Around the Writers’ Table

Islanders Write 2024 is coming again this August.

—Illustration by Kate Feiffer

During the winter of 2014, Peter Oberfest, then publisher of The MV Times, called me into his office. He was interested in creating an MV Times–sponsored event for the community, and wanted to brainstorm ideas. We decided to put together a writers festival. It would be different from the M.V. Book Festival, which brings buzz-worthy authors to the Island to discuss their new books. So as not to duplicate what they were doing, we would focus on the art, craft, and business of writing, rather than recently published books. But what most differentiated Islanders Write from the M.V. Book Festival, and every other writers festival globally, and why we believe the event had an instant following, is that everyone who spoke on a panel or gave a workshop had a connection to the Vineyard. While our speakers didn’t have to live here year-round, we wanted them to have what we considered to be a tangible tie to the Island.

We had 27 writers joining us at the Grange Hall for eight panel discussions focused on different genres and aspects of writing and the writing life for the first Islanders Write 10 years ago. The forecast was for a hot and sunny August day — an ideal beach day. We were starting early, at 8 am. Would anyone show up?

The discussions we had scheduled included a panel on cookbook writing with Jessica B. Harris, Susie Middleton, Tina Miller, and Catherine Walthers. Journalists turned novelists Geraldine Brooks and Ward Just would talk about how their years covering conflicts aided their transition to fiction. Nancy Slonim Aronie, founder of the Chilmark Writing Workshop, and novelist John Hough, Jr., who has been offering a weekly workshop and working with writers for over two decades, were scheduled to discuss the efficacy of different types of writing workshops. And historian David McCullough, who would be talking about his writing process, was the final speaker for the day.

By the time McCoullough stepped onto the stage upstairs at the Grange Hall, in fact hours before, we had run out of seats. Our first Islanders Write was a standing-room-only event.

That was fun, we decided. Let’s do it again!

And so we did. In 2015, 2016, and so on, until we were COVID-canceled in 2020.

To accommodate our growing audience size, we moved the event from the Grange Hall to Featherstone Center for the Arts in 2018. We’ve introduced a few new ideas over the years, including expanded workshop offerings, designated writing spaces, and an open mic; and when advertising dollars fell flat, we moved to a fundraising model in order to keep the event free for attendees. Throughout the years, however, the general format and mission of the event has remained the same.


As readers know, there have been some changes at The Times as of late. Steve Bernier recently purchased The MV Times from Peter and Barbara Oberfest, and Charles Sennott has stepped in as the publisher. Given these rather significant changes, I wasn’t sure if there would be an Islanders Write this summer.

It is true that I am always delighted to announce the return of Islanders Write, but this year I am particularly happy to announce that Islanders Write will be returning on Sunday, August 18, and Monday, August 19, at Featherstone Center for the Arts.

And according to Sennott, The MV Times commitment to Islanders Write remains as strong as ever: “The MV Times is looking forward to not just continuing, but growing, Islanders Write this summer, and well into the future. The ideas behind Islanders Write fit well with the mission of the paper as we continue to reach out to our increasingly diverse community, and help Islanders find their own voice and share it with us.”

We are starting to think about ideas for this year’s panel discussions, and, as always, I find that I am in awe of the many talented writers and publishing professionals who live and visit the Vineyard and agree to join us at Islanders Write each summer, as we continue the conversation about different genres and facets of writing and publishing. (Edgartown Books will again be onsite with a pop-up store to sell books and host author signings. And Scottish Bakehouse will be at the event with coffee, pastries, and a terrific selection of lunch items.)

Islanders Write is free to attend, but there are costs associated with producing the event, and we are extremely grateful to the M.V. Cultural Council, the M.V. Community Foundation, and the Farm Neck Foundation for grants they have awarded to us for this coming summer’s event.

For information or questions about speaking at or supporting Islanders Write, please visit our Arts & Ideas website, or email me at We look forward to seeing you in August!

Around the Writers’ Table is a column about writers and writing on the Vineyard. Kate Feiffer is the event producer for Islanders Write. Please email with your writing-related news.