Islanders Write asked the writers

Islanders Write asked the writers

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And they answered

On Monday, August 11, more than twenty writers with ties to the Vineyard will gather at the Grange Hall in West Tisbury to discuss the art, craft and business of writing. This day-long event is open to the public and free of charge.

In anticipation of the event on Monday, The Times asked some of the day’s participants a few probing questions. More information, and detailed schedule, here.

Nancy Aronie

Where did you take your first swim this summer?
Ice house. I froze;  that’s why they call it ice house, silly.

Describe the book you would write if you offered a lucrative contract to write about the heath hen?
I would have to say no to the big money contract. I can’t write about what I don’t know and I’m not good at research, which is why I’m so in love with Geraldine Brooks’s every book.

What is your most effective method of procrastination?
I am a phone person. If I’m not working because I’m procrastinating, like I am right this minute, I’m talking to my sister or a girlfriend (funny word) or my husband and eating at the same time.

What do you think is the best summer job on the Island?
Air conditioned Chilmark Library or… truth? Running the Chilmark Writing Workshop. (Can’t really call this a job.)

What was the last book you read?
The Girls from Corona del Mar
 by Rufi Thorpe. Loved it. Actually the last book and I loved it more was We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Karen Joy Fowler).

Geraldine Brooks

Geraldine Brooks gardening
Geraldine Brooks gardening

Do you tend to stay in your car on the ferry?
Never.  It’s one of the most beautiful crossings in the world.  What churl would miss it?

Where did you take your first swim this summer?
Late, for me. Lambert’s Cove in July.

Describe the book you would write if you offered a lucrative contract to write about the heath hen?
A tragic love story, with Booming Ben as the bereft lover.

What is your most effective method of procrastination?
Noticing that there’s just that one bush that needs deadheading. Six hours later…

What do you think is the best summer job on the Island?
One that you don’t have to show up for on a perfect day.

What was the last book you read?
Ward Just’s brilliant American Romantic.

Kate Feiffer

Do you tend to stay in your car on the ferry?
I usually can’t wait to get out of the car by the time I get on the ferry.

Where did you take your first swim this summer?
Lambert’s Cove

Describe the book you would write if you offered a lucrative contract to write about the heath hen?
A picture book. I’d title it, Heath Hen Comes Back to Roost If I were a cookbook author, I’d title my book, Heath Hen Comes Back to Roast.

What is your most effective method of procrastination?
It used to be doodling, but now that I’m selling my drawings, I can no longer call doodling procrastination, so now I dawdle instead of doodle.

What do you think is the best summer job on the Island?
Lifeguard at Lambert’s Cove beach

What was the last book you read?
I am currently reading Joshua Horwitz’s War of the Whales.

Nicole Galland

Katharine Pilcher, Chrysal Parrot and  Nicole Galland dressed up for the skillet throw at the fair
Katharine Pilcher, Chrysal Parrot and Nicole Galland dressed up for the skillet throw at the fair

Do you tend to stay in your car on the ferry?
I let my dog decide that.

Where did you take your first swim this summer?
Have yet to take it. Isn’t that pathetic? Hopefully will have taken one at Lambert’s Cove Beach by the 11th.

Describe the book you would write if you offered a lucrative contract to write about the heath hen?
I would write a time-traveling bodice-ripper about the torrid affair between the man who witnessed the death of the last heath hen and the brilliant female geneticist who, generations later, was able to reconstitute the heath hen from DNA samples. Spoiler alert: she is his great-granddaughter. Other spoiler alert: heath hens are delicious.

What is your most effective method of procrastination?
There are so many to choose from. This time of year? Picking blueberries.

What do you think is the best summer job on the Island?
Gay Head lighthouse keeper.

What was the last book you read?
Besides the manuscript of my own work-in-progress? I have to admit that I read Gift From The Sea by Ann Morrow Lindbergh while trying to sleep, but I’d like to add that just before that I read We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler.

Meryl Gordon

Do you tend to stay in your car on the ferry?
I always go on the top deck so I can see the Island coming and going.

Where did you take your first swim this summer?
I took my first swim at the Makonikey beach this summer. It was rocky, but two days later the sand was back.

What is your most effective method of procrastination?
I procrastinate by seeing how many different places I can to go on the island to pick up food for one meal. Should I drive to Larsen’s in Menemsha or go to Net Result in Vineyard Haven? Norton Farm or the farmstand at Beetlebung? Fiddlehead Farm for cheese, Eden’s for fresh blueberries, Scottish Bakehouse or Sweet E’s for dessert? You can take all day shopping here for what I could do in 10 blocks in Manhattan, but it’s more fun.

Describe the book you would write if you offered a lucrative contract to write about the heath hen?
I wish I were a naturalist but I fear I could not do the Heath Hen justice.

Best summer job?
I was a waitress on Nantucket right after I graduated from high school — it was pretty great to have days on the beach and nights at work.

What was the last book you read?
I loved Ward Just’s American Romantic.

Jessica Harris
Jessica Harris

Jessica Harris

Do you tend to stay in your car on the ferry?
I get out of the car and do two things on the ferry after the trip from New York. I have a beer and a bowl of kale soup of chile. It’s a part of my sacrament to signal my return once again to the Vineyard.

Where did you take your first swim this summer?
I am a non-swimmer and have not been in the water in years. Bathing suits are no longer a part of my life.

Describe the book you would write if you offered a lucrative contract to write about the heath hen?
I would write a children’s book about the last heath hen (and maybe a dodo as well) hiding out with Nancy Luce and her chickens.

What is your most effective method of procrastination?
Reading.

What do you think is the best summer job on the Island?
Probably taking tickets at the Flying Horses… so much JOY!

What was the last book you read?
For a project I’m working on, the libretto for Porgy and Bess. For pleasure, The Crowded Grave by Martin Walker – one of the mysteries of the French countryside featuring Bruno Courreges..

Tony Horwitz

Do you tend to stay in your car on the ferry?
I never stay in my car on the ferry unless I’m comatose from driving. Instead, I go on the deck to enjoy the view of my laptop screen—a sure sign I’ve lived on the Vineyard too long.

Where did you take your first swim this summer?
I haven’t taken a beach swim yet this summer, how sad is that? High hopes for August and warmer water.

Describe the book you would write if you offered a lucrative contract to write about the heath hen?
I’m a history nerd, so if asked to write about the heath hen I’d go through old recipes. A controversial cookbook about eating a species back into extinction — bestseller!

What is your most effective method of procrastination?
For authors, checking email is the best procrastination ever invented. It feels like work and writing but isn’t, and generates more email to procrastinate over later.

What do you think is the best summer job on the Island?
The best summer job is being a writer, because all you do is talk about it at book festivals or while drinking cocktails on beautiful lawns. Then you go home and check your email again.

What was the last book you read?
The last book I read was Living Hell: The Dark Side of the Civil War (Michael C. C. Adams). As the title suggests, it’s the reading equivalent of water-boarding. But I’m supposed to be writing about PTSD in the Civil War, so I needed to know more about amputations, mass graves, imprisonment, disease, and torture.

Ward Just
Ward Just

Ward Just

Do you tend to stay in your car on the ferry?
Yes

Where did you take your first swim this summer?
No swimming this summer.

Describe the book you would write if you offered a lucrative contract to write about the heath hen?
What is a heath hen?

What is your most effective method of procrastination?
Golf on television.

What was the last book you read?
The last book I read was Geraldine Brooks’s plague book.  A wonderful novel.

Richard Michelson

Do you tend to stay in your car on the ferry?
Only until the end of the chapter of whatever book on tape I am listening to, then I walk Mollie upstairs so she can allow everyone to pet and admire her (yes, she is my dog).  On my last trip, however,  Geraldine Brooks was personally reading Year of Wonders to me over the car speakers and I almost stayed on the ferry a couple of extra trips back and forth till I found out if she was really going to kill off those poor children.

Where did you take your first swim this summer?
Inkwell of course, as is fitting for all writers.

Describe the book you would write if you offered a lucrative contract to write about the heath hen?
I am already writing the book (sans the “lucrative” and “contract”). Why would I give my ideas away?

What is your most effective method of procrastination?
Answering silly questionnaires that have nothing to do with writing.

What do you think is the best summer job on the Island?
Leading the Oak Bluffs dog parade (memo to self: check with Kate Feiffer if this is so).

What was the last book you read?
Americannah
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Tina Miller

Do you tend to stay in your car on the ferry?
I go up in the lunch area with my computer to catch up on stuff

Where did you take your first swim this summer?
First and only so far at the opening at Quansoo

Describe the book you would write if you offered a lucrative contract to write about the heath hen?
A mystery.

What do you think is the best summer job on the Island?
I do it, I am okay with it, I own it!

Joan Nathan

Do you tend to stay in your car on the ferry?
No, I never stay in the car on the ferry. I either have my standard meal of chili (one of the only times I eat chili) or I catch up on answering emails.

Where did you take your first swim this summer?
Ice House Pond.

Describe the book you would write if you were offered a lucrative contract to write about the heath hen?
I would write something brilliant to answer that eternal question: What came first – the hen or the egg.

What is your most effective method of procrastination?
Cleaning my house and weeding in my garden, or folding laundry, or anything but getting to my work!

What do you think is the best summer job on the Island?
The job that my daughter Daniela had – she was a kayaking instructor for the Vineyard Preservation Trust.

What was the last book you read?
Sacred Trash – The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza
 by Adina Hoffman and Peter Cole.

Alexandra Styron.
Alexandra Styron

Alexandra Styron

Do you tend to stay in your car on the ferry?
Never. I like to take the dog up to sniff the sea air.

Where did you take your first swim this summer?
Off our dock in Vineyard Haven. Late June. It was very quick and very bracing!

Describe the book you would write if you offered a lucrative contract to write about the heath hen?
It would be a novel, in which the heath hens return as zombies. Obviously.

What is your most effective method of procrastination?
Looking at real estate porn online and answering questionnaires.

What do you think is the best summer job on the Island?
Lighthouse keeper.

What was the last book you read?
Life After Life
 by Kate Atkinson. It’s superb!