The Blythe Cove Book Group Goes Back to School With a Good Book

September is back to school in Martha’s Vineyard, just like most other places. The daylight hours are shortening, flocks of tourists are thinning. Year round residents take a deep sigh of relief that they’ll have the island back to themselves.

September’s book choice was an easy one: Aggie has a secret plan for one of the young year-round residents of Blythe Cove Manor. Here’s her reasoning for the book she chose:

Sometimes you come across a young person who is talented, smart, kind, and would greatly benefit from an Ivy League education (don’t scowl Mudge). But said young person doesn’t even know how to dream about such a thing. This book is meant to help me (and maybe you, too, Blythe) figure out how to get said young person to start thinking Ivy League.

Pick it up at Amazon, B&N, iBooks, or Kobo.


Have you read Secret Society Girl yet? Yes? –proceed scrolling for some very real comments by the members of the BBG.

If not, download it before you proceed.

There may be spoilers, otherwise!


Blythe (proprietress of Blythe Cove Manor): Oh Helen, I didn’t know much about what it meant to go to an Ivy League university before. I heartily agree that we need to help make this happen for our special young person. To think that until so very recently, these secret societies didn’t take young women is utterly disgraceful.

Helen (director of the local library): I don’t want to say who I’m speaking of, although Blythe obviously knows her. I recognize this is an unusual way to choose a book for the book group, but I enjoyed it. I had a nice, staid, state university education with no secret societies. But I’m not brilliant, and I don’t aspire to much more than enjoying life on the island and making sure everyone gets matched with their perfect next read. I think this book is just the one to get a young woman thinking about her possibilities off island..

Mudge (excursion boat owner/operator): Hmmm. Helen, I didn’t realize an Ivy League education came with so much drama, but I suppose it makes sense. I enjoyed the book, although I thought most Yalie’s would benefit from a summer at sea to teach them how to handle the real life drama the sea can throw at you.

Aggie (owner, Sandpiper Restaurant): Helen, this was an interesting choice for you, since you usually trend toward literary, or an Oprah pick. At first, I didn’t like the light tone, but then I realized that it was Amy’s self defense mechanism against a university social structure that still tends to see young women as not-quite-good-enough. It has got me thinking about whether my son should read it.

Fred (island taxi driver): I thought I was going to hate this, Helen. I usually love your picks, though, so… all I have to say is “Glad I didn’t want an Ivy League education!” But, to your point about a certain someone who could benefit from it, I agree. Let’s make a plan to see our young person not only reads this book, and others to get her thinking about the possibilities, but let’s do more.

Did you miss the other book group picks? Check them all out here.

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Real or Fiction

Real or Fiction: Where does one begin?

by Shirley Hailstock


I recently read an author’s blog about writing from or about real life. Many authors do this, myself included. However, until I read her blog, I thought most of what I wrote was fiction, made up, not associated with the real world, but of a world I created. I never use people I know in my stories. I tried using the name of a relative once and found I was making the character that person.


This is not to say that the attributes of characters I write about are not from real people. All of them are. But shortly after introducing a character, they take on a life of their own and the author can only record what they say and do.

The stories I write come from the heart, from past experiences or from emotions that I’ve experienced or can tap into, empathize with. They reveal a lot about the writer. This is why the stories we find most endearing are the ones that have an underlying truth to them. It’s not “in your face” truth, but subtle, the kind that touches the emotional nerves and basically rings our bells. As readers, they draw us in, identify the same emotions the reader has, giving the reader an experience that is safe while it can make the heart beat faster, return them to the memory of a first love, or have them living vicariously through the pages.

We all have favorite authors. For several of mine, I’ve done binge reading of their books, usually fifteen titles in a row. I do this to learn about writing, but the by-product of this method is I learn a lot about that author, their views on the world, what they read, what political stand they have and what kind of person they are.

This may seem like an audacious comment since most authors are introverts and do not want to put their lives out in the world.  However, as an author, our stories reveal that we’ve opened a vein and poured our blood into the stories. This is honesty. It’s real. It’s the truth. And it makes for vivid stories that glue the reader to her/his chair as the author takes them on an adventure. And within that adventure, in between the lines and pages and chapters, inside the world created by the author, is the truth of the author’s conscious, her/his values, her/his life.

So the next time you pick up a book to read, handle it carefully and remember you’re holding the author’s heart in your hands.


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You Are Invited to Join Blythe’s Book Group — January Reading

Welcome to your first meeting of Blythe’s Book Group. Every month a group of hardy Martha’s Vineyard year round residents get together to discuss a book. You are invited to join them.

January’s book choice was closely contended. The snow lovers wanted something snowy and cold to read by the fire. The snow haters wanted something warm and summery to counteract the winter cold.

They decided to read two books for January (it is a slow month, after all).

For the snow haters, the pick is Summer Magic, a collection of tales from Blythe Cove Manor by the three Storytellers Unlimited authors Shirley Hailstock, Lorraine Bartlett (aka Lorna Barrett), and Kelly McClymer. They are on Blythe’s favorite author list, and she has all their books on her shelves at Blythe Cove Manor.

For the snow lovers, the pick is Let it Snow, another collection of stories, these by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle.

Whether you’re a snow lover, or a snow hater, you’re bound to love one — or both — of these choices.



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