Islanders Write 2015


When: Monday, August 10 from 8:00 am -5:30 pm

Where: the Grange Hall in West Tisbury

Please join us for a memorable day of discussion about the art, craft, and business of writing. Panel discussions, writing workshops, open mic, author signings, and other literary delights. Free admission and open to the public. No reservations necessary. First come, first seated.
Come for the day, or for the panels that interest you.

Panel Discussion (upstairs)
8:00–9:00 Self-Publishing
The do-it-yourselfers of the book business reveal how much self there is in self-publishing.
John Sundman, Katherine Scheidler, Amy Reece, Michael West (moderator)

9:00–10:00 Writing Poetry
The Perils of Poetry: poets on courting couplets, marrying metaphors, and aggravating alliteration.
Rich Michelson, Jennifer Tseng, Donald Nitchie, Justen Ahren (moderator)

10:00–11:00 The Business of Publishing
Publishing industry insiders discuss the business of books.
Rosemary Stimola, Jamie Raab, Dawn Davis, Tony Horwitz (moderator)

11:00–12:00 Developing Character and Voice
Novelists on stealing from the living and bringing the dead to life.
Geraldine Brooks, Nicole Galland, LaShonda Katrice Barnett

12:00–12:45 Lunch Break Workshop with John Hough, Jr.
A novel or story can rise or fall on the quality of its dialogue. Come with questions and ideas of your own, for a lively discussion of what Mr. Hough, author of “The Fiction Writer’s Guide to Dialogue,” considers his primary strength

1:00–2:00 Censorship, Free Speech, and Journalism
What isn’t reported, and why.
Christi Parsons, Jon Randal, Peter Oberfest, Lucinda Franks (moderator)

2:00–3:00 Writing for Laughs
A serious discussion about writing funny.
Fred Barron, Nancy Aronie, Jenny Allen, Arnie Reisman (moderator)

3:00–4:00 Writing a Screenplay
Because everybody has that screenplay in their desk drawer
Sarah Kernochan, Lucy Dahl, Amy Holden Jones, Lawrence Blume (moderator)

4:00 Writing Lyrics that Sing
The secrets of songwriting, and some music to end the day.
Jemima James, Willy Mason, Shawn Barber, Matthew Siffert (moderator)

Workshops sponsored by Noepe Center for Literary Arts (downstairs)

10:00–11:00  Justen Ahren on establishing a daily writing practice

12:00–1:00 Niki Patton brings Writers Read to Islanders Write

1:00–2:00 Susan Klein, Spice of Life: Organizing and writing memoirs

3:00-4:00 Michael West on finding your inspiration

Panelist bios

justen-ahren-author-photo 2
Former West Tisbury Poet Laureate, Justen Ahren is founder and director of Noepe Martha’s Vineyard Center for Literary Arts and the Italy Writing Workshop in Orvieto, Italy, and author of the poetry collection, A Strange Catechism.  When not trying to create a writing community on Martha’s Vineyard, he teaches writing workshops, travels with his family.  He lives in West Tisbury.

IW-Nancy-AronieNancy Slonim Aronie
is the author of Writing From the Heart :Finding your Inner Voice (Hyperion/Little Brown) and the founder of the Chilmark Writing Workshop. She was the recipient of the Eye of the Beholder award at The Isabella Stewart Gardener museum and she received The Teacher of the Year Award at Harvard University the three years she taught there. She is a commentator for NPR ‘s All Things Considered.

Jenny AllenJenny Allen is a writer and performer. Her humor pieces have appeared in the New Yorker and other publications, and in several anthologies, including “The Fifty Funniest Writers in America,” edited by Andy Borowitz.  She performs her one-woman show, “I Got Sick Then I Got Better,” at venues across the country.

Shawn BarberShawn Barber is a singer-songwriter and band leader of Good Night Louise from Martha’s Vineyard. He grew up on Cape Cod the son of a backhoe operator and a nurse and the grandson of a school teacher and a beer drinking Irish Catholic piano man. A former award winning school teacher of eleven years at the Penikese Island School, an off the grid boarding school  for troubled boys, he has held all these jobs in one way or another.

Fred BarronFred Barron wrote and executive produced Sessions with Billy Crystal, executive produced  Seinfeld, created Caroline in the City and wrote   the Emmy Award winning  Displaced Person. In the UK, Barron created, wrote and executive produced  the  BAFTA nominated  sit-com, My Family,  for the BBC. What started as a six episode series based on his late father — a curmudgeonly Boston dentist — turned into the longest running sit-com in British television. Barron is currently writing and producing a documentary film about outsider art,  Bill Traylor: Chasing Ghosts, which will premiere at the Smithsonian in 2018.

LaShondaBarnettAuthorPhotoLaShonda Katrice Barnett grew up in Park Forest, Illinois. Of her debut novel Jam On The Vine (Grove Atlantic Feb. 2015), O, the Oprah Magazine writes: “Barnett creates an ode to activism, writing with a scholar’s eye and a poet’s soul.” JAM was an Editor’s Choice pick at the Chicago Tribune and won ElIe Magazine‘s Belle Lettres 2015 Reader’s Prize and earned Barnett the Emerging Writers Award at the 2015 Tennessee Williams Literary Festival in New Orleans. Twice-nominated for the 2015 Pushcart prize, Barnett’s short stories have appeared in The Chicago Tribune’s Printers Row Journal, Guernica Magazine, New Orleans Review, and elsewhere. Barnett has received grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the New York Money for Women/Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, and the College Language Association, among others. She has held residences at the Noepe Center for Literary Arts-Martha’s Vineyard, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, where she was a Tennessee Williams Fellow, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. She has taught history and literature at Columbia University, Sarah Lawrence College, Hunter College, and Brown University. She writes full time at home on Manhattan’s upper west side.   Web site:

Larry BlumeFilmmaker Lawrence Blume’s most recent film, Tiger Eyes (Lifetime – 2013) has won numerous awards including Best Film at the American Indian Movie Awards, Best Picture at the Red Nation Film Festival, and Best Feature Film at the Palm Beach Film Festival.

Lawrence was named one of the “Ten Rising Stars of Comedy” by the Hollywood Reporter for his first feature‐length film, Martin & Orloff (Comedy Central – 2003), which premiered at the US Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen and was the headlining film at the New York Toyota Comedy Festival.   In addition he has directed short films; “To Walk A City’s Street” (Sci‐Fi channel) and “Otherwise Known As Sheila The Great” (ABC Weekend Special). Lawrence has worked as a production consultant (Who Killed The Electric Car, TransAmerica), sound designer, film editor, and media technologist. He was the founder/co‐owner of PostWorks, New York’s largest postproduction company. Lawrence splits his time between New York City, where he is a founding partner at CityWinery, a live music venue and winery (New York, Chicago, Napa, Nashville, Atlanta), and his home on Martha’s Vineyard. He is a member of the Director’s Guild of America (DGA) and the Producer’s Guild of America (PGA).

Geraldine BrooksGeraldine Brooks is The New York Times bestselling author of Caleb’s CrossingPeople of the Book, March (winner of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction), and Year of Wonders, and the nonfiction works Nine Parts of Desire and Foreign Correspondence. Her new book, The Secret Chord, will be published on October 6. Born and raised in Australia, she lives on Martha’s Vineyard with her husband, the author Tony Horwitz, and their two sons.

Lucy DahlLucy Dahl penned the teen comedy, Wild Child, Staring Emma Roberts, Natasha Richardson and Aidan Quinn.She has written a comedy for television, currently in pre-production with Working Title TV and is also executive producing a cartoon about Oompa Loompas which is in preproduction with Warner Brothers TV. Lucy commutes between The Vineyard and Los Angeles throughout the year.

unnamedDawn Davis is the Vice President and Publisher of 37 INK, an imprint within the Atria Publishing Group at Simon & Schuster. Her first book, The Butler: A Witness to History, was a New York Times bestseller. For twelve years, she had been at HarperCollins, directing the Amistad imprint. During her time at Amistad, she published numerous well-known, highly acclaimed bestselling authors, including Edward P. Jones, author of The Known World, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle, and the IMPAC Awards for Fiction; Chris Gardner, whose life story was published as the memoir The Pursuit of Happyness and the inspiration for the popular motion picture starring Will Smith; Dolen Perkins-Valdez, author of Wench: A Novel; and Attica Locke, author of Black Water Rising, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for fiction. She has also worked on reprint editions of contemporary American classics written by Peter Matthiessen, James Ellroy, and Elizabeth Stout. Dawn lives in New York City with her family and, spends as much of the summer as she can on Martha’s Vineyard.

lucinda_franksLucinda Franks graduated from Vassar and then went to London where she got a job as a coffee girl at United Press International. She wrote news stories on her own time, visiting Northern Ireland when civil war broke out. At 22, she found herself dodging bullets and sending back stories to UPI headquarters, which later won several awards. She then was summoned to New York to investigate a new phenomenon; highly educated young people who had formed a revolutionary terrorist group called Weatherman. Franks entered the radical underground and traced the life of Diana Oughton, who had blown herself up making dynamite bombs in the cellar of a New York town house. The five part newspaper series won Franks and reporter Thomas Powers the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting. Franks was the first woman to win it. In 1974, she joined the staff of the New York Times and then wrote for the New Yorker, New York, and other magazines. One of her New Yorker stories, about the struggle between the adoptive and birth parents of a three-year-old child, was made into a television movie. She has been a visiting professor at Yale, Princeton, and Vassar and has written four books. Her latest book is a memoir of her unconventional marriage to New York’s most powerful prosecutor, called Timeless: Love, Morgenthau, and Me.

Nicole GallandNicole Galland’s newest novel is Stepdog. A West Tisbury girl by breeding, Nicole is an award-winning performer and screenwriter who swore off the performing arts* to write (mostly) historical fiction. (*Despite this oath, she co-founded the Vineyard Playhouse’s Shakespeare for the Masses.) In addition to Stepdog (contemporary and comic) her historical novels include The Fool’s Tale; Revenge of the Rose; Crossed: A Tale of the Fourth Crusade; I, Iago; and Godiva. With six collaborators, she co-wrote the best-selling “alternative history” trilogy The Mongoliad. She also pens a cheeky advice column for the MV Times, and spends her non-writing time playing around with her actor-husband Billy Meleady, her dog Leuco, and more recently, a ukelele.

Tony HorwitzTony Horwitz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who has worked for the Wall Street Journal and the New Yorker. His books include the New York Times bestsellers Confederates in the AtticBlue Latitudes, and A Voyage Long and Strange. His latest work is Boom: Oil, Money, Cowboys, Strippers, and the Energy Rush that Could Change America Forever. Tony is a native of Washington D.C. and a graduate of Brown University. He has also been a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Tony lives year-round in West Tisbury with his wife, novelist Geraldine Brooks, and their sons Nathaniel and Bizu;

IW-John HoughJohn Hough, Jr. is a former speech writer for Senator Charles Mathias of Maryland and a former assistant to James Reston at the Washington Bureau of the New York Times. He is the author of six novels and, recently, of The Fiction Writer’s Guide to Dialogue. He lives with his wife in West Tisbury and teaches creative writing to small classes in his living room. His most recent novel is Little Bighorn.

Jemima JamesJemima James: I grew up in Colorado and went to the Boston Museum School. I joined a band, dropped out of art school and moved to N.Y.C. with my partner, Michael Mason in the early 70’s. He and I became staff songwriters for Famous Music, the music-publishing arm of Paramount. I’ve been on and off writing, playing, and recording ever since. I’m 65. I’ve been a prep cook, preschool teacher, maid, caterer, counter girl, and have taken care of old people, which I still do. I had the privilege of recording with the great guitarist Michael Bloomfield who liked my songs. Jack Nitzsche, the composer and pianist wanted to start a record label and produce a group of artists including me but Jack couldn’t get along with the men who ran the music busness . I recorded an album at beautiful Long View Farm – a residential recording studio in western MA – where I lived, and paid my way for three years cleaning, cooking, mucking, milking. I enjoyed serving the J. Geils Band, Tim Curry, Arlo Guthrie, Pat Matheny, John Belushi, Paul Winter, the Rolling Stones, Bill Graham, others. In the mid 80’s Michael Mason and I rejoined forces and had two boys, Willy and Sam Mason, We raised them on Martha’s Vineyard. Both have grown to become highly accomplished artists, musicians, writers, delightful humans. In the spring of 2016 Team Love Records will release two of my records in a one package: the 1979 Long View record, and one I recorded in October 2015 at Old Soul Studio in Hudson, NY with my wonderful band also known as Good Night Louise.

Amy Holden JonesAmy Holden Jones is a writer and director who works in film and television.  She started her career by winning the AFI National Student film festival and went on to write and direct both independent and studio films.  Among her numerous screenplay credits are Mystic Pizza, Indecent Proposal, Beethoven, The Getaway, and The Relic.  Her directing credits include the cult classic Slumber Party Massacre, Love Letters, Maid to Order and The Rich Man’s Wife.  She has written pilots for all major networks and cable.   The Black Box, her first series, was on ABC last summer.  It was a medical show and drew on her lifelong fascination with medicine and the brain.

Sarah Kernochan headshotSarah Kernochan has won two Academy Awards for her documentaries Marjoe and Thoth. As a screenwriter, she has written many films including Nine and ½ Weeks, Impromptu, Sommersby, and What Lies Beneath; and she both wrote and directed the comedy All I Wanna Do. Her latest, Learning to Drive, opens August 21. In addition to her film work, Kernochan has written two novels: Dry Hustle (1977) and Jane Was Here (2011), and a “paranormal memoir” of her encounters with ghosts on her blog. She lives in New York with her husband, playwright James Lapine.

Susan KleinSusan Klein      Born and raised on Martha’s Vineyard, Susan Klein is an internationally-known, professional storyteller, and author of Through a Ruby Window and Martha’s Vineyard – Now & Zen with photographer, Alan Brigish. As owner of Ruby Window Productions, Susan offers acclaimed Story Wisdom™ workshops for educators, writers, and speakers, and coaching and editing for the page and stage through An Alien Eye. Susan is a director/producer of numerous award-winning spoken-word recordings, the 2007 recipient of the Creative Living Award presented by the Permanent Endowment of Martha’s Vineyard and the National Storytelling Network’s coveted Circle of Excellence Award.

Willy MasonWilly Mason was raised and educated on the island. Since graduating MVRHS in 2003 he has been working internationally as a songwriter and performer. He has released 3 full length albums and a scattering of EPs, singles and collaborations. He recently began working as a producer and guitar teacher.

Rich MichelsonRichard Michelson’s many books for children, teens, and adults have been listed among the Ten Best of the Year by The New York Times, Publishers Weekly, and The New Yorker. He has been a finalist for the Massachusetts Book Award (3X), the National Jewish Book Award (3X), the Harlem Book Fest Wheatley Award, and is the only author ever awarded both the Sydney Taylor Gold and Silver Medals in a single year from the Association of Jewish Librarians. Michelson just completed his 2nd term as Poet Laureate of Northampton, MA. Michelson’s most recent poetry book for children S is for Sea Glass was written on the porch of his Oak Bluffs gingerbread cottage, and his newest adult collection, More Money than God was recently published in the Pitt Poetry Series.

Donald NitchieDonald Nitchie has led poetry writing workshops on the Vineyard for the past 25 years, and has had his poetry in Salamander, MV Arts and Ideas, Martha’s Vineyard Poets, and other publications. His poetry collection, Driving Lessons, was published by Pudding House in 2008


Peter Oberfest bioPeter Oberfest and his wife Barbara became partners in owning and publishing the Martha’s Vineyard Times in 1995. In a remarkable example of magical thinking, they became sole owners of The Times and its web and print publications this past May. Peter also maintained a strategy and organization consulting practice for more than 40 years. Peter was educated in the New York City public school system, the University of Pennsylvania and the Graduate Faculty of The New School for Social Research;

CChristi Parsonshristi Parsons is a White House correspondent for the Los Angeles Times/ Tribune newspapers and the recent past president of the White House Correspondents’ Association. She has covered the White House for seven years, and prior to that covered presidential campaigns, the U.S. Congress and Illinois politics. She wrote about state prisons, the death penalty and the downfall of two governors while posted in the Illinois Statehouse, where she also covered the early career of state Sen. Barack Obama. She studied Journalism and English at the University of Alabama and holds a master’s degree from Yale Law School.

Niki PattonNiki Patton is a writer who has been active in the Island’s music, theatre and writing communities for two decades — both as a performer and a supporter. She lives in West Tisbury. Starting as a writer for her own commercial production company in New York, she has since added a book, local and regional magazine articles and essays,  songs, performance pieces, and two monologues to her writing resume.  Growing up part-time in Italy, where a long heritage of local arts and artists is firmly rooted and celebrated in the culture, she notes a similar tradition on the Island and supports it whenever possible.

Jamie Raab HeadshotJamie Raab, President and Publisher of Grand Central Publishing, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, directs the publication of approximately 275 titles per year on Grand Central Publishing’s hardcover, trade paperback and mass market lists. Ms. Raab is responsible for all aspects of publishing activities for its imprints, including Twelve, Grand Central Life & Style, and Forever. Ms. Raab joined the company (then Warner Books) in 1986 and since that time has acquired and/or edited a wide range of fiction and nonfiction titles, including works by Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart, Nicholas Sparks, Michael Moore, Nelson DeMille, Kitty Kelley, Robin Roberts, Amy Sedaris, Lalita Tademy, Sandra Brown, Brad Meltzer, Anne Rivers Siddons, Billie Letts and Dr. Jane Goodall. Ms. Raab was named one of the “Top Women in Book Publishing” by Book Business magazine.

Jon RadalMuch to the despair of his mother, Jonathan Randal threw away an Exeter and Harvard education to become a foreign correspondent condemned to coverage of wars, crises and general nastiness his wiser colleagues avoided as fast as possible. His single-minded pursuit of mayhem led him from UP (before it added the I) and AFP to the old Paris Herald, TIME, The New York Times and then for 30 years as roving correspondent for The Washington Post. Randal specialized in what a British Prime Minister in a slip of the tongue once called “the underdeveloping world.” He began by covering Algeria’s War of Independence against France and then the Cold War in Hot Climates in the old Belgian Congo.  Knowledge of those Third World conflicts landed him in America’s Indochina wars. Therein ensued a long exposure to the Arab-Israeli dispute and the wider problems within the Muslim world from Lebanon and Syria to Iraq and Afghanistan. Along the way, Randal wrote three books about the region: Going All the Way, Christian Warlords, Israeli Adventurers and the War in Lebanon;  After Such Knowledge, What Forgiveness-My Encounters with Kurdistan; and Osama, The Making of a Terrorist.

Amy ReeceBorn on a stormy March night in upstate New York, Amy Reece was welcomed into a world of chaos and love.  Her father arrived at the hospital late after spinning his car into a snow bank and two rowdy brothers waited at home ready to defend, tease, and tickle her until she cried. Today, Amy writes and teaches on Martha’s Vineyard Island. Inspired by the authors who have mentored her and the friends and family that have encouraged her, she is happy to have published her first novel, Regarding Jeffrey, and excited about her upcoming novel, Haven’s Home.

Arnie ReismanArnie Reisman lives on the island of Martha’s Vineyard with his wife, former television consumer reporter and executive coach, Paula Lyons. In October 2014 he was named Martha’s Vineyard Poet Laureate for a two-year term. He is a member of the Martha’s Vineyard Poetry Society and the Cleaveland House Poets. He is also a columnist for the Vineyard Gazette, a playwright, a filmmaker and a radio performer. His dark stage comedy, Not Constantinople, is scheduled for production at the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse in June, 2015. Since the radio program’s debut in 1996, along with his wife, he has been a regular panelist on the weekly NPR comedy quiz show, Says You! Among his film credits are Hollywood On Trial (the Blacklist era), which received an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary, The Other Side of the Moon (Apollo astronaut program), which he co-produced for PBS with Mickey Lemle, and The Powder & the Glory (the Helena Rubinstein-Elizabeth Arden business rivalry), which he co-produced for PBS with Ann Carol Grossman. A theatrical musical based on this film is now being developed.

Kay ScheidlerKay Scheidler
is author, Standards Matter: The Why and What of Common Core State Standards, 2015, on the politically hot topic of national school standards. Kay taught English at an urban high school in Providence, RI for over twenty years and taught Methods of Teaching English at Brown University, summering on the Vineyard. Kay was Assistant Superintendent of Schools in Canton and Hopkinton, MA and Curriculum Director in Marblehead, always involved in school change, and finally writing about it in a way that speaks to teachers and the public.  She now teaches teachers, and escapes to this special writing-friendly island to live, think, party, and write.

Matthew Siffert HeadshotMatthew Siffert is a New York City-based singer-songwriter. Born and raised in New York, his music incorporates folk, jazz, and classical music. He has been written about in The New Yorker, Time Out New York, and I Care if You Listen, among others. He has performed all over New York City, from Le Poisson Rouge to the Metropolitan Opera, as well as nationally and internationally, from New Orleans to Pittsburgh, Havana to Florence.

rosemary stimola and zoe SCBWI-300-2Rosemary Stimola, a former professor of language and literature and an award-winning children’s bookseller, formalized the Stimola Literary Studio in 1997. Representing both fiction and nonfiction from preschool through young adult, she is honored to count among her clients many award-winning authors and illustrators including New York Times Bestselling Suzanne Collins, Jodi Lynn Anderson and Lisa Papademetriou; National Book Award and Newbery Honor Medalist Thanhha Lai, Sibert Medalist Tanya Lee Stone; and author/illustrators Matthew Cordell, Barney Saltzberg among others. Rosemary and her husband, photographer Michael Stimola, live and work on Martha’s Vineyard June through October, and spend time on-island throughout all seasons of the year.

John Sundman headshotSince 1980, John Sundman has worked in and out of the computer industry; he’s currently employed by a San Francisco virtual reality startup. Since moving to Martha’s Vineyard in 1994 he’s also been a construction worker and a truck driver for Trip Barnes. His 1999 novel Acts of the Apostles, about a Silicon Valley messiah and his cult of brain hackers, has its own cult following. John has published four other novels, all dealing with the convergence of biological and digital technology. He’s married to Betty Burton of the Vineyard Haven Library and is a member of the Tisbury Fire Department.

Michael West headshotMichael G. West
a graduate of Williams College and the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars, is the author of five novels, including the Tommy Shakespear Mystery Thrillers, Dutch Reckoning and Misfit Blues, and the Martha’s Vineyard Eco-Thrillers, XOC – The White Shark Murders and BUZZD – The Bee Kill Conspiracy. His latest novel, ROOF – A Year-round Place To Die will be out in the fall. He works at Gartner as an industry analyst covering agile software and lives year round on Martha’s Vineyard. He has three ex-wives, two sons and a dog named Leo the Magnificent Fang.

Islanders Write is sponsored by the MV Times and Martha’s Vineyard Arts & Ideas Magazine, with co-sponsors Noepe Center for Literary Arts, WCAI, and Bunch of Grapes, with food by Rosewater Market.


Below are images from Islanders Write 2014:

David McCullough was the final speaker of the day

David McCullough was the final speaker

Geraldine Brooks

Geraldine Brooks

Alexandra Styron

Alexandra Styron

Children's book authors and illustrators Florence Friedman Minor, Wendell Minor and Richard Michelson

Children’s book authors and illustrators Florence Friedman Minor, Wendell Minor and Richard Michelson

Writing in a new media world with Susan Branch, Tony Horwitz, Nicole Galland and Jan Pogue

Writing in a new media world with Susan Branch, Tony Horwitz, Nicole Galland and Jan Pogue

Writing cookbooks with Catherine Walthers, Jessica Harris, Susan Middleton and Tina Mille

Writing cookbooks with Catherine Walthers, Jessica Harris, Susan Middleton and Tina Miller

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