We have questions, they have answers

Three questions for writers taking part in Islanders Write.


Each year before Islanders Write, The MV Times asks the writers taking part in the event a series of random questions. This year, since more writers are taking part than ever before, we asked only three questions. Over the next few weeks we will be sharing some of their answers: 

Brain food or comfort food — which do you prefer to eat while writing? 

James Lapine: Any food.

Jennifer Smith Turner: Comfort food — salty and sweet!

Geraldine Brooks: Any food that takes a bit of prep time. I do my best thinking while making dinner. I often find that gnarly plot points resolve themselves while I’m zesting a lemon or stirring a roux.

Peter Kramer: I like the theme of growth or nurturing or fermentation. Home-baked bread; home-cultured yogurt; home-pickled, homegrown vegetables. When you write, you love interruptions, knocking down the dough and the rest.

Lockhart: I eat a mash of newt’s eyes, conflicted adolescent souls, blueberries, and the tears of my readers.

Merissa Nathan Gerson: Music! I like to blast music while I write, and eat later!

Nicole Galland: I always prefer comfort food, but knowing that brain food is more useful, I try to choose something that is both at once. For instance, plant-based foods are generally brain food. Potato chips are comforting because they’re a salt and fat delivery system, but their foundational substance comes from a plant. so they’re a hybrid comfort/brain food. This is also true of anything made of cocoa, which comes from a tree.

The most challenging part of writing during the pandemic for you has been?

Joshua Hammer: Because so much of my reporting and writing involves international flying, navigating the cross-border travel rules during the height of the pandemic was by far the biggest challenge. My triumphs: Making it to both Malta and Rwanda for the New York Times Magazine in, respectively, the summer and fall of 2020. 

Katherine Sherbrooke: The pandemic, in my mind, has been inextricably linked with our current era of intense political and civic turmoil. On bad days, I find myself wondering if fiction matters, if I should be doing something else with my time. But when I explore that question more deeply, I continually come to the conclusion that stories have always been at the center of the human experience, and that art (in all its forms) is essential to making sense of the world. So I inevitably sit back down and keep writing.

Laura Holmes Haddad: Focus. Being a parent, spouse, dog mom, cook, and housekeeper while watching CNN on a loop left me creatively drained. 

Sarah Kernochan: Staying off news sites. I fail at this every day.

John Hough, Jr.: Writing during the pandemic has been as easy as writing ever is — hard work, in other words — but where to go in the next book, or the one after it? I can’t imagine putting masks on my characters.

Marc Brown: There was a challenge? The pandemic was a bonus. There were less reasons to risk contamination and more reasons to be in my studio. I developed a new animated show for preschoolers. I spent much less time with people I don’t like, and that was terrific!

If you were to write a book, fiction or nonfiction, that takes place on the Vineyard, what would the first line be?

Fran Schumer: F.S. had one goal in life: to be the poet laureate of the Oak Bluffs dump.

Sarah Kernochan: EXT. FERRY – DAY.

Misan Sagay: It’s a strange feeling, coming home to somewhere you’ve never been before.

Jennifer Smith Turner: Passenger 100, that’s the number she believed the ticket taker clicked as she boarded the ferry, and felt the piece of paper in her pocket again, and wondered what the woman whose name was on the paper would think about the DNA match between herself and Passenger 100 …

Peter Kramer: Entering his third decade on the Island, Jack had come to think of himself as a Vineyarder, but his neighbors saw things differently.

Nancy Slonim Aronie: When Alan Arkin wrote “Halfway Through the Door,” it felt like a personal apology to me, and I whispered right there in aisle three of Bunch of Grapes, “Alan, you’re forgiven.”

Joshua Hammer: When Rod Radulescu unlocked the door of the Flying Horses Carousel and stepped inside at 8 am on Saturday, July 23, the young woman’s body lay slumped in the saddle of a hand-painted steed, a golden ring clasped in each of her hands.

Frank Bergon: Monika Arrizabalaga moved to Martha’s Vineyard because it reminded her of her childhood home 3,000 miles away in California.

Elisa M. Speranza: The inside of Sharky’s head smelled like nachos, Axe body spray, and teenage angst.

Islanders Write begins on Saturday, July 30, at 7:30 pm and continues throughout the day on Sunday, July 31, and Monday, August 1. Visit islanderswrite.com for more information.