Tag Archives: Westport Writers Workshop

Roundup: I-95, Middle East, Savvy Smoker …

As scheduled, parts of I-95 were closed last night — along with the northbound Exit 17  entrance and exit ramps, and the southbound exit ramp — as part of the “slide,” to replace the old bridge with the new one.

As expected, traffic — including plenty of trucks — jammed the Post Road.

(Photo/Jonathan Alloy)

The closure is in effect until 6 a.m. Monday (October 23).


Tomorrow’s forecast is better than today’s.

Sunday’s “Bring Them Home” candlelight vigil on Jesup Green (6 to 6:45 p.m.) — “an opportunity to come together, united as a community, to pray for the safe return of the hostages and show our support for Israel” — is on.

It might be windy. Organizers suggest electric candles, in addition to or in place of ones that might blow out.


Speaking of Israel: 4 Westporters — Jennifer and Eric Blankfein, and Wendy and Spencer Brown — were on a flight there when Hamas attacked.

They landed at 10:30 on Saturday morning,, October 7.

Jennifer documented their 4 days in Israel on her blog, “Book Nation by Jen.” It’s long, but well worth the time. Click here for “A Trip to the Holy Land; Timing is Everything.” (Hat tip: Betsy Pollak)

Jennifer Blankfein


Speaking of the Israeli flag: It has appeared many places in Westport.

One spot it has probably never been seen before: Compo Beach.

June Rose Whittaker spotted it there Thursday, draped across one of the benches used often for rest and reflection.

(Photo/June Rose Whittaker)


Speaking still of the crisis in the Middle East: The Westport Writers’ Workshops is raising funds the best way they know how.

Next Thursday (October 26, 7:30 to 9 p.m., Zoom), Julie Sarkissian will lead a writing circle. All proceeds from the $35 registration fee will provide aid to children affected by the fighting.

Attendees will write together to prompts, and share work aloud. Click here to register.


Neil Gaiman — noted author of “American Gods,” “Coraline” and “The Sandman” series — kicked off this weekend’s StoryFest at the Westport Library.

His keynote conversation doubled as the Fall 2023 Malloy Lecture in the Arts.

A full slate of events — panel discussions, workshops, children’s activities, a story pitch session and the world premiere of the psychological thriller “Gentle Hacksaw” — take place today and tomorrow.

Click here for a schedule, and more details.

Neil Gaiman, at the Westport Library. (Photo/Dinkin Fotografix)


Christian Siriano’s The Collective West will soon have a new neighbor.

It may not be what the fashion designer hoped for, in the former Subway on the Post Road East/West Parish Road corner.


In addition to the previously announced 8-24 hearing on Parker Harding Plaza, next Monday’s Planning & Zoning Commission meeting (October 23, 7 p.m., Zoom) includes a proposed text amendment to modify affordable housing standards.

The request — to increased the number of bedrooms from 20 to 24 per gross acre, and authorize approval of off-site affordable housing — would turn 259 Riverside Avenue, currently an office building, into residences.

Click here for the full agenda of Monday’s P&Z meeting.

259 Riverside Avenue.


La Plage says “adieu” to their patio for the season, in a spooky way.

On Sunday, October 29 (5 p.m. until late), the Longshore restaurant hosts a Halloween Soiree.

On the menu: complimentary hors d’oeuvres and cocktails (“boo-ze”) from Litchfield Distillery, music, and a costume contest.

RSVP by phone (203-684-6232) or email (Info@laplagewestport.com).


Sustainable Westport’s second Residential Energy Learning series focuses on solar energy. “Everything Solar” is set for the Westport Library on November 7 (6:30 p.m., reception, 6:45 presentation and Q-and-A).

Westport architect John Rountree and Nathan Hernandez, solar consultant, will discuss how to transition your home or business to solar energy. They’ll cover  solar panels, installation companies, design considerations, the expected ROI, and financing options (with federal and state incentives).

Westporter Dan Schlesinger will talk about his recent process of going solar.

The final Residential Learning Series, “Going Geothermal,” is December 12.

Thinking of going solar? See you November 7!


The Westport Woman’s Club’s annual clothing sale continues this weekend, at their clubhouse at 44 Imperial Avenue.

Check out a wide variety of gently used suits, dresses, pants, blouses, gowns, coats, scarves, shoes, jewelry, handbags and hats.

Hours are today (Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and tomorrow (Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.).

Funds raised help support the town’s food closet, many local charities throughout Fairfield County, and need-based student scholarships.

Items for sale at the Westport Woman’s Club.


We’d love you to check out 4 great houses on our “Historic Homes of 06880” tour on November 5 (2 to 5 p.m.; click here for details).

But there’s another tour that very same day, and in the interest of fairness I’m posting that info too.

Histoury — a non-profit dedicated to preserving and appreciating historic buildings in Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts — is offering a bus tour of Frazier Peters homes in Westport.

It begins at 1 p.m. November 5, and lasts 4 hours. The bus will include 20 stone homes designed by the famed architect, with stops for a few interior looks.

Click here for tickets ($75 for adults, $49 for students).

A typical Frazier Forman Peters home.


Due to artist availability. the Westport Country Playhouse November 13 Script in Hand play reading has been changed.

“Cleo” has been replaced by “Theatre People,” by Paul Slade Smith.

Based on Ferenc Molnár’s Hungarian farce “Play at the Castle,” this adaptation is a comedy about people in love with theater. But pursuit of a surefire Broadway hit, they might have to give reality a rewrite.

Click here for more information, and tickets to the 7 p.m. play reading.


Longtime Westporter Edward (Doug) Hyde, Jr. died Wednesday, surrounded by loved ones. He was 85.

The Ridgefield native was a graduate of Fairfield Prep and the University of Detroit. He served proudly as a sergeant in the US Army Reserve.

Doug was a credit analyst in New York, and the owner of Hyde’s Wines & Liquors in Ridgefield. He later bought Beacon Liquor Store in Westport. He also took on the role of manager at Depot Liquors in Saugatuck

He and his wife Joan Masnato, former Westport town clerk, were married for 53 years.

Doug and Joan loved to travel. He found solace and joy in fishing and boating. As an amateur radio operator, he connected with the world through his airwaves.  He also enjoyed reading historical and Stephen King novels, cooking and entertaining.

He is survived by his wife; brothers Brian of Winchester, Virginia and Gary (companion Christine Lamadrid) of Avon; sister Marilyn Gregory of Shelton; nieces Sara Hyde, Marybeth McAllister (John) and Rena Hemmann (Tom); nephews Paul Hyde (Annie), Jason Hyde (Jamie), Kenneth Hyde (Jen S.), William Gregory (Susanna) and Thomas Gregory, and goddaughter Sally Anastos (Tarsey).

A funeral Mass will be held on Tuesday (October 24, St. Pius X Parish, Fairfield). Click here to leave online condolences. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Westport Volunteer EMS, 50 Jesup Rd, Westport CT 06880 or St. Pius X Church, 834 Brookside Drive, Fairfield, CT 06824.

Doug Hyde


Egrets at the Sherwood Mill Pond always make us smile.

Today — in the golden sun of autumn — they make our “Westport … Naturally” feature.

(Photo/Matt Murray)


And finally … happy 83rd birthday to Manfred Mann.

You know his band. But the South African/English keyboardist was not its lead singer. That was Paul Jones.

But he did sing with another, later group, also named for him: Manfred Mann’s Earth Band.

(Just another regular “Roundup” — in other words, everything you need to know in Westport today. If you like what you learn, please consider a contribution to “06880.” Click here — and thank you!)


Roundup: Rainbow Crosswalk, WFM Grow-a-Row; DTC Candidates …

Pride Month is just a few hours old.

But already, Westport has a rainbow crosswalk.

Dr. Nikki Gorman (right) and Danielle Dobin, hard at work. Gorman and Galia Gichon are the crosswalk’s sponsors.

A hardy crew of 11 — including Selectwomen Jen Tooker and Andrea Moore;  crosswalk sponsor Dr. Nikki Gorman; Public Works Department director Pete Ratkiewich; RTM members Harris Falk and Sal Liccione; Planning & Zoning commission chair Danielle Dobin; Westport Pride founder Brian McGunagle, and members Nicole Klein, Bethany Eppner and Geoff Gaspar — gathered at the Jesup Road/Taylor Place intersection at 5 a.m. today, to install the crosswalk.

Putting down the crosswalk, as the sun rose.

The selectwomen unanimously approved the installation, for the month of June. If it holds up under traffic, it will become permanent.

Ta da!


Every Thursday is special at the Westport Farmers’ Market.

Starting next week, things will get even more so.

On June 9, the Market’s partnership with Grow-a-Row Westport begins again. The organization helps market goers fight food insecurity in the area, by donating wholesome, home grown produce.

Home gardeners drop off their fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs at the Grow-a-Row Westport collection cooler, by the WFM information booth. Volunteers from Food Rescue US – Fairfield County bring the fresh produce to Fairfield County agencies serving food-insecure residents.

Last year, donated produce was shared among Westport Housing Authority’s 221 households, including seniors and children. It’s considered a luxury by many recipients.

The Westport Farmers’ Market takes place at the Imperial Avenue parking lot every Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., through November.

Westporter Cornelia Olsen donated a huge rutabaga last year.


The Democratic Town Committee’s slate of suggested candidates for November’s local elections has many familiar names.

But one of those names is in an unfamiliar slot.

The Nominations Committee has recommended these candidates to run for re-election: Lee Goldstein and Neil Phlllips (Board of Education); Paul Lebowitz (Planning & Zoning Commission); Jim Ezzes (Zoning Board of Appeals), and Nancy Dupier (Board of Finance).

The one surprise: Danielle Dobin, Planning & Zoning chair, was recommended to run for the Board of Finance.

Dobin — who has served on the P&Z since 2017 — is in the middle of her 2nd 4-year term. An attorney, she has a background in land use, real estate, acquisitions and business development.

The DTC will vote formally on the recommendations on July 18.


Last weekend, 150 artists from around the country came to town, for the 50th annual Fine Arts Festival.

Soon, hundreds of local students will display their own works. They’re the Fine Arts Festival artists of the future.

The Westport Public Schools’ visual arts exhibition — SPARK — is on view June 8-11 at MoCA Westport. Works of students from pre-K through 12th grade will be on display.

New at SPARK this year is a special exhibit by Westport professional artist Mark Yurkiw: “Help Build the Bridge: Westport-France-Ukraine.” Constructed by Yurkiw, and adorned with art from students, the goal is to extend messages of good will to children in Westport’s sister cities.

A reception is set for June 11 (2 to 4 p.m.).

Artwork by Staples High School student Sophia Kuhner.


Speaking of MoCA:

Connecticut Magazine’s June issue is out. It’s a guide to the state’s “hidden gem” museums.

MoCA is (of course) one of the 42 that are featured.

But it’s the only one on the cover:

Click here to view the entire issue.


Sherwood Island State Park celebrates Trails Day this weekend with 4 great (and free) events.

Kayak paddle (Saturday, June 3; 9:30 a.m.; arrive by 9:15, east end of East Beach parking lot). Bring your own kayak, canoe or other paddlecraft, plus a pump/bailer; life vest and whistle or horn are required. Bring waterproof binoculars for spotting birds, and/or a waterproof camera. It’s a long carry over the beach, so bring a kayak cart with wide wheels for sand if you have one.

Butterfly walk (Saturday, June 3; 2 p.m., Nature Center). Michele Sorensen leads an exploration of the gardens and natural areas of caterpillars, skippers, moths and butterflies. Bring binoculars, and a camera. Children are welcome (ages 4 and up).

Nature walk (Saturday, June 3; 2 p.m., Nature Center). Walk the beach;  discover habitats, inhabitants and special features like the 9/11 Memorial, model airport, wetlands and pine forest).

Horseshoe crab walk (Sunday, June 4; 11 a.m., Nature Center). Be prepared to wade in shallow water. Learn about crabs’ distinctive biology, life cycle, medical uses and conservation needs. 

Archaeology walk (Sunday, June 4; 1 p.m., Nature Center). Archaeologists Dawn Brown and Ernie Wiegand will highlight points of interest, terrain, and examine traces of past inhabitants of Sherwood Island, from 1000 BC to the 1940s, including Native American, early settlers and onion farmers. Artifacts, maps, old photos and recent recoveries will be used.

Click here for more information all all events.


Among Westport’s many hidden gems, Blau House & Gardens may be the most unknown of all.

Located at the end of Bayberry Ridge — a narrow, rutted road off Bayberry — the house was designed by theatrical stage set designer Ralph Alswang. It’s set between towering great oaks.

The grand gardens — by advertising executive Barry Blau — were created in response to the house. They incorporate native plants interspersed with a blend of exotics. They must be seen to be believed.

On June 11, you’ll get your chance.

“The Last Lallapaloosa” includes a host of activities.

Planting ceremony: Native rosebud trees; 9 a.m.; free (maximum 40 people)

Tour of Blau Gardens: 10 a.m.; $20 per person (maximum 36 people)

Book reading and signing of “Pinkalicious: Fairy House” by author/ illustrator Victoria Kann: 11 a.m.; $15 per child (maximum 25 children). Each child received 2 Pinkalicious books; other activities include coloring, plant a bean to take home and watch grow; find the fairy houses in the garden.

Gentle yoga with Millie: 1 p.m.; $20 per person (maximum 20 people)

Book reading and signing of “The Frog Who Wanted to See the Sea” by author/illustrator Guy Billout: 2:30 p.m.; $20 per child (maximum 20 children). Also: find a frog along the stream; plant a bean to take home and watch grow.

Tour of Blau Gardens: 4:30 p.m.; $20 per person (maximum 36 people)

Garden reception: 6 to 8 p.m.; $75 per person (maximum 50 people). Help create a Blau House & Garden future.

Click here to register (deadline: June 5), and for information on payment and shuttle transportation from Coleytown Elementary School.

A small part of Blau Gardens.


Did you hear the one about the dozen comedians who are taking the stage to raise money for writers?

Not the striking TV writers in LA. This event — “Lit & Wit” — is for the Westport Writers’ Workshop outreach program. It provides free writing instruction to underserved populations and communities.

The event is June 7 (7 p.m., Saugatuck Rowing Club; $50 per ticket).

Click here for tickets. And enjoy Jerry Kuyper’s very witty lit-minded logo below.


Longtime Westporter Marty Resnick casts off this week, on a month-long sailing voyage to Portsmouth, England. His crew mates are Roger Townsend and Gareth Thomas.

Fair winds!

Marty Resnick (left) and crew. (Photo and hat tip/Tom Roth)


Wendy Levy loves Burying Hill Beach.

She often finds a fresh way at looking at the water, sand, pier, marshes, tidal pools — and of course, the “burying hill” at the Greens Farms oasis.

Her photos often find their way to our “Westport … Naturally” feature. Here iis today’s image:

(Photo/Wendy Levy)


And finally … today is June 1.

That means one thing:

(Celebrate June with a donation to “06880.” Please click here — and thank you!)

Roundup: “Twelfth Night”, Stop & Shop Trees, Hillspoint House …

It’s easy to get audiences to see “Mamma Mia!,” “The Music Man” or “Guys and Dolls.”

It’s a lot harder for Shakespeare. Especially a play by The Bard that’s not “Romeo and Juliet” or “Macbeth.”

But Staples Players directors David Roth and Kerry Long rolled the dice.

“Twelfth Night” came up huge.

The show — the high school troupe’s spring production — is not what you would have seen at the Globe Theater.

In fact, this production comes from the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the (Central) Park.

It’s a rocking, rollicking modern-ish musical, with music and lyrics by Shaina Taub.

The singing, dancing, pit and set are — as audiences have come to expect from Staples Players — near-Broadway quality.

There’s just the right amount of Shakespeare. There’s even a cheat-sheet synopsis in the program, telling you exactly what happens.

“Twelfth Night” was a gamble. Players relies on ticket sales to fund future productions.

Fortunately, the audience was near capacity last weekend.

Judging by their reactions — laughing, clapping, and a well-deserved standing ovation — there won’t be any empty seats this Friday (March 24, 7:30 p.m.) or Saturday (March 25, 3 and 7:30 p.m.).

So act fast. Click here to get yours.

Quinn Mulvey as Viola. (Photo/Kerry Long)


Just like the swallows of Capistrano, an osprey of Westport have returned.

Carolyn Doan reports that one of our town’s favorite raptors has returned from the south, to its perch near the Fresh Market parking lot.

“It most likely wintered in South America or Florida,” she notes. “This is probably the male, who usually returns first. The pair winter separately but meet back here every March.

“He’s a few days early this year, and is already sprucing up the nest. The female should join him soon.”

(Photo/Carolyn Doan)


Speaking of nature: “06880” has reported on the still-up-in-the-air fate of 2 cherry blossoms in front of Sakura.

What’s clear is that many other trees will definitely be removed — including those in the grassy Post Road median — between New Country Toyota and Volvo of Westport.

It’s part of a Route 1 improvement plan, in the works by the state Department of Transportation for nearly a decade.

The Post Road/Bulkley Avenue intersection is also in for some much-needed realignment.

Which means that some sycamore trees will come down there, too.

They’ve already been tagged for removal.

Red ribbons mean “removal,” in front of Stop & Shop. (Photo and hat tip/Debra McKinney)


It’s hard to tell from this photo, but Matt Murray saw at least one worker inside 233 Hillspoint Road — aka the former Positano/the current eyesore — yesterday.

(Photo/Matt Murray)

He lives nearby. It’s the first time he’s seen anyone doing anything there since a stop-work order was issued in December 2019, due to building permit violations.

A new home — minus the blue swaddling — is on the market for $7.9 million.


High school students can do advanced trigonometry. But they’ve never been taught to balance a checkbook.

Tom Henske will change that.

This Sunday (March 26, 2 p.m.), the Westport resident and financial industry leader brings his Total Cents program to the Westport Library for a talk, and panel discussion with fellow experts. It’s called “Raising Financially Savvy Kids.”

The goal: to help parents, grandparents and guardians get comfortable teaching their kids about money.

“Everyone sees the clear value and importance of developing good financial habits in our children,” Henske says. “It’s time for parents to take ownership of this part of their child’s development.”

He hopes that Westport becomes “the epicenter for teaching parents how to talk to their kids about money.”

Joining Henske are Caroline Barneyauthor, inspirational speaker, and parent of two Staples High School students; John Lanza, author of “The Art of Allowance” and an expert of youth financial literacy, and Kathy Soderholm, former Wilton High School personal finance teacher and founder of The Good Bookkeeper, specializing in nonprofit organizations.

Henske’s efforts with Total Cents include a book, “It Makes Total Cents: 12 Conversations to Change Your Child’s Financial Future,” and a podcast he developed in collaboration with the Library.

Tom Henske (center) and “It Makes Total Cents” panelists.


The Westport Library, Part II:

They host many non-book events: concerts, art exhibits, even the Fashionably Westport runway show.

This one though is right down the literary alley.

Westport Writers’ Workshop’s 2nd annual Pitch & Publish Conference is set for May 20 (in-person and virtual).

It’s a chance for anyone seeking an agent, looking to learn about the industry, or hoping to meet and be inspired by authors and editors. The event includes panels, and one-on-one pitches.

Keynote speaker Courtney Maum has written 5 books, among them “Year of the Horses,” the groundbreaking publishing guide “Before and After the Book Deal,” and “Touch.”

The conference also features a welcome party May 19 at the Westport Writers’ Workshop on Sylvan Road South, a light breakfast, and a wrap party.

Individual tickets for the conference only are $350 each. Tickets for the conference, plus 2 one-on-one pitches with literary agents, are $600 (early bird discount before April 1), $675 each thereafter. Click here to register, and for more information.

Liz Matthews and Julie Sarkissian of Westport Writers’ Workshop help organize the Pitch & Publish Conference. (Photo/Elizabeth Foley)


Over 80 students attended yesterday’s “Town Hall” meeting with Congressman Jim Himes at Staples High School.

He fielded questions about a range of topics, including the economy, inflation and banking; China and foreign policy threats; climate change; his experience inside the Capitol on January 6, and his optimism for bipartisan legislation and compromise in the 118th Congress.

Congressman Jim Himes, at the Staples Library.


Pianist Ted Rosenthal headlines this Thursday’s Jazz at the Post (March 23; shows at 7:30 and 8:45 p.m.; dinner at 7 p.m.; VFW Joseph J. Clinton Post 399).

He has performed worldwide as soloist, with his trio, and with greats like Gerry Mulligan, Art Farmer, Phil Woods and James Moody.

Rosenthal has released 15 CDs. His latest reached #1 on iTunes and Amazon. He has has soloed with major orchestras, and is on the faculties of the Juilliard School and Manhattan School of Music.

He’ll be joined Thursday by bassist Martin Wind, drummer Tim Horner and saxophonist Greg Wall.

Reservations are highly recommended: JazzatthePost@gmail.com.


Longtime Westport teacher Jane Fraser died peacefully in her home March 1, with her family by her side. She had just celebrated her 95th birthday.

The Illinois native began her 25-year education career In Westport in 1967. She taught at Burr Farms Elementary School until it closed, and then transferred to Greens Farms Elementary.

In the early 1980s she became the district’s K-6 literacy staff developer. During that time Jane was connected with the Writing Project, Teachers College, Columbia University. She presented workshops for teachers throughout the Northeast, and at national professional conferences.

She returned to the classroom to teach 2nd grade at Coleytown Elementary School for 5 years, before retiring in 1992.

In 1994 Jane co-authored “On Their Way… Celebrating Second Graders as They Read and Write.”

Her family says, “She enjoyed her family, chocolate, and being at the beach (in that order). She had an adventurous spirit, both intellectually and physically. She was not afraid to travel a unique path. She was always good company, with interests that stretched from classical music to books to teaching to hiking and gardening.”

Jane’s husband Julius died in 2010. She is survived by her daughters Carol and Ann, stepson Tom, brother Peter and their spouses, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Contributions in Jane’s memory may be made to Planned Parenthood or the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Jane Fraser


Yesterday was the first day of spring.

The weather was still late-winter-ish. But soon the wind will die down. The weather will warm up. And all will be right with the world.

In the meantime, enjoy today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo. It’s from Becky Keeler, taken from her deck across from the Saugatuck Rowing Club.

(Photo/Becky Keeler)


And finally … in honor of Tom Henske’s upcoming “It Makes Total Cents” financial literacy program for children and teenagers, at the Westport Library (story above):

(We couldn’t have said it better ourselves: Money does change everything. Including how well “06880” can operate. Please click here to help support our work. Thank you!)

Roundup: Longshore Sailing School, Silver Ribbon, Lynsey Addario …


Longshore Sailing School has a great reputation. The staff is knowledgeable, courteous, friendly and hardworking. Even when they’re swamped (ho ho), they handle everyone — students, renters, people who have no idea what they want — with care and concern.

So things must have gotten really bad for them to post this last Saturday, on social media:

The physical and emotional well-being of our staff and customers is our number one priority. We reserve the right to ask any renter/student to cease visiting our facility if their behavior is deemed to be inappropriate, especially when directed at another customer or Longshore Sailing School employee.

After dozens of “likes,” they added:

We love what we do, and we lover our staff. When you visit, we ask for kindness and readiness for a good time! Get ready for a stellar Sunday! Forecast is looking gorgeous.

It was a great weekend. Let’s hope whoever has been harassing the staff got the message, and took a hike.

Or at least took their obnoxious, entitled behavior elsewhere.


Deputy Fire Chief Michael Kronick is back in Westport. He just completed a 2-week wildfire assignment with the Connecticut Interstate Fire Crew, battling wildfires in Minnesota and Montana.

Westport Fire Chief Robert Yost says, “I’m proud to welcome back our deputy, who epitomizes Westport’s values of sacrifice and service to others. When communities and states need help, we can support our neighbors in their time of crisis battling dangerous wildfires. The experience and knowledge he gained in working a large-scale incident are invaluable to us.”

Deputy Fire Chief Michael Kronick, in action out west.


Another longtime Westport business is closing.

Silver Ribbon — for 45 years, a favorite destination for jewelry and more — will shut its doors in the small shopping plaza next to Fortuna’s when its merchandise is gone.

Signs outside say “Going Out of Business.” Inside, they talk about a “Retirement Sale.”

Good quality goods, at all price points, are still available.

Silver Ribbon, next to Fortuna’s.


The headline on yesterday’s Atlantic story was strong: “The Taliban’s Return is Catastrophic for Women.”

The subhead was even stronger: “As a photojournalist covering Afghanistan for two decades, I’ve seen how hard the country’s women have fought for their freedom, and how much they have gained. Now they stand to lose everything.”

The byline read “Lynsey Addario.” As usual, the Staples High School Pulitzer Prize- and MacArthur “genius grant”-winning photojournalist delivered even more than she promised.

Click here to read the full, harrowing piece. (Hat tip: Kathie Motes Bennewitz)

An Afghan woman (Photo/Lynsey Addario, courtesy of The Atlantic)


The hits just keep on coming for Courtney Kemp.

The talented writer/producer /creator of Starz’ “Power” franchise — and 1994 Staples High School graduate — has just signed a “high 8-figure overall deal” with Netflix. She’ll “create new series, and develop other projects for a global audience through her End of Episode banner,” says Deadline. Click here for the full story. (Hat tip: Judith Hamer)

Courtney Kemp


COVID knocked the Westport Writers’ Workshop classes onto Zoom. But now they’re back — and in a great new location.

The new gallery-like teaching and event space is 25 Sylvan Road South — just down the hill from the previous site. It’s perfect for workshops, readings, publishing events and collaborations with other nonprofits.

Remote options are still available. Click here for fall schedules — and mark your calendars for an open house on September 9 (6 to 8 p.m.).


Piglet — Westport’s very famous deaf, blind rescue puppy — will appear with Melissa Shapiro, the veterinarian who made him famous — at the 3rd annual Smart Walk for Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities. The event is October 3, at Sherwood Island State Park.

Shapiro will talk (and Piglet will watch) about her new best-selling book, “Piglet: The Unexpected Story of a Deaf, Blind, Pink Puppy and His Family.”

“We can’t wait to share a little positive Piglet Mindse with everyone after the walk,” Shapiro says.

The Smart Walk is a day of crafts, games, music, ice cream — and the fundraising walk. Click here for more information, and to register.


It’s pretty tough to come up with an all-new category for “dumb parking.”

But Rich Stein thinks he’s found one:

(Photo/Rich Stein)


Longtime Westporter Barbara Reis has spent over 50 years writing musicals.

They’ve been produced at the White Barn Theater, Fairfield Playhouse, Orpheum in New York and others.

She and collaborator Nancy Tobin have just completed “My Millionaire.” The musical is based on a Mark Twain short story.

They believe a presentation at Mark Twain’s former house would be great. They’re also looking for other ideas. Unfortunately, her agent has died. So she’s looking for help from “06880” readers, to move the show along.

If you’ve got ideas — or are interested in learning more — email barbarasmusic@sbcglobal.net

Produce this man’s short story musical!


Our “Westport … Naturally” feature has never included sports. There’s always a first time …

(Photo/Tracy Porosoff)


And finally … Nanci Griffith died last Friday, at 68. The Grammy-winning singer/songwriter “kept one foot in folk and the other in country, and was blessed with a soaring voice equally at home in both genres,” the New York Times says. Click here for a full obituary.

Westport Welcomes New Writers’ Studio

Westporters love words. We argue, read — and write.

This town is already home to 2 thriving writers’ centers: Westport Writers’ Workshop and Write Yourself Free.

We’ll soon welcome a 3rd. Fairfield County Writers’ Studio opens in January at 21 Charles Street, near the train station.

Classes will be held by best-selling authors, well-known editors, top literary agents, television pros and publishing experts. Aspiring and established fiction and non-fiction writers can enroll in master classes and workshops.

Westporter Jane Green and Linda Fairstein head the list of instructors.

Hard at work at the Fairfield County Writers' Studio.

Hard at work at the Fairfield County Writers’ Studio.

Fairfield County Writers’ studio was founded by Tessa Smith McGovern and Carol Leonetti Dannhauser. McGovern is a top-selling Amazon author, and teaches at Sarah Lawrence’s Writing Institute. When her children were in Westport schools, she taught workshops for their classmates. She helped her son Phil and his baseball teammates publish an app of their sportswriting.

Dannhauser has written for the New York Times, Business Week and Good Housekeeping. She teaches journalism at Quinnipiac University.

“Our chief aim is to create a nurturing community where writers and artists can come together in our creative space, and find the instruction and support they need to have fun, write and publish — wherever they are in their careers,” McGovern says.

Write on!

Christine Pakkala’s Nightmare, Prize-Winning Trip

There’s a lot to learn at the Westport Writers’ Workshop. But it’s not all about the words.

Christine Pakkala has taken workshops, and been mentored, at the Sylvan Road center since 2008. Beyond important writing skills, she’s gained confidence. And learned to put herself waaay out there.

She did it so well that her essay — “The Vacation Nightmare That Changed My Life” — won 1st place in the prestigious Ladies’ Home  Journal writing contest. Chosen from thousands of submission, it earned her $3,000 — plus publication in the June issue.

Christine Pakkala (Photo by Kristin Hoebermann)

Christine Pakkala (Photo by Kristin Hoebermann)

Christine wrote grippingly about her fear of flying. She finally overcame it in order to spend Christmas in Costa Rica with her husband, attorney and author Cameron Stracher, and their kids (Simon, then 13, and Lulu, 10).

The vacation turned grim when Cam collapsed after a run. The only CAT-scan machine in the country was in San Jose — and the only way to get there was on a tiny plane.

Back in Westport — after a long commercial flight — the couple learned that a major artery was 90 percent blocked. He had survived only because his runner’s heart was so strong.

After a stent and medication, he’s back running. Christine has flown half a dozen times since then. And, of course, she writes.

A former Fulbright Scholar who received her Master of Fine Arts degree from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she says, “I’ve had Pulitzer Prize-winning writing teachers. But the best advice came from Jessica Bram and Suzanne Hoover” — 2 of her Westport Writers’ Workshop teachers. “They taught me to first listen to myself, then listen to others.”

Now others are listening to Christine. Last month she taught students how to break into children’s books. She should know: She’s got a multi-book publishing deal.

Christine got interested in writing for kids when Simon was in kindergarten. Her tales incorporated his classmates as characters. She read them aloud, and teachers encouraged her to do more.

She listened. She wrote. She branched out from kindergarten to middle grade fiction, and now to a harrowing but healing account of her terrible trip to Costa Rica.

Which — thanks to confidence gained through the Westport Writers’ Workshop — is a prize-winning essay, shared with Ladies’ Home Journal readers everywhere.

Westport Writers Workshop

(To read Christine’s essay, click here.)

Shameless Self-Promotion

One of the advantages of having your own blog is being able to blog about teaching blogging.

So here goes:

I’ve teamed up with Westport Writers’ Workshop to offer a 2-evening session called “Be a Blogger.”  On Thursday, July 14 and 21 (7 to 9 p.m.), I’ll help aspiring bloggers — this means you! — learn how to:

  • Choose a topic.
  • Generate ideas.
  • Create content.
  • Find a voice.
  • Respond to the Dude, Anonymous, or whoever else comments on your stuff — and create a community in the process.

We’ll also cover the mechanics of choosing a platform, finding graphics, and marketing and maintaining your blog.

That’s the 1st Thursday.  In the hands-on, interactive 2nd session you’ll develop your own blog, write the 1st post, put it online — and hear immediate feedback from fellow workshop participants.

Here’s 1 free hint on how to start blogging:  Embrace action verbs.

But you have to pay for the rest.

(Westport Writers’ Workshop is at 3 Sylvan Road South.  Anyone age 14 and up is welcome.  For more information and to register, click here.  Space is limited to 12 soon-to-be-awesome bloggers.)

Avoid The Internet!

It may seem counter-intuitive to post a notice of this event here in cyberspace, but we live in weird world.

So here goes:

The Westport Writers’ Workshop has announced “Writing Hours Unplugged.”  Called “a nurturing program for writers who seek a quiet space in a setting conducive to creativity, free of the distractions of the Internet,” it takes place at the Workshop (3 Sylvan Road South) most days of the week, beginning at 8 a.m.  (Check email early!)

Writers can unplug when workshops are not in session — including Sundays, the traditional day of rest.

Not a workspace the Westport Writers' Workshop wants to see.

In addition to no whirring computers or chirping cellphones, the facility offers overflowing bookshelves, bright windows and stacks of resources.  (Plus a kitchen.)

The lack of internet access includes wireless.  Westport Writers’ Workshop founder Jessica Bram says “the single greatest impediment to productive writing is the distraction provided by access to the Internet.”

Of course, there is no such thing as free non-internet access.  Writing Hours Unplugged is available only to Workshop members ($150 per year; includes program discounts and free admission to speaker events).  Memberships are available to “any writer or would-be writer in the community.”

“06880” likes the theory of unplugging, and writing in glorious, undistracted, quiet, contemplative, sylvan solitude.

But how would we know when The Dude, Jeffxs or any of our other fans readers comments on this post?

(For more information about the Westport Writers’ Workshop and Writing Hours Unplugged, click on www.westportwritersworkshop.com, or call 203-227-3250.)