This Place Rocks.

The other day I needed to do some reading—research for a new book I’m writing. It was hot inside my little house, yet I didn’t like the thought of closing myself into an air-conditioned space at the library on such a gorgeous day.

IMG_5377And then I thought about the Harbor View Hotel on North Water Street, or rather, I thought about its porch. Something about that porch intrigues me. It is nearly endless, with its iconic chairs that move gently in the breeze, beckoning their guests (and sometimes passers-by like me) to take a seat and enjoy the picture-postcard view of the lighthouse and the harbor and the serenity all around. (Actually, the porch and the whole hotel became a highly visible character in my latest book, VINEYARD MAGIC, but that’s a different story.)

I decided that, yes, the Harbor View was a perfect place to work. I gathered my research materials and meandered across town. I parked in front (A parking space! In Edgartown! In August!!!). I climbed onto the porch, slipped into one of the amazing rocking chairs, and acted as if I belonged there.

Oddly, as you can see in the photo here, no one was around. I would not have minded company, but it seemed that everyone was at the beach (or perhaps they were stuck in traffic at the Triangle or Stop ‘n Shop). The only folks I saw were those who pattered in and out of the front door of the hotel, juggling their coolers, kids, shovels, pails, and blankets, their happy laughter bouncing in the air. They didn’t stop to chat, though . . . they kept their eyes fixed across the water on the long shoreline of Chappaquiddick that awaited.

So I sat there, rocking and reading, for nearly two hours. I accomplished more than I had hoped. And when I was between chapters I realized that in my next life, or in this one at a later time, I would very much like to be a concierge at the hotel. Maybe next week I’ll stop by Human Resources and fill out an application.

In the meantime, I’ll be glad to just do my work while sitting on the porch. Hopefully, they won’t find out and want to charge me rent.

www.jeanstone.com

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They’re Here!

The fabulous new MV license plates have arrived, and I couldn’t be happier! With an early bird opportunity to select my favorite number (yup, this one is mine, no doubt about it), and a small donation to Martha’s Vineyard Community Services (the place that keeps the island ticking), over 1,000 applications had been received, which was more than enough for the special state-issued plates.

IMG_5378Hooray!

But this is not an ordinary RMV story. (Surprise!)

This morning was my day to go to the registry and get my new plates. I pulled myself together early and packed a few essentials: ice water, a book I’m reading for the Edgartown Library book group, a notebook, pen, much-needed glasses. I was, after all heading off to the island RMV and, well, sometimes there’s a wait. ☺

I arrived around 9:30, gathered my daypack, and headed inside. I stood in the middle of the open room and surveyed my surroundings. Aside from one young woman who stood on the opposite side of the front door, no one was around. Not a soul. It seemed she was sorting license plates.

I stopped, turned back to the door, and rechecked the HOURS. I thought the office might not open until 10:00, and that someone had left the door unlocked. Either that, or it was a holiday. Where were the lines? Where were the people parked on the long benches? Where was the click-click of the Take-A-Number machine?

The young woman turned to me. “May I help you?” she called from across the room.

“Um,” I replied. “Yes. I’m here to pick up my Vineyard plate?” I said it as a question because I had begun to wonder if, instead of the RMV, I had wandered into the Twilight Zone.

The young woman, whose middle name, as is happens, is Jean, smiled. “I can take care of you.”

Three and one half minutes later I was out of there with my new plates. Wow.

But not so fast. When I got home and put on the new plates, I noticed a small flaw in the front one: someone at Walpole State Penitentiary, or wherever it is that license plates are IMG_5379now made, had failed to paint the “J” in “JUN,” which I guessed stood for “June,” the month the plates were actually made. It was a small glitch, but it made me smile to think that I will renew the registration in UN of next year.

Well, nobody’s perfect, I suppose. Not even the RMV. But kudos to the Vineyard office!

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!

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.

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

Life is a Potluck Dinner

They liked it. :-)

It wasn’t actually dinner. It was the annual St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church picnic (aka Potluck); it would be held at the venue facility in Sailing Camp Park in Oak Bluffs, and would follow a traditional service. Set atop a bluff, the tastefully rustic building offers a spectacular view of Lagoon Pond, the new drawbridge, and Vineyard Haven Harbor in the distance. The day was bright and sunny; while we were there, a couple of ferries came and went, their gleaming white upper decks dotted with passengers, a statement that summer is almost here.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I did not have a clue what to bring. I lost my ability/desire/call it whatever to cook sometime in the late 1980s. And for a Potluck? Argh. I usually resort to brownies. Or sugar cookies, if I can add M & M’s and stash some in the freezer.

But for such a beautiful day, I decided to push the nutritional envelope.

I found my answer on the Internet: Slice of Tomato; Slice of fresh Mozzarella; Sprig of fresh basil. Drizzle olive oil over all. Even I could do that.

But while I was assembling (can’t call it cooking) my “dish,” it occurred to me that these events are really like life: when you join any group, you never know what you’re going to get, but chances are, it won’t all be potato salad.

Starting a new job? Your co-workers will definitely be Potluck. Some sweet ones, some tangy, some who might not seem terrific but turn out amazing.

What about School? When I was a kid, every September was a Potluck: The only time I knew what would be at the table was in high school homeroom when the class was alphabetized. I could be fairly sure that Ray Barafauldi would sit in front of me and Molly Briggs would be behind me. (Back then my name began with a “B,” which you’ve probably figured.) My prediction was usually right unless there was a new kid in town or someone had moved away.

As I sliced the mozzarella, I realized that every time we step out in public we step into a Potluck. At the Post Office, the Library, the Supermarket . . . some people smile, some chat a bit; some hold up the line, others seem content to stay in their own little worlds.

But it all works, doesn’t it? The folks at the office, the kids in school, the people meandering around town: If we all were the same, things would be pretty boring. Especially if everyone was a novelist like me whose head lives in make-believe much of the time.

At the picnic yesterday, someone brought salad, someone brought meatballs, someone brought quiche; several brought desserts. I didn’t see any potato salad, but people seemed to enjoy my Tomato/Mozzarella/Basil/Olive Oil concoction. We all helped ourselves to the seemingly incongruous selections—some sweet, some tangy, most, amazing—and proceeded to revel in the cacophony of life.

But wait! I forgot the best part! At two minutes before the service was to start, the woman in charge of the altar things realized she’d forgotten the communion wine. For one horrified moment there seemed to be no answer. Then Father Chip’s gaze shifted to the assortment of desserts that awaited the after-service celebration. “We have red grapes!” he announced. “Fill up the Chalice!” Perfect. I guess there truly is everything one needs at the Potluck table.

www.jeanstone.com