The Vineyard is famous for many things, perhaps in this order: “Jaws”; Jackie O.; vacationland for Bill, Hillary, and Barack; and la dolce vita for summer one-percenters. Did you notice a conspicuous absence of any other Island treasure, say for instance our massive arts and culture community? That’s what we’ve been cultivating for decades, if not millennia, and now the ground is so thick with writers, painters, sculptors, dancers, and theater folk, that you could, without fear of exaggeration, call Martha’s Vineyard the Athens Golden Age, or Florence under the Medici.
Here comes a glitzy, eight-year-old annual writers-and-poets residency to take place in two sessions (July 9-15 and July 16-22) at the casually chic Summercamp, formerly known as the Wesley Hotel, overlooking Oak Bluffs Harbor. Awardwinning writer Alexander Weinstein, author of “Children of the New World” (Picador), chosen by the New York Times as one of the 100 notable books of 2016, has presided over the Martha’s Vineyard Institute for Creative Writing since 2010. And while I say “prestigious,” I can also note that our Island is home to so many art centers, galleries, six libraries with robust cultural programs, and so on and so forth that it’s easy for any single creative showcase to get lost in the arty-smarty shuffle.
So here it is, and if it’s not already on your radar, turn on your Geiger counter and plug it in: In Mr. Weinstein’s own words, emailing us from another writer’s event, this one in Iceland (at this time of year, land of the midnight sun), he describes his Martha’s Vineyard conference as the following:
“We invite awardwinning authors and poets, literary journal editors, and university creative writing faculty from around the country to lead craft workshops, work one-on-one with individuals, and provide the necessary tips and tools for editing and publishing.”
Groups will be kept small, each of the two conferences capped at 30 attendees, not including faculty. In the director’s words, “This allows everyone to get individualized attention on their manuscripts and writing.” The program also encourages poets to take fiction classes and vice versa. “It’s often illuminating and surprising for writers to work outside their genres during the week,” he wrote from Iceland.
Mr. Weinstein is proud of the wide range of ages and abilities in each conference, from undergrads to retired professors, and individuals “taking up the pen” (such a quaint expression) for the first time.
A list of some of the professional writers who’ll arrive to teach: Amelia Martens, author of the book of prose “The Spoons in the Grass Are There to Dig a Moat,” and winner of the Linda Bruckheimer Series in Kentucky Literature, 2014; Sequoia Nagamatsu, author of the Japanese folklore–inspired story collection “Where We Go When All We Were Is Gone”; Kea Wilson, author of “We Eat Our Own”; award-winning poet from Kentucky Britton Shirley; our own Jennifer Tseng, formerly of West Tisbury, now living in Brookline, poet and author of the debut novel “Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness” (Europa); massively published poet Christopher Citro, author of “The Maintenance of the Shimmy-Shammy” (Steel Toe Books); Pushcart prizewinner Allegra Hyde, author of “Of This New World” (University of Iowa Press); and Robert James Russell, author of “Don’t Ask Me to Spell It Out” (WhiskyPaper Press).
I emailed the temporarily Iceland-based Mr. Weinstein this question, “Can outsiders audit any lectures or readings?” to which he replied, “The lectures are for attendees only, however, our evening readings are open to the public.”
Fees for the conference are, admittedly, a little beyond the range of those writers among us who wait tables and detail fancy cars to hold onto a year-round life on Martha’s Vineyard. Without lodging, the week’s tuition is $975; a shared room at Summercamp plus tuition is $1,600; a private room is $1,900. Each year, several fellowships are designated, so mark your calendars to apply for next year’s conference before May 30, 2018.
For more information on this fine program, log onto the website mvicw.com.