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Christopher Jackson, The Hottest George Washington on Broadway, to Join in WC Commencement


Christopher Jackson, whose electrifying performance as George Washington in the mega-hit Broadway musical Hamilton has earned him a Tony nomination and a Grammy Award, will participate in Washington College’s 233rd commencement. Jackson will join commencement speaker David M. Rubenstein, co-founder and co-chief executive of the Carlyle Group, and bestselling author and historian Joseph Ellis, in congratulating the College’s graduating seniors on May 21.

Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 8.05.04 AMJackson will confer the College’s highest award—the George Washington Medal—to the graduating senior who shows “the greatest promise of understanding and realizing in life and work the ideals of a liberal education.” Jackson himself will also receive the College’s Award for Excellence, which in the past has been presented to cultural luminaries including artists Andrew and Jamie Wyeth, columnist Art Buchwald, documentary filmmaker Charles Guggenheim, novelist James Michener, and ballerina Martine van Hamel.

Jackson, who made his Broadway debut in another smash hit, 1997’s The Lion King, is an actor, composer, vocalist, musician, and lyricist. Among his Broadway credits are In the Heights, After Midnight, The Bronx Bombers, Memphis, and Holler If Ya Hear Me. Off Broadway includes The Jammer (Atlantic Theater Co.), Lonely, I’m Not (Second Stage), In the Heights (37 Arts), and Cotton Club Parade (ENCORES at City Center). In film and TV, he will soon be starring in CBS’s new show Bull, and he has appeared in Freestyle Love Supreme, Person of Interest, A Gifted Man, Fringe, Gossip Girl, Tracers, The Good Wife, and Afterlife.

He was also the composer/songwriter for Sesame Street and co-music supervisor and writer for The Electric Company (PBS). Among his awards is a Grammy for Hamilton as Best Musical Theater Album, and an Emmy in 2011 for his song with Will.I.Am, “What I Am,” for Sesame Street. In 2010 he released his first solo album titled, “In The Name of Love” and is currently working on his second album.

Rubenstein, who will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws, grew up in Baltimore as the son of a postal worker and homemaker, and went on to a law career that led him to the highest echelons of government and business. A graduate of Duke University and University of Chicago Law School, he began his career in private law practice, and served in senior positions in the U.S. Senate and Carter Administration. In 1987, he co-founded Carlyle, which has grown into a firm managing approximately $200 billion from 40 offices around the world.

Ellis, one of the nation’s leading scholars of American history, will receive an honorary Doctor of Letters. The author of nine books, Ellis won the Pulitzer Prize for Founding Brothers: the Revolutionary Generation and won the National Book Award for American Sphinx, a biography of Thomas Jefferson. His in-depth chronicle of the life of our first president, His Excellency: George Washington, was a New York Times bestseller.

The day before commencement, on Friday, May 20, Rubenstein and Ellis will team up for a symposium in Decker Theatre on the role of philanthropy today and in American history.  Rubenstein will open the symposium with remarks entitled “Patriotic Philanthropy.”   

Following Rubenstein’s remarks, Ellis will lead a Q&A session. The event mirrors a lively conversation the duo enjoyed during last year’s National Book Festival in Washington, D.C., when Rubenstein guided questions about Ellis’ latest book, The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789.

The symposium will begin Friday, May 20, at 4 p.m. in Decker Theatre at Washington College’s Daniel Z. Gibson Center for the Arts. It is free and open to the public. Commencement, held on the campus lawn, begins at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday May 21.

Bryan Matthews Steps Down as WC Athletics Director


After 22 years as Director of Athletics at Washington College and a total of 38 years working in higher education, Dr. Bryan Matthews has announced his retirement from the institution, effective July 7th. Matthews has presided over the College’s Athletic Department during an era of expansion and success on multiple fronts.

Thad Moore, currently the College’s Deputy Athletic Director and Head Athletic Trainer, will serve as Interim Director of Athletics following Matthews’s retirement.

Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 10.08.23 AMA 1975 graduate of Washington College, Matthews returned to his alma mater in 1978 to spend four years as head men’s lacrosse coach and Assistant Director of Admissions. He then served as head men’s lacrosse coach and a tenured professor of Physical Education at the United States Naval Academy for 12 years before returning to the College as Director of Athletics in 1994.

“I am forever grateful for all that Washington College has meant to my personal and professional life,” remarks Matthews. “I met my bride of 39 years here and was given my first real job here, which led to a position at the Naval Academy. That position, in turn, led me to return home.”

Since Matthews took the reins 22 years ago, the department has added two varsity programs (women’s soccer and co-ed sailing) and increased the number of full-time coaching and staff positions from 13 to 31. The College’s varsity women’s programs have particularly benefitted from an increase in both staffing and resources. A substantial increase in support and facilities for intramurals, club sports, and recreational and fitness activities has led to a dramatic rise in participation and engagement by students, faculty, and staff in those areas. Annual fundraising revenue for the department has increased seven-fold during Matthews’s tenure.

Perhaps the most easily visible area of departmental growth with Matthews as Athletic Director has been facilities. Matthews played a key role in the construction of Schottland Tennis Center, Roy Kirby Jr. Stadium, the current Washington College softball field, and Athey Park. Cain Athletic Center has seen the addition of numerous offices, a complete overhaul of locker rooms, the addition and expansion of athletic training space, multiple renovations to its Hall of Fame space, and both cosmetic and functional improvements to both the playing area and seating space inside Russell Gymnasium. The Johnson Fitness Center has seen its own renovations to office and locker room space, surface and other upgrades inside the field house, and a major expansion to its strength-training and cardiovascular areas. An expansion and renovation of Casey Swim Center was completed just last year.

Throughout his tenure, Matthews has also fostered and encouraged departmental growth outside of more traditional areas. He initiated and led the task force that created the College’s mascot Gus, oversaw the introduction of live streaming of varsity athletic events, and instituted programs focused on student-athlete career development and professional development for coaches. This past fall, he introduced DELTA (Developing Ethical Leadership Through Athletics), a leadership program for student-athletes. In 2014, his Athletic Department Strategic Plan, a medium- and long-term map for athletic excellence, was approved by the College’s Board of Visitors and Governors.

Over the past 22 years, seven Washington College varsity sports have combined to win 29 Centennial Conference and Mid-Atlantic Rowing Conference (MARC) Championships, including the first-ever conference titles for field hockey, softball, and men’s and women’s rowing. The 1997 men’s tennis and 1998 men’s lacrosse teams won their respective NCAA Division III National Championships. Washington College varsity student-athletes have earned All-America honors 154 times since Matthews took over as Athletic Director and the department’s head coaches have won 20 Centennial and MARC Coach of the Year awards since 2009 alone.

In the true spirit of Division III, Washington College student-athletes during Matthews’s tenure have excelled in the classroom and in their post-graduate lives. Annually comprising 25-30% of each incoming class, the College’s varsity student-athletes retain and graduate at significantly higher rates than the general student body and, as a group, perform academically on-par or better than their non-athlete counterparts. Sixty of this year’s 62 graduating varsity student-athletes have already secured a job, internship, or post-graduate academic opportunity for next year.

Matthews has served Washington College in various roles outside of athletics during the past two decades. He has served as Assistant to the President for Special Projects since 2014 and held the position of Associate Vice President of Administrative Services (overseeing both Public Safety and Dining Services at different points during that tenure) from 2005 to 2014. He also spent two years as Interim Vice President and Dean of Students from 2004 to 2006.

Beyond his professional obligations, Matthews has given his time to both the world of college athletics and the local community. He previously served on the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Committee, spending one year as chair, and had a three-year term on the US Lacrosse Board of Directors. He has served on various United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (USILA) committees since 1990. He has been a member of the Board and a coach for the Kent County Character Counts program since 2004 and previously served on the Kent School Board, Kent County’s Horizons Program Board, and the Kent County High School Athletic Hall of Fame Committee. He was also a part of three external reviews of college and university athletic department and sport management programs.

Matthews was inducted into Washington College’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 1996 on the strength of his playing career as an All-American lacrosse goalie and his time as head coach. He received the President’s Distinguished Service Award from the College in 2007. During his coaching career, he was named both the Division III and Division I Coach of the Year by the USILA in 1982 and 1986, respectively. In addition to his B.A. in Political Science from Washington College, he earned an M.A. in Psychology from the school in 1986. He went on to receive an educational doctorate in Educational Leadership and Innovation from Wilmington (Del.) College in 2001.

“Who gets to spend 26 years at their alma mater, do jobs they love, and raise their family in paradise?,” Matthews adds. “Thirty-eight years at two of the greatest colleges in America. It’s been fun and all I can say is, ‘Thank you.’ “

Making It Work: Yerkes Construction Nears Ten Years


As that great sage, Mike Tyson, once said, “Everyone has a plan until someone punches you in the throat.” That’s the experience that many young entrepreneurs felt starting their businesses during the early years of what was to become the Great Recession.

Jay and Lisa Yerkes fell into that camp at the end of 2007 when Lehman Brothers began to show signs of weakness with the abrupt closing of its subprime lender, BNC Mortgage. The Yerkes, who had just started their own business in Chestertown months before, almost immediately started getting calls to cancel both commercial and residential projects. It was just the start.

In his Spy interview, Jay Yerkes talks frankly about the challenges that came with the economic collapse of the region, but also the way in which Yerkes Construction, driven by a special sense of mission, could absorb these financial body blows and find a way to survive. In the Yerkes case, that way forward was having an underlying faith in Chestertown’s long-term future, the reliance on community support, and spiritual connection that transcends these big bumps in the road.

This video is approximately six minutes in length


Review: ‘Invitation Only’ by Mary McCoy


“By Invitation Only,” on view at RiverArts through May 29, is a zesty collection of works by eight artists imported to Chestertown from Easton, the Baltimore/Washington area and California. RiverArts conceived this show as a strategy for introducing fresh, dynamic ideas to its gallery and asked Ellie Altman, former director of Adkins Arboretum, to curate the show. Although there is no stated theme, not surprisingly, it reflects her background by centering on works that explore nature and natural processes.

These artists bring a broad range of mediums and approaches, yet the whole show is alive with interactions like a multi-fold conversation. Sculptor Marcia Wolfson Ray’s tall square tower constructed from vines, dog fennel and marsh elder stands beside Roberta Staat’s large oil pastel diptych of grazing cattle. Unrelated in materials and subject matter, they nonetheless share such rugged, energetic textures and warm earthy colors that they seem to belong together. It’s a curious but highly satisfying relationship.

Lone Leaf, by George Holzer

Lone Leaf, by George Holzer

It’s like that throughout the show. One artwork initiates thoughts, perhaps about the effects of light or natural patterns of growth or the flow of water, then another takes up the theme from a slightly different angle or even a radically contrasting one.
Wolfson Ray’s sculptures bristling with dried plants from dog fennel to hosta leaves are a total contrast to George Holzer’s large, shadowy photographs in which a root, a splinter or a leaf is isolated in a field of velvety black. The first is rustic, the second superbly elegant, yet both are skillfully crafted works that focus the viewer’s eye on the pure beauty and fascinating eccentricities found in plant forms.

One of two plein air painters in this show, Staat draws on time-honored traditions of landscape painting with her engaging waterscapes, farm fields and Chestertown scenes. Lending the show a satisfying sense of grounding, her work serves as a starting point in a dialogue on the possibilities of painting.

Her pure pleasure in capturing the landscape’s color and forms with strokes of paint is shared by Julia Sutliff, whose small plein air paintings brim with joyful, improvisational animation. Her dancing brushstrokes are quick and simplified as they capture sunlight falling on leaves and milkweed pods. Everywhere the seasons are in evidence, and their colors speak meaning to us. There are the bright greens of spring and new life, the maturity and peace of summer’s darker shades, and the pink of flowers that calls to mind love and sexuality.

 Signal, by Marcia Wolfson Ray

Signal, by Marcia Wolfson Ray

This sense of nature’s joyful animation recurs in Eva Stina Bender’s exuberant watercolor drawings and Marilyn Banner’s lush encaustic paintings, two artists who explore the visual effects of flowing water but in very different ways.

With virtuosity as fluid as the watercolor itself, Bender washes loose fields of color onto her paper allowing the paint to wick along its fibers so that bits of pigment are captured along the way, very much as silt follows water as it flows. Exploiting this natural process, she deftly suggests the ever-shifting forces of nature, time and circumstance, ephemeral moments brought into focus by the trees and flowers that she casually draws on top.

Banner is also fascinated by the effects of flowing water, and she mimics them by swirling, dripping and dribbling layer upon layer of molten wax onto her wood panels. Her shimmering seascapes and close-up studies of the shifting sand and bits of shell and seaweed at the water’s edge are both depictions of her subject matter and models of the processes that formed them. The rich colors and myriad details of their many translucent layers suggest the passage of time, and strangely, they often look as much like vast galaxies as intimate glimpses of water and sand.

Time and scale are also slippery entities in Ruth Pettus’s many tiny canvasses entitled simply “Six Seasons I and II.” Composed of swaths of acrylic paint encrusted with sand, their size makes them feel intimate and introspective, yet they evoke sweeping views of faraway horizons, perhaps across an ocean or a lonely landscape in the half-light after sunset.

The visceral physicality of Pettus’s gritty textures and her spare, minimal approach to landscape carries over into Carol Minarick’s paintings. Minarick’s smooth expanses of beige, black and white contrast with rough, pock-marked surfaces as she sets illusionistic painting aside to create works in which the meeting of two flat planes hints at a broad horizon or brushy forms imply huge, billowing clouds. Sometimes she adds words that combine with her simplified imagery to conjure the raucous call of a crow or the forces of eons of geological time. The openness of her suggestions invites the viewer to open his or her imagination to multiple possibilities of storytelling and meaning.

The works in this show are like captured glimpses of the natural world, fleeting moments in which we see the results of things that have happened and the promise of things about to happen. While all these artists present strong, engaging work, what’s most exhilarating about the show is the realization that they are continually making discoveries as they work. It’s an ongoing creative process whose infinity of possibilities parallels the creative process of nature itself.

Gallery hours are Tuesday through Friday, 11 am – 4pm, Saturday 10 am to 4 pm. On First Fridays the gallery is open until 8pm. For more information, please visit or call 410 778 6300. RiverArts is located at 315 High Street, Suite 106, Chestertown, MD. 21620.

The Devil’s Reach by Jamie Kirkpatrick


Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 8.06.05 AMJust a mile or two down from the Chestertown dock, there is a bend in the river known as Devil’s Reach. The name, I’m told, is derived from the days when tall ships made the long trek across the ocean and up the Chesapeake Bay to offload the king’s cargo at what was once our modestly thriving little port. At that particular bend, the banks of the river are quite steep and the prevailing winds—almost always directly abeam—make the upwind reach devilishly difficult, especially if the tide is running out. Just imagine: the end of a long voyage is finally in sight yet endless tacking to gain just a few feet makes it still hours away. Time was money then, just as it is today, and the devil was taking it.

Now I’m not a day boater in a stinkpot or a waterman on a dead rise, but I recognize the devil when I see him. He’s got a mop of thinning blond hair, a sprayed-on tan, and a noisomely loud voice. Sadly, he also seems to have long arms that reach out to lots and lots of very angry people. If he ends up as the captain of our ship of state, it won’t by any means be a prosperous voyage on calm seas.

When this devil first appeared, we didn’t take him seriously enough. That was a mistake. With bombast and bullying, he culled the herd of his party’s candidates until he was the last man standing. Now he is on the doorstep and November is only a few months away. As the walrus said to the oysters, “the time has come to talk of many things: of shoes and ships and sealing wax—of cabbages and kings.”

Well, forget shoes, ships, and sealing wax. Never mind the cabbages. But we do need to talk about kings. Good kings rule with wisdom and love; bad kings rule by threats and fear. No matter the question or the understandable discontent of the day, hate is never the answer. Nor are four words on a baseball hat. And yet somehow, it seems to me, this devil keeps making headway despite the prevailing winds of conventional wisdom. Now we ignore him at our peril.

Just what is this devil’s reach? It seems to me he has found a way to tap in to the meaner spirits of those among us who feel threatened, disenfranchised, and bewildered by the flood tide of change. I get all that. It’s just too bad that what fills this devil’s sails are the ill winds of racism, misogyny, and xenophobia. Wouldn’t understanding, compromise, and tolerance get us safely upriver faster?

Back in the days of the tall ships, bends in the river were navigated with courage and expert seamanship. All the hot air in the world wouldn’t fill a vessel’s sails if the captain and his crew didn’t know how to set them properly. Eventually, hard progress could be measured and made and the ship brought safely to port. That’s still true today. It’s up to us to make sure this devil’s reach does not become his grasp.

Jamie Kirkpatrick

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. “A Place to Stand,” a book of his photographs, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015. He is currently working on a collection of stories called “Musing Right Along.”

The Myth of Good College Teaching by Robert Day


Myth of Good College Teaching

At some point during the upcoming college graduation ceremonies there will be a moment when a member of the faculty is honored for excellence in classroom teaching. The chances are, even given local college politics, that the teacher deserves the recognition. That there is good college classroom teaching is not the myth: that it has any value in academic marketplace is. Think trading in Rubles.

Consider my friend for forty years, the brilliant American novelist John Barth. Over time I have met more than a few of his students from his Johns Hopkins teaching career. All of them praised the precision of his advice, his candor, his careful reading of their work.

Yes. And because of who he was as an important novelist he held their attention with Coleridge’s “glittering eye.” And because of who was he could have obtained distinguished professorships at a number fine colleges and universities. Now consider this:

How about we create a doppelgänger of John Barth albeit with few (if any) publications? Let us make him a teacher with deep knowledge of his subject; a teacher who prepares his classes with care. A teacher who is honored at graduation for his dedication to his students. And now let us imagine that this John Barth seeks the same professorships that author of The Floating Opera (among many other novels) is seeking. Futility to the x times y power.

But of course John Barth’s Hopkins students had the best of his glittering eye. Think about the well-published scholars and scientists in all academic fields, the specialists who are never going to be honored for their classroom teaching because they are neither good at it, nor care much about it. Imagine they have won national and international prizes and awards far beyond their college and university. It doesn’t take much to imagine that they too will get “the jobs, the dollars” to quote a line from Dee Snodgress’ poem April Inventory.

Each year I drive west on Interstate 70 from the East Coast to a remote town in Northwestern Kansas and along the way I see billboards advertising universities and colleges: One school claims a celebrated basketball player starred on its team; a small college asserts that it has a business program that will get its students jobs; a state school announces it is a nationally recognized “Research University;” another college brags that a famous speech had been given there; and, (my favorite) a university shows a massive picture of two clinched bare knuckled fists sporting ten championship rings from various NCAA playoffs. Taken together these billboards are fifteen minutes of fame for the colleges and universities that line the interstate highways of America (well, 15 seconds at 7O mph).

To be fair, you can’t put a picture of a celebrated teacher on a billboard (who would pay the bill?—not the athletic department), nor would any good teacher want that: Praise to face is open disgrace, as the old rule would have it. And if you were an honored teacher, you would probably not want to be celebrated at the half time ceremony of a football game—something I once witnessed.

So what’s to be done? Not much as it turns out. There is of course satisfaction in itself from teaching well; not unlike the pleasure of learning is the pleasure of learning—thus a liberal arts education, also not a valued currency.

Or there is this, again from April Inventory:

“There is a gentleness survives
That will outspeak and has its reasons.
There is a loveliness exists,
Preserves us, not for specialists.”

Robert Day is the author of ten books, including novels; works of literary non-fiction; collections of short stories; novellas; memoir; and poetry. His most recent book is Robert Day for President: An Embellished Campaign Autobiography. He has lived on the Eastern Shore since 1970. 

This essay was originally published in the Baltimore Sun and used with its permission. 

The Dream of Flying



As a boy, I dreamed I might one day fly like superman. He was faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. For starters, I thought I’d have a go at flying.

One day I draped a large bath towel around my shoulders as a cape, stood on the radiator of my room, drew my arms over my head, and with an “up, up, and away,” lunged forward. I dropped like a stone onto the bed, bounced once, landed on the floor and broke my arm. I did not enjoy my flight. My mother grounded me even after the cast was removed. My dream of flying came to an ignominious end.

Over a thousand years ago, in Malmesbury, England, a young Benedictine monk named Oliver yearned to fly and was the first man believed to have actually flown. The documentation of his adventure is credible although sketchy. Leaping from a parapet, he flew 690 feet straight down, crashed, breaking both legs, crippling him for life. Oliver had arranged devices like wings on his arms and body. His chronicler, William of Malmesbury, wrote that Oliver thought he failed “because he forgot to put a tail in the back.”

Brother Oliver, severely crippled, never ceased wondering about the mystery of the universe and how it must be to soar among the stars. From his cell, his brothers brought him outside nightly so he might stare upward and wonder at the heavens. He may have failed to fly, but the dream never died.

What is it about the firmament of heaven that awakens yearning, a hunger, a feeling of awe? My guess is that it serves as a metaphor. We yearn to break through the constraints of our lives, to transcend our limits, and be “as free as a bird.”

Only the soul, our ancient forebears thought, was meant to fly. At death, our souls ascended to heaven on a one-way flight. God, they also believed, had assigned only angels and spirits (including witches) an ability to fly. Whether we had any business up there at all made even the boldest adventurers uneasy lest by their pride they’d offend God.

Attempts to fly included using feathered wings, balloons, and kites. In the 16th century, one Chinese man, Wan-Hoo, considered flying by propulsion and secured seven gunpowder rockets to a sedan chair. His servants lit them. The chronicle reads: “Smoke, an explosion, and Wan- Hoo was no more.”

In 1996, I read an essay on the history of flying. I was surprised to learn that the technology for flying was available hundreds of years before Brother Oliver and Wann-Hu ever attempted their flights.

Covering skeletal wooden frames with skins and animal membranes was practiced routinely. Building a glider was feasible. They wanted for the technology only because they looked for the secret of flying in the wrong place. They modeled their efforts watching low flying birds like sparrows. These birds flapped their wings to fly leading the aspiring flyers to believe that flapping wings were the key to flight. They hadn’t looked high enough to study the raptors. Hawks can glide for miles on steadied wings. Oliver’s attempts failed because he set his sights set too low.

Today we’re awash in technological achievements. We have pintles and gudgeons galore – mostly electronic. In years past, dreams of possibilities abounded, but the technology to realize the dreams was lacking. It seems that just the opposite is happening in our day; the technologies are abundant, but our dreams have become limited, even mediocre. We don’t look very high.

I read recently about the planning of the “Hyperloop” by billionaire Elon Musk. According to the Daily Mail, he plans to shoot capsules filled with passengers along a tube at around the speed of sound. Once the technology is worked out it would take just thirty minutes to travel 381 miles from Los Angeles to San Francisco. The technology is just around the corner, but I wonder just what dream is the technology serving? What’s the hurry? I assume the dream is to get us where we’re going much faster. One complaint in my life is the unnerving speed at which everything is happening. Some days I hardly take time to smell flowers.

What’s important in life is an ongoing question: is it more important to reach our destination than it is to live deeply into the experience we have in getting there? It’s curious to imagine, but if the Hyperloop becomes a reality and we could travel that fast, we might get to San Francisco in a flash, but see nothing along the way including any flowers. We’d be traveling in a hermetically sealed tube with no view of the outside and hardly time to converse with fellow travel companions. And if, in that half hour, we were seated next to someone we might chat with, the chances are he’d be on a cell phone or an ipad, two of the crown jewels dreamed up in our electronic age.

Humankind has been dreaming about universal peace and justice for centuries . . . usually after we’ve won a war. The dream fades and we’re back to another war. Maybe we’re not looking high enough.

Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist.  A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.

Laura Lippman: New York Times Bestselling Crime Writer Answers Spy Questions


Laura Lippman, the New York Times bestselling writer, has written twenty novels, and has won Agatha, Anthony, Edgar, Nero, Gumshoe and Shamus awards for her clever and carefully constructed mysteries. She has also won Author of the Year Award by the Maryland Library Association.

Lippman wrote for newspapers for 20 years, 12 of them at the Baltimore Sun. Her series of books about the Baltimore private eye and former newspaper writer Tess Monaghan (a Washington College alum) has been wildly popular since Tess’s first appearance in 1997. Her 2003 novel Every Secret Thing was adapted into a movie which starred Diane Lane.

Lippman very kindly answered some questions from The Spy in advance of her appearance at the Kent County Public Library in Chestertown on Friday, May 13.

Congratulations on the publication of your latest novel, Wilde Lake. Stand-alone books or series writing – which do you prefer? What are the challenges or rewards of each?

I like the challenge of creating characters/worlds anew in the stand-alones. I like the challenge of finding fresh ways to write about Tess’s familiar world. I prefer — whichever one I’m not currently working on!

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 9.11.42 AMWill you walk away from Tess, or will you ever start another series?

I would never walk away from Tess, but she might decide she’s had enough of me. As for the second question — never say never.

What were your favorite books growing up? Did you read mysteries? Was To Kill a Mockingbird an influence?

I did love To Kill a Mockingbird. I read widely as a child, going through the entire list of Newbery prize winners while my mother was studying library science in graduate school. I loved Encyclopedia Brown. I also loved books about teenage girls written in the 1950s, with their details about prom dresses and a much more ritualized style of dating, if you will. My favorites were the Beany Malone books by Lenora Mattingly Weber.

Who are your favorite living writers? Do you have a favorite genre? Do you belong to any fabulous literary societies and attend lavish soirées and engage in witty banter?

I hesitate to start listing writers; I’ll leave someone out. I read literary and crime fiction most often, but I respect and enjoy all genres. As for fabulous literary societies and witty banter — does Facebook count? I have a small child. I don’t get out much.

What are you reading now? What was it like to read all the books for the National Book Awards for fiction? Do you read electronic books, or do you need to enjoy the tactile pleasures of paper and scribbling marginalia?

Oh, I am reading an advance copy of Ann Hood’s book, The Book That Matters Most and it’s so good. Reading for the National Book Awards was marvelous and an honor, but it was a bit like being locked in a chocolate factory for a year. I don’t think it’s incidental that I began reading a lot of nonfiction this year. I read both physical books and digital books, but I prefer physical ones as I like to read in the bathtub.

Did you have much say in the adaptation of your book Every Secret Thing? Did it feel odd to release your words and characters, and let someone else re-imagine them, or is that just business? Do you have a favorite movie adaptation of a book?

I had very little say, which is what I wanted. I sold my book to smart people and I let them do their job.
My favorite film adaptation is Adaptation, which was a meta version of The Orchid Thief. Very much a writer’s movie. My husband and I watched it with a non-writer cousin who found it baffling.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a lean, nasty little book set in a fictional Delaware town.

Do you have any favorite Eastern Shore bookstores? Do you have any favorite Eastern Shore restaurants?

I love Mystery Loves Company in Oxford; Kathy Harig and I go way back. As for Eastern Shore restaurants — my mom lives in Delaware, so I guess the place I eat most often is the chicken place on 404.

Laura Lippman will be speaking at the Kent County Library (408 High Street, Chestertown, MD 21620, 410.778.3636) on Friday afternoon as part of their Spring Speaker Series. It is a free event, but reservations are required: Beginning at 5:30, the general public is invited to meet the author during a catered reception and book signing. A limited number of Ms. Lippman’s books will be available for purchase.

Chestertown Gets Ready for “Create” on Cross Street


Located at 113 South Cross Street in historic Chestertown, Maryland, the new Create gallery ( is a collaboration of nationally known fine art and craft artists. The gallery brings together five Chestertown-based yet recognized artists to create a fresh, new way to experience art, fine craft and design. Guests who visit can get to know the artists and understand the creative process. It will be the home for a variety of existing work while presenting the opportunity to work directly with the artists to create personal or commercial custom pieces.

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 1.50.36 PM

The goal of the new gallery is to promote a deeper understanding of the creative process while demonstrating the potential for contemporary fine craft to enrich both living and work spaces. In addition to work of the founding artists, Create will feature the work of guest artists across the fine craft spectrum including metal, glass, ceramics, wood, jewelry, fiber and mixed media. The gallery is being curated by Carla Massoni, owner of MassoniArt, considered by many to be one of the finest gallerists in the mid-Atlantic region.

The five artists include:

Trained as a tool maker, Rob Glebe ( chose metal as his art form when he began creating his work 11 years ago. Starting with flat sheets of steel, he transforms the metal into colorful openwork vessels and unique wall art. Rob began his career trying to replicate the vessel forms from pottery, wood and baskets in metal. Today, Rob has taken his passion for design and now creates custom art work to fit a specific space, in addition to the unique colorful vessels and wall art.

Dave and Patti Hegland ( are a husband and wife team known for their innovative kiln art glass. Earlier careers in engineering and finance ingrained in them an acute attention to detail which they apply to all phases of their craft from the complexity of their designs to the precision applied to the finishing processes used to polish and shape each piece. Winners of numerous fine craft awards, the Heglands are particularly proud to have been selected as the 2013 winner of the prestigious Niche award for kiln & cast glass, recognizing creativity and technical excellence among American professional fine craft artists

Bob Ortiz ( has been making furniture for more than 30 years. Ortiz’s designs incorporate influences from the Arts & Crafts movement, Japanese and Asian Cultures, Shaker craftsmen and a lifetime of playing music. In his studio, Bob offers unique ‘vacation workshops’, where participants can work under Bob’s tutelage for a week of furniture making, creating their own crafted wood piece to take home.

Marilee Schumann ( has been passionately making and teaching pottery for 35 years. With a diverse background in art, and an Masters of Fine Arts in sculpture, her work includes the humble uses of pottery, food preparation and serving, as well as more abstract symbolic uses like flower arranging, vessels, sacrifice, ritual, and contemplation.

Faith Wilson ( has been making textile art for more than 30 years. Starting at as a weaver, she first showed at the American Craft Council Baltimore show in 1985. Transitioning into painting and mixed media work, she started her lauded floorcloth series in 2001. Her work has also been shown at the Smithsonian Craft Show, the Philadelphia Museum Craft Show, the Washington Craft Show, and Craft Boston, among many others.

The origin of Create dates back to 2013 when Curator Carla Massoni, recognizing the strength of these individual artists, brought this group of artists together to help establish Chestertown as an arts’ lover destination while encouraging more tourism in the area. The artists first exhibited together at the 2015 American Craft Council show in Baltimore, MD. Shortly after, they came together in a month-long ‘pop-up’ gallery in Chestertown which was a terrific success.

“Rather than competing, the partners’ style and approach complement one another, elevating the art to another level, said Massoni. As a result, a more formal partnership was forged and the group began to seek a permanent space in downtown Chestertown, which has become Create. Visit the gallery Wednesday through Monday at 113 South Cross Street.