New frontiers

Maribeth Fischer moved to Sussex County (Rehoboth Beach) two years ago, but it took her a little longer to give up her old alma mater.
Coastal Point • SAM HARVEY: Maribeth Fischer is preparing for a locale writer's conference.Coastal Point • SAM HARVEY:
Maribeth Fischer is preparing for a locale writer's conference.

Fischer, a novelist, published “The Language of Goodbye” in 2001, and left her teaching position at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) a year later.

She landed in Rehoboth, at a friend’s house, but still wasn’t quite ready to let go of teaching.

She continued to make the trip to Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond twice a week (down Monday morning, back Thursday night).

“I love teaching,” Fischer pointed out. “I love encouraging people, and I’m passionate — I’m fairly hard on my students, but I’ve found they are more likely to appreciate that, later.”

However, then her nephew fell ill, and Fischer’s outlook changed. After experiencing what her sister’s family was going through, she said she began to feel the college classes just weren’t important.

And so, her second novel, “What Survives,” now rests in her agent’s hands, and taking a break from writing, Fischer is now directing her energies toward an upcoming writers’ workshop.

Writers At the Beach: Pure Sea Glass will be held at Crabber’s Cove in Dewey Beach on March 5.

Fischer said the workshop was named to honor Richard LaMotte’s 2002 — “Pure SEA GLASS” (collaboration with photographer Celia Pearson). LaMotte is slated to participate, and perhaps share some of what Fischer characterized as a remarkable success story in self-publication.

Her own path to publication was less glittery, perhaps more like sea glass — “ordinary, until abrasion and smoothing turn it into a beautiful stone,” as she put it.

She sent “The Language of Goodbye” to 10 publishers, and they all rejected it — the publishers wanted more focus on the romantic angle.

Fischer went back to the drawing board, and finally, Dutton (Pelican Putnam) picked up the rewrite.

“I was very frustrated,” she admitted. “By the end, it felt like it wasn’t my book anymore — but that’s the way it works, and I had to learn the ropes.

“I could have said no, and then the book would be sitting under my bed, in a box,” she pointed out.

Her book tour started out with another eye-opener. “The company flew me down, paid for my rental car, paid for my hotel room, and I thought, ‘This is it — I’ve arrived,’” Fischer recalled.

However, the bookstore staff gave a rather lukewarm response to her grand entry — it appeared no one had been expecting her, or even knew who she was. And no one showed up for the signing.

“I know now that it was naïve of me to think I would just show up at a bookstore and find a crowd,” she reflected.

According to Fischer, just because a publisher sets up a signing doesn’t mean they’ve contacted local book groups or sent press releases to the local media.

After all, she pointed out, publishing houses deal with hundreds of authors, and they don’t shadow every newcomer.

She got over the initial letdown, and had some ameliorating book signings in the Midwest.

However, if Dutton sends her out with “What Survives,” Fischer said she’d make a point to call ahead to the tour stops.

She also said she’d been a very shy person at the tour’s outset, and that had changed somewhat — although she suspected she would never completely fit into the publicist role.

“That’s a completely different business,” she Fischer stated.

So what, exactly, is the writer’s business?

Obviously, every writer operates differently, but Fischer’s workplace comprises a scattered assortment of coffee shops and the like.

“I get up, get washed and dressed, get out of the house and go some place,” she said. “For me, it’s just like going to the office.

“I don’t jump out of bed saying, ‘Oh, good — I get to go write today,’ but once I’m there, I love it,” Fischer explained.

She said it had taken two or three years to learn the necessary discipline to sit down in whatever public place and write, “for as many hours as I can.”

Meanwhile, she said she always left part of her focus in the activity around her — to the point that she sometimes had trouble remembering when to emerge from people-watcher mode.

And, she draws inspiration — and motivation — from other contemporary novelists. “Good writing just makes me jealous,” Fischer said. “It makes me want to write like that.”

Apparently, you have to want to write. It took her 10 years to complete “The Language of Goodbye” — it sat on bookstore shelves for about three months.

However, she said her mother always advised, “When it comes to art, put all your eggs in one basket.”

Fischer has followed that advice, and come to the determination, “the money’s tight, but it’s a great life.”

Along with Fischer and LaMotte, more than a dozen authors are scheduled to read and/or lead discussions/workshops at the Writers At The Beach: Pure Sea Glass conference.
• Poet laureate of Delaware, Fleda Brown, of Newark.
• Delaware Beach Life editor/publisher Terry Plowman.
• Debra Puglisi Sharp, of Millsboro. She survived rape, kidnap and her husband’s murder in 1998, and recounted the story in “Shattered,” with Marjorie Preston.

For more information about visiting authors, visit the Web site for the conference,, and click on “Participating Authors.”

Fischer said she was excited so many authors had agreed to volunteer their time, and expressed a hope that the conference would prove gratifying for all who participated.

“This is for anybody who wants to write, who has a story, but doesn’t know how to begin, or how to find time,” she said. “And for people who are writing and published, this should be an opportunity for them to find a community of writers, and maybe some inspiration.”

For more information on the conference, call (302) 841-2172.