Who were Yours?

After a brief trip, I returned to the island Tuesday afternoon, grateful that the crossing was uneventful and the weather had turned cooler and that I could put my feet up and say, “Ahhh . . . home.”

IMG_5373But as I turned on the TV to await the evening news, a familiar voice rang out: “She had a little trouble with her dismount but she looked strong in the warm-ups . . .” I sat up straight and smiled. The video showed a young woman in sparkly pink Spandex, flipping and twisting and then—yay!—sticking her dismount. I had inadvertently tuned in to the U.S. Women’s Olympic Gymnastic Trials; the announcer’s voice belonged to Tim Daggett, 1984 Olympic gold medal gymnast.

Full disclosure: I am not, never was, never wanted to be a gymnast. In third grade I sucked at climbing ropes, doing cartwheels, standing on my head. I was better at making up stories, which back then were called “daydreams.” (“Jean! Stop daydreaming!” my mother or my grandfather or Mrs. Smith, my teacher, often barked.)

Today my daydreams are called “fiction.” From the time I was eight or nine, I wanted to write. But if it hadn’t been for a few important people, including Tim Daggett, who knows what might have happened.

I believe that all types of incredibly supportive, inspiring people step into our lives—people beyond our families and our close friends—who, amazingly, think we are capable of reaching our goals.

I met Tim through a business connection, helped him with some marketing projects, and ended up co-authoring his story, DARE TO DREAM (Baker Books 1992). It was my first published book, which was unbelievably exciting. But even more important, while working with Tim, I became influenced by his unwavering determination, his ability to, as he might say, “have a dream and do whatever it takes to make that dream come true.” In 1994, thanks in large part to Tim’s inspiration, my first novel, SINS OF INNOCENCE, was published (Bantam Books).

Later, I attended a lecture at Smith College given by Kurt Vonnegut. His theme focused on the teachers in our lives: he closed by asking how many in the audience had been inspired/encouraged/motivated by a teacher. Most of us raised a hand. Vonnegut then asked us to turn to the person on our left and reveal the teacher’s name. I turned my head. “Miss Carroll,” I said without hesitation. She had been my ninth grade English teacher. And she’d encouraged me—really encouraged me—to write. And write. And write.

So this year when I watch the Olympics, I will think of Tim and Miss Carroll and a few other special people. I will remember that without them I would probably not have 19-and-counting published novels.

What about you? Who were your greatest inspirations? Have you thought about them . . . and maybe thanked them lately? Do it! It feels great. Best of all, sparkly pink Spandex is not required.

Enjoy the Olympic Games!

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YAY!

IMG_5192I love that VINEYARD MAGIC is sharing bookshelf space with other local Vineyard authors at Cronig’s Market. Can’t wait to get back to the island and replenish!

Hope you all are having a terrific summer so far. It’s lovely here on Cape Cod…come on down!

Land Ho!

IMG_3734
I’ve left the island, heading to America for a bit. I’ve heard there’s less pollen on this side of the water, so stay tuned.

Oh, and as for that aroma of skunk I endured a couple of weeks ago? It turns out that the little guy (or girl…I didn’t get close enough) was living under my deck. Here’s hoping he has relocated by the time I return. And has carted the family off with him.

Until then, may your lazy days of summer be filled with happy reading and include a favorite from my Vineyard collection (brace yourself for another The Summer House_approvedword from our sponsor): THE SUMMER HOUSE!

Summer Reading Alert!

Thanks to the magic of the Internet, I now have a number of new readers! Yay! Many have asked about my previous titles, so, if my previous readers will please indulge me, over the next few weeks I’m going to do my own special kind of Throwback Thursday.

Here is one of my summer favorites—TIDES OF THE HEART—that’s all dressed up for easy eBook reading. A classic work of women’s fiction, it, of course, takes place on the fabulous island of Martha’s Vineyard. ItTides of the Heart_approved was a USA Today best-seller and, for some reason we’ve never been able to figure out, it was a huge seller in France.

So . . . welcome to my new readers! If you’re already familiar with my work, don’t miss this one this time around. It’s also available in paperback—published by Random House.

For other of my classic summer tales, check out my website: www.jeanstone.com.

We now return to our regular scheduled program.

Flag Day

FullSizeRenderHere on Martha’s Vineyard, the air is filled with aromas of grilling and sounds of laughter and music and, well, the good stuff that happens when people converge for that fabulous thing called vacation. In short, summer is here; the season has officially begun.

Of course, it’s also Memorial Day, which, if you’ve been on FB, you’ve been reminded many times of what the holiday really means. Which is good.

The first time I visited the National Cemetery in Bourne, MA was in 2011. I was overwhelmed with the expanse of rolling, green land, the veritable hush in the air, and the thousands upon thousands of American flags that waved in the gentle Cape Cod breeze.

It turned out that over 60,000 flags had been placed at each marker by scores of volunteers. Called Operation Flags for Vets, the project was organized by a man named Paul Monti, who had lost his son in Afghanistan in 2006. Each year since 2011, flags are placed on Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day.

FullSizeRender-1I was lucky to have had one of these amazing vets in my life. As with all the markers, his is simple; he would have liked it that way. Best of all, it is surrounded by markers of vets from different wars, different eras, wartime, and peacetime. All vets, nonetheless. All among those who—the cliché says it best—had served to keep freedom alive.

So on this weekend of burgers and beaches and folks having fun, I thought you might like to see some of those flags (there are now 66,000) . . . and imagine the quiet with respect. And with thanks.

Oh, and though this is not about me, I’d like to add that this year I had the privilege of being one of those flag-placing volunteers. It was a most memorable, truly heartfeltFullSizeRender-2 experience that I shared with 4,000 people . . . and one stranger—a nameless, sweet biker guy who appeared from out of nowhere and offered to give me a hand. I was grateful; the task was difficult. He didn’t say much; he merely worked methodically alongside me, piercing the earth so I could more easily insert the small flagpole.

I couldn’t have done it without him. When we were finished the sweet biker guy wandered off to help someone else. I never found out what had drawn him to the event—what, or more importantly, who. My best guess is that he, too, had his own reasons for attending, instead of hanging out at home having burgers and beer.

http://www.jeanstone.com

Did you ever wonder WHY?

Thanks to my friend and fellow writer Marty, I have begun to wonder about things. And now I have something to say when I am blog-topic-less. So…here goes.

Did you ever wonder why a dog who barks incessantly suddenly stops?

It happened to me the other night. For almost an hour, Rover kept woof-woofing. It sounded as if he were somewhere down the street…the sounds weren’t close enough to be next door, but loud enough to be annoying. A German Shepard, perhaps. Or maybe an alto poodle. Left home alone. And unhappy.

Woof, woof. Arf, arf.

Don’t get me wrong. I love dogs. Really, I do. Anyone who’d ever seen me with Snuggles (my cocker spaniel—see photoSnuggles copy) knows that’s the truth. But on a warm evening, with the windows open, the woof, woof, arf, arf was, as my friend Bev would say, “working my last nerve.” (I love that saying.)

So I closed the windows. The arfs were muted, but still there. I tried to read. I washed the dishes. I flicked on the TV news, turned it up loud. The woofs evolved into a deep howl.

Then, suddenly, they stopped.

I waited. Nothing. Nadda. Yay.

Then I started to, as Marty would say, wonder why.

My thoughts could have gone to dark places, but, as I said, I love dogs. I decided to deduce that his (or her) owner must have returned home. The sweet dog was happy again, wagging his tail, trotting into his house, crunching Milk Bones and enjoying a few laps of cool water that would no doubt soothe his throat that must have been burning from all those vocals.

I returned to luxuriate in the quiet and stopped wondering why. Until the morning when I had to do errands.

I opened the door to the outside, juggling my keys, my purse, and a trash bag (I was en route to the dump). I stepped out onto the small deck and into the early sunshine. All was lovely until I took my next breath. My throat closed up. My eyes suddenly watered. I tried to mouth-breathe, the way a doctor friend had once taught me.

Unfortunately, nothing helped. I quickly raced to my car, threw the trash bag in the back, jumped into the driver’s seat, and slammed the door. But even inside my hermetically-sealed VW Jetta, the smell was unmistakeable: skunk.

And that’s when I knew. The dog must have stopped barking because he’d had a visit from one of the neighborhood black-and-white critters. He must have forgotten that this is their island, not his. And I suppose, like me, even skunks appreciate silence.

The end. No more wondering needed.

P.S. I have not heard a peep, so I assume that the dog has returned to the mainland with his owners. Unfortunately, the aroma of his visitor still lingers. Not as strong, but still there.

I have no idea if there is a moral to this story. Maybe Marty can come up with one.

The Trouble with #Blogging

It’s pretty simple: The trouble with blogging is that sometimes you don’t have any ideas.

Well, actually, I have lots of ideas. But they all stink.

IMG_5124It was a nice weekend.
The weather was good.
I #binge-watched a few #BritishMysteries.
The flowers are out.
The island is waking up.
Lots of restaurants are open.
And shops. They’re open, too.
And there are more boats in the harbor.

I could tell you about my latest book, VINEYARD MAGIC, but I already have. (Nice review on amazon . . . thanks, whoever you are!)

How can it be that I live on Martha’s Vineyard and have nothing to say this week?

I dunno. Maybe I need coffee. Or sugar. Or just another career.

But the truth is, I have nothing to say! Not today, anyway. Not right now. Because anything I seem to come up with sounds like blah-blah-blah. Or, yadda yadda yadda, as Jerry Seinfeld would say. Or was that Elaine?

Anyway, I decided that most of us get enough of that in our days without listening to my prattle, too.

Whew. Now I can stop angst-ing about “What to Write on my Blog” today and get back to doing something I can handle! Like taking a lovely walk on the beach. Picking up wampum. Hunting for sea glass. Feeling the sun on my face and the sand getting stuck inside my sneakers. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do. Because right now, unlike blogging, a walk on the beach is no trouble. No trouble at all.

Oh, and please don’t ask me what the hashtags are for. I’m told they’re important, but I still have no idea why.

Happy Monday.

http://www.jeanstone.com