Around the Writers’ Table: Winter writing

We asked what Island writers are working on during the off-season.

—Kate Feiffer

Writing tends to be a solitary endeavor, as does spending a winter on the Vineyard. Given these two situational happenstances, it’s not surprising that the Vineyard’s writers use this time between the tourists to immerse themselves in work. As Chilmark Writing Workshop founder and MV Times columnist Nancy Slonim Aronie recently said, “The off season — which I must say isn’t that off anymore — is still more peaceful, more restful, more beautiful than any other place for working. It’s as if when everyone left, they left their best words behind (for me!).”

I was curious to find out how Vineyard writers are using the winter months — admittedly I am not one of them this winter, as I am typing up this column from Australia. And for the many writers on the Island that I didn’t catch up with, I look forward to hearing from you for a later column.

Nancy Slonim Aronie is finishing up work on her next book, “The Seven Secrets of Writing the Perfect Personal Essay: Crafting the Story Only YOU Can Write.” The book will be published by New World Library in October, and will include 40 essays, written by many different writers from Aronie’s Jump Start your Memoir Workshops over the years.

Shelley Christiansen responded to a Facebook request for Island writers about their winter projects. She posted that she’ll be “Catching up on essays. Currently: A vacation rental landlord retrospective. And a more challenging piece on faded wanderlust.”

Sam Low and Fan Staunton Ogilvie responded to the same Facebook request. Low posted that he’s working on a project about his grandfather, who was a famous paniolo or Hawaiian cowboy. Ogilvie has a new collection of poetry and paintings coming out titled, “Dust Is the Only Secret.” Ogilvie collaborated with biologist Ursula Goodenough and graphic designer Janet Holladay on the book, which will be published in February. Ogilvie is also on the committee to select the Vineyard’s fourth poet laureate. (We will report more on the poet laureate in a later column.)

Skip Finley, whose most recent book was “Whaling Captains of Color: America’s First Meritocracy” will be working on a number of writing projects this winter, including pieces about MV’s Nancy Martin, who was once enslaved, and Amos Haskins, the Gay Head indigenous man who actually killed a white whale. Finley reports that he will also be writing about a man, not from the Vineyard, who he says, “may have been among the half dozen or so wealthiest Black men of the 1800s.” He has also been researching and writing about the Ernestina, the Cape Verdean Mayflower, now the ship of Massachusetts.

Novelist Nancy Star wrote in saying, “After writing two novels set on the Vineyard while living elsewhere, I’m now living on the Vineyard working on a novel set in Queens, New York.” Star says that her new novel takes place in the early 1970s and “is about a 15-year-old girl who’s trying, in increasingly funny and tragic ways, to figure out her place in the world.”

Having recently published his debut novel, “Wings of Red,” James Jennings says he is putting together a tour for the book where he tracks back to places to which he feels indebted.

Speculative fiction novelist John Sundman is working on a new novel titled, “Mountain of Devils,” a psychological thriller about young scientists in the early days of recombinant DNA. He is also revisiting four of his previous novels and working on new editions for those in both English and Spanish.

Novelist John Hough, Jr. says he is about to begin something new after giving up on his latest book project.

Prolific Vineyard chronicaller Tom Dresser is collaborating with his wife Joyce for the first time on a book titled “A Culinary History of Martha’s Vineyard,” which they will be editing over the winter.

Writer and workshop facilitator Moira Silva says that she writes to every prompt that she assigns in her workshops, writing freelance articles, and is “continuing to develop my novel with the support of John Hough’s writing group.”

Around the Writers’ Table is a column about writers and writing on the Vineyard. Please email with your writing-related news. Kate Feiffer’s novel “Morning Pages” will be published in May.