Around the Writers’ Table

M.V. Cultural Council supports readers and writers.

Islanders Write recevied a grant from the M.V. Cultural Council. –Kate Feiffer

The first Islanders Write was held at the Grange Hall on a sweltering August day in 2014. From the beginning we wanted to make Islanders Write free to attend; it would be a gift to the community from the MV Times. There was no advance registration for the event, which meant we had no idea what to expect. What happened, to our delight, was that people started showing up for the first panel discussion at 8 am, and many of them stayed for the entire day. David McCullough was scheduled as our last speaker of the day, but he arrived in the morning with his wife Rosalee and they spent much of the day listening to Island writers discuss their craft.

I suspect having the McCulloughs in the audience may have inspired the other speakers at the event to stick around. By the day’s end, the audience was packed with aspiring writers, award winning writers, and a large number of people who consider themselves to be readers rather than writers. I liken what happened that day to a literary barn raising. Islanders Write had found a following.

Islanders Write came about because MV Times publisher Peter Oberfest was interested in having the newspaper host an event that would engage the community in a conversation about writing. Peter asked me if I could put something together. As a former TV talk show producer — yes, it was my job to convince people to come on national television and expose their deep, dark secrets — I had some experience in this arena. Of course the writers I reached out to weren’t being asked to reveal their intimacies, rather they were enlisted to discuss what might be considered the secrets of their craft.

How do you create characters that transcend the page? How do you keep readers wondering what happens next? How do you research the lives of others? How much is too much to share in a memoir? How do you write about politics and race in such divisive times? These are the types of questions that have been mulled over at Islanders Write. As well as the business side of things, how do you get your book published?

Since 2014, Islanders Write has expanded with more writing workshops and it has moved from the Grange Hall to Featherstone Center for the Arts. However, the mission has remained the same. We strive to bring Vineyard-connected writers and publishing professionals together to discuss the art, craft, and business of writing. For the first few years, the MV Times was able to put on Islanders Write without additional sponsorship.

As consumers of the news know, it has been a challenging time for journalism — particularly newspapers, whether print or online — and we realized additional sponsorship was going to be necessary if Islanders Write was to continue.
We are extremely grateful to and appreciative of the individuals and foundations which have given generously to support Islanders Write over the past few years, and we are delighted to announce that Islanders Write recently received a generous grant for our 2023 program from the Martha’s Vineyard Cultural Council, a local agency supported by the Mass Cultural Council, a state agency.

The M.V. Cultural Council states that its mission is to “promote excellence, access, education, and diversity in the arts, humanities, and interpretative sciences for the purpose of improving the quality of life for all of the Island’s residents.” In 2023, grants were awarded to 32 programs, among them several other literary-focused projects, which I’d like to mention here.

The West Tisbury library received a MVCC grant for their Classics Reading Group. This extraordinary program was launched during the don’t-leave-your-house days of the pandemic and continues to grow. This is a virtual book group in which classic books are read (or reread) and discussed. This spring they will be doing a deep dive into Edith Wharton. After that will be George Eliot’s “Daniel Deronda” in June/July; Willa Cather in August; and Trollope and Dickens in the fall. Their grant will help provide free books so all those who want to participate can without worrying about cost.

A MVCC grant was also awarded to launch the Island libraries’ summer kids’ reading program. This important state-wide literacy initiative helps early readers stay engaged with books during the months they aren’t in school. The MVCC grant will go toward bringing in an off-Island performer for the grand kick-off event.

Poet Donald Nitchie was awarded a MVCC grant for the poetry drop-in sessions that he’s been running since 2018. According to Nitchie, “Participants read and discuss several classic or contemporary poems (emailed beforehand), and then are given a writing exercise based on one or more of those poems. At the end of the session (which lasts an hour and a half), writers are encouraged to read what they’ve written, but it’s not mandatory.”

I was planning to summarize the email Nitchie sent me about the program, but I can’t figure out what to leave out, so here it is: “I call what we write ‘poems,’ although they could just as well be described as first drafts fiction, creative nonfiction, free writing, etc. The class is for any level, from beginners to pros. I try to make the class welcoming and non-intimidating. Since March 2020, classes have met on Zoom, and they continue, because Zoom is the perfect platform. It allows participants from all over, and class size is not an issue. The sessions combine poetry appreciation with the opportunity to write.                                                                                                                                             I don’t suggest what anyone writes about, but how they write about whatever they want, by providing some structure or form for them to fill. The class is based on a class led by Massachusetts poet Alan Feldman at the Framingham library, and also on the Cape, for many years. The name Poetry Drop-in actually comes from him — I asked him if I could borrow it, and he gave me his blessing. The idea is, drop by PDI any time you like, no big commitment. It’s a place to try something new.“ In a follow up email he added, “Please emphasize that I’m very grateful for the MCC’s support!”

We all are. Thank you to the Martha’s Vineyard Cultural Council and the Massachusetts Cultural Council! We look forward to seeing you, Vineyarders and visitors, at our programs.

Islanders Write will take place on the evening of August 20, and throughout the day of August 21. To become an Islanders Write supporter, please go to or email

“Around the Writers’ Table” is a column about writers and writing on the Vineyard. Please email with your writing-related news. 



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