Authors Posts by Kelsey Perrett

Kelsey Perrett


Speakers from the Island and afar will converge for the second annual event.

Mykii Blanco will speak about being diagnosed with HIV at TEDx on August 31. Photos courtesy TEDx Martha’s Vineyard

After a successful, sold-out inaugural show last year, TEDx Martha’s Vineyard will return for a second season on August 31 at the Performing Arts Center in Oak Bluffs. The independently organized TED event will include writers, performance artists, chefs, public defenders, and others from across the nation, as well as a few familiar Island faces.

The theme of the 2015 talk is “New Frontiers.” Event organizers Katy Plasse and Maggie Bryan said the broad headline allowed them to pull in a diverse range of speakers, all of whom are “rock stars in their fields,” said Ms. Bryan in an interview with The Times. “It’s going to be interesting having them all bubbling in the same cauldron together.”

“I liked the idea of an event that could have such broad appeal, something that bridged the disparate groups on the Island,” Ms. Plasse said. “TED and TEDx have a unique ability to do that, because the speakers can be so wonderfully varied. How often do you have a transgender urban rapper and a James Beard Humanitarian Awardwinner sharing a stage?”

This year’s talks will follow a new organizational structure, in which two speakers will take on the same topic from a different angle. For instance, Jeffrey Deskovic will speak about the legal system from his experience being wrongly imprisoned, while James Moody will tackle sentencing reform through the eyes of a public defender. Not every speaker has a counterpart, but, Ms. Bryan said, “There’s a lot of overlap.”

“Part of the interest is that although people come from different industries, there’s resonance between their ideas,” Ms. Bryan said. “They are all going to come with a singular idea that relates to what they do, but has a larger impact, a kernel of knowledge that you can take into your own life.”

The event organizers hope the speakers will find common ground enough to collaborate with one another in the future. “We wanted it to be an event where people made friends and connections,” Ms. Bryan said. “The coolest part is witnessing the interactions between speakers.”

“TEDx has something for everyone, and I love the fact that you may come for something in your wheelhouse, but end up falling in love with a talk on a subject you would never have investigated,” Ms. Plasse said. “It instigates happy acts of discovery. It leads people down paths they never would have thought to venture down on their own.”

TEDx will change venues this year, from the intimate Martha’s Vineyard Film Center to the larger Performing Arts Center, in order to accommodate more attendees. “Last year tickets sold out in three weeks, and we had a lot of people who were very vocal in their disappointment about not being able to attend,” Ms. Plasse said. “This year, by holding the event at the PAC, we are able to open up the event to a much larger audience. This means a lot to me, because inclusivity was one of the founding principles of the event.”

Ms. Bryan said hosting TEDx at the Performing Arts Center will also alleviate some of the technical issues experienced last year, like the complex filming and production procedures mandated by the TED brand. The venue also allows more space for stage design, which Ms. Bryan said will follow an “astrology theme,” complete with images from the Hubble telescope, to further support the theme of “New Frontiers.”

The varied TEDx support team has also grown this year to include more Islanders who were involved peripherally in the past, such as Phil DaRosa of the Print Shop, and Christian Thornton of Atria, who will manage set design. “We are building a team for the future,” Ms. Bryan said.

Both Ms. Bryan and Ms. Plasse said one of their biggest successes from last year was the involvement of the Martha’s Vineyard community. Local figures like Geraldine Brooks introduced guest speakers, and others like Justin Ahren of Noepe Center for Literary Arts performed original work. This year, the organizers made an effort to include more locals in the lineup and in the organization of the event, facilitating more connections with the speakers, whether they held Island ties or not.

“We brought TEDx to the Island because we wanted to introduce these rock stars to the Vineyard and bring their ideas to the community,” Ms. Bryan said. The hope is that a bit of cross-pollination between the Island and the mainland will germinate a few more of TED’s legendary “Ideas Worth Spreading.”

The lineup to date is as follows:

  • JiaJia Fei: Associate director, digital marketing, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, on “Art in the Age of Instagram.”
  • Antwaun Sargent: Freelance writer, on “#blackartmatters: Art and the #blacklivesmatter Revolution.”
  • Mykki Blanco: Poet and performance artist, on “coming out as HIV-positive.”
  • Dean Bragonier: Founder and executive dyslexic, NoticeAbility Inc., on “You Should Hire me: I’m Dyslexic!”
  • Asha Gomez: Chef and entrepreneur, on “Ending Hunger in Our Lifetime.”
  • Jeffrey Deskovic: Executive director of the Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation for Justice, on “Wrongful Conviction.”
  • Michel Nischan: Chef, author, and food-equity advocate, on “Food Equity.”
  • James Moody: Former public defender, State of Florida, on “Sentencing Reform.”
  • Michael Shellenberger: President, Breakthrough Institute, on “GMOs and Food Security.”
  • Eugene Berardi: Managing partner, Windward Catalyst, on “Collaborative Approaches to Critical Thinking: Solving New York City’s Maple Syrup Problem.”
  • Julie Anne McNary: Executive director, Permanent Endowment for Martha’s Vineyard

For more information and tickets for TEDx Martha’s Vineyard, visit Tickets can be purchased through the website, starting at $75.



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A Martha’s Vineyard travel writing expert will teach a workshop at Noepe Center for Literary Arts this August.

Perry Garfinkel at the famous Jaipur Observatory in Rajasthan. Photo courtesy of Perry Garfinkel

Perry Garfinkel had writer’s block. His editor confirmed what he already knew: His draft was crap. It lacked tone and structure. And what else was there besides tone and structure? Under the weight of the deadline, 160 hours of tape recordings, and a shelf of reference books, Mr. Garfinkel collapsed into the fetal position.

Later, chatting with friends (writer’s block welcomes distractions), Mr. Garfinkel mined some valuable advice. “What if we met at a cocktail party, and I asked you what was the most important lesson you learned?” one friend asked. “Start with something familiar,” said another. “Take them in through a door they recognize, and from there you can lead them into more esoteric rooms.”

Mr. Garfinkel returned to his home in West Tisbury to sleep on it. An idea for a lead jolted him awake at 3 am. Before the inspiration could fade into the dark, he turned on the light, brewed a pot of coffee, and cranked out another draft by noon.

This time, his editor wrote back only one word: “Wow.”

That draft became the crown jewel of Mr. Garfinkel’s writing career: a story on the history of the Buddha and the migration of Buddhism around the world. National Geographic featured it as a cover, and it went on to become the national-bestselling book “Buddha or Bust.”

The success cemented his literary reputation: Perry Garfinkel knew a thing or two about travel writing. In fact, he’d already written a book, “Travel Writing for Profit and Pleasure,” which Arthur Frommer (founder of the popular Frommer’s series of travel guides) called “the definitive work in the field.” Mr. Garfinkel has blogged for the Huffington Post, and is a longtime contributor to The New York Times.

He also headed the Features department of the Martha’s Vineyard Times for a spell before moving to California, where he now resides. He says it’s a “dream come true” to return to Martha’s Vineyard to teach a travel writing workshop at the Noepe Center for Literary Arts later this month. Mr. Garfinkel caught up with The Times to discuss the art of travel writing.

Why do you like to write about the Vineyard?

Perry Garfinkel  enjoys a mud bath in Calistoga, Calif. Photo courtesy of Perry Garfinkel
Perry Garfinkel enjoys a mud bath in Calistoga, Calif. Photo courtesy of Perry Garfinkel

I write about the year-round Islanders, not your typical subjects like the president or celebrities. You can find a fascinating person when you turn over any rock. One of my first pieces for the NYT Vocations column was about Barbara Ronchetti of Island Alpaca. She’s typical of the people I like to write about.

What is your teaching experience?

I started teaching writing workshops, I confess, before I knew how to write well. I learned how to write better by teaching, because I had to go back and analyze why I was doing what I was doing. When I moved to San Francisco, I came up with this idea of teaching travel writing, which was not widely thought of at the time. That class turned into “Travel Writing for Profit and Pleasure.” I continued teaching daylong workshops through continuing education programs, and now through hotels.

What is your proudest travel writing work? Why?

The [aforementioned] piece on Buddhism for National Geographic. They sent me around the world for 10 weeks. As a travel writer, the hard part was organizing the trip; there were no international cell phones at the time. I remember being in Hong Kong trying to call my translator in Beijing on a pay phone using coins, and I didn’t even know what the coins were.

What kinds of things have changed in the travel writing world since “Travel Writing for Profit and Pleasure” came out in 1988?

The whole landscape has changed because of the Internet: the way research and transmission is done, where you can write, who you can write for. You can blog for yourself, which has created a lot of niche bloggers. How it’s changed the quality of writing … there’s pros and cons. Good editors help you write better. Without that, there can be a lot of dreck.

What are some of the other challenges facing travel writers today?

One of the challenges is how to get paid well. Internet-based publications pay less. It’s hard to make a living, or even freelance. It’s hard to get accommodations covered … in the past it was much more generous. When a publication downsizes, often its editors turn around and freelance. So you may be competing with longtime staff. Also, there’s not a place in the world no one has gone. It’s hard to discover undiscovered islands these days.

Do you think about your story as you travel, or reflect on it later?

I’m thinking about it 24/7. I research before I go, I make contact with people I’m going to interview, I map out the trip, and leave space for serendipity (which often leads to the better story). On location, my journalist cap is always on, even when I think it’s not. Half of you has to be in it and forget you’re working, because you want your heart and soul to be in it experientially. The other part of you has to pull back and be analytical as a journalist. I get to live the experience twice; the second time is when I burrow in and write.

Some people might think their life or their travels aren’t interesting enough to write stories about. What would you say to that?

I don’t encourage first-person stories, they’re the hardest to do. The objectivity to write about yourself is not well honed in the neophyte, and at the end of the day, you’re not that interesting. A good travel story is not about you, it’s about the place.

Can Islanders take this workshop? How do you “travel write” about where you live?

One of the things I recommend to starters is to get assignments in your areas of expertise. You have a better sense and can write with more credibility than anyone else when you write about a place you know.

What about visitors? How do you write about a place you’ve never been?

We’re going to use the Vineyard as a template on how to write a great story. They can take that template and apply it to where they’re from or where they want to go.

What else will you teach?

Coming to the Vineyard is sort of a palette. We’ll go out on assignment to places I know, and have people I love come and do mock interviews.

Why should a beginner take this course? Why should an experienced writer?

The mix of the class is often greater than sum of parts. Beginners sometimes have fresh eyes and see things that the more experienced person doesn’t. The story I tell resonates across the board, so the material stands the test of time and experience levels.

You often request that participants in your workshops send a postcard from abroad or their backyard. Have you gotten any cool postcards?

Oh yeah, all the time. People like to stay connected; the experience I share creates a bond. Sometimes the participants want to continue meeting on their own. For me as a teacher, it’s important to give a homework assignment. This one is easy to follow through and fun.

“Travel Writing Workshop with Perry Garfinkel”: August 30 through September 5, Noepe Center for the Literary Arts, Edgartown. $1,595 includes a Sunday-evening introductory reception, five days of travel writing workshops, and six nights of accommodations at Noepe Center. The cost of workshop without accommodations is $495. For more information or to register, visit

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Impressionist painter Bill McLane makes a nod to the great painters of old, and champions future generations.

"Barn By The Sea," oil on canvas 8 x 10 inches. – Art by Bill McLane

Sometimes artists have to step back for a moment to regain perspective. Vineyard painter Bill McLane had to step way back — all the way to California, actually, and for 15 years — before the artistic inspiration he found on the Vineyard regenerated itself. The hiatus ended this summer, when Mr. McLane, newly returned to the East Coast, opened a show of Vineyard work at the Edgartown Gallery.

Mr. McLane, who had been painting on the Vineyard since 1993, said he needed a different view when he moved to California all those years ago. As the years rolled on, though, he found himself missing his favorite subject matter back East. “Oysters, sailboats, farm equipment — those are the things I’m interested in,” Mr. McLane told The Times. “I want to paint the New England south coast. I want to get as much done as I can before I die.”

In part it was the history of the East Coast that drew Mr. McLane back; not just the ancient cliff faces and the dilapidated barns, but the stories behind each of them. It’s those stories Mr. McLane tries to capture in his paintings. “I love knowing a barn is 300 years old and trying to paint that. My paintings have a history, just like I do.”

Mr. McLane’s history as a painter started when he was a young boy, though he says he made a decision to stick with it seriously around the age of 16. “I don’t think many pursued art after a certain age; there wasn’t much room for artists in the system we were in,” Mr. McLane said. “I’m still trying to find out the place for artists in our culture. But as a child I just kept going. I don’t know if that’s a form of mental illness.”

Mr. McLane coped with some of that societal pushback by jumping the pond to Europe, where he studied the techniques of the old masters. Those techniques, along with those of his beloved American impressionists, can still be seen in Mr. McLane’s work.

“It’s not modern, what I do,” Mr. McLane said. “I paint traditionally; I’m not trying to innovate.” Over the years, Mr. McLane says his work has definitely evolved, though not in the stylistic way one might think. “I think I have more sensitivity now toward the things I’m painting, to the intangible qualities,” Mr. McLane said. “The thing about making a painting is if it’s good, it stands alone in its own time and space. That’s a wonderful thing for a painter to explore. It opens possibilities.”

Mr. McLane’s philosophy is an interesting one in a tourist location that lends itself to gimmicky art. “There are things I never got to paint, like Illumination Night, the lighthouses. How many thousands of times have they been painted? It’s not the lighthouses’ fault, it’s the way you approach it. You have to reinvent.”

Although there are certain subjects Mr. McLane has veered away from, he’s still managed to paint a lot of the Vineyard’s 100 square miles. “I like to paint where man meets nature,” McLane said, which explains his affinity for subjects like barns rising from a grassy field, or fences buried within a dune. “I like to use a limited palette and look for the contrast where geometric shapes leave the organic shapes. The opposites make the painting more dynamic.”

Thanks to his longtime friendship with renowned painter Allen Whiting, Mr. McLane says he has learned to seek out locations he never would have thought of, like the Coca-Cola River on Lambert’s Cove Beach. According to Mr. McLane, Mr. Whiting first took a liking to his work after a show at the Chickamoo Gallery in the late ’90s. The next day, Mr. McLane was walking to Owen Park when Mr. Whiting pulled up and asked if he could join. For several years after, the men painted together almost daily. Now, some of Mr. McLane’s most memorable artistic moments are painting with Mr. Whiting in extreme conditions: from below-zero weather in Menemsha to a hot North Shore fog in August.

Mr. Whiting was one of many artists in a pool of inspirational figures Mr. McLane has found on-Island. That intimate community was another factor that eventually drove him back East. “In Sacramento there was a larger community, but not as strong,” McLane said. “Here, it’s like cross-pollination. There’s a healthy mix of ideas, and it permeates.”

Mr. McLane says there have been a lot of changes since he first moved away: the roundabout, the renovations to the hospital, the drawbridge. But the artistic community, he says, has grown stronger: “I find it so incredible that there are young people who wish to be painters. It’s such a dinosaur trade, but I’m so excited that these young people are learning and carrying on the tradition.”


See Bill McLane’s work at the Edgartown Art Gallery,19 South Summer Street, Edgartown. The gallery is generally open daily from 11 am to 7 pm. For more information or an appointment, call 508-332-8336 or visit


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From her Island roots to her success as a YouTube sensation, Dana Williams’ young career points toward a promising future.

Dana Williams grew up on the Island, and was a finalist on the ABC television show “Rising Star” last year. – Photo by Martha Galvan

In the Internet wasteland of YouTube covers, it takes a brave voice to cover the music of Stevie Nicks and remain in the spotlight long enough to tell the tale. But big-name acts never scared singer-songwriter Dana Williams. When she wasn’t attending class at the Tisbury School, she practically grew up in concert venues, while her father, the late David Williams, toured with the likes of Michael Jackson and Madonna.

Ms. Williams took the stage herself in the fourth grade, performing behind Jay-Z in the chorus of “Hard Knock Life” (sampled from the score of “Annie”). “I always wanted to be on Broadway, and I loved ‘Annie,’ so I was really excited because I already knew all the words,” Ms. Williams said.

It wasn’t long before Ms. Williams took up the guitar, inspired by the songs she wrote with her father. “He would play a guitar part, and I’d write little melodies and lyrics over it,” Ms. Williams said. “He taught me a lot about musical structure.”

Now 25, Ms. Williams has come into her own as a musician, writing music, playing venues around her base city of Los Angeles, and lighting up the Internet with viral videos like her cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.” Her first EP, “The Lonely One,” dropped in March 2014, and her second is planned for September.

Most recently she performed at last weekend’s Martha’s Vineyard Sound Festival, and on Friday she’ll grace the stage at Alex’s Place at the YMCA as part of its summer music series.

With a voice that is at once bright and sultry, Ms. Williams emulates her childhood heroes Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. Her songwriting, however, leans more in the direction of folk idols like Carole King. The result is a fusion of classic genres that Ms. Williams describes as “kind of a soulful, jazzy folk music.”

All these years Ms. Williams has been singing, the world has been listening. Last August, Ms. Williams was a finalist on the ABC television show “Rising Star.” “It was really intense,” Ms. Williams said. “But a great learning experience, and a lot of fun spending the summer performing for the whole country.” Was it stressful having a panel of superstars judge every performance? Sure, Ms. Williams said, but not as stressful as knowing any mistakes you made in a live performance would live forever online. “As an artist, you’re always going to be judged for anything you do,” she said. “The important part is to keep working hard and not give up.”

Ms. Williams may not have walked away with the “Rising Star” title, but she certainly made her voice heard. Last holiday season, she worked with legendary producer T Bone Burnett on an Apple commercial called “The Song,” which would have melted the Grinch’s heart if the Whos had failed. “He [Mr. Burnett] is so encouraging, it makes you feel confident about the work, because he’s been doing it for so long,” Ms. Williams said. “It reminds you that there’s no one way to do something.”

Singer-songwriter Dana Williams performs at Alex's Place this Friday. – Photo by Raul Romo
Singer-songwriter Dana Williams performs at Alex’s Place this Friday. – Photo by Richard Corman

It’s clear from Ms. Williams’ career that she hasn’t taken one definite path with her musical style. She’s sung the hooks on hip-hop tracks with Freddie Gibbs, and penned heartfelt ballads like “Keep Me Waiting,” which was featured in the 2014 Oscar-winning film “Whiplash.”

A quick visit to Ms. Williams’ YouTube channel unearths a goldmine of cover songs, many of which feature her old schoolmate, singer-actress Leighton Meester of “Gossip Girl” fame. After graduating from college, Ms. Williams said the friends “realized we had similar musical sensibilities, and [Ms. Meester] took me under her wing on tour.” It was Ms. Meester who suggested the cover of “Dreams” over dinner one evening; the video has since received over 3 million YouTube views.

That kind of social media notoriety is something Ms. Williams is learning to embrace. “Sometimes it’s scary,” Ms. Williams said about the permanence of a video on the web. “But at the end of the day, you can’t please everyone. As long as it’s something I’m proud of, I’m OK.

“More and more, I’m starting to use the Internet as a sharing vessel. I’m finally tapping into it and appreciating it,” Ms. Williams said.

The YouTube community seems to appreciate Ms. Williams right back. Commenters have called for a Williams-Meester joint album, and are beginning to connect the dots between Ms. Williams’ work with Ms. Meester, Mr. Gibbs, on “Rising Star,” and on “Whiplash.” Those dots draw a line toward a very promising future.

Right now, Ms. Williams says her greatest success is just “continuing to believe in myself. It can be really discouraging to be any kind of artist, and a lot of people quit and give up their dream. My biggest feat as an artist is just being an artist.”


Dana Williams performs at the Base at Alex’s Place, YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard, in Oak Bluffs on Friday, July 17, at 8 pm. Tickets are $15 in advance from, or $20 at the door the day of the show. For more information, contact Tony Lombardi at


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Four year old Camden Welch and 20 month old Declan Welch go trick or treating on Main Street in Vineyard Haven. — Photo by Michael Cummo

Four year old Camden Welch and 20 month old Declan Welch go trick or treating on Main Street in Vineyard Haven. — Photo by Michael Cummo


A festive house on Williams Street in Vineyard Haven. — Photo by Michael Cummo


A festive house in Vineyard Haven awaiting trick or treaters. — Photo by Michael Cummo


Six year old Delilah Butler and four year old Archer Butler grab candy from Celena Guimaraes. — Photo by Michael Cummo


Ninja Turtle Jason Alton grabs candy on Main Street. — Photo by Michael Cummo


From left, Jason Alton, Eli Aronie and Max Parris show off their awesome costumes. — Photo by Michael Cummo


From left, Ty Pitman, Madis Pitman and Nala Pitman show off their scary costumes. — Photo by Michael Cummo

The downtown area of Vineyard Haven was abuzz with Halloween action on Friday night.


Rocket and Parker, Angels Helping Animals.
Mudd, Angels Helping Animals.
Matthew, Angels Helping Animals.
Greta, M.V. Helping Homeless Animals. —Photo by Emily Galligan
Denver, M.V. Helping Homeless Animals. —Photo by Emily Galligan
Cedar, M.V. Helping Homeless Animals. —Photo by Emily Galligan
Boo, M.V. Helping Homeless Animals. —Photo by Emily Galligan
Bear, M.V. Helping Homeless Animals. —Photo by Emily Galligan
Scooby, Animal Shelter of Martha's Vineyard
Scooby, Animal Shelter of Martha's Vineyard
Bear, Animal Shelter of Martha's Vineyard
Augie, Animal Shelter of Martha's Vineyard
Marley, Animal Shelter of Martha's Vineyard
Kittens, available at Animal Shelter of Martha's Vineyard
Nala, Animal Shelter of Martha's Vineyard
Maggie Mae, Animal Shelter of Martha's Vineyard
Gizmo, Animal Shelter of Martha's Vineyard
Harrison, Animal Shelter of Martha's Vineyard
Wilbur, Animal Shelter of Martha's Vineyard
Winston, Animal Shelter of Martha's Vineyard

There are three facilities on the Island that offer animals for adoption.

  • The Animal Shelter of Martha’s Vineyard (ASMV), Edgartown: For more information about ASMV, call 508-627-8662 or search them on Facebook.
  • Martha’s Vineyard Helping Homeless Animals (MVHHA), Oak Bluffs: For more information about MVHHA, call 508-560-6046 or email
  • Angels Helping Animals Worldwide. (AHAW), Oak Bluffs: For more information about Angels Helping Animals Worldwide, search the group won Facebook.

The above animals are currently available for adoption.

  • Lampost Half Off Entrees when you show your Derby Pin
  • Menemsha Fish Chicks & Quarter Lobsters – Buy 3 get one Free!
  • The Newes Pub Receive 10% Off Food when you show your Derby Pin
  • Wharf 10% off when you show your Button 20% off if you get a Daily Prize

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  • Among the Flowers 10% Off for Derby Anglers with Pin
  • Benito’s Derby Special: Men’s cut (haircut, hot lather neck shave, hot towel and neck massage). Only $16. Mention the display ad for the discount.
  • HomePort 20% Discount for Derby Pins at Back Door!
  • Island Inn Special Contractor Derby Rates
  • Lampost Half Off Entrees when you show your Derby Pin
  • Menemsha Fish Local Lobster Sale!
  • The Newes Pub Receive 10% Off Food when you show your Derby Pin
  • Wharf 10% off when you show your Button 20% off if you get a Daily Prize (must show dated award, present within 2 days of award)

To advertise your specials, call 508-693-6100 press 2.


Derby Special: Men’s cut (haircut, hot lather neck shave, hot towel and neck massage). Only $16. Mention this ad for the discount.


20% Discount for Derby Pins at Back Door!

Island Inn

Special Contractor Derby Rates

Menemsha Fish Market

Lobsters: Buy 3, get 1 FREE or a short sleeved tshirt with derby pin

The Newes Pub

Receive 10% Off Food
when you show your Derby Pin


10% off when you show your Button 20% off if you get a Daily Prize
(must show dated award, present within 2 days of award)

To advertise your specials, call 508-693-6100 press 2. See ads for details regarding restaurant hours, pricing and restrictions.