Welcome to my new blog

Hello, my dear friends,

I’ve decided to write a Blog! It’s going to be an intimate glimpse into my life as a woman writer. Sometimes it will include short stories or articles that are too long for my newsletter or Facebook posts. It won’t be in any special order, because the mind of a writer is an effervescent chaos of ideas. It won’t always be the same length. Sometimes there will be lots of photos. I hope you enjoy them!

Love, Nancy

The Nantucket Atheneum’s Commemorative Review

Who knew that Mr. Rogers had a home on Nantucket, out in Madaket?  For the 1996 review celebrating the newly renovated and expanded library, he wrote, “Dear Friends of the Nantucket Atheneum, Congratulations, neighbors!”

Tom Congdon, brilliant literary editor–he was the editor for Peter Benchley’s Jaws–and gentleman scholar and humanist, added a few kind words. But the funniest words he ever wrote were “Mrs. Coffin’s Consolation,” about um, what whaling wives did while their husbands were away.  You can find it in The Nantucket Reader, edited by Susan Beegel, a brilliant collection of writing spanning from Melville to Thayer! 

 

Beloved Nantucket writer and gardener Laura Simon praised the new library.  Two years later, she spoke at the Atheneum about her wonderful book, Dear Mr. Jefferson, Letters from a Nantucket Gardener.

Journalist and writer David Halberstam and columnist and writer Russell Baker contributed their fond memories of the island library.

And I was so thrilled about our beautiful new library, I waxed poetic!

“Our Atheneum, that magic ship,

Once again is anchored, safe, on our shore,

With its brilliant cargo of knowledge and spices.

It will carry our children into the future.

It will supply Nantucket with truth and dreams.

It will remain always with us by night and by day,

Its whiteness rising like sails to the sky.”

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The Glorious Past of the Nantucket Atheneum

This is builder Charles Wood who built the Nantucket Atheneum in 1846 and 1847.  Not to be irreverant, but hubba hubba!  He looks like quite the dandy and if you zoom up the picture, you’ll see he has gorgeous eyes.  A confidant man!

Maria Mitchell was the Atheneum’s first librarian, the first professional woman librarian in America, an astronomer who discovered a comet and taught at Vassar, and a (surprise) feminist.  I would dearly love to know how Maria Mitchell and Charles Wood got along!

 

Famous anti-slavery writer and orator Frederick Douglass spoke several times at the Atheneum.  Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and feminist Lucretia Coffin Mott also spoke there.

The Great Hall is now used for research.  Computers are available for Internet use.  The middle of the hall is often cleared of desks and set up with chairs for readings and lectures from famous speakers.

“Cats’ eyes” and figureheads of whaling ships  adorn the library, bringing back a sense of history of the whaling ships that brought prosperity to the island.

 

As a boy, Ernest Hemingway visited the island and the Atheneum with his mother.  I’m sure that’s why he became a writer. 🙂

 

On my next post, I’ll tell you about some of the contemporary writers who’ve spoken in the Great Hall.  One thing’s for sure–they all have better hair than in the 1800’s.

 

 

 

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Nantucket Atheneum

When I moved to Nantucket in 1984, I looked different from the way I look now (yes, shoulder pads) and so did our island library, the Nantucket Atheneum.

Oh, the library looked the same from outside.  The Atheneum sits in the very heart of the town, a great white columned neoclassic building.  It’s a historic icon, rebuilt after a fire in 1837, and once the hub of the island population.  In the 1980s, not much had changed since the previous century.  Its collection was small for the needs of a growing modern community.  And the children’s room was in the dank, dim, rather grim basement.

Then Bob Mooney became president of the Board of Trustees and in 1990, Charlotte Maison (below) took on the directorship of the library.

Under their leadership and with the help of the Friends of the Library and generous donations from the community, a major restoration took place.  Today the library is once more the center of the town.  Best of all, there’s a marvelous children’s wing.

Lucille Walker Hays donated the funds for the children’s wing in honor of her sister Louise, who died when very young.

The Weezie Library is a sunny, busy, happy second home for children. Thank you for changing so many lives, Lucille.

When the renovations of the Atheneum were complete, a commemorative review was published to celebrate the restorations.  The Board of Trustees were photographed for the review.  You can see me — I’m the one in the red suit! 🙂

Actually, I’m in the black skirt and a red-and-black checked jacket. (Yes, still shoulder pads; this was 1996.)The handsome fellow in the back row, second from the right, is our beloved author Nathaniel Philbrick, who was also a trustee.    It was such an honor and a tremendous pleasure to be part of that board and the library renovation.  Charlotte Maison and Susan Beegel (editor of the Hemingway Review and The Nantucket Reader, standing next to me in black velvet collared red suit) and I usually had to go for a soothing margarita or two after our complicated but cordial trustee meetings!

More about our library soon!

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Eccentriques?

I was so pleased when Sofia Dakos said on my recent post about writing that she likes my little blue desk.  It’s one of several items of orphaned furniture left here when we bought our  1840’s house. It’s not an antique, but it is sturdy and has a graceful curve on one side.  Maybe it was once part of a vanity?

On Nantucket, we have no Home Depot, Ikea, Ethan Allen, Pottery Barn, or any chain furniture stores.  When I moved here in 1984–well, remember back then? No Home Decorator or Restoration Hardware catalogs. Nantucket is an island,  so everything has to be brought over on the freight boat, and prices–and variety of choice–are adjusted accordingly.

I learned from islanders to be creative with furniture and with, well, everything.  We have a friend whose mother had 3 drawers in her kitchen, marked “Long String,”  “Short String,” and “String Too Short to Use.”  Islanders were “repurposing” before the term even existed.

This might be the world’s smallest bookcase, but it was left in the house when we bought it, and we can never have enough bookcases!

This funny small caned chair will be refinished someday (maybe) but until then, I can lift it with one hand and move it to any room.  It’s very sturdy and will hold anyone comfortably.  I think it’s a real antique, and the caning is in perfect shape.  (We had the comfy armchair next to it professionally “distressed” by various cats.)

I bought this used bookcase from a lovely friend.  The back of the lower two shelves are missing and the paint job is, um, less than perfect but it works perfectly to hold my gardening gloves and vases by the back door.

I’ve had the small wicker shelf forever.  Is it an antique?  I don’t know, don’t care.  I love mixing in odd and useful bits of furniture with my modern typing chair and desktop computer.  And I think our old house approves.  I find something endearing and evocative about old furniture and old houses.  Their history makes me dream of who once used the table, or put books in the case.  It’s like having a nice old dog around, sleeping in the sun.

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