Writer to writer, with Amanda M. Fairbanks
The one thing that all writers share, regardless of what topic they are inking up pages for, is that the blank page is whispering a dare to said writers. The page is daring this cruncher of the eight parts of speech to make something readable and commendable. The blank void wants and wants and wants. The page is insatiable. The page demands. The blank page is thirsty for ink which begs curiosity, form, meaning, logic, and other things assimilated from the ether that must flow through the writer’s hand to hold a reader’s attention. The blank page is indifferent to the writer’s pure audacity to think someone would actually take the time to read their thoughts. The blank page is a monster in the Homeric tradition. The blank page is also the abyss where words and ideas can get lost. Yet, there are some people who stare at the page and when the challenge is met, the process begins. Then they act, with ink. And with nothing less than savage audacity, it’s game on. In a nutshell this is what writers do. We make order from chaos.
Amanda M. Fairbanks is a journalist who wrote a book titled “The Lost Boys of Montauk.” After Susan Bush gave me a galley of this provocative and well-researched book at the Point Judith ferry dock, I proceeded to read it at the Point Judith Lighthouse and also at a memorial for lost fishermen from the Port of Galilee. I read the book in three fast-paced sessions and then I immediately contacted Amanda regarding some elements of her book. Subsequently, we became writer pals on the quick. Furthermore, we both know about the blank page all too well. “Always daunting at the beginning of something. Every single time,” says Fairbanks.
This curious woman who hails from Santa Monica, California was a kid who wrote for her high school paper. Amanda considers herself a “professional eavesdropper,” and after interviewing people loves to, “dive into an insane amount of research where I get to retreat from the world and try to make sense of what I found.” This kind of search and seize drill is what I call mad monk mode when I’m writing something. Fairbanks has this stuff baked into her DNA, as do I. After talking - writer to writer - for a solid hour with this very sharp character, I knew I’d found a new writer bud to correspond with; I have a couple of guys I do this with and I feel very lucky to have these writers as friends. Writers work in isolation and it’s refreshing to simply know someone who understands being dared by the blank page. It’s just nice to know there are some like-minded people out there.
Amanda and I simply bonded over inking up pages. Writer to writer, stuff.
I never thought I’d meet Amanda in person, and was really just happy to have someone to read some of my columns, and to perhaps hear what new project was in the offing for them - you know, a what are you up to kind of thing. However, as the fates would have it I was offered the chance to meet Amanda at an author book talk deal on Block Island. Although I rarely go out to the island these days, (I think we were there 13 years ago) when Susan Bush reached out to me to moderate a discussion with Amanda at the Block Island Maritime Institute on 14 July, I was all in right from the rip. As a result of this invitation my wife Cindy and I ended up helping Amanda get squared away with
her accommodations at the 1661 and grab some boots-on-the-ground intel about Block Island. Amanda who lives with her husband and kids in Sag Harbor had never been to the island.
The night before her Block Island talk, Amanda spoke at the Ocean House at Watch Hill. The next day when I met her in Galilee, I tossed Cindy’s gear in the back seat and jumped into her car.
“I need to show you something,” I said.
“Let’s go,” she said.
And off we went to visit the Point Judith Fisherman’s Memorial and the Point Judith Lighthouse where I read her book. It was important that I showed and told her of this place, and how her book impacted me while reading it there, looking toward Block Island and Montauk. It made the book a very visceral read. This is an example of writer-to-writer stuff and Amanda was taken by the experience. After our quick visit we had to then go and meet Cindy
at the Standby shack, and head out to Block Island. Amanda and Cindy had on some cool and similar getups and got right into each other’s heads about god knows what and they were having a blast. They just hit it off on the quickstep, and off we all went to Block Island for a big writer to writer adventure.
The Block Island Maritime Institute hosted Amanda’s event, and we were met by John and Sharon Lehman at the institute, (I worked in this building in 1970 when it was Smuggler’s Cove) where we scoped out the room for our talk about Amanda’s book. After a quick sound check we all headed over to Dead Eye Dick’s where we were treated to a great dinner provided by owner Jessica Wronowski. Moreover, John and Sharon were great hosts for this event. In
our preparation for this talk, Amanda and I decided that we would just have a conversation about her book; she trusted that I would create some solid context for our discussion. Writer to writer, stuff. We also both decided to have fun and then open our talk to audience questions. With the waning of Covid 19 we both sensed that we all needed some fun. Moreover, BIMI was the perfect place to have the event and in conjunction with the Island Bound Bookstore it was a win, win evening. BIMI was a perfect place because of its educational and hands on approach to learning about maritime topics. This is a great asset to the community, and personally it was great for me to see folks I normally see while working on the other side of the water at the ferry docks in Point Judith.
It was a pleasure being asked to be part of this event, and I’d like to thank Susan Bush, and all of the folks who showed up to hear Amanda and I talk writer to writer, and support her work. Finally, Amanda M. Fairbanks fell in love with Block Island, and most assuredly she will be back to visit with her family.