Connie Hertzberg Mayo didn’t write fiction until she was in her forties. Then, all her experiences combined to create an award-winning novel, The Island of Worthy Boys, One Book One Town’s celebrated choice for 2017.
“Twenty years ago I didn’t have enough life experience to season my writing. I’m glad I waited,” said Mayo.
“An Evening with Connie Hertzberg Mayo” will be held on Saturday, April 1, at the Sharon Middle School at 7:30 PM. Mayo will discuss how the story of two boys at turn-of-the- century Boston came to life in her imagination. She’ll explore the history of the Boston Harbor Islands, especially the Boston Farm School on Thompson Island, where the boys ended up after committing a crime that took a lethal turn.
Mayo, a Sharon resident and mother of two teenagers, is a systems analyst. “I could never just be an artistic creative person; likewise, I could never just be a numbers’ person. One part of my brain balances out the other.”
Criteria for OBOT’s book selection includes the potential for interesting and innovative programs that enhance the reading experience. The Island of Worthy Boys has inspired dynamic programming, in addition to book discussions at the library and the Walpole Barnes & Noble.
Young adults from Youth Underground of the Central Square Theater will present “Circle Up!” on Sunday, March 26, at 2 PM at the Sharon Unitarian Church. “Circle Up!” is a live per- formance that explores the achievement gap in education as the actors have experienced it.
“It’s important to get the boots on the ground view,” said Mayo, whose novel is from two young boys’ point of view. “This performance offers that perspective.”
The program “Historic Boston: Poverty and Perils,” a talk by Gary Hylander on Monday, April 3 at the Sharon Adult Center, is the non-fiction counterpart to Mayo’s novel. “I’ve always been interested in how the disadvantaged survived before there were any social services. Life was perilous in Boston. There was a rift between the rich and the poor, which parallels the eco- nomic disparity we see today,” said Mayo.
If the story took place now, available services for support would be vastly different. A “Juvenile Justice Panel” of experts will analyze the current legal and social services available for children like Charles and Aidan on Thursday, April 27 at 7:00 PM at the Sharon Adult Center.
“When Charles’ mother dies in the book, no one is aware that this has happened. Once he’s not living in his tenement, he’s off the grid. That wouldn’t be likely to happen today,” said Mayo.
A central idea in the novel is second chances. According to Mayo, “when the boys attend the school on Thompson Island, Superintendent Bradley has faith in them, which allows them to reinvent themselves.” OBOT is sponsoring a “Second Chances” writing contest. Submission guidelines are found on http://www.onebookonetown.org. Deadline is March 26.
All are invited to share their prose or poetry at the “Second Chances Writing Contest Cel- ebratory Reading and Awards“ on Saturday, April 29, at 2:00 PM at the library.
“I hope people will write not only about big life-changing second chances, but also share their smaller events in their lives,” said Mayo.
The final program is the “Thompson Island Tour,” a Sharon Community Education event, on Sunday, May 7. People can explore the island where the boys lived and learned, find out about today’s Outward Bound program, and enjoy a picnic lunch.
“One thing that hits you on the island is how close to Boston you are, and yet how differ- ent it feels,” said Mayo. “I hope that people who take the trip will enjoy something that Charles and Aidan experienced when they went from an urban environment to an island oasis.”
To purchase tickets for “An Evening with Connie Hertzberg Mayo,” log on to http://www.obot-sharon.brownpapertickets.com. $5.00 for adults/$3.00 for seniors and students.
To register for the Thompson Island tour, log on to http://www.sharoncommunityeducaton.com.$18 for adults. $15.00 for children ages 15 and under. Advance registration is required. Included are the bus to Boston and the ferry to the Island.
All other events are free. More information is available at http://www.onebookonetown.org.
OBOT is funded through Eastern Bank. This year OBOT has also received financial sup- port from the Sharon Cultural Council and the Massachusetts Cultural Council for Circle Up!