Islanders Write, the MV Times-sponsored event that brings writers with ties to the Vineyard together to speak about topics related to writing, has for the second time in as many years been canceled. The decision to cancel was not an easy one to make.
Early in this vaccine-happy summer, we thought we knew how this story would end, but we were deceived by a false ending. A plot twist titled “The Delta Variant” heightened the suspense and changed the narrative arc of the story. Now, during the last official week of summer 2021, the story’s vexing denouement remains a mystery.
Denouement — the resolution of plot lines at the end of the story — is a good topic for an Islanders Write panel discussion. We’ll schedule that for Islanders Write 2022.
Since 2014, I have had the pleasure of putting together Islanders Write for The MV Times. And it truly has been a pleasure. This year was complicated, however. We moved Islanders Write from August to September to see what the summer would bring. Instead of sitting around a table together, our panelists were to be seated on barstools, separated from one another. We would, for the first time, limit the size of the audience. Masks were to be mandatory. But how close should seats be to one another? How does one ensure safety during the waning days (please let them be waning!) of a mercurial pandemic?
By mid-August we started wondering if we should cancel. The answers were always yes and no. There are no clear answers, but ultimately Peter Oberfest, publisher of The MV Times, Jamie Kageleiry, associate publisher, and I decided that even with precautions, there were too many risks to hold an in-person event at this time.
Some of the topics that were to be explored during Islanders Write 2021 were writing dialogue, ghostwriting, reshaping the memoir, writing to engage young readers, and shaping and selling your first novel. Three novelists of historical fiction were going to be discussing their craft. Two cartoonists would have explained the intricacies of graphic novels. We planned to have a panel discussion that would tackle the complicated issues of what to do with a book (or movie or play) when the author is accused, or convicted, of harassment, or when a book (or movie or play) is deemed offensive. Political columnists were to have kicked off the entire event with their insights.
A few of the workshops planned included navigating the publication maze and cultivating a daily writing practice. Since we had moved Islanders Write from August to September and added an extra day of programming, we had time for more topics, and just last week added a discussion with two veteran journalists who have covered Afghanistan in the past. The weekend was going to end with a celebration for the Cleaveland House Poets, the longest-running writing group on the Vineyard, who have just released an anthology, “In the Company of Poets.”
We are extremely grateful to the writers who were expected to be part of this year’s event. They are Justen Ahren, Elise Broach, Geraldine Brooks, Cole Brown, Dan Cooney, Callie Crossley, James Dale, Bob Drogin, Alice Early, Marc Favreau, Nicole Galland, Loren Ghiglione, Ed Grazda, Hannah Halperin, Judith Hannan, Melinda Henneberger, John Hough, Jr., Jamie Kageleiry, Paul Karasik, Ellen Martin, Gregory Mone, Mathea Morais, Jill Nelson, Fan Ogilvie, Richard North Patterson, Arnie Reisman, David Rintels, Victoria Riskin, Fran Schumer, Katherine Sherbrooke, Moira Silva, Rose Styron, Jennifer Smith Turner, Philip Weinstein, and Susan Wilson.
We are forever thankful to Featherstone Center for the Arts, our most wonderful venue.
Additional thanks to our sound guy extraordinaire, Anthony Esposito; Bunch of Grapes, our event bookseller since 2014; and Scottish Bakehouse, which was going to be onsite selling food. And thank you to the Martha’s Vineyard Community Foundation for providing fiscal sponsorship for this event, and to our generous event sponsors.
During the next few weeks we will be exploring alternative ways to bring some of this content to you. Until then — mask up, read more, and write on!
Since the sleepy summers of Vineyard past have mostly disappeared, and been replaced with the frenetic hailstorm of Vineyard present, there is often little time for the beloved practice of beach reading these days. It is in the off-season that many folks here find the time to settle in with a good book. A number of the writers who were scheduled to speak at this year’s Islanders Write have had books published since the start of the pandemic, which we hope you’ll find the time to read. (Please purchase them locally if you can — Bunch of Grapes would have been at Islanders Write, with all these titles and others.)
“A Trip to the Country for Marvin and James” (Square Fish) by Elise Broach
“Greyboy: Finding Blackness in a White World” (Simon & Schuster) by Cole Brown.
“We’re Better Than This: My Fight for the Future of Our Democracy” (Harper) by Elijah Cummings with James Dale
“The Moon Always Rising” (She Writes Press) by Alice Early
“Master of the Revels” (William Morrow) by Nicole Galland
“Genus Americanus: Hitting the Road in Search of America’s Identity” (University of Georgia Press) by Loren Ghiglione
“Visual History Afghanistan 1980-2004” (Fraglich) by Ed Grazda
“Disasters of War: Portraits by Khalid Hadi” (Fraglich), edited and designed by Ed Grazda
“Something Wild” (Viking) by Hannah Halperin
“The Sweetest Days” (Gallery Books) by John Hough, Jr.
“Atlantis: The Accidental Invasion” (Abrams) by Gregory Mone
“The Berth: American Themes in Poems and Images” (independently published) by Fan Ogilvie
“Leaving Coy’s Hill” (Pegasus Books) by Katherine Sherbrooke
“Child Bride” (SparkPress) by Jennifer Smith Turner
“In the Company of Poets: Cleaveland House Poets Anthology 2021” (independently published) by the Cleaveland House Poets