Panel Discussions & Workshops


Our location is new this year, but we’re not making many other changes. Islanders Write is delighted to be moving to Featherstone Center for the Arts. There will be more audience seating available for the panel discussions, and actual rooms for workshops and breakout sessions. And yes, there is air-conditioning! 

This summer we are thrilled to have a number of Islanders Write alumni returning, as well as welcoming new speakers to the event. As always, everyone invited to speak at Islanders Write has a Martha’s Vineyard connection. And as always, Islanders Write is free and open to the public. First come, first seated. 

Join us for our kickoff event on Sunday, August 11, at 7:30 pm:
Writing America 
David McCullough interviewed by Nathaniel Brooks Horwitz

Pulitzer prizewinning historian David McCullough explores the settling of the Northwest Territory in his latest book “The Pioneers.” Nathaniel Brooks Horwitz will interview David McCullough and discuss the writing of “Spying on the South: An Odyssey Across the American Divide,” written by his father, the late Tony Horwitz.

Monday, August 12:

8:30 am: Writing about Food — Beyond the Cookbook
Susan Klein
Jessica B. Harris
Susan Branch
Tina Miller, moderator

9:30 am: Writing About Your Parents
Victoria Riskin
Alexandra Styron
Bliss Broyard

10:30 am: Science Writing that Makes an Impact
Tatiana Schlossberg
Ronnie Citron-Fink
Suzan Bellincampi, moderator

11:30 am – 1:00 pm: Covering Politics Then and Now
Walter Shapiro
Melinda Henneberger
Matthew Cooper
Sam Fleming, moderator

1:00 pm: Pitch Panel (Guidelines)
Gretchen Young
Rosemary Stimola
John Hough, Jr.
Torrey Oberfest, moderator

2:00 pm: Along the Path to Publication
Dawn Davis
Ann Kingman
Susan Branch
Dawn Braasch, moderator

3:00 pm: Selling your Book to Hollywood
Geraldine Brooks
Susan Wilson
Doug Liman
Sarah Kernochan, moderator

4:00 – 5:30 pm: How to Write a Sex Scene
Jean Stone
Nicole Galland
LaShonda Katrice Barnett
Elizabeth Benedict, moderator


8 am – Wake up and Write!
Judith Hannan, 30 minutes
Essayist, author, and workshop leader Judith Hannan will lead participants in a series of quick writing prompts to encourage free association and the revelation of scenes and stories.

Judith Hannan is an essayist and author of “The Write Prescription: Telling Your Story to Live With and Beyond Illness” and the memoir “Motherhood Exaggerated.” She leads workshops for those affected by physical and/or mental illness, the homeless, and those within the criminal justice system. She is a writing mentor and interventionist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and a founding faculty member for Kripalu’s program in narrative medicine.

9 and 11 am – Cultivating a Daily Writing Practice
Justen Ahren, 60 minutes
Consistency — showing up to write daily — is the secret to becoming creatively productive. Using prompts and discussion to jump-start your writing, this session will explore ways to develop a writing practice and achieve writing abundance. If you’ve ever felt blocked, or don’t know how to begin, or simply want to re-energize your writing, this session is for you. 

Justen Ahren leads writing workshops in Italy, Mexico, Vermont, and on Martha’s Vineyard, helping writers to cultivate creative abundance through writing. He is the founder of the Noepe Center for Literary Arts at Featherstone, and is the author of two poetry collections: “A Strange Catechism,” and most recently, “A Machine for Remembering.”

 11:30 am – Using a Real Place as Your Setting — the Perks and Pitfalls
Jean Stone, 45 minutes
Sometimes the more you know about a place, the more obstacles appear when using it as a setting. In this workshop, Jean Stone will share how to weave realistic description into scenes without overdoing it, when to take “creative license” for the sake of a great story, and how to craft believable characters without people shouting, “Wait! That’s me!” Jean is the author of 20 novels. Her most recent book, “A Vineyard Summer,” is her ninth book set on Martha’s Vineyard.

Jean Stone has written 20 novels published by Random House, HarperCollins, and now Kensington Books.

12:15 pm – Navigating Literary Twitter — How to Make a Statement with 240 Characters,
Bella Morais, 45 minutes
In this workshop, you will learn how to use Twitter to your literary advantage. Most agents, authors, and editors use Twitter to get to know current writers, and use the platform to connect with people in a more personal, yet informal way. This workshop will help you draft tweets and create literary accounts; it’ll go over the ins and outs of setting up a Twitter, and hone in on the secrets to Twitter success.

Bella Morais is a graphic designer, brand manager, and web developer. She has been working as a freelance designer since 2015, and started her company, Bella Morais Brand Development, in early 2019. Her mission is to help artists find ways to turn their passions into a steady income while still maintaining the integrity of the craft. Currently she is studying art with a concentration in 2D and 3D design at Wesleyan University, and hopes to expand her company in the coming years. 

1 pm – Kelly DuMar
Using Personal Photos for Poetry and Prose, 60 minutes
In this workshop, attendees will write creatively from personal photos. Writing from personal photos allows us to express the truth of what we feel — and know — and haven’t said, as we capture the beauty and deeper meaning of an image. Each participant will bring one to three photos to explore, as we shape images into poetry and prose that reveal personalities, identity, relationships, conflicts, and universal truth and beauty. 

Kelly DuMar is a poet, playwright, and writing workshop leader whose Aim for Astonishing photo-inspired process elicits profound personal awakenings, deepens connection with others, and fosters beautifully crafted writing in poetry and prose.

2 pm – Writing the Query Letter
Mathea Morais,45 minutes
This workshop will examine the all-important agent query letter. From figuring out how to target appropriate agents to writing that very important pitch, Mathea Morais will go step-by-step through the query letter process. Attendees will come away with a better understanding of not only how to write a query letter, but whom to send it to.

Mathea Morais grew up in St. Louis, and began her career writing about hip-hop culture and music. Her fiction has appeared in the New Engagement, Slush Pile Magazine, and Anti-Heroin Chic. She is the director of the Noepe Center for Literary Arts, and has taught creative writing to children and young adults for over 15 years. Her debut novel, “There You Are,” a coming-of-age love story set in a record store in the ’80s and ’90s, will be out this fall.

3 pm – Bella Morais
Instagram as a Voice — Setting Up Your Instagram to Brand Yourself as a Writer, 45 minutes
In this workshop, Bella Morais will go over the importance of image in this day and age. One’s image doesn’t necessarily have to be millions of photos of themselves. Rather, it can be a place to curate your literary inspiration and a way to connect with others who have the same aspirations. We will also go over the importance of engagement and hashtags, and how to stay human in the storm that is social media. 

Photographs from Islanders Write 2018 by Gabrielle Mannino

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