For Polly Simpkins, the host of a monthly series of tea talk gatherings, life is like a teacup and we make a choice each day what to put in our cups.

According to Ms. Simpkins, “We can choose to put in people who inspire us, and things that are meaningful to us.”

The Cup of Karma Project combines her love of tea and bringing people together to tell stories of inspiration. Throughout the year, Ms. Simpkins hosts a series of Tea Talks, the most recent occurring last Saturday afternoon on the front lawn of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum.

This talk, the seventh in the series, featured local writers who took the podium to read some of their own work, and honor one person who had influenced his or her literary career.

The writers—Bow Van Riper, Lara O’Brien, Elissa Lash, Justen Ahren and Martha Hall Kelly—all said that it was impossible to say no to Polly.

“She mentioned the word yes, and I think it’s one of my favorite words,” said Justen Ahren, founder and director of the Noepe Center for Literary Arts. “When we say yes, we immediately enter into a relationship with all that is possible. It’s an amazingly powerful word and I think without saying yes to Polly I would never have really understood the relationship to my grandmother.”

Mr. Ahren read a poem from his book A Strange Catechism, and an essay he had prepared specifically for the occasion. Both pieces recognized his grandmother as a paramount influence in his life and praised her “devotion to what she loved.” Honoring family members resonated with many of the authors.

“When Polly asked me to share a story about somebody who’s influenced me, I thought without hesitation of my dad,” said Mr. Van Riper, a historian and nonfiction writer. “My father had a B.A. in English, an M.A. in creative writing, and outside of his family, words were his first greatest love.”

Other authors found inspiration in prominent historical figures. Ms. Simpkins’ older sister Mary Hall Kelly concluded the event with an excerpt from her book, Lilac Girls. The story follows her muse, former Broadway actress, socialite and philanthropist Caroline Ferriday.

“This incredible journey of discovering the story, it was like a treasure hunt,” said Ms. Kelly. “It was all because of Caroline, and I am eternally grateful to her.”

Love for literary expression proved to be a common theme during the talk, as the writers shared personal anecdotes of the journey that first brought pen to paper.

Author Lara O’Brien credited her husband’s encouragement for giving her the confidence to surpass her “self-imposed boundaries” as a writer.

“What I learned through writing and what showed up on the page every single time was that I was everything that I thought I wasn’t,” she said. “I thought I was undisciplined, I thought I was unfocused and I thought I had no perseverance. But by the time I finished my book I knew I had all those things.”

Writer Elissa Lash followed Ms. O’Brien by paying tribute to her late grandfather.

“My grandfather demonstrated the power of words everywhere; at the breakfast table, in the car, walking on the Vineyard’s beaches,” she said. “He taught me that a good writer, thinker, talker, must perfect the art of truly listening to the words of others.”

That art of listening was demonstrated throughout the afternoon. Eating was also in evidence as Ms. Simpkins provided an impressive array of homemade baked goods. And as the writers and listeners poured their final cups of tea and began to collect their belongings, Ms. Simpkins gave everyone some parting words to embrace.

“Go now and let your life be a blessing to the world,” she said.

The next Tea Talk will be held at the Yoga Barn in Chilmark on July 30. For more information, visit