Turning pages

Noepe Center for Literary Arts offers a new space and new events, including workshops at Islanders Write.

The new barn at Featherstone Center for the Arts houses Noepe Center for Literary Arts. — Courtesy Noepe

For Mathea Morais, working with Noepe Center for Literary Arts has come full circle. She joined the group as a writer looking for direction with her first novel, “There You Are,” and now she’s director of Noepe, originally founded by poet Justen Ahren in 2007. After its most recent location closed, the literary program now has a home at Featherstone Center for the Arts. Islanders Write, The MV Times’ annual summer event for and by writers, will be held at Featherstone on Sunday, August 11, and Monday, August 12.

“Noepe will again partner with Islanders Write for breakout sessions and workshops, on everything from cultivating a writing practice to jumpstarting your writing efforts, to using personal photos to inspire poetry and prose,” said Kate Feiffer, organizer for IW.

The Times caught up with Morais to talk about the craft of writing ahead of the August IW event.

“I’d been working with writers on the Island and as part of a writers’ group,” Morais said, “but I wanted some of that outside professional teaching, and I got that at Noepe.”

Understanding the writing process and how support can help a writer take it to the next level is a passion for Morais. “There You Are,” her novel about an interracial love story set at a record store in St. Louis in the 1980s and ’90s, is slated for release in October, something she feels happened with input and help from Noepe. The center has several events in the works for this summer, including workshops with writers Naomi Jackson, Bret Anthony Johnston, and Justen Ahren. They’ve already hosted a book launch for Ahren’s latest, “A Machine for Remembering,” as well as a poetry reading with Billy Collins, and a summer solstice event a couple of weeks ago.

“When you’re really ready to publish your book, you need that support that a writers group can provide, but once it’s done and you want to take it to the next place, that can be hard to do,” Morais said. “We wanted to bring in some of the experts from out of town who could help. You need that critical feedback.”

Morais said she didn’t get to her first published novel by following an “M.F.A. track.” “I had my kids, I had to have a job, but writing was one of those things that wouldn’t leave me alone,” she said. “I couldn’t turn to it in a meaningful way until I was older. It’s hard to break into the writing world when you’re over 30. I have a family; I can’t go to a two-month residency someplace.”

With her own experience in mind, Morais is working with Featherstone director Ann Smith to create and open creative space for Island writers.

“There are some amazing writers on this Island, and this fall we’re going to offer open writing hours on Sunday afternoons with coffee, tea, and Wi-Fi … just a space to write away from home, where there will be other people writing in the room. And we want to offer weekend fall and winter workshops, and make it accessible for those who live here and those who don’t, who can’t afford a college-level course.

“To be in this space and write, this campus with its new buildings and the outdoor space, there should be writing here — it’s an arts center.”

For more information about Noepe, visit noepe.org. For more information about Islanders Write, visit mvartsandideas.com/islanders-write/.