was all done and ready to be uploaded to the printer, and a huge year-and-a-half long weight lifted off my shoulders. Within a week, it was here and it was no longer just a compilation of endless interview and research—it was a book!

We are proud to offer Ocean Isle Beach: A History and A Remembrance for all those who have been looking for a history book to showcase the stories and the memories of what it was like to live and to grow alongside paradise.


Ocean Isle Beach History Book Available

Ocean Isle Beach: A History and A Remembrance is available for purchase on,, and in-store at Pelican Bookstore in Sunset Beach.


About Ocean Isle Beach: A History and A Remembrance:

This book is about an eight-mile barrier island on the Atlantic coast. It faces due south, on the same latitude as Los Angeles, California. The island enjoys a mild climate and its oceanfront consists entirely of sandy beach. It wasn’t an island until 1934 when it was severed from the mainland by the construction of a section of the Intracoastal Waterway.

What is now Ocean Isle, slept in solitude for hundreds of years, disturbed only by a visit in 1791 of George Washington on his Southern Tour and by the U.S. Coast Guard’s mounted sailors who patrolled the island’s beach in WWll. In the 1920s, the long repose ended with an awakening by prohibition and the jazz age. Young flappers expended energy dancing the Charleston and imbibing bootlegged gin in Ocean Isle’s first commercial structure, a honky-tonk on the island’s welcoming beach.

The Mailbox after Hurricane Joaquin

As you may know, Hurricane Joaquin cascaded over the Carolinas during the past week. While our immediate area avoided a lot of damage, we still felt impacts from flooding, especially on the beaches. Once again, the Kindred Spirit Mailbox was gifted a guardian during the storm.

Before the brunt of the storm hit, someone tethered a red rope from the flagpole to the mailbox to ensure that even if it was knocked over, it wouldn’t be washed away. The mailbox did get upended during the storm and the flooding, but it was still there. Once the rain stopped, volunteers with the Bird Island Preservation Society went down to put the mailbox right again.

Another volunteer had gathered the notebooks that were inside and brought them home to dry out. Time after time, when it comes to the mailbox, we’re all kindred spirits uniting to keep the spirit alive!

Kindred Spirit Mailbox Knocked Down by Hurricane Joaquin

The Mailbox after Hurricane Joaquin

The Mailbox after Joaquin

Kindred Spirit Interview with UNC-TV

The interview Frank Nesmith and I did with Heather Burgiss on UNC-TV premiered last night. They did a wonderful job. The footage of the mailbox and Bird Island was spectacular, and they selected some great entries from the journals to read. They showed the whole spectrum of emotions that people put in to the Kindred Spirit journals, everything from happy, silly entries to heart-wrenching stories of love and loss.

With each interview and newspaper article done about the mailbox, I hope its significance translates to the next generation so that this landmark will be around for years to come.

Here is the full program, you can skip ahead to minute 9:30 for the segment:

Or watch the segment below:

A New Bench for the Kindred Spirit!

Yesterday was such a whirlwind of events, it was hard to share what was going on. So here’s the story and a few photos!

Tom Thomas, who anonymously donated, built, and installed a Kindred Spirit bench in 2011, offered to build another after this year’s Tropical Storm Ana took away the other, older bench.

This time we got the town involved to deliver it. Last time Tom and his family covertly “planted” the beach in the hour before dawn. The town drove the bench out and even installed it for us. I was surprised how fast they were able to set it up, measure, and sink the legs. Tom and his whole family came to Sunset Beach for the event (and for a yearly vacation and family reunion). Afterward, we held a small celebration in the new Sunset Beach Park to thank Tom and the town for their hard work in getting The Kindred Spirit a new bench! This one has a back on it, so people can rest after the ride or walk down to the Mailbox.

I know the Kindred Spirit will be thrilled when more people come and enjoy the beautiful view and relaxing solitude that this special spot epitomizes.

Digging Holes

Digging Holes

Still Digging!

Still Digging!

Installing the Bench

Installing the Bench

It Takes a Village

It Takes a Village

Testing it out

Susan Parker testing it out

The New Bench!

The New Bench!

Tom's Son and Grandson

Tom’s Son and Grandson

Tom Being Interviewed

Tom Thomas Being Interviewed by Laura Lewis

Me and Laura Lewis

Laura Lewis and Me

One Happy KS Helper

One Happy K.S. Helper

Celebration in the Park

Celebration in the Park

A New Kindred Spirit Bench!

The new Kindred Spirit bench has arrived! Tom Thomas and his family drove all the way from Atlanta, Georgia to bring the new bench he made to replace the one we lost to Tropical Storm Ana.

Sometime tomorrow afternoon, Monday July 27th, the Town of Sunset Beach is going to take it down to Bird Island for us.

This morning Sandy and I went down to the mailbox to check the journals and to stake out the site for the new bench.

We found an odd thing at the top of the dune in front of the flag. A big gray garbage can. Empty, thank God. But how the heck did it get there? Surely no one dragged it all the way down the beach thinking we needed a trash can at the Kindred Spirit? My best guess is someone found it in the dunes, another casualty of Tropical Storm Ana. Anyway, I hope the Town takes it back with them when they bring the new bench down. Anyone lose a trash can?

There will be a celebration at the new park tomorrow, in the late afternoon. It’s to show our appreciation to Tom Thomas for all the work he’s done–making not one, but two Kindred Spirit benches!

Staked out for the New Bench

Staked out for the New Bench


The Stakes mark the spot

The Stakes mark the spot

Old Bench and soon-to-be new bench

Old Bench and soon-to-be new bench

Anyone missing a trash can?

Anyone missing a trash can?

Romance is my game…Or so I thought.

I write romance, I read romance, and I work at a bookstore where I sell romance. One would think I’ve got the bases covered, that I’d be familiar with all the popular romance authors. Our independent bookstore at the crossroads between Sunset Beach and Ocean Isle hosts some pretty big bestsellers including: Mary Alice Monroe, Dorothea Benton Frank, Diane Chamberlin, Patti Henry Callahan, and Kim Boykin. Our shelves are full of many lesser known authors and we support and stock books for many local authors as well. I read the lists. I belong to Romance Writers of America. I follow the reviews. Romance is my game. Or so I thought.

I began reading romance when I was twelve, combing the racks at the Post Exchange in Frankfort, Germany for the latest Emily Loring or Cherry Ames books. I have a strong connection to the romance genre. When I hold a new romance in my hand, I have to fight the feeling that if I put it down it will flame and go to ashes and I will never get to savor the story within. So I read voraciously. I cannot imagine going to the beach, pool, doctor’s office, or grocery store without a book tucked into my purse, tote, or recycle bag. I worry that in a hostage situation, I won’t have a book to read if I’m locked in a bank for days on end. Irrational, I know. When I finish a book, despite having a towering TBR (to be read) pile, I scour the Internet, the store bookshelves, and the romance blogs to secure my next fix. I thought I was familiar with at least every romance author—if not every book. I was wrong. And for many years I’ve missed a very good author.

Last week a customer came into the shop and asked about books by Roxanne St. Claire. I’d shelved a few of her books over the years but couldn’t remember reading or selling one. They had escaped my notice, flew under the radar. I could picture the covers in a vague sense, and I remembered that the simplistic quality hadn’t appealed. Even though we all deny it . . . we are all influenced by book covers. I shouldn’t have been, Roxanne is a one-woman show, as I am myself, and personally, I would bungee jump for a professionally done cover. No, no, I would not . . . zip line maybe. Any way, back to the customer who came into the bookstore.

Roxanne St Clair secrets on the sandHorrors . . . we had no Roxanne St. Claire books on the shelves. In all fairness, Roxanne specializes in Florida-based books while we are all about the Carolinas. I immediately ordered several titles, and reserved one for myself. Secrets on the Sand arrived just before the Easter break. On Good Friday I read the first four chapters. Yowza. It was like getting a Cadbury egg in your Easter basket. Delicious.

Zeke, known in high school as Ezekiel the Geekiel, is now mega successful. Okay, you guessed it, as in the “b” word. Due to inflation, we’ll probably be reading about trillionaires in the next decade, but for now, billionaire Adonises are the rage. Amanda, formerly known as Mandy the Magnificent, was the former prom queen and shapely cheerleader. Zeke had not been in her circle, although he worshipped her from afar and let’s just say, she was his “dream girl.” He ends up at an ultra posh hotel where she works as the maid who comes to clean his villa. The dynamics have changed. He’s now rich, powerful and handsome, e’yet she comes off as not interested. Her wealthy ex-husband broke her heart when he dumped her, and the pre-nup had her going from four hundred dollar beach cover-ups to dollar store tank tops over night. She’s not doing that that again. She’s not happy that Zeke remembers her as the only bright light during his adolescence and is coming on to her in a major way.

When a compromising situation gets her fired, he goes to see her. Here’s the swoon-worthy scene that’s made me a BFF (best fan forever):

She stared at him, waiting as he walked up to her and got down on one knee so they were face to face.

“Once when we were freshmen, some kid mowed me down in the hall and knocked all my books and my sixteen different calculators and protractors to the floor. You stopped and got down, like this, and helped me pick up every single thing. And when that kid laughed at you, do you know what you said?”

Her green eyes still swam in tears as she shook her head.

“You stood up and flattened him with a look and said, “Get to class because you obviously have none.”

She started to smile. “I could be a real—”

He held up a hand silencing her. “Angel. I thought you were an angel. I thought you were . . .” He swallowed. “Obviously to good for me.”

“Zeke, I . . .”

He looked down and took the laces of the other shoe, slowly tying them for her. When he’d knotted them, he looked into her eyes again. “You told me a few minutes ago that I was relentless.”

She nodded.

“Wait until you see the power of that.”

He heard her suck in a quiet breath. That was good. He wanted to take her breath away. And he would. She just didn’t know that yet.

Roxanne St clair barefoot in whitePretty yummy, huh? So I’m a fan for life. And you know how things happen in threes? The next day, I opened my Romance Writer’s Report and there’s a tutorial on revisions by . . . you guessed it, Roxanne St. Claire. I will read them over and over in hopes I can turn out a book as well written. Then I literally tripped over a book that fell off the paperback rack at the grocery store. You guessed it, Barefoot in White, by Roxanne St. Claire. Soon, my TBR pile is going to have all her titles.

Enjoy some fresh, sassy, beach romances until I can get my next beach romance out sometime in the fall.