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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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.

Let the Beach Reading Begin!

PLACES BY THE SEAThe high-energy Kentucky Derby is over, Edgartown’s fabulous Pink and Green Weekend is done, and if the throngs of people on the boats are any indication, summer has begun! (Somewhere the thermometer will soon agree.)

Summer, of course, means beach reading . . . and what better beach reads than novels that take place on Martha’s Vineyard? Oh, wait! I just happen to have a few!

I highly recommend (as does Random House, I’m sure) that you start with my first Vineyard book, PLACES BY THE SEA. Re-issued by RH in 2015 as an eBook with a brand new cover, Jill and Rita’s story is ready and waiting. They were best friends during their island growing-up years, but after graduation Jill left for fame and fortune while Rita stayed behind. Two decades have passed. Jill reluctantly returns to sell the house that she’s inherited; Rita tries to avoid her. Lots of reasons for that, of course! Then Ben enters the picture—yeah, I remember him—the soft-spoken, hunky, construction guy who Jill hires to get the house in shape.

My editor once said the title should have been: LAUGHTER & TEARS.

So break out the laugh track and the hankies, the blankets, and the coolers (don’t forget the suntan lotion with the right IV index!) . . . then charge up your Kindle, iPad, Nook, or whatever, and go ahead—have a blast. Tell my characters I said hello.

And if you’re heading to the islands, don’t forget to check the boat schedules. Summer, definitely, has arrived.

To Plug . . . or Not to Plug

IMG_5041Writing novels isn’t easy. Back in the olden days . . . I know, haha. But seriously, things have been interesting lately. After a hundred (or more) years of writing day in and day out (well, at least thinking about writing day in and day out), I’ve slowed down a bit.

Age? Apathy? Lack of ideas? Any of those excuses seemed plausible. Until this past weekend.

I’d planned a quick, off-island visit to a friend on her birthday. But I left the Vineyard later than I’d hoped, and stayed longer than I’d intended. I soon realized I needed to spend the night on the Cape. Hmmm.

Could I do that on a moment’s notice? Really? It would have been easy when I was twenty. But now?

I had no toothbrush, no toothpaste, and, God forbid, no make-up in my purse. I did have a book to read and, for some reason, a notebook—the kind with pages of lined paper inside. Remember those?

I reasoned that it could be an adventure, and I’ve always liked those. Yes! I could do it! Surely I could find a CVS in the morning where a few purchases would allow me to be seen in public.

I texted another friend: He offered the use of his home that was vacant. He apologized that the place does not have a TV or Internet connection, but this was an adventure, right?

Feeling proud of myself, I drove up the driveway to his house, then suddenly slammed on the brakes.

“NO!” I wailed. “I CAN’T DO THIS!”

Well, of course, I couldn’t. After all, I did not have the most essential item of all: my phone charger. My link to the world of e-mails and texts, and, dare I say, Words with Friends.

I yanked my iPhone from my purse. Thirty-three-percent power. It would not last the night, let alone until I got home the next day. But it was too late to find an Apple store or a place that sells those self-charging do-dads. I sat in silence, heart lightly pounding, brain calculating. If I drove an average of 132mph and got all the green lights, I might make it to Woods Hole for the last boat back to the island. Argh. I dropped my forehead onto the steering wheel. I was doomed.

After a few seconds of feeling sorry for myself, I pried my face up. For some reason (there’s that comment again), I glanced at the passenger seat. There was the book I could read. But more importantly, there was the notebook.

I used to write that way. With pen, paper, and nothing but quiet. No pings, no chimes, no alerts. Just me. In my thoughts. In the quiet. I’d written 17 novels that way.

I put my foot back on the gas and drove up to the house. I found the key and let myself in. Four hours later I had outlined twelve chapters of a new book. I don’t know if anything will become of it, but it sure felt good. Great, in fact.

I think I’ll stay unplugged for a little while longer. And see what happens when I have no more excuses.