Around the Writers’ Table: Opening night at Islanders Write


Bookshelf bulge and inspiration. These are both things that I suspect are happening to many of us on the Vineyard this summer. This past weekend alone, large crowds turned out to hear almost 30 authors talk about their new books at the Martha’s Vineyard Book Festival. There were additional author talks at the Oak Bluffs library as part of their Sankofa Festival. And at Edgartown Books, Sherry Sidoti, whose debut memoir “A Smoke and a Song” was recently published, had her first-ever book signing. 

I am in the process of finalizing the schedule for The MV Times–sponsored writers festival Islanders Write, and so bookshelf bulge and inspiration are very much on my mind these days. Last week we ran an ad in this paper, and will be doing so again this week, announcing the schedule of events for Monday, August 21. Some of the speakers at Islanders Write are authors with new books. These include three out of four novelists who will be speaking about character and plot during the first panel discussion of the day — Hanna Halperin, Katherine Sherbrooke, and Peter Kramer. Richard North Patterson, whose book “Trial” was published in the spring, wil be talking about writing across racial lines with screen and television writer Misan Sagay and MacArthur Fellow and essayist Patricia J. Williams. And Sherry Sidoti, mentioned above, will be facilitating a writing workshop she is calling “Take Five: Meditation as Muse for Inspired Writing” — which will help provide a much-needed moment of calm for many of us.

Since Islanders Write is a writing festival, and we explore topics and genres related to writing and the writing life, many of the writers speaking are not joining us to promote new work; rather they are taking part in the event to engage in lively conversations about the art, craft, and business of writing. 

We haven’t yet announced our plans for our kick-off event on the evening of Sunday, August 20, because right as we were finalizing the schedule, my friend Lisa called with a question, and because of Lisa’s question, we are now having a double-header for an expanded night of conversation on Sunday, August 20. 

In the past we have often asked journalists to join us to speak about covering politics. Since we have another presidential election upon us — with the Republican frontrunner a former president under indictment — we wanted to hear from veteran political reporters who can give us historical perspective on an unprecedented situation. We are delighted to announce that Charlayne Hunter-Gault will be joining us on the opening night of Islanders Write panel to talk about politics and the press, along with Mara Liasson, Walter Shapiro, and Callie Crossley. Liasson has covered seven presidential elections for NPR. Political columnist Shapiro has covered 11 presidential elections. And Crossley covers national politics on her weekly show, “Under the Radar with Calllie Crossley,” on WGBH. We are calling this conversation “Equal Time, No Time, or All the Time: Politics and the Press.” Because here we go again. The two panels on Sunday, August 20, will begin at 6:30 pm. There is no pre-registration. Feel free to bring a picnic and enjoy dinner and enjoy an early dinner on the grounds of Featherstone Center for the Arts before the event. 

It was while we were preparing to announce our final schedule that Lisa called and asked, “Are you doing something on the writers strike at Islanders Write?” 

“We hadn’t planned to,” I replied. 

“You’re not doing anything on the writer’s strike? It’s a writer’s festival,” she said, forcefully enough for me to take notice.

Indeed, Writers Guild of America members who write for film and television have been on strike for three months now — in Vineyard-speak, that’s an entire summer season. Lisa was right. This is a pressing issue impacting writers. And it’s happening now. 

We are delighted to announce that screen and television writers Scott Frank and Misan Sagay will be speaking at Islanders Write, along with filmmaker Doug Liman. 

The incredible panel of industry professionals will help us get a deeper understanding of what the strike means, why seemingly little progress has been made in the negotiations, what the impact will be on the industry and beyond, how negotiations in the more recent Screen Actors Guild strike may differ from the Writers Guild strike, and what it’s like being on the inside.

Among his many credits, Scott Frank adapted and directed “The Queen’s Gambit” — which got many of us through the first year of the pandemic — ”Minority Report” and “Marley & Me.” Frank has been nominated for two Academy Awards, and has won two Emmy Awards. Misan Sagay’s screen and TV writing credits include “Belle,” “The Secret Laughter of Women,” and the ABC television movie “Their Eyes Were Watching God.” We are very grateful to Misan for joining us as part of a panel discussion on both Sunday and Monday. 

Doug Liman, who spoke at last year’s opening night for Islanders Write, is graciously coming back this year to talk on this topic as a filmmaker. The long list of films Liman has directed and produced include “Swingers,” “Locked Down,” “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” and “Live Die Repeat and Repeat” (also known as “Edge of Tomorrow”) and “American Made.”

For more information on Islanders Write, visit