Last month I spent two weeks at a writers residency on Martha's Vineyard. It was life-changingly great and one of the best things I've ever done for myself and I hugely recommend it to all other writers, especially if you like the ocean and wonderful people and amazing food and ghosts and New England. I'm already plotting to go back again, but in the meantime, here's a big list of lots of the things I loved about when I lived on the island:
i. THE FERRY
I didn't want to have to do any work while I was on the island, which meant that in the weeks leading up my residency all I ever did was work. I literally finished my last work thing as my bus was pulling into the ferry parking lot; I was so blown away to be done that I couldn't even experience the relief. But then I got my ticket and a copy of the island newspaper and boarded the ferry and it all started to feel real. Once on board, I headed to the most important part of the boat:
and got myself a beer and I think maybe some Cape Cod Chips? I can't remember. I drank my beer and ate whatever I ate and read the paper, then went out to the deck to gaze upon the blue-green sea.
ii. THE INN
The Martha's Vineyard Writers Residency is at an inn, which I called "the house" while I was there. Here's a shot of the outside of my house:
The inn's big and beautiful with the most extravagant kitchen and an adorable courtyard that I never hung out in, since it was pretty much freezing the whole time I was on the Vineyard and I'm a spoiled L.A. baby. Here's a picture of the living room, which has a nice mirrored cabinet for taking selfies while drinking wine with your new writer friends.
iii. MY ROOM
My room was so deluxe. It was actually three rooms: bedroom, living room (with fireplace!), plus this little pink office which I never used because I tend to write either lying in bed or sitting on the floor:
I also had not one but two little porch/balcony things. Here's the view out my bathroom window:
And here's my bedside table. My lamp was made of a birdcage.
Really into this painting hanging in my living room. That tiger-y cat was my spirit pet during my time at the residency.
The drawers of my bureau had some complicated lining, which delighted me:
And here's a shot of my coffee table, with my favorite residency mug and drinking glass. "Laura" obviously stands for "Laura Jane Faulds."
iv. MY NEIGHBORHOOD
The residency is in Edgartown and I spent a lot of time wandering around and drinking coffee. Sometimes I'd go down to the harbor and watch the little boat bring cars over to Chappaquiddick:
Also near-ish to the inn was a wine store that looks like a house. I bought wine there a few times, and once had a fun conversation about J. Geils Band with the owner dude. On J. Geils Day they were selling mango bread and I didn't buy any, which was a mistake.
Speaking of eating food: oh my god, I ate so much great food. Nearly everyone in the house was an amazing cook and really generous about cooking for everyone and we had a few family meals that were just all-out feasts. The second Friday night dinner was extra epic:
I brought the cheeses & crackers (I'm "E.B.") but usually my dinner contribution thing was wine and ice cream and some kind of fruit, especially champagne mangos. Champagne mangos were my jam on Martha's Vineyard. Anyway, here's a picture of our lovely dining room table:
And here's the white clam pizza referenced on the white board above:
One of the other writers, Jenny, is a genius baker and made us about a million pies and cakes and brownies and cookies, and they were all from heaven. I think this was her raspberry buttermilk cake, plus some of our Saran-wrapped wine.
One night some local writers came over and we sat around the living room and each read a few pages of whatever we working on, which was superfun. After I read my pages, one of the visiting writers (a guy from Southie who was probably in his 60s) told me that he wanted to be my main character's dad, which is one of the best things anyone's ever said. Also they brought this gorgeous platter of frosted brownies, which we put away in the fridge just like Pete Campbell does:
Another reading experience was my first Tuesday there, when we went to a tavern on the other end of the island and everyone from the residency read an excerpt of her/his work. I read a part of my book that's about listening to "Ruby Tuesday" in a cemetery and then getting dinner at McDonald's, and I wore this dress that makes me feel like I'm best friends with Peggy Olson. The reading was a blast and then the next day I treated myself to a reward breakfast of everything bagel w/ cream cheese + giant iced coffee from the cafe of the fudge shoppe, where my table had this nice view:
vi. LITTLE DAY TRIPS
My first Saturday on the island, I went on a giant walk to Oak Bluffs, which is the town that LJ and Jen and I stayed in when we went on our cosmic corporate retreat last summer. The walk was 13 miles round trip and I made myself a playlist of songs aligned with my book and listened to that the whole way (lotta Rolling Stones and Replacements and also some Roy Orbison, whom I started to appreciate in a major way while I was on the island). The walk was mostly along the beach road and I passed a lot of emotionally manipulative litter, like shattered beer bottles that will one day become sea glass.
When I got to Oak Bluffs I went to the Lookout Tavern (aka the site of the first-ever Strawberry Fields Whatever together-supper) and got a clam roll (bellies, not strips!) and a beer and some chowder. And then I just roamed around town for a bit and went to visit the official Strawberry Fields Whatever Headquarters, which is still looking outta sight:
On my second Saturday my friend Laura came to visit and we got brunch at The Black Dog. I got this breakfast burrito thing that I mainly picked because it was named Amy's Second Chance, and then Laura and I split an order of the White Russian Pancakes (a stack of pancakes with white chocolate chips and strawberry slices on top, plus in between each pancake). The white chocolate chips turned all melty from the pancakes being hot and the whole thing was heaven. The Black Dog is so cozy and feels like being inside a ship; that day was so goddamn cold and blustery and the restaurant's right on the water and outside was so mean and gray-looking, and I just wanted to stay forever.
I don't know, everything: everything about my time at the residency was perfect and a dream. I also need to say that the people I met there were so smart and fun and wonderful; I'm so lucky I got to hang out with them all. My first day on the island, one of the other women asked what I was going to work on during my time there, and I told her that I'd finished a draft of a novel last year and wanted to finish revising it, but that I didn't feel like I'd actually get that done. And in response to that she told me one of the best things anyone's ever said to me, something like: "The thing about a place like this is that when you're in the real world and you're working on whatever you're working on, there's always some voice in your head that tells you it doesn't matter, even if you really believe in it. But here everyone knows that it matters, so then it actually matters." So there you go: if something means something to you, then it means something. End of story. Here is my beautiful street: