The Martha’s Vineyards Times

By Gwyn McAllister
June 19, 2013

Baby Rocket, a novel by Stephanie A. Smith

Baby Rocket, a novel by Stephanie A. Smith

In her latest trilogy of books, author Stephanie Ann Smith has found inspiration in the Vineyard’s beauty and solitude, as well as its history.

Ms. Smith, a professor of literature at the University of Florida, has been spending time on the Vineyard for many years. She has participated in two residencies at the Noepe Center for Literary Arts (formerly Martha’s Vineyard Writer’s Residency) in the past year and a half and is currently back for a third time.

“It’s a great place to work for any artist because you have the gift that Justen [Ahren, Noepe founder and director] gives you of unrestricted time, and for inspiration you have the Island,” says Ms. Smith.

During her last stay she completed the second book of the trilogy, “Baby Rocket,” which was published this month.

Ms. Smith will be at the Oak Bluffs Library this Saturday, June 22, reading from her latest book and talking about some of the research she has engaged in on the Vineyard. “Baby Rocket” focuses on the search for identity by a woman abandoned as a baby. After the death of her adoptive father, the protagonist discovers some clues to her past and goes on a journey of discovery that eventually leads her to Martha’s Vineyard — the setting for the second half.

“My protagonist is trying to recover from some devastating information she discovers about herself and her family,” says Ms. Smith. “She comes to the Vineyard to collect herself and begin the healing process. It’s very much about recovering from a body blow having to do with her family.”

The third in the trilogy, “Content Burns,” which will be published in October, follows the stories of two women who have survived trauma of some sort. Both share a name — Content Burns — but are separated by three centuries. One woman is a 9/11 survivor; her predecessor, a Wampanoag, lives during the time of the Salem witch trials.


Read the newest novels by Stephanie A. Smith


A new novel – Warpaint by Stephanie A. Smith

is a haunting tale of friendship and rivalry between three women artists, who’ve known each other for years, who must come to terms with imminent mortality and artistic frustration: Liz Moore, born poor in Minnesota, fought her way to New York in the 1920s, but isn’t “discovered” until late in life; C.C. Davis, a well-to-do New Yorker is Moore’s only student, and rival, who, just after WWII achieves some small success, but feels, as she faces cancer in 2002, a failure; and Quiola Kerr, part Ojibwe, once C.C.’s lover, who is caught in the middle, and who, as a painter in the 21st century, has the most doubts about art’s value in an electronic world. In April 2002, all three meet a week before C.C.’s mastectomy at a MOMA retrospective for Liz Moore, but their reunion is tense. Still, they try to cope, until C.C. makes an unexpected and controversial choice, one which nearly breaks the bonds these three took so many decades to forge, and forces Quiola to try to confront Liz, who she believes deliberately sabotaged C.C.’s career.

Warpaint features American women painters, native american or American Indian (Ojibwe) history; it has a lesbian couple at the heart of the story; it’s about trying to survive breast cancer and choosing suicide; it features New York City, Paris, Minnesota and Connecticut. The Indian character, Quiola Kerr, shows up in the next book…

Baby Rocket

“Baby Rocket”
is the name given to a child who, in 1966, is found abandoned in a rocket-ride on Cape Canaveral. Traumatized, she could not speak when the police found her, a few yards from her dead mother. So first responders called her “Baby Rocket.” As an adult, this child (Clementine “Lem” Dance) has no memory of this event. She discovers her past when her adoptive father, James Walter Dance, Jr. has a fatal heart attack. Lem, a women’s historian who is writing a book about the Mercury 9, while cleaning out her father’s apartment finds files that her father had been collecting in order to tell her the truth. Without him, she must piece together her story—why was she abandoned? What happened to her parents? How did her mother die? Who is her biological father? Doing so will take her from California back to the Tri-State area, where she now lives; to Florida, where she will find her mother’s roots, and her mother’s life-story. Finally she goes out to Martha’s Vineyard, where she will come to terms with what she can recall, and what she has uncovered about the wrenching facts of her early years.

Baby Rocket is about a woman’s historian, NASA, the Space Race, Marilyn Monroe, adoption, domestic abuse, amnesia and family secrets, evasions, lies; it, too, has a lesbian couple (Quiola reappears but she’s not central); takes place in Santa Monica, Cape Canaveral, Connecticut and Martha’s Vineyard, and there is both murder and suicide in the story. The main character, “Baby Rocket” a.k.a Clementine “Lem” Dance shows up as a minor character in….

Content Burns

The newest novel – Content Burns by Stephanie A. Smith

Content Burns. The newest novel of the trilogy is about two women in the Burns family, both named Content; the first Content Burns is a Pequot Indian named Asawanuw (translates as Cornsilk) who survives the massacre at Mystic in 1637, to become a servant to a white Puritan family. She converts to Christianity, takes the name Content, and later marries David Burns; the second Content Burns is Content Abigail Burns or Cabbi, who survives 9/11 by accident (she trades restaurant shifts with a co-worker, who dies); the women will never know of one another, but they lead parallel lives of trauma and survival. This one takes place in NYC, Connecticut, Whidbey Island (off the coast of Seattle) and Martha’s Vineyard.

Genre of this trilogy: literary fiction, contemporary women’s literature, cultural heritage, historical fiction
Category: Fiction, Literary Fiction, Poetry

The Vineyard Gazzette

By Holly NadlerThursday
May 9, 2013 – 2:21pm

Going around the table, that's Anna Sequoia (author of 11 books), Sara Goudarzi (journalist), Sanderia Faye (novelist and folk-lore writer) me, Laurie Lepik (writer and craftswoman) and Jack Sonni (musician--he played for Dire Straits--and writer) and the picture is by Nan Byrne (documentarian).

Going around the table, that’s Anna Sequoia (author of 11 books), Sara Goudarzi (journalist), Sanderia Faye (novelist and folk-lore writer) me, Laurie Lepik (writer and craftswoman) and Jack Sonni (musician–he played for Dire Straits–and writer) and the picture is by Nan Byrne (documentarian).

They come from all over the country, staying for one or two weeks or up to a full month. They explore Edgartown from their home base at the former Point Way Inn. Some of them work in their rooms, others find a nesting spot in one of the many elegant downstairs parlors. For dinner they might bring home scallops from the Net Result, ingredients for a pasta Siciliana, and share the meal pot-luck style in the formal dining room, which is two stories high and lit up like a stage set.

What they all share is a huge talent for writing and a need to get away from their regular lives in order to dive deeper into the creative process. They are here as part of the Martha’s Vineyard Writers Residency, which each spring and fall allows for up to nine writers at a time to live at the inn for $200 a week.

Professor Stephanie Smith of Gainesville, Florida, who arrived a day after the dinner on Wednesday, had just returned from a semester at Oxford teaching 19th century American literature. She read from the her novel of an intended trilogy entitled War Paint. The scene involved three female artists of varying ages, the oldest is 90, gathered at MOMA for an exhibition of one of their works.

Household Words

Household Click-to-order-from-Amazon
Household Words – a novel by Stephanie A. Smith

Genre: literary criticism

Conceived By Liberty

Conceived Click-to-order-from-Amazon
Conceived By Liberty – a novel by Stephanie A. Smith

Genre: literary criticism

Other Nature

Other Nature - a novel by Stephanie A. Smith

Other Nature – a novel by Stephanie A. Smith

Genre: adult science fiction

James Tiptree Jr. Award WinnerJames Tiptree Jr. Award Nominee 1995

The James Tiptree Jr. Award is “an annual literary prize for science fiction or fantasy that expands or explores our understanding of gender.”

Snow Eyes

Snow-Eyes - An novel by Stephanie A. Smith

Snow-Eyes – An novel by Stephanie A. Smith

Genre: young adult fantasy

The Boy Who Was Thrown Away

The Boy Who Was Thrown Away

The Boy Who Was Thrown Away – a novel by Stephanie A. Smith

Click-to-order-from-AmazonGenre: young adult fantasy

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