Forbidden Writing at Martha’s Vineyard


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The maiden in our garden. She is clothed in green, her favorite color, and she is the keeper of my secrets.

Last week, as a soft rain pattered outside my windows, I opened an email from Alexander Weinstein, Director of Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing. “I am happy to let you know that Robert James Russell has chosen your story, Samuel’s Wife, as the second-place winner of the 2017 MVICW Fiction Contest. Congratulations!  The story is beautiful, and I was thrilled to see he chose your work. There were over 100 entries this year in fiction, so my congratulations on this honor!”

These first three sentences of his email lit my insides like a slug of moonshine. After squealing a few times, I pulled up the website to plunder through the MVICW’s class descriptions. I read them silently.

Jennifer Tseng, one of the instructors, describes a lesson overcast with danger. In this class you will work to produce a piece of forbidden writing, using the form of your choice. Whatever your forbidden territory is, I encourage you to visit it with curiosity and attention. We will proceed as a group of risk-takers together, none of us traveling to precisely the same place, but all of us keeping one another company on the journey. I will emphasize intuitive methods and ask you to cleave to what makes your secret heart beat faster.

I read Tseng’s description again, this time in a sibilating whisper. In the moments that followed, I remained still, a scattering of illegitimate words filling my mouth and wetting my lips, the scent of rain in the air.

In May, I’ll be at Martha’s Vineyard. I hope this introverted writer will dare to explore the forbidden.




Brenda Sutton Rose, author of DOGWOOD BLUES

I hope you enjoy photos of the garden.

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