Provincetown’s FAWC writers at West Tisbury Library

Jackie Thomas-Kennedy — Photo courtesy of FAWC

Writers from the Fine Arts Work Center (FAWC) in Provincetown will be reading their work every Wednesday afternoon in March at 5:30 at the West Tisbury Library.

The reading schedule is the third FAWC performance series sponsored by the library, which have attracted overflow Island audiences. Readings will include a Q&A period with audience members.

The events are free and refreshments will be served, two good reasons to go. Perhaps the best reason is that hearing and meeting FAWC fellows is sort of the literary equivalent of dropping in at Catch A Rising Star (comedy clubs for up-and-coming comedians). They are good writers. Past FAWC fellows have won a half-dozen Pulitzers, a Guggenheim, and most of the national writing awards for poetry and fiction.

“Candidates for fellowships can’t have a published book but they are all well on their way,” Salvatore Sciabona, FAWC writing coordinator, told The Times recently. Mr. Sciabona administers the program, which invites eight writers and eight visual artists to the Provincetown retreat hard by the town spire memorialized by Norman Mailer in his 1984 noir crime novel “Dead Men Don’t Dance.”

The work center reviews 1,200 applications a year for 16 one-year spots. A second-year fellowship can be extended to two writers and to two visual artists, he said.

“Overall, fellowship applicants are harder and harder to judge because the quality of applicants is so good. More have been to graduate school. I see a lot more diversity, people from different parts of the world, from Vietnam and Pakistan, for example, as well as from Massachusetts,” he said, noting that Paul Harding, from the north shore of Massachusetts, completed much of the work on “Tinkers,” his 2010 Pulitzer prize-winning first novel, while in residence at the center.

And the artists are free to work. “There are absolutely no required regimens, none whatsoever. Our ideal is to provide complete creative freedom. We don’t require them to show us what they are doing. As a matter of practice our folks are available to read and guide if they want it. They are grownups and they’re here to do the work,” he said.

“We have a lot of social events, lots of guests. It’s a rich social atmosphere,” he said, adding that FAWC does not schedule reading tours but that the Island series has become a favorite thing to do. “They are excited to have us come. Beth Kramer [West Tisbury library director] and Jennifer Tseng [2011 series coordinator] are incredibly helpful, including arranging transportation and lodging for the writers.”


Jackie Thomas-Kennedy and Rebecca Gayle Howell are first up on Wednesday, March 9, at 5:30. Ms. Thomas-Kennedy’s award-winning fiction has appeared in several magazines, including Narrative magazine. Her story, “You Cannot Lie About a Mountain,” won Narrative’s fiction-writing contest last fall.

Ms. Thomas-Kennedy has also corresponded with best-selling author Ann Beattie in “Letters to a Young Writer,” a series published in Narrative. Ms. Thomas-Kennedy holds an MFA in fiction writing from Columbia University and a B.A. in English from Vassar College.

Ms. Gayle Howell is a poet from Kentucky who works in a range of media forms, including translation and documentary work about her home state. She has taught creative writing at the University of Kentucky and at Morehead State University, and is a former director of the Kentucky Women Writers Conference.

Other writers who will appear include poet Marcus Wicker and well-known critic and essayist Boris Fishman, both on March 16. Poet Malachi Black and novelist Christopher Shortsleeve will read and chat on March 23 and writers Andrew Meredith and Jacob Shores-Arguello will complete the reading series on March 30.

February on the rock can be grey. Maybe we’re just hungry for some bright new voices and ideas, but reviewing the bios of these visiting writers fires up a fascination for these people. What are they like? Why did Jacob Shores Arguello, who grew up in Costa Rica and Oklahoma, choose to spend his Fulbright Fellowship in the Ukraine? Did he consider Corfu or Cannes?

Now I could understand Boris Fishman going to the Ukraine. He was born in the Soviet Union before his career led him to The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, and The London Review of Books. I want to meet this guy, who’s grounded enough, no pun intended, to list shoveling manure as a farm laborer as one of his accomplishments.

FAWC Reading Series: Jackie Thomas Kennedy, Rebecca Gayle Howell, 5:30 pm, Wednesday, March 9, West Tisbury Library. Weekly through March 30. 508-693-3366.

Jack Shea, of Oak Bluffs, is a regular contributor to The Times.