Despite its small size, the Vineyard has long fed the creative spirits of numerous artists, from writers to painters and everything in between. For those Island artists of a more literary persuasion, Jan Pogue’s publishing house Vineyard Stories has for years helped make dreams a written reality. Dedicated to documenting the creative spark of Island authors, Ms. Pogue opens this summer season with four new books.
Renowned for its striking coastlines, sprawling landscapes and dramatic sunsets, the Vineyard’s scenery bids the observer to consider his place and his direction in the world. In their book Costal Inspirations, photographer Peter O’Neil and his daughter Marissa seek to arouse the Island’s motivational spirit by pairing photographs of its immense beauty with quotations from a variety of inspirational figures, such as David McCullough and Eleanor Roosevelt.
Although she said she loves the book, Ms. Pogue also said that she didn’t expect to be publishing it. She didn’t receive the O’Neil’s original manuscript until sometime in January and, because the process of developing a book takes about a year, Ms. Pogue said she thought it was unlikely that the book would be ready for a summer release.
“I found the father-daughter collaboration intriguing but, when they described the book to me, I was worried that they could not hit their marks,” Ms. Pogue said.
Despite the time crunch, Ms. Pogue said she was stunned by the photography and impressed by the pair’s choice of quotations. The manuscript first arrived at Vineyard Stories without its photographs and, after reading a particularly moving quotation by author Wendell Berry, Ms. Pogue said she was sold.
“I thought, if this is their sensibility, I want to be involved,” Ms. Pogue said. “I never produced a book so fast in my life.”
Ms. Pogue said that part of the challenge of choosing which books to publish is seeing the manuscript not for what it is at the time, but for what it has the potential to be.
“You have to understand what drives authors and know that they’re going to be dedicated to producing a quality book,” she said.
When it comes to working with authors, Ms. Pogue said she loves working with young talent. She had the chance to do just that while working on Alphabet Zooup, a children’s book by Island artist Tara Reynolds. Designed to teach young readers the alphabet with the help of animals, food and adroit alliteration, Alphabet Zooup features Ms. Reynolds’ own collages as illustration.
“She’s amazingly imaginative and very brave,” Ms. Pogue said. “She has a very directed way of working — she’s very focused.”
Although she receives “tons and tons” of manuscripts for children’s books, Ms. Pogue said that Animal Zooup stood out to her. The book is original and directed at beginning readers, a market that Ms. Pogue said she would like Vineyard Stories to venture into. More important, she said, the book defies the usual stereotypes of children’s books about Martha’s Vineyard.
“Children’s books are often about a seagull that comes in off a ferry,” Ms. Pogue said. “He flies around the Vineyard and sees the usual sights.”
But Ms. Reynolds’s book is unique and Ms. Pogue said that the author’s passion for it was obvious.
“I love that [Ms. Reynolds] was combining two things that she loves: art and food,” Ms. Pogue said. “It struck me as being very fun.”
Fun is also key in Sam Dunn’s new book, The Art of Fast Play, which seeks to solve a problem that can drive many a casual golfer away from the game: slow play on the course. A casual golfer himself, Mr. Dunn identifies a variety of situations that can drag a round of golf out for as long as five or six hours and offers techniques to help speed players through these time traps. Timesaving strategies vary from the obvious, such as eliminating story time on the tee and keeping an eye on the ball, to the unexpected, like how to properly manage the golf cart.
Ms. Pogue said that although the book isn’t specifically about the Vineyard — it is, however, written by an Island author — she wants to take the opportunity to diversify the kind of books that Vineyard Stories publishes. Slow play is a common and frustrating problem for many golfers and Ms. Pogue said she believes that many readers will benefit from The Art of Fast Play.
“What you’re looking for is a book that you think will resonate with a large audience,” she said. “You’re always looking to push a little further and get a different audience interested in a different kind of book.”
Vineyard Stories’ final release of the season, Living Off the Sea, brings a unique twist to the traditional Island cookbook. Melinda Fager and her family spend their summers on Chappaquiddick, immersed fully in the island’s natural beauty. Her husband, Jeff, is an avid fisherman and his prodigious returns laid the foundation for Mrs. Fager’s recipes, which make extensive use of ingredients readily available in the surrounding waters. Mrs. Fager succeeds in capturing the essence of the island by pairing these recipes with a series of photos and essays about her family’s life on Chappaquiddick.
“Chappy is so dramatic in every way,” Ms. Pogue said. “Only a person who lives there can truly capture it.”
Mrs. Fager first proposed the idea for her book to Ms. Pogue in a letter, rather than submitting a manuscript. Ms. Pogue said that Mrs. Fager had a good idea of what she wanted out of her book but wasn’t sure how to make it happen. Ms. Pogue jumped on the idea and racked Mrs. Fager’s brain for as many recipes as she could muster.
“It’s the perfect book,” Ms. Pogue said. “It tells about the culture, past and present, and provides a window into a way of life that a lot of people wish they could live.”
Upcoming readings: Living Off the Sea on the Island of Chappaquiddick, July 7, Slip Away Farm on Chappaquiddick; Coastal Inspirations: Drawing Beauty and Meaning from the Sea, July 12, Edgartown Books in Edgartown; Alphabet Zooup, July 13, Bunch of Grapes Bookstore in Vineyard Haven. For a complete list of readings throughout the summer, visit vineyardstories.com