Authors Posts by Jack Shea

Jack Shea


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Longtime Vineyard coach Don Herman begins his final season molding a football team, and exceeding expectations.

Head coach Don Herman demonstrates the proper way to block a defender.

Don Herman begins his 28th and final season as head coach of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School football team with a squad long on talent but short on numbers.

“I feel really good about this team. We have very good skill-position players. We just have to work hard to get better every day, and we have to stay healthy,” he said Monday. “We’ve got 24 or 25 varsity players, and we need some of the younger kids to step up and play.”

Mr. Herman said that many of his players will have to play both offense and defense, and that the team needs its 17 underclassmen to spell the veterans. “We run an uptempo offense, and it’s hard to be uptempo when you are on the field for 80 plays in a row,” he said.

Freshman Ivan Shepard prepares to pass the ball.
Freshman Ivan Shepard prepares to pass the ball.

Senior quarterback Tucker McNeely has a quartet of talented backs and receivers, including seniors Jacob Cardoza, Austin Chandler, and Ben Clark, who generated much of the Vineyarder offense in 2014, a comeback season in which the 5-5 Vineyarders won four of their last five games, including the coveted Island Cup over a favored Nantucket squad.

The kicking game can be sketchy in high school, but wide receiver James Sashin doubled as punter and kicker last season with some excellent results that appeared to translate to the next level.

“James has some work to do, but he can be a very good one, no question,” Mr. Herman said.

Last weekend, the Vineyarders participated in a quad scrimmage with Hull, Bristol-Plymouth, and South Shore vocational high schools.

The Martha's Vineyard varsity football team ran through drills on Monday evening in preparation for the upcoming season.
The Martha’s Vineyard varsity football team ran through drills on Monday evening in preparation for the upcoming season.

“I liked what I saw. We competed well and did some good things, particularly on offense. The question marks are on defense,” he said noting that the line is anchored by brothers Andy and Jimmy DiMattia, 2014 stalwarts who bring a combined 500 pounds to the line of scrimmage.

Big-man juniors Luke DeBettencourt and Pete Foster also figure to be two-way players, based on their sophomore season contributions, and Mr. Herman is looking to senior Crockett Cataloni, juniors Wilson Redfield and Andrei Bernier, and sophomore Curtis Fournier to help out on both the offensive and defensive lines.

Mr. Herman said the Vineyarder offense will be familiar to fans, using spread formations in an uptempo offense that served the team well, particularly in the Island Cup game last year against a bigger Nantucket squad.

Any surprises this year?

“Well, I have no reason to hold anything back,“ the coach chuckled.

Mr. Herman turned serious on the subject of Regional High School student participation in its athletic programs. “Our [football] numbers are very low. We have 42 kids total in varsity and junior varsity, the lowest number in more than 20 years,” he said.

Quarterback Tucker McNeely throws a pass to Jacob Cardoza.
Quarterback Tucker McNeely throws a pass to Jacob Cardoza.

“I don’t know if it’s a kid problem or a parent problem, but I firmly believe that, on balance, the benefits of participation in athletics outweigh the negatives. I sense that a successful football team helps the entire school year to begin well,” he said.

Mr. Herman added that he has seen a cyclical, bell-curve effect in participation. “When I first got here, our numbers were really low, then peaked at 75-85 players in the early 2000 seasons. They have been declining for the past seven years,” he said, noting that the low numbers seem to be an Island problem.

“At last weekend’s scrimmages, our opponents had big numbers. In fact, the Hull coaches told me they had such a turnout that they had to borrow helmets from other schools,” he said.

Mr. Herman’s views are based on a lot of football experience. The Savannah, Ga., native played linebacker at the Division 1 state champion Benedictine Cadets before playing baseball at what is now called Armstrong Atlantic University in Savannah. He began coaching high school football after graduation, and has 35 years of head-coaching experience, including his 28 years on-Island.

The Vineyarders will play another four-team scrimmage and a Saturday home scrimmage at noon against a Georgetown High School team coached by former Vineyarder Eric McCarthy, as the Vineyarders prepare for the season opener on Friday, Sept. 11, at 6:30 pm at McCarthy Field against the Carver High School crusaders.

“Three of our first four games are at home. We’re hoping that September will be kind and we’ll get off to a good start,” he said.

Massachusetts high schools complete their league play (Eastern Athletic Conference for the Vineyarders) early in the season, and the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association schedules the next three games as part of its playoff scheme.

The 2015 league schedule includes Bourne, Coyle & Cassidy, Bishop Feehan, Bishop Stang, and Somerset. The Vineyarders play their annual homecoming game on Friday, Oct. 16, against Brighton High School at 6:30 pm. The Island Cup game will be played Nov. 21 on Nantucket at 1:30 pm.

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Danny Glover is not who we think he is.

Danny Glover spoke on racial justice at the Harbor View on Monday. – Photo courtesy Black Robin Media

The popular actor, 69, is best known for his roles in action thrillers and Hollywood dramas. He also lives an alternative life as a “quasi-historian” on racial and social history and as an activist, putting his knowledge into boots-on-the-ground efforts to affect change in places from Mississippi to Haiti.

Mr. Glover talked with The Times on Monday afternoon following his appearance as a panelist at “Changing the Script: Media, Culture, and Black Lives” held at the Harbor View Hotel. He imparts no sense of ego about his success or his activist work, which includes working with employees at a Nissan plant in Mississippi, the giant automakers’ only nonunion plant in the world.

We asked him about the new form of civil rights initiatives discussed at the afternoon panel.

“There’s no question that this is an important period in our social history, but think about it. The last century in America has had significant focus on social change. Post–World War I, we entered a period of social and racial change, and an attitude of fear about the IWW [International Workers of the World] and the Red Scare, related to fears about anarchists. The time of Eugene Debs and W.E.B. Du Bois as social change leaders … From that period we went almost immediately into the civil rights movement, so the past 100 years has been a period of constant change,” said Mr. Glover.

Mr. Glover lived the 1960s period of social and racial unrest and its prevailing uneasiness, and he sees points of comparison and contrast with racial activism today. “There were as many different perspectives as there are today, from Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown at SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee] to Martin Luther King’s message. But the leaders then spent hours face to face, talking, planning, strategizing. That is not available today. People communicate differently, electronically,” he said, indicating that the nuance value of face-to-face conversation has diminished.

“From a media standpoint in the Sixties and Seventies, we had the big story of the day, the Walter Cronkite moments in which the big news was heard the same way by everybody. Not so today,” said Mr. Glover. Indeed. On an Island currently chockablock with media, The Times was the only outlet to attend an event featuring high-profile players in the biggest news story of the year.

If you live long enough and pay attention, as Mr. Glover clearly has, there seems to be a centering wisdom, a déjà vu sense of the world, that evolves. “What is happening in Mississippi at that plant today is similar to the effect of America’s deindustrialization on a whole generation, many of them black, who had well-paying but low-skill jobs in Detroit auto plants,” he said.

Mr. Glover is clearly energized by the work done by this generation of activists. He is a seemingly indefatigable man, who commuted from Florida on Monday morning for the Island conference, and was preparing for an early-morning flight to California on Tuesday.

He uses his role as a famous actor to advance projects that push forward the black narrative, particularly citing his research on the Haitian freedom fight and the involvement of black Americans in John Brown’s raid on the Harper’s Ferry arsenal.

A somewhat disruptive vignette occurred during the interview and photo op session at Monday’s panel, and appeared as a telling tale that describes the value of Mr. Glover and, frankly, describes the work needed in our often uncivil society.

An ill-mannered white woman bulled into the interview and photo area, breathlessly announcing to Mr. Glover and an astounded gathering that her friends, who were having a drink inside, “would love to meet you and say hello,” adding triumphantly that “they are all attorneys,” certain that bit of news would seal the deal. The woman, who showed no evidence of mental impairment, clearly expected Mr. Glover, who had a bemused expression, to go with her to meet her idling pals.

He did, and returned in five minutes, resuming his work without a word about the incident. Wisdom, evidently, also breeds patience.

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The comedian returns home to the Island, and to the YMCA for some laughs.

Charlie Nadler performs at the Broadway Comedy Club as part of the Laughing Devil Comedy Festival. Photo courtesy Charlie Nadler

Island-grown comedian Charlie Nadler will headline “Charlie Nadler and Friends,” a four-part comedy night on Saturday, August 22, at Alex’s Place at the Martha’s Vineyard YMCA.

Mr. Nadler will be preceded at the mic by improv group the IMPostors, as well as comedians Cord Bailey, and Devin Gati. It is recommended to buy tickets ahead of time, as Mr. Nadler also performed here last summer to a sold-out house at Alex’s Place.

Mr. Nadler, a 2002 graduate of Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, has been busy, and bicoastal, for the past few years. After graduating from Boston University in 2006, Mr. Nadler worked in Los Angeles for Rob Reiner’s movie production company while he wrote screenplays at night and dabbled in comedy at open mics around the city.

He relocated to New York City nearly two years ago with his girlfriend, Cary Kandel. While he continues with a day job, he has completed a screenplay and is becoming an increasingly hot ticket in the funny business. Mr. Nadler was a finalist in the Laughing Devil Comedy Festival in New York City, and was one of 30 comics from around the U.S. selected to perform at the Orlando Indie Comedy Fest. He does standup in clubs around New York City, and has worked at the famous Canadian comedy chain Yuk Yuk’s in Toronto.

We caught up with Mr. Nadler last week by phone from his apartment in Astoria, Queens, where he lives with Ms. Kandel and Miso, a cat of undetermined age and origins.

“We adopted her from under a car and named her Miso because Cary was carrying a container of miso when we found her,” he said.

Mr. Nadler is now in his early 30s, a fully-developed, intelligent man who sees life in terms of whimsy and funny. Think about it. Who names a cat after a bag of food? He does not seem to be needy or an f-bombing shock comic. In my generation, he would be sort of Mort Sahl meets Jack Paar.


Q: You’ve got some great creds in the past year.

A: Well, you know, that is very validating in a business in which validation can be hard to come by. It represents progress to me.


Q: Where do you get your material?

A: I always try to have it come from a conversational place. Happenings in my life, things I overhear. Riding the subway is great for that, friends telling stories about their lives. Just being present. A benefit of coming later to comedy means I have a backlog of experiences.


Q: How do you keep it fresh?

A: Life is constantly changing, so new material gets created. I find I’m doing a lot of retrospective this year. I keep it pretty personal. A lot of comedy works the same threads — men do this, women do that, white people do this. I want to avoid the potential that it’s already been done.


Q: Who’s funny to you today?

A: Louis C.K. is funny. John Mulaney is smart and funny. So is Bill Burr, a Boston guy and politically incorrect.


Q: Speaking of political correctness, will you be doing any Donald Trump material?

A: How can you not? He forces you to. He’s attacking political correctness, but he’d do better if he could do it without the anger. If he said some of this stuff to Putin [Russia’s president], we’d get nuked.


Q: Last week a panelist at the Writing for Laughs panel at Islander’s Write said one of the shifts in comedy is that comedians used to make fun of themselves. Now they make fun of others. Your view?

A: I think there are two sides to that argument. In Jack Benny’s day, the pool was smaller, and there were fewer distribution outlets for comedy. Now, Amy Schumer, for example, is self-deprecating and very successful. Humor is delivered in shorter forms today; there’s no time to build a character, so ideas become the character.


Q: You come from a comedic gene pool. Your dad, Marty Nadler, has written comedy (long-run sitcoms and movies) and performed comedy. Your mom, Holly Nadler, is a successful author and a funny writer (including at The Times). Did they influence your comedy career turn?

A: I grew up watching my dad working in the business. He never expected me to do [comedy], and he never cautioned me against it. They have been 100 percent supportive even when the work wasn’t very good. You know, there’s a lot of rejection in this business, and a low probability of success. I got from them that you always have to be ready to be successful even if that’s not true at the time.


Q: What can people expect on Saturday?

A: Well, all new material for one thing. I won’t do anything I used last year. This is a family-oriented show, PG-13, so I’ll be aware of that. Since I’m doing a lot of retrospective, there will be references that Island people will get, one of the reasons I love working Alex’s Place. A major theme of my material this year is past, present, and future, looking at my past missteps, poking fun at the world we live in now, and hypothesizing how life might change.


“Charlie Nadler and Friends,” August 22 at 8 pm, Alex’s Place at the YMCA. Tickets are $12 online and $15 at the door. Open to the public, rated PG-13, as part of the YMCA Summer Concert Series. Proceeds will help Alex’s Place off-season creative arts programs. Advance tickets are recommended, and are available at or at the door, depending on availability.


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Linda Fairstein’s latest Alex Cooper read gets personal.

Linda Fairstein recently published her 17th Alex Cooper crime thriller. Photo courtesy of Facebook

“Devil’s Bridge” by Linda Fairstein. Published by Dutton, New York, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Paperback, 384 pages, $28. Now available at Bunch of Grapes bookstore in Vineyard Haven, Edgartown Books, and at Island libraries.

devils bridge.jpgAlexandra Cooper, assistant district attorney for New York City and head of its sex crimes unit, has been in some real jams as the protagonist of Linda Fairstein’s previous 16 Alex Cooper crime thrillers, but there are some serious new twists in this one.

For one, she and NYPD detective Mike Chapman have finally, finally, hooked up after a decade of circling each other romantically, to the everlasting frustration of the series’ readers. I mean, you can understand it. Alex “Coop” Cooper is a product of America’s loftiest schools and a trust-funder, albeit one who picked a job with lots of dangerous heavy lifting. Mike is an Irish-American guy from the boroughs, the son of a hero cop. Mike graduated from Fordham University, but he’s a New York street kid and a cop at heart. Both characteristics are crucial elements for the “Devil’s Bridge” plot line.

The series is reality-based in an improbable way, plus it’s set in New York City, an endlessly fascinating place, which adds to the allure. Ms. Fairstein headed the Manhattan district attorney’s sex crime unit for 26 years, and intimately knows her subject matter. Like her protagonist, Ms. Fairstein is also derived from an upscale New York lifestyle but, improbably, chose to hunt the worst of criminal cretins rather than, say, host charity lunches.

Ms. Fairstein always sets her Alex Cooper novels in a specific Manhattan locale and weaves it into the plot, providing historical background along the way. In “Terminal City,” her novel prior to “Devil’s Bridge,” Ms. Fairstein treats readers to an insane trip to community life under the Grand Central Terminal. It’s just nuts; you can’t make this stuff up. In “Devil’s Bridge,” Ms. Fairstein focuses her attention on the Hudson River, including historic Liberty Island and the George Washington Bridge.

The book’s title has an Island connection as well. The Devil’s Bridge also refers to a series of underwater rock reefs off Aquinnah (formerly known as Gay Head) that has claimed many hulls and lives, most notably the City of Columbus wreck in 1884, drowning more than 100 crew and passengers.

In Ms. Fairstein’s latest thriller, Mike Chapman is reminded of the unrecognized danger of the Devil’s Bridge as he frantically attempts to sort out the late-night abduction of his lover and colleague off an uptown Manhattan street, leaving him, for the first time in the series, to be the main narrator.

Mike’s search takes him to Manhattan’s East Side waterfront, specifically to the site of the Revolutionary War Fort Washington, which huddles under the massive George Washington Bridge.

Now Alex has made a host of enemies in her work, including the ever-endearing Raymond Tanner, a rapist and killer whom Alex had put away. Mr. Tanner found time in his busy prison life to ink “KILL COOP” on his hand to remind him of his life goal.

Mr. Tanner had been on the loose after escaping a psych facility, but he’s been put back behind bars after attempting another attack, this time in Central Park. The trail for Alex’s abductor leads to a perp whose girlfriend has gotten into the DA’s database. It’s a dead end, but does give us another look at Alex’s boss, DA Paul Battaglia, and his fondness for re-election, along with a vaguely familiar personality/preacher who also runs a thriving and very illegal business.

Mike hits paydirt when he comes across the trail of the Westies, a real and renowned gang of killers for hire who formerly resided in the West Side Manhattan neighborhood known as Hell’s Kitchen. The Westies had their heyday in the second half of the 20th century. Mostly of Irish heritage, the Westies reportedly were go-to guys for Mafia-ordained killings. So they were busy.

But you can’t stop progress, and the real estate people got their hooks into Hell’s Kitchen: Urbanization included a name change to Clinton because Hell’s Kitchen sounded, well, icky to folks paying a couple mil for a tenement. (Today, ironically, the name Hell’s Kitchen has cachet, so they’re changing the name back, but the Westie remnants, alas, have relocated to Woodside, Queens.)

Mike eventually figures out the connection, and he’s off and running. Mike, as his sidekick and fellow detective Mercer Wallace notes, has never been much for rules and regs, and this one is personal. He’s off the rails. Terrific stuff.

As you know, we don’t reveal endings here, but there will be another Alex Cooper book. It’s interesting to me to see that the plot lines, tone, and dialogue in the Alex Cooper series have become grittier, and we learn more in each book about how real life works in Gotham.

Danny Glover, Alan Jenkins, and other influencers address how the stories of the black community are told in the media.

From left, Alan Jenkins, Issa Rae, Patrisse Cullors, and Danny Glover speak on a panel Monday afternoon. – Photo by Michael Cummo

On Monday afternoon, a distinguished panel addressed what they described as institutional violence against young black citizens and the galvanized response from the black community and activist groups that has propelled the issue to center stage of the already befuddling 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.

The event, billed as “Changing the Script: Media, Culture and Black Lives,” provided an attentive packed house with some perspective on the fast-paced chain of events from a four-star panel at the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown.  Alan Jenkins, executive director of the Opportunity Agenda (TOA) moderated the two-hour conversation. Panelists included Danny Glover, an actor and humanitarian; Patrisse Cullors, artist and co-founder of Black Lives Matter (BLM); and Issa Rae, an author, producer, and writer with a specialty in social media and web-based communications. The event was co-sponsored by the Open Society Foundation and produced by Black Robin Media (the entire event was videotaped, and will be available at and

The discussion and conversations with participants spotlighted a rapidly changing American societal landscape, in which traditional attitudes and media are no longer the information drivers.

For Ms. Cullors, the BLM agenda is straightforward: to make violence against black youth a central part of the national discussion by disruption of political events. In contrast with her widely broadcasted firebrand presence at presidential political events, Ms. Cullors in person is a thoughtful, reserved, and focused woman who has been involved in protest against racial injustice for half of her 32 years.

In reference to her presence on the dais of an address by Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, Ms. Cullors promised equal opportunity for obstruction for all the candidates. “I have nothing against Bernie Sanders. We are not going after Bernie Sanders, we are going after the people who are systematically killing black Americans,” she told the audience. “We will obstruct every candidate. We shut down Jeb Bush in Las Vegas. Hillary [Clinton] avoided obstruction by limiting access at an event, and [Donald] Trump simply canceled his event [that BLM had targeted],” she said.

Then there was Mr. Jenkins, who in a different life might have been an Ivy League don. He is a polished think tank professional with a goal of changing the cultural conversation around racial justice. A tall order, certainly, but like Mr. Glover and Ms. Rae, who are storytellers in their respective crafts, Mr. Jenkins uses the tools of his trade to advance racial justice. The Opportunity Agenda, which he leads, uses polling, for example, to take the measure and impact of social attitudes about race and justice.

“This is the first presidential election in which the killing of black folks will be a central issue, and it will determine the outcome of the election,” he told The Times before the panel event, noting that concerns about racial justice have erased racial and demographic differences and the stereotypes that surround them. “The [2016 presidential] election will be the first to be determined by people of color, by unmarried women, and by millennials, all of whom have a high level of concern for racial justice,” he said. As an example of stereotypes undergoing debunking today, Mr. Jenkins told the panel audience that white, evangelical Christian millennials are among the demographics most concerned with racial justice.

Mr. Glover is also at work on several projects related to changing the black narrative in America (Read here for an in-depth interview with Mr. Glover). He is developing a movie script about the role of a black man in abolitionist John Brown’s raid on a federal arsenal at Martin’s Ferry in Maryland, a tipping point prior to the Civil War. Meanwhile he’s working on a movie about the late 18th century slave revolution that created a free Republic of Haiti, the only successful slave revolution in history. He is also currently reading a script for a new four-part “Roots” miniseries.

Mr. Glover used the new “Roots” script as an example of the impact of new black narrative. “I was struck by how much this script was informed by [the book and movie] “Twelve Years a Slave,” he said.

“I want it all,” Ms. Rae said of new narratives about black participation in national and international history. “I want to hear all those stories. I’m sick of just seeing the stories of our people being trampled on,” she said.

Much of the discussion and audience exchange related to ways in which people on the margins can affect change. Ms. Rae creates websites about making a difference. Her successful web series, “Misadventures of Awkward Black Girls,” will shoot a television pilot this fall, an example of the need “to take the reins of our own narrative and to circumvent the traditional media industry,” she said.

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The second annual writer’s conference was a memorable day of inspiration.

A packed audience attends the Writing for Laughs panel featuring Nancy Aronie, Fred Barron, Jenny Allen and Arnie Reisman. – Photo by Bella Bennett

The desire to write, and to learn about writing, continues to be a welcome and growing phenomenon here.

As a testament to this fact, several hundred wordsmiths and wannabes packed the Grange Hall in West Tisbury for more than nine hours on Monday at the second Islanders Write (IW) conference, sponsored by Martha’s Vineyard Arts & Ideas magazine and the MVTimes. The event was co-sponsored by the Noepe Center for Literary Arts in Edgartown, Cape and Islands public radio station WCAI (90.1 FM) based in Woods Hole, and Bunch of Grapes Bookstore in Vineyard Haven. Rosewater Market had breakfast treats and sandwiches, while Chilmark Coffee Co. donated coffee to a grateful early-morning crowd.

Attendees took full advantage of eight interactive panels and five workshops designed to provide learnings on the art and the craft of writing, in genres ranging from fiction and screenwriting to writing humor and music. Several of the panels offered informed looks at the strategic and business side of getting published, and every session included a question and answer period that often extended beyond the allotted time, as participants were eager for more.

Justen Ahren of Noepe Center for Literary Arts hosted a workshop on establishing a daily writing practice. – Photo by Bella Bennett
Justen Ahren of Noepe Center for Literary Arts hosted a workshop on establishing a daily writing practice. – Photo by Bella Bennett

The Noepe Center sponsored four workshops, including one with Noepe founder Justin Ahren on establishing a daily writing practice; a session with Niki Patton on her Writers Read project, in which authors read their work aloud to others; and workshops with Susan Klein on organizing and writing memoirs and with author Michael West on finding inspiration.

Attendee Laura Reiter had to take a breather around noon. “Tired? I’m exhausted. There is so much here. I have so many questions,” said Ms. Reiter, who traveled from Falmouth for IW 2015. Fortunately, she was standing by the main hall in which authors and panelists were gathered, talking with attendees and answering questions. About half the authors were signing and selling newly published books.

Inside the hall was Terah Young, an emergency room seasonal intern at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. Ms. Young, a Phoenix, Ariz., native, brought her parents and sister to IW 2015. They watched Ms. Young in an animated conversation with panelist John Sundman, an author and old hand at the intricacies of self-publishing.

Ms. Young’s passion for writing includes an ongoing blog and plans for a book. “I write three times a week, and always on Friday. I call it Fabulous Friday,” she said. Writing is personal for Ms. Young, who is battling ovarian cancer for the second time.

“I want to share and to inform people, and it’s great therapy,” she smiled. “What have I learned? First, I have to get an agent. Second, I need to write every day. This is an amazing opportunity to learn. I’m coming back to the Island next summer, and I’m coming back to this [event],” she said.

Ms. Young’s story offers an insight into the commitment many attendees brought to the event. For some, there is a desire to write a memoir to help themselves and others understand the people and life events that are important to them. Others are committed, finally, to scratching a decades-old writing itch. For the people we talked to, the urge to write is based on a need to communicate and understand, and their attendance at IW was part of the process of obtaining the necessary tools to help them get there.

And the help was there. IW 2015 was all about face-to-face interaction with the professionals. Speechifying and pretension were virtually nonexistent, no mean feat considering the high-powered cast. Panel moderators were in sync with their audiences. (You can find nuggets from each panel session below.)

For example, the opening panel was about self-publishing, long the red-headed stepchild of publishing. But moderator Michael West opened with an intonation of self-published authors: Proust, Hemingway, Twain, Hawthorne — a dozen legendary names who did it, including Stephen King and John Grisham, who have left conventional publishing to do it themselves.

Panelists John Sundman, Katherine Scheidler, and Amy Reece provided a bucketful of tips and resources for self-publishing novices, including the need to manage technology and social platforms and to involve professionals in the making of a book. “Martha’s Vineyard is a mecca for resources,” Ms. Scheidler said. She and Ms. Reece observed that illustrators like Heather Goff, writing coaches like Holly Nadler and website auditor Laurie Jones have sharpened author focus on the creative and business side of publishing. Ms. Scheidler noted that writers must develop an aggressive attitude to nurture their creative foundlings. “Be obnoxious, persistent,” she said.

Panelists agreed that self-publishing online resources have come of age, touting Smashwords, Ibook, Xpress, and Book Architecture as good learning sites. Mr. West recommended a read through “Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook” by Helen Sedwick to understand the business side of publishing. Self-published books can be up and marketed on Amazon in one day, he said, noting that books should always be priced at $2.99 or higher, “You get 70 percent on prices at $2.99 and 30 percent below that,” he said.

Additional publishing nuts-and-bolts advice came from a panel on the business of publishing. Successful agent Rosemary Stimola; Dawn Davis, a vice president at Simon and Schuster and at Random House; and Jamie Raab, CEO of Grand Central Publishing, a Hachette Books imprint; joined A-list author Tony Horwitz to contribute bottom-line advice.

From left, Nancy Aronie, Fred Barron, Jenny Allen and Arnie Reisman kept the audience laughing. – Photo by Bella Bennett
From left, Nancy Aronie, Fred Barron, Jenny Allen and Arnie Reisman kept the audience laughing. – Photo by Bella Bennett

Panels presented distinct and different personalities, nowhere more evident than in the back-to-back sessions on Writing for Laughs and Writing a Screenplay. The humor session was a nonstop hoot, sort of managed by moderator Arnie Reisman, charged with herding madcaps like the New Yorker’s Jenny Allen, Seinfeld executive producer Fred Barron, and Chilmark wag and writing coach Nancy Aronie.

The Writing a Screenplay panel might have been subtitled How to Swim With Sharks, as successful survivors Sarah Kernochan, Lucy Dahl, and Amy Holden Jones joined moderator Lawrence Blume for a primer on navigating the often-shifting sands of Hollywood and television screenwriting. The panelists, particularly Amy Holden Jones, did not pull their punches in describing the cinema noir of screenwriting.

Among the more interesting comparisons between genres are the similarities between writing poetry and writing music. It makes sense when you think about it, but our perceptions are that poets are ascetic and angstful and music writers are hard-drinking public performers. Turns out there’s angst for all in both camps, and their creative methodologies are strikingly similar.

Chilmark resident Connie Williams hadn’t planned to attend IW 2015, but had a eureka moment, and was glad her guest Roz Anderson-Flood talked her into it. Ms. Williams emerged from the Developing Character and Voice panel rhapsodizing about her new knowledge.

“Reading old court documents is a tremendous way to give voices to history,” she said, “a way to approach history in personal terms. I want to hear their voices. The [panel] was like a menu of your favorite desserts, all those tastes and flavors.”

Ms. Williams referred to the comments offered by author and moderator Geraldine Brooks, Nicole Gallant, and LaShonda Katrice Barnett, all writers of historical fiction who use ancient court records and correspondence as a way to bring life to characters from antiquity.

Mr. Ahren’s workshop had doubled in participants from the 2014 event, and he was in awe. “I still can’t get over it. The intensity. How passionate people are about writing. It hasn’t diminished at all from last year,” he said.

A refreshed Ms. Reiter pronounced the event a success, and it seemed the sentiment was shared by many. “It should be two days next year. There’s so much here,” said Ms. Reiter.


A look at the panels

As promised here are some nuggets of wisdom and comments overheard at IW 2015 that may be helpful, cautionary, or amusing. The entries are listed by event topic.



(Panel included John Sundman, Katherine Scheidler, and Amy Reece, moderated by Michael West.)


“Reviews are important. I got one, and outsold Tom Clancy on Amazon (for a few days).” — John Sundman


“Having a dry cellar is important. Your books will live there for years.” — Michael West


“Finding your market is difficult. I wrote a book for middle schoolers, but it was set in the Sixties, and 50-year-olds bought it.” — Amy Reece


“You have to be aggressive and obnoxious. Can’t be discouraged. Take the grains of positivity.” — Katherine Scheidler


“The publishing marketplace tells you how they want to be approached. Find a book like yours, and go to that publisher.” — Amy Reece


Writing Poetry

(Panel included Rich Michelson, Jennifer Tseng, and Donald Nitchie, moderated by Justen Ahren.)


“There is no such thing as writer’s block. Just lower your standards.” — Richard Michelson


“Inspiration finds you when you are working.” — Justen Ahren


“It’s important to get a first line; sometimes that opens up the entire poem for me. I know I have a poem when that happens.” — Don Nitchie


“The beauty and the sadness of the world is always here. We don’t always notice.” — Jennifer Tseng


“When you can’t get started, steal a line from a poem you like. All poets do it because it works.” — several poets


Writing for Laughs

(Panel included Fred Barron, Nancy Aronie, and Jenny Allen, moderated by Arnie Reisman.)


“A lot of things are funny when the stakes are high. Humor and suffering are so very close.” — Jenny Allen


“There’s a connection between humor and tragedy. You have a choice to see it as humorous.” — Arnie Reisman


“If you decide early in life that you are not a victim, [humor] is a way to control fear. Funny is a coping mechanism, not a tool to pull out when you need it.” — Fred Barron


“You can’t teach funny.” — Nancy Aronie


The Business of Publishing

(Panel included Rosemary Stimola, Jamie Raab, and Dawn Davis, moderated by Tony Horwitz.)


“Seventy percent of books that are published lose money.” — Dawn Davis


“I want to know book editors as people. Where they grew up, their hobbies. I know what books they will relate to, who to bring a book to.” — Rosemary Stimola


“[Book marketing] used to be straightforward. Then social media happened. You need to have your ducks in a row before you meet with publishers.” — Jamie Raab


“You need an editor to fight for your book. I find I have to sell a book in-house first. If everyone’s on board, the chances for success are greater.” — Jamie Raab


“You never know what book will overcome you.” — Dawn Davis


“I like the eternal optimism of this group.” — Tony Horwitz


Developing Character and Voice

(Panel included Geraldine Brooks, Nicole Galland, and LaShonda Katrice Bennett.)


“In the end, you have to trust yourself.” — LaShonda Katrice Barnett


“Researching historical fiction is time travel.” — Geraldine Brooks


“It’s like entering a dream state. I loved being in 1894.” — LaShonda Katrice Barnett


“I wanted the Prophet Nathan to be my narrator character. He wasn’t having it.” — Geraldine Brooks


“Writing a novel about your relationship involves managed negotiations.” — Nicole Galland


“I guess I wasn’t that sensitive, or I would have picked a different character.” — Nicole Galland


“The trend is to short books. “Moby Dick” would never be published today.” — LaShonda Katrice Barnett


“Cut the whales!” — Geraldine Brooks


Dialogue Writing Workshop

(Quotes by John Hough Jr.)


“Interior dialogue is important, but never, ever use ‘I can’t believe this is happening to me.”’


“People use contractions in real life, so they belong. Exceptions are foreign speakers, who tend not to use contractions, or for emphasis, as in “I do not know.”’


“Use dialogue tags to identify who’s speaking. You can read an entire page of dialogue and always know who is speaking.”


“Dialogue is supple. It conveys facial expression and body language. ‘I despise you’ requires neither an exclamation point nor a description of a glare or eyes widening.”


“George V. Higgins said, ‘Dialogue IS character.”’


“Watching movies won’t help you write fiction. Actors can convey meaning to words, like Marlon Brando saying “Wow” in “On the Waterfront.” Don’t ever use “wow” in a novel. Ever.”


Writing Lyrics that Sing

(Panel included Jemima James, Willy Mason, and Shawn Barber, moderated by Matthew Siffert.)


“I can’t convince songs to come, but when I write regularly, I’m fully prepared when they show up.” — Willy Mason.


“Music is different, because it can get people up and moving. In church, music raises people to the spiritual realm.” — Jemima James


“Melody and rhythm have a sharper point than novels and poems. We have more tools.” — Shawn Barber


“Happiness and joy can be as good motivators for us as angsty and sad, but we are conditioned to think that sad produces better songs. If I write truthfully, happy is just as fulfilling.” — Matthew Sifford


Censorship, Free Speech, and Journalism

(Panel included Christi Parsons, Jon Randal, and Peter Oberfest, moderated by Lucinda Franks.)


“Since the 1970s, I never was censored. It’s changed in the past 10 years. Some say we live in a post-Constitutional world. In 2007, I wrote a book about my father, a spy in the American OSS during World War II. I was followed and approached by two men in preppy clothes who wanted to talk about my book.” — Lucinda Franks


“I always worked overseas, always dealt with censorship. It was a cat and mouse game. Egypt probably had censorship in Cleopatra’s time. Censorship is a way to keep track of things.” — Jon Randal


“If you get a DUI on Martha’s Vineyard, it will not be kept out of the paper.” — Peter Oberfest

“I don’t think in terms of censorship, but how hard it is to do the job. The hardest thing is to get information out of government. They are image-obsessed on Capitol Hill. Many have staff and PR whose job is to make the boss look good.” — Christi Parsons


“Effectively, the Freedom of Information Act no longer exists.” — Lucinda Franks


“Why are we falling back into antiespionage acts of World War I? Since 9/11, we live in a climate of professional fear. When societies get scared, they do things that aren’t very wise.” — Jon Randal


“Self-censorship becomes an issue when privacy is involved. We don’t compromise children or helpless people. No advertiser or public agency is large enough to pressure us. They just stop talking to us.” — Peter Oberfest

“Many things we worry about today didn’t exist 15 years ago. Newspaper [work] led to reform. I get that’s a quaint idea today.” — Jon Randal

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Teams squared off Saturday in the Island championship.

Bill Elbow attempts to hit his way out of the corner. Photo by Michael Cummo

One of the benefits of being a reporter is the opportunity to test perceptions against reality. Take croquet: not what we think it is, and not as easy as it seems.

Sally Schott, right, and Margo Kingston at the High Low Croquet tournament. Photo by Michael Cummo

We’ve all played it at one time or another, mostly at cookouts and after a few beverages. The game played by accomplished practitioners at the Edgartown Croquet Club championships on Saturday is very different. What I was hoping for was elegant ladies in long sundresses and floppy hats, gents in white duck trousers and boaters. The ladies were elegant and the gents were gentleman, but tennis whites were the order of the day.

And the game they play is an exhausting combination of skill, timing, and strategy. Think chess on grass or billiards on the lawn. Last Saturday the four remaining teams in the ECC doubles tournament squared off in a round-robin format to determine the 2015 winner.

Bill Elbow and Joan Collins won over Bill Blakesly and Susie Herr for the laurels, after eight hours of play.

The club has a playing field by the tennis courts at the Boys and Girls Club of Martha’s Vineyard, and it gets used.

“We have about 25 active members, and they are active,” Jack Schott, a long-term member, said after he and partner Linda Shaw defeated Edie Clark and Norm Mulroney in a tight match. “This field gets used on a daily basis right through winter unless there’s snow on the ground.”

Mr. Schott is a quietly engaging and cerebral man, who is also hell on wheels with the mallet. He traded golf for croquet 34 years ago, has played at high levels in the U.S. and England, and is regarded as a top-level player and referee, according to several of his fellow ECC members.

“I found croquet to be more strategic, more a mental game. It is physically more demanding than golf, and actually requires more strength,” he said.

Mr. Schott’s favorite game was imported from France to England by King Charles II in the 17th century, and has roots extending back to the 14th century in Europe. Croquet has multiple permutations and versions, as you might expect after 600 years of tweaking by countries around the world.

The ECC tourney played the American six-wicket version, in which teams do their best in one-hour, 15-

Margo Kingston lines up her shot. Photo by Michael Cummo
Margo Kingston lines up her shot. Photo by Michael Cummo

minute matches. Players attempt to get through as many wickets as possible, while limiting opponents’ opportunities by striking and deflecting their balls off-course. Players get two extra strokes for passing through a wicket or hitting their partner’s ball. They may also render an opponent’s ball “dead” by striking it. The ball becomes alive and may be played again only when the opponent’s partner strikes it. After several hours of observation, it becomes clear that the rules and strategy for playing croquet are implacable, unavoidable, and impeccably fair.

When top players like Mr. Schott are on, opponents tend to do some thumb-twiddling. “A player like Jack could probably go right around the course by himself, but it’s important to have your partner close to you for best effect,” Mrs. Schott explained.

In short, when both team members score above their handicap, the team’s chances of winning improve.

Underneath the win-win philosophy is an “extraordinarily intense” environment, as Mrs. Schott put it.

Players think their way through the course, always positioning for the next shot, and display a marvelous ability to hit a ball through a wicket that is only 1/16th of an inch wider than the ball.

Mr. Schott went on a 10-minute run on Saturday, deadening both opponents’ balls and moving his ball and his partner’s ball in tandem. In the final, Bill Blakesley made a 90-foot shot through the far wicket to tighten his team’s match, the equivalent of making a court-long three-pointer in basketball.

“No, it’s not the longest I ever made, but it was pretty good. If you hit enough balls, a couple are bound to go through,” Mr. Blakesley chuckled after the match.

Ms. Collins, ECC president, said the club gives lessons to Boys and Girls Club kids on a twice-weekly basis. “I’ve only been playing for three years. My former tennis partner, Edie Blake, got me involved,” she said.

At 90, Edie is one of the stronger players in the league, Ms. Collins said. “She is out here every day, practicing and playing,” she said. Ms. Blake showed on Saturday that she has game, constantly finessing shots and positioning her ball well.

The ECC has been in operation since 1981, and has had several home fields in its 34-year life, finally settling in on a new field constructed by the Town of Edgartown in 2001 at the urging of late Island jurist Woody Tarlow, Mr. Schott said.

“The club was originally called the Edgartown Mallet Club, first organized by Ben Smith at the Point Way Inn in Edgartown. Later it moved to Earl Radford’s property on Chappy, and then in 2001, here at the Boys and Girls Club, thanks to Woody Tarlow’s help. There really wasn’t anything for seniors to do, and this filled the bill,” Mr. Schott said.

While the senior set dominates ECC membership ranks, “members range in age from their 40s to Edie here, who is 90,” Ms. Collins said.

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Policing in England differs greatly from policing in the United States, but common bonds exist.

George Fisher, a former policeman in Oak Bluffs, and Michael Matthews, a British policeman who wrote the book "We Are the Cops: The Real Lives of America's Police." Photo by Michael Cummo

Michael Matthews, a Londoner, and George Fisher, a native of Martha’s Vineyard, know a lot about being cops (from the English phrase “constable on patrol”) and the societies in which they operate.

Mr. Matthews, an English police officer for the past 20 years and author, and Mr. Fisher, an Oak Bluffs officer and former police chief who retired after 35 years in 2011, have compared notes often about policing over the course of their 12-year friendship, with a focus on the U.S. gun culture.

Mr. Matthews, 41, is married and lives in London, England. He is a constable with the Metropolitan Police Service of London (the Met). On his U.S. visits, he talks and rides with cops in small towns and big cities from Oak Bluffs to Detroit, New York, an Alaskan outpost and L.A.

He has written a book, “We Are The Cops: The Real Lives of America’s Police,” published by

Mr. Matthews spoke to policeman all over the United States. Photo courtesy of Michael Matthews
Mr. Matthews spoke to policeman all over the United States. Photo courtesy of Michael Matthews, London, U.K.

Both men talked with The Times recently on a sunny Friday morning at Mr. Fisher’s Edgartown home. No surprise the chat became a heavy lifter, given the continuing spotlight on American police and race relations following highly reported police-related shootings in Maryland, Missouri, and Oklahoma, as well as the recent arrest and alleged suicide of Sandra Bland following a traffic stop in Texas.

Mr. Matthews has spent more than a decade investigating why American civilians and cops shoot each other at a rate 70 times greater than the rest of the First World combined, whether there is a better way to police in America, and how cops fit and don’t fit into our violent American culture.

“Without question, social media, including police dashcams, has been the biggest change,” he said.

Both men smile easily and listen intently, and their eyes always pay attention, as cops do. Mr. Matthews is the son of a London bobby, went to university for a year, then took the cop’s exam and went out on the street, a bobby with a billy club but no gun. He works out of the Met police station in Scotland Yard.

“It’s got this international reputation, but it’s the London Met police headquarters building, and a lot of detective bureaus are based there,” Mr. Matthews said.

“Last year, not one English cop was shot to death in London or anywhere else in the U.K.,” he said. “In the U.S., 126 cops were killed last year, 47 by gunshot.”

More than 30,000 Americans died of gunshot last year, about the same number as died on our highways. The majority of shooting deaths in America are suicides, self-inflicted gunshot wounds, according to national statistical reporting. Depending on whose numbers you believe, police officers shot and killed between 400 and 800 individuals.

Mr. Matthews said his fascination with America’s gun culture and its cops began with a diet of U.S. cop shows as a kid, and led to a self-directed study that began, he said, with then Sergeant George Fisher and a visit to the Oak Bluffs Police Department.

“I was visiting Martha’s Vineyard and dropped into the police station, met George, and we became friends,” Mr. Matthews recalled.

Impact of guns

Mr. Matthews and Mr. Fisher talked about the impact of societal changes and values on policing from London to Detroit and in Oak Bluffs.

“Social media is the difference today,” Mr. Matthews said. “Policing has not changed. Cops don’t behave differently. Social media provides a look at behavior that was OK before and is now under scrutiny. And young people seem happy to challenge police now. That was not so a dozen years ago.”

“Guns, without a doubt, are the biggest difference between U.S. and U.K. policing models. Only six or seven thousand of Britain’s 130,000 cops carry guns. We have gangs just as you do, but they are not armed to the teeth with paramilitary weapons, as they are in the States,” Mr. Matthews said.

An estimated 1,150,000 Americans are gang members, according to 2014 statistics. Sworn municipal police officers in the United States totaled 809,000 in 2008, according to a U.S. Justice Department census.

“The police here have to be armed with the high-tech weaponry they are facing, including assault rifles,” Mr. Matthews said. “Police officers are people, that’s all. They have families they want to go home to every night, just like everyone else. Disarm the gangs. Take the guns off the street, and the violence will go down.”

Mr. Fisher noted the armament change in just one generation of policing, from revolvers to automatics. “In 1977, when I joined the force, a .38 caliber six-shot revolver was the standard firearm,” he said.

Recently, the Washington Post ran a story on policing that quoted a senior British law enforcement official, who said that British cops “tend to fear getting it wrong and being criticized by a judge. Cops in the U.S. fear getting shot. Those are two very different worlds.”

Indeed. Mr. Matthews said one person in England was shot and killed by police last year. For the past decade, British cops have rarely discharged their weapons, some years not at all.

“Granted, the U.S. population is six times greater than England’s, but the numbers of civilians and police killed here are hundreds of times higher than in England. And that’s not a criticism, it’s a difference in culture,” he said.

His opinions are echoed in his book. “I didn’t want to write a book about funny cop stories,” he told The Times.

Mr. Matthews said the book is intended to be a window, a way of showing what it’s really like to be a cop in the U.S. in their words. His book is nontheoretical, a gritty, often brutal telling of cops’ lives, on and off the job.

In the spotlight

The dynamics of policing reflected in video are ultimately helpful, although it is important to understand agendas, Mr. Matthews said. “The public has a right to challenge police methods,” he said. “This is a democracy. Social media helps to identify bad cops. The problem is whether there is an agenda beyond what the video and social media reports — that is, do we or do we not have all the facts?”

Mr. Matthews does not see a police crisis, but he does think America is going through enormous change. The police haven’t changed; they are using accepted policing standards and methods. “What’s changed is that the public is more liberal, particularly its younger people, and policing style is going to change,” he said.

Mr. Matthews and Mr. Fisher see a different style among younger cops, particularly a willingness to challenge veteran cops. “They challenge us,” Mr. Fisher said. “Older cops are surprised at the reaction of young cops to them.”

Both men are concerned for young cops. “Policing is all about communication, and younger officers come from a generation of texters and electronic communicators,” Mr. Matthews said. “Many don’t communicate well.”

Mr. Fisher agreed. “You need both hands-on and communication skills, but there are young cops who can’t communicate well, and are not prepared to be physical if the situation warrants it,” he said.

Good communication is particularly important for Island policing, Mr. Matthews said. “This may be the greatest place in the world. There’s an underbelly here, like all places, but the public and the police interact. There is a community-policing aspect here, and the balance is spot-on,” he said.

Mr. Fisher said that in many respects, the Island and England share similarities in style. “I’m no in-depth-analysis expert, but I don’t see a lot of contrast between the European policing model and how we operate on this Island,” Mr. Fisher said. “And policing here is different than on the mainland. Cops here are more proactive, more involved in the community, because they live in the community so they’re invested in it. Policing on home turf has its problems, but the benefits outweigh them.

“Cops here have a sense of accountability for what’s going on,” Mr. Fisher said.

He has seen many examples where cops intercept kids heading in the wrong direction. “Later on, they will tell you, ‘You helped me out back then. Best thing that ever happened to me,’” he said.

“You could argue, actually, that guns were more prevalent in this country 50 years ago, but today you have a criminal element that regard life as expendable. They are less cautious about shooting police officers. I would say that gun calls are different today,” Mr. Fisher said.

Mr. Fisher noted that getting perspective is more difficult. “Media coverage plays into it. Coverage is 24/7, compared with 30 minutes in the morning and at night a generation ago. In 1927, if a gunman shot several people in Peoria, the country didn’t get constant coverage for days,” he said.

“The bottom line is that people expect the police to mitigate and resolve, hopefully without violence, but with violence if necessary,” he said.

Asked about whether our Island paradise needs a SWAT team, Mr. Matthews said, “I flew with a deputy sheriff in Alaska by bush plane to a remote town. Nothing going on specifically, but we got a lot of hard stares, and I thought, ‘This cop comes into this environment with a Glock, and backup two hours away?’ Martha’s Vineyard is a wonderful community, but in the case of a major event, you would have to rely on your own resources for a long time,” he said.

Detroit is Mr. Matthews’ favorite police department. “I love how the police in Detroit do their jobs,” Mr. Matthews said. “Such a hard job in such a tough city. They could leave the city, work someplace else, but they don’t. They show up every day.”

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The author tackles a dog-friendly “romcom” in between her historical novels.

Author Nicole Galland's latest novel accounts a couple's love and the dog between them. – Photo by Lynne Adams

“Stepdog,” a novel by Nicole Galland. 391 pages, paperback, $14.99 from William Morrow Paperbacks. Available at Bunch of Grapes bookstore and at Island libraries.

Well. This is different.

Nicole Galland is a dazzler at making Shakespeare understandable through her work in Shakespeare for the Masses. She condenses the plays so they stride right along. I’m grateful not to have to wait two hours for Hamlet to make up his mind.

You may also know that she has written four historical novels of note, to her readers, and thus to Morrow, her big-deal publisher, and that she is a regular contributor to this newspaper.

What no one, including Ms. Galland, knew till now is that she can write a hell of a contemporary comic novel. Its name is “Stepdog,” and it was released this week.

“Stepdog” is a lark about a married couple who own a dog and another man who thinks he owns it. Since there’s a dog in the book, it has serious moments, of course, but mostly it’s a hoot about Sara, an American girl who fires her Irish-born colleague, then marries him. Not the same day, but quickly.

Getting a green card for actor-hubby Irishman Rory O’Connor is a central spin in “Stepdog’s” plot. Now as it happens, Ms. Galland is married to Irish-born actor Billy Meleady, who has trod the boards here and in far-flung places.

It’s also the reason for “Stepdog.” “Really, you have to work with what you’ve got available,” said Ms. Galland.

“Billy’s acting jobs would take us to England for a couple of months or L.A. for awhile. Lots of moving around. And that’s not how I normally work. I like to hunker down and do the research and writing for my [historical novel] work, and that wasn’t possible. They tell you to write what you know, and Billy and Leuco, my dog, are what I knew best. So I wrote about our life together, and then the imagination kicked in and the plot took off from there,” she said.

I’ll get back to the plot, but the backstory is pretty cool. See, publishers are nervous people these days. They like to know they have works on their lists that will pay the rent. Ms. Galland is known as a historical novelist and a rent payer.

“The marketing and PR people know how to sell me as a historical novelist, and they do it well,” she said. So it takes some faith to run with a book that was not in Ms. Galland’s “brand.”

Which, she said, is why she included gratitude to her agent and editor in her Acknowledgments, for supporting her maverick move. “I mean, it can be done. J.K. Rowling did it recently. But I’m not a household name, so their support was important and wonderful,” she said.

So back to the plot. Like Rory, Mr. Meleady was on a visa when they married, and working on obtaining a green card. Green cards offer permanent-resident status if the stars are aligned: i.e., you have steady work, lack of criminal tendencies, that sort of character proof. If you are espoused to a U.S. citizen, you are relatively fast-tracked, in bureaucratic terms.

Spousal is key here. The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) takes great pains to assure itself that these unions are, in fact, real marriages rather than matters of convenience to benefit the spouse whose work-visa clock is ticking down. They check. Diligently.

The way to pass the INS test is to be truly married. Living together, deciding who takes out the trash, and who cooks on which days. You know … married. That also means uprooting to travel to new jobs with the spouse, action that is viewed by the INS, and by normal people, as proof of a loving marriage. Which is what happened with Ms. Galland and with Mr. Meleady, and in turn to Rory and Sara; they were happily ensconced at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, where Rory was hired to fiddle background music appropriate to the masters being viewed by museum tourists. Then the funding ran out.

Rory’s response to his sacking was to kiss his boss. His move surprises him, but not as much as the return kiss he gets. Turns out they’ve been entranced for awhile. Rory and Sara become an item. Now Rory has two problems. First, Cody, an agreeable mutt, lives in the center of Sara’s world. Rory prefers Cody in the periphery, but he mans up and takes responsibility, including daily walks, rain or shine, in the Arnold Arboretum. He bonds with other dog walkers, including, unknowingly, Sara’s former lover, who is obsessed with getting Cody.

The other problem is more ticklish. Rory’s favorite cousin’s widow has agreed to marry him to expedite his green card. Since he’s on tap for a Hollywood series, the green card is an absolute necessity.

His new flame Sara has a better idea. Marry me, she proposes. Rory doesn’t want to mess with their relationship, but Sara is determined. Good thing, because Rory’s considerable skill set does not include attention to detail or voluminous paperwork. Sara’s a fiend for it, though, and fills out the mountain of green card forms. Rory is able to mail them, and they prepare for the cross-country road trip to L.A. for the acting gig.

What happens next is a twisty-turny cross-country chase with memorable characters and events. I will tell you the denouement involves the Grand Canyon.

Ms. Galland is hard at work on her next historical novel, and says she believes “Stepdog” is a one-off.

We’ll see.

Listen to Ms. Galland share her novel-writing experience at Islanders Write on Monday, August 10 at 11am during a panel on “Developing Character and Voice” at the Grange Hall in West Tisbury. She will also read from “Stepdog” at the Aquinnah library on August 27 at 5 pm and at the West Tisbury library on August 29 at 4 pm.

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Lucinda Franks will moderate a panel on censorship, free speech, and journalism at Islanders Write on August 10. MV Times File Photo

Lucinda Franks, a Pulitzer Prizewinner for national reporting and a successful author, brings decades of bigtime, worldwide reporting experience to a panel on censorship at the second Islanders Write symposium next Monday, August 10 at the Grange Hall in West Tisbury.

Sponsored by The Times and Arts & Ideas magazine, the daylong event includes panels, hands-on writing workshops, book signings, and elbow rubbing with fellow writers. The symposium is free, and the doors open at 8 am.

The Times caught up with Ms. Franks last weekend as she prepared to leave her New York City home base for her place in West Tisbury.

Q: You covered domestic terrorism in the 1970s for the New York Times. How does terrorism today differ from the Vietnam antiwar activities of say, the Weathermen?

A: I think the Weatherman, as noxious as the violence was, were working with intellectual hysteria. Their ultimate goal was to stop the [Vietnam] war. Their policy was to blow up only empty buildings. A few members broke off, and they did kill people, but the original Weatherman did not kill.

Today, we have Islamic terrorism that could not be farther away from that. Today’s terrorism does not seem to have a rational political purpose, not one, at least that we can understand in the U.S.  Women [in that culture], for example, are completely stripped of their rights, yet young people, including women, are joining up.

Q: What’s your take on the state of news censorship today?

A: I’ve been thinking about that. I want to talk with the panel organizer and panelists about the direction we should take, but mercifully, we don’t have the British censorship model. When we were covering the Troubles in Northern Ireland, for example, it was easier to get the information published halfway around the world than in England.

Yes, I agree there are different shades and brands of self-censorship in the U.S. today. Whether it’s coming from publications or fear of influential people stepping in, or just the fear of cutbacks in the newspaper business, there seems to be more anxiety [in newsrooms]. It can be subtle, including both liberal and conservative TV and radio outlets who present individuals with opposing views in the worst possible ways, including the quality of sound. On the other hand, papers have gone against government positions.

Q: Tell me about your career as an author, with a novel and two memoirs, one about your father and the latest about your 38-year marriage to Robert Morgenthau, Manhattan district attorney for nearly 35 years?

A: Well, I did the book about my father, “My Father’s Secret War,” after I found evidence that he was a spy for the U.S. during and after World War II, and I pushed and prodded him, getting him to talk, so naturally it became a memoir. I accidentally fell into that.

I love the memoir form, because it’s a way to tell a narrative in a nonfictional way that is pleasant to me. I got tired of being assigned stories, because you want to write about the things you’re interested in. I know my father and my husband as human beings, not as characters.

I approached the book about Bob and me, “Timeless: Love, Morgenthau and Me,” with great trepidation, because while I wanted a portrait of him, the marriage was more important. I did want an honest, authentic view of him and our relationship. He read every draft, and we discussed and negotiated. He was my collaborator. I think we got closer through this book. The intimacy we shared in the process changed our relationship for the better. We are not ships passing in the night, as relationships can become.

Join Lucinda Franks at Islanders Write on Monday, August 10, at 1–2 pm for “Censorship, Free Speech, and Journalism: What Isn’t Reported and Why” at the Grange Hall, West Tisbury. Ms. Franks will moderate a panel that will also include Christi Parsons, Jon Randal, and Peter Oberfest.