Happy springtime, everyone. The birds and blooms are finally returning. Soon the trees and lawns will be green again, like in this photo of author, John Steinbeck’s former backyard in Sag Harbor. On the property, tucked away on a small peninsula amid coves, is his writing house. From a New York Times article: “There is still a medieval-looking sign over the doorway, which Steinbeck, who loved bantering in Arthurian language, named ‘Joyous Garde’, after Lancelot’s castle. On the ground at the hut’s entrance is the word ‘Aroynte’, which may be derived from an old English term meaning ‘Be gone’.”
Steinbeck loved his privacy in the cozy, six-sided structure, which overlooks the water in three directions. He spent mornings and evenings here, writing works like The Winter of Our Discontent, inspired by Sag Harbor, in pencil on legal pads. In September 1960 he drove off in a pickup truck, converted into a camper that he named Rocinante, after Don Quixote’s “noble steed”, to travel cross country with his French poodle. Travels with Charley was a result of that trip. Steinbeck won both the Pulitzer and the Nobel prizes (Pulitzer for The Grapes of Wrath and Nobel for his lifetime achievements).
“The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true.”
As many of you know, I had the sad experience of losing my beloved cat, Boris, in early March. He was almost 19 years old, had his own seat near my desk where he watched me work, listened to my good and bad ideas, all without scowling, meowing, or running off to hide. He had a charmed life, according to my son, and I miss him every day.
I plan on attending the annual Woodstock Bookfest in late April, as I did last spring. Among the writers attending, and on panels, will be Francine Prose, Abigail Thomas and Dani Shapiro (whose newest memoir, Hourglass, is being released in April).
Later this spring I’m to be interviewed, as part of a panel of memoirists, by Linda Frank on LTV’s The Writer’s Dream and am looking forward to that.
I’m working right now on the sequel to my memoir, Only You, among other writing and editing projects. As you all know, there’s never enough time to “get it all done.” We must keep on truckin’ no matter what.
“Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.”
Our spring memoir writing workshop at the Hampton Library begins on Tuesday, April 4, from 5-7 p.m. and will end on May 9. The six week program will be followed, on Tuesday, May 16, at 7 p.m., by a library presentation: “Hampton Library Writers Read.”
The workshop fee is $75, and you can call the library to register at 631-537-0015. Our writers’ event is free, and I hope you’ll come and hear my students’ true life stories.
We’ll resume our memoir writing classes at the Connetquot Library in Bohemia on Thursday, April 6, from 1:30-3:30 p.m. for four sessions, ending on April 27. This is our tenth year at the library (and at the Hampton Library, as well). For area residents only, the workshop is free of charge. Call 631-567-5079 to register.
Past and present students are out there once again, publishing their work. Ed Schrama, of the Bridgehampton group, has published his autobiography, Extractions from a Dormant Mind. Born and raised in Holland, during World War II, Ed writes that it “surprised me because I remembered events realistically as if I was physically there,” and that “the war years were especially traumatic in many aspects, and they had been suppressed for a long time.” What started as a 60-page document grew to be over 500 pages that I, the editor, had the pleasure to read early on. The published version is 366 pages, a record of Ed’s 80 years that he wanted to share with his family and friends. Coming soon: a science fiction novel, already written, with another in progress. Ed is living proof, to use that cliché, that you’re never too old to create and complete the work.
Ryan Matthews, of Bridgehampton, published a memoir piece called “Red” in The East Hampton Star on January 26. This is about his adventures as a 12-year old, navigating the bar scene to assist his maternal grandmother, and is from Ryan’s memoir-in-progress.
Russian Revenge: The Hoax at the Aqua by John F. Nolan, of the Connetquot group, and Bernard Shapiro, was published in January. From an Amazon review: “As in his previous novels, Nolan’s vast law enforcement experience coupled with his masterful story-telling talent, allows him to weave a terrifying tale that is all too likely to appear in tomorrow’s headlines.” John is completing still another novel, his fifth; next up is a memoir.
More on the crime scene: Daniel Simone, of Amagansett, who published The Lufthansa Heist, written with mobster Henry Hill, in 2015, will publish The Pierre Hotel Affair, co-written with the sole surviving armed robber of that caper, Nick Sacco, in May. Find it on Amazon and in bookstores.
The entertaining “Reflections” columns by Joanne Pateman, of Southampton, appear regularly in The East Hampton Press and in Edible East End. Oysters, goats and goat cheese were the subjects of two Edible articles, which you can read by going to www.edibleeastend.com; and in the Press, “Christmas Staycation” in January, and “Irish Vignettes”, about a trip to Ireland, and many more. Find Joanne’s columns on the Opinion page at www.easthamptonpress.com.
“A Walk in the Park,” a delightful memoir by Laurie Newburger, of Amagansett, appears in The East Hampton Star today, March 30, as I write this newsletter. She tells of her adventurous hiking vacation out west with her husband, their 30th anniversary trip.
My colleague and friend, Tom Clavin, of Sag Harbor, who has a weekly column in the Press that I always enjoy, has just published his latest book, #16, Dodge City: Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and the Wickedest Town in the American West. The book is on The New York Times bestseller list and was just signed up by the film company, Dreamworks.
Several former workshop writers from the East End have passed recently: English and drama teacher Alison Aird, of Amagansett, age 49, of brain cancer, and artist Daria Deshuk, of Bridgehampton, age 60, who took her own life. Much too young, these talented women, and they will be missed by their families, friends, and colleagues. In January commercial fisherman Dave Krusa, of Montauk, age 75, died of heart failure. Their obituaries appeared in The East Hampton Star and can be seen online
John Daniel, whose “Joy of Writing” blog on which so many of our writers have published their 99-word stories on prompts of his choosing, fractured his hip on February 23, forcing him to put his blog on hold while he recuperates. On March 23 John posted “Getting Hip: An Adventure in Recovery.” Read it at: www.johnmdaniel.blogspot.com.
“No amount of learned skills can substitute for the feeling of having a lot to say, of bringing news. Memories, impressions, and emotions from your first 20 years on earth are most writers’ main material; little that comes afterward is quite so rich and resonant. By the age of 40, you have probably mined the purest veins of this precious lode; after that, continued creativity is a matter of sifting the leavings.”
Enjoy the spring. Stay in touch, please, and keep reading and writing. My website is www.eileenobser.com and my email is .