April 30, 2017
Union Grove Distillery, Arkville, New York
Learn more at writersinthemountains.org.
April 30, 2017
Union Grove Distillery, Arkville, New York
Learn more at writersinthemountains.org.
Writers in the Mountains (WIM) invites you to its annual literary arts and community event and celebration Writers Unbound (formerly known as Meet the Authors), the fourth in our series of annual literary festivals.
This year the event takes place on Sunday, April 30, from 12 noon to 4 p.m. at the Union Grove Distillery in Arkville, NY. Union Grove is housed in a big old barnlike building featuring comfortable spaces fitted with stainless steel and copper and wood, a roaring fireplace, and the percolation of fine spirits—all making for a perfect environment in which to listen to, talk about, and think about books and writing.
The daylong event welcomes all writers and readers, artists and audience, and community members from every walk to enjoy a warm gathering of successful and fascinating writers, illustrators, editors, educators, booksellers, and publishers from Syracuse to New York City and points between and beyond. This year’s keynote speaker is Holly George-Warren. As a writer specializing in music history and biography, she has written many journal articles and liner notes, edited compilations and collections, and is author or co-author of more than fifteen books, including her forthcoming biography of Janis Joplin, which will be published by Simon & Schuster in 2018. She also teaches, lectures, and is a consultant, curator, and archivist in the museum arena; she serves as the director of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum Oral History Program.
Come by to shop for books directly from their authors, hear readings and peer-to-peer discussions, join in an enticing raffle (books are the prize, of course), and vote in the Best Book Cover contest.
Participants include poets Sharon Israel, Anique Taylor, Sharon Ruetenik, Lissa Kiernan, and Clark Strand; authors Leslie T. Sharpe, Nina Shengold, Sari Botton, Dara Lurie, Carrie Bradley Neves, and Simona David; playwright Amie Brockway; illustrators Durga Yael Bernhard and Will Lytle; and publisher Dayl Wise from Post Traumatic Press.
The program is as follows:
12:30 p.m.—Poetry Reading / Featured Poet Sharon Israel
Sharon Israel is the host of Planet Poet-Words in Space, an edition of The Writer’s Voice program on WIOX 91.3 FM in Roxbury, New York. She has just released her first chapbook Voice Lesson, published by Post Traumatic Press. Her work most recently appeared in Per Contra, SPANK the CARP, 5:2 Crime Poetry Weekly, Medical Literary Messenger, and Spry Literary Journal. In 2016 Ms. Israel appeared as a panelist at the Massachusetts Poetry Festival in Salem, Mass. As a poet and soprano, she collaborates with composer Robert Cucinotta on works for voice, live instruments, and electronics. She will be reading selected poems from Voice Lesson.
1:00 p.m.—Publishing Panel / Group Discussion Addressing the Latest News and Trends in Publishing
Panelists include authors Leslie T. Sharpe and Anique Taylor, and publisher Dayl Wise from Post Traumatic Press. Moderated by Simona David.
1:30 p.m.—Keynote Address “The Art and Craft of the Biography” with Holly George-Warren
Holly George-Warren is a two-time Grammy nominee and an award-winning writer named one of the top women music critics “you need to read” by Flavorwire.com. She is the author or co-author of fifteen books, including A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton, from the Box Tops to Big Star to Backdoor Man; Public Cowboy No. 1: The Life and Times of Gene Autry; and the forthcoming biography of Janis Joplin, which will be published by Simon & Schuster in 2018. She co-wrote the New York Times bestseller The Road to Woodstock (with Michael Lang), as well as John Varvatos: Rock in Fashion (with Varvatos) and It’s Not Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (with Jenny Boyd). Among her other works are The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: The First 25 Years; Punk 365; Grateful Dead 365; Bonnaroo: What, Which, This, That, the Other; How the West Was Worn (with Michelle Freedman); Cowboy! How Hollywood Invented the Wild West; and the nonfiction children’s books Honky-Tonk Heroes and Hillbilly Angels: The Pioneers of Country & Western Music; Shake, Rattle & Roll: The Founders of Rock & Roll; and The Cowgirl Way.
2:30 p.m.—New Release with Leslie T. Sharpe, author of The Quarry Fox and Other Critters of the Wild Catskills
Leslie T. Sharpe is a writer, editor, and educator. A member of PEN American Center, she is the author of Editing Fact and Fiction: A Concise Guide to Book Editing (Cambridge University Press, 1994), which is regarded as a “modern editing classic” and “On Writing Smart: Tips and Tidbits,” featured in The Business of Writing (Allworth, 2012). Her new book, The Quarry Fox and Other Critters of the Wild Catskills, published by The Overlook Press in March 2017, is a lyric narrative look at the wild animals of the Catskill Mountains. Ms. Sharpe will be reading excerpts from her new book, and will discuss the genre of nature writing, as it relates to the Catskill Mountains.
3:00 p.m.—Fiction: Roots and Branches with Nina Shengold
Nina Shengold writes in many genres. Her books include the novel Clearcut (Anchor Books), a Book Sense Notable Selection; River of Words: Portraits of Hudson Valley Writers, with photographer Jennifer May (SUNY Press); and 13 theatre anthologies for Vintage Books and Viking Penguin. She won the Writers Guild Award for her teleplay Labor of Love, starring Marcia Gay Harden, and the ABC Playwright Award for Homesteaders. Ms. Shengold has taught creative writing at the University of Maine, Manhattanville College, Vermont College of Fine Arts, and locally at Word Cafe, the Omega Institute, and as a visiting guest artist at SUNY Ulster.
3:30 p.m.—Illustrators’ Moment
Illustrators Durga Yael Bernhard and Will Lytle, cookbook editor Carrie Bradley Neves, and art writer Simona David will talk about the ins and outs of illustrated books.
4:00 p.m. —The Bounty of Books Raffle, with a prize of ten selected book titles, will be awarded (come early, tickets are limited!), and the winner of the Best Cover Contest will be announced.
Throughout the day, participating authors will read from their works and share their stories with the audience. Admission is free. For more information, visit writersinthemountains.org, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Writers in the Mountains is a 501 (c) (3) not-for–profit organization with a mission to provide a nurturing environment for the practice, appreciation, and sharing of creative writing. Learn more at writersinthemountains.org.
Anique Taylor holds an MFA in Poetry from Drew University, and an MFA in Drawing from Pratt Institute as well as a Diplôme from Sorbonne University in Paris, France. She has co-authored works for HBO, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster, and others. She has given featured readings at St. Mark’s Poetry Project, Dixon Place, the Speakeasy, Cedar Tavern, and group readings at What Happens Next, Tompkin’s Square, Charas, and The Knitting Factory. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Rattle, Common Ground Review, Stillwater Review, The World (St. Mark’s Poetry Project), Adanna, Cover Magazine, Cheap Review, Southern Poetry Review, Earth’s Daughters. She has published several chapbooks, including Where Space Bends, chosen Finalist by both Minerva Rising’s and Blue Light Press’ Chapbook Contests, and Under the Ice Moon, also a Finalist in the Blue Light Press Chapbook Contest. Anique has taught The Creative Journal at Bard LLI and the Poetry Workshop at the Benedictine’s Oncology Support Program. She teaches a Creative Nonfiction Workshop for Writers in the Mountains.
Simona David: Anique, talk a little bit about yourself.
Anique Taylor: I’ve been a visual artist most of my life. I’ve also written all my life, and have been involved in St. Mark’s Poetry Project in New York City, doing poetry readings for quite a while. A few years ago I re-committed myself to writing, and enrolled in a MFA program at Drew University, which has some of the most accomplished poets in the country. They’re deeply devoted, and have exquisite knowledge of craft. They opened up my whole life.
SD: You started a Poetry Reading series here in the Catskills, in the town of Phoenicia.
AT: Yes. Phoenicia has a population of around two hundred. We started a marathon reading during the summer, and had about one hundred and thirty people on the lawn, sitting in lawn chairs. They sat for hours listening. It was wonderful.
SD: You have been teaching for Writers in the Mountains, for quite a while now, a popular Creative Nonfiction Workshop. Let’s talk a bit about the genre of creative nonfiction.
AT: I think we each come to writing however we can, and from wherever we can. For some it’s easy, for others it’s difficult. But most of us come to it because we have a desire, and the desire continues. Each time we write, we venture into the unknown, and it’s always a risk. I’ve been writing ever since I could write, and before that I used to write stories in my head. I didn’t consider myself a writer, because I didn’t make up stories. The real writers were the ones who made up stories. I liked to write about things that happened to me or around me, and the things that I felt and thought. When I studied poetry, that gave me tools to write better. Afterwards, I discovered that what I was writing all along is called creative nonfiction.
SD: Lee Gutkind, who founded Creative Nonfiction magazine in 1993, defines the genre as “true stories well told.” How would you describe creative nonfiction? And what does it cover?
AT: Creative nonfiction can be memoir, personal essay, journal, poetry, research papers; it can be almost anything. I’m working on a manuscript now of creative nonfiction poetry. It’s based on stories about non-Jews who risked their lives to rescue Jews during World War II. It’s poetry, it’s also creative nonfiction, because the poems are all crafted from true stories. Lee Gutkind also said that in some ways creative nonfiction is like jazz: it’s a rich mix of flavors, ideas and techniques, some of which are newly invented, and others are as old as writing itself. Creative nonfiction can use the tools of writing forms such as sound, diction, metaphor, rhythm, description, dialogue, even plot. When you write something that is true, you still need to decide how to frame it, where it begins, where it goes, what to put in, what to leave out. The art is to make it come alive, to make it matter. There are two parts: what you say, and how you say it.
SD: What do you think makes this genre so popular?
AT: I think people are fascinated with other people’s lives. There are so many possibilities – you can do anything you can think of in the world with creative nonfiction.
SD: Biographies, for instance, have always been popular. Please, share some of the best names in creative nonfiction.
AT: There is Thoreau, who wrote Walden. That’s a memoir. A biography covers a whole life, a memoir covers a part of a life. Emerson’s essays are really wonderful. Kurt Vonnegut, Joan Didion – Didion’s work is exquisite; Anne Lamott, David Sedaris – very funny and popular. Virginia Wolf, Truman Capote, Susan Sontag, so many. What I find interesting is that it’s very usual for novelists and poets to also have essays or memoir pieces.
SD: Let’s talk a bit about your approach to teaching creative nonfiction. I’m looking at a note you sent out to class at the beginning of the semester: “Write about love. Do not directly describe the person (animal companion, place, house, friend, group, etc.). Avoid emotional adjectives and adverbs. Let your nouns and verbs give substance to your writing. Let details, action, dialogue, description speak for your emotions. It doesn’t have to be about cozy, kissy love. It could be about unfulfilled love, loss, confusion, betrayal, the excitement of beginning love. See where it takes you. Have fun. Your work can be personal or shared with the class.” What is the structure of your class, and what are your goals as an educator?
AT: What we do in class is that we start with a silent writing prompt. And everybody writes for about ten minutes. It’s work that they never have to show anyone. Then we usually have a discussion about the readings – I send out beforehand a few essays or a story piece. And we talk about the craft, we talk about what makes the piece work, what are the issues that the writer uses and are strong, what’s the structure. Then we listen to each other’s current work. I give a class exercise. In the end I assign homework.
SD: One piece of advice you give your students is “Avoid clichés, and overused expressions.” And I often hear experienced writers say “write as you speak.” In other words, just be natural and authentic, and don’t strive to find the perfect phrase.
AT: I think it’s very important, especially with the first draft, to just write and let everything come out. Don’t focus on trying to have a voice. Focus on speaking out as yourself. When you look at the piece a few days later, you will edit. Yes, on the one hand, be authentic; on the other hand, you want to take out phrases that weaken or slow the process and lose the reader. There are writers who write very simply and plainly, and that is riveting. And there are other writers who write in very complicated ways, dealing with very difficult, philosophical questions.
SD: Absolutely. And each of this kind of writer has his or her own readership.
AT: Exactly. And some of us love both.
SD: You mentioned voice. On the first draft, you say, don’t focus too much on developing your voice. What is voice, and what is tone?
AT: My advice is to write the first draft with passion, then come back when it’s cool, to be able to bring in the editor in you, and tighten things up. Your voice is who you are. We’ve also had long discussions in class about tone and viewpoint. Are we writing from the first person? Is it intimate? Are we talking to someone close to us? Is it a gentle tone, or angry or resentful? Is the first person omnipotent? You can write from the second person. The third person can be very familiar. It can also be an omnipotent third person. We take a piece and write it from various points of view. These are all tools that I want my students to have in their toolbox.
SD: I know that at the beginning of your class, you ask your students to clarify their goals – why are they taking the class, and what do they seek to accomplish? You ask them to think about their strengths, and what they want to write about, their voice, and also what they think holds them back. Talk about this experience.
AT: I want my students to become aware of what they had really wanted but never verbalized it before.
SD: Let’s talk about writing a personal essay. You recommend a piece by Tim Bascom, Picturing the Personal Essay, A Visual Guide. How does diagramming an essay work?
AT: Most people assume that, because it’s creative nonfiction, you just tell the story. But there are infinite possibilities in a way you tell a story. So, in class we started to diagram the structure of each essay, and that gave us a visual sense of how to form an essay.
SD: I think this is helpful from the reader’s point of view too, because we’re all visual learners to some extent, and once we see a story in our head and the story makes sense to us, it’s easier to remember it as the time goes by.
AT: Yes. As a writer however, I don’t think you start with a form in mind. I think, as a writer, you just have to let it go, and then come back to it later to see what you’ve gotten.
SD: In essence, your advice is to focus first on what you have to say, then how you say it, and then look at the overall structure – the visual representation of your story.
AT: Yes. The visual representation is something you would come to later to look at. It’s also important to read other people’s work to see what they do.
SD: One last piece of advice for writers.
AT: I constantly read, and do it as a research for class. What I look for are pieces that will inform us about how to write, and what choices to make when we write. I want a literary piece to be beautifully crafted. I care about what the writer is saying. I look for humor, wisdom, and scope. I want the writer to give us something that we can take with us, and will open us up, and change us.
© 2016 Simona David
Raining Poetry in Roxbury, a project of Roxbury General and Writers in the Mountains
© 2016 artinthecatskills.com
Read more at Upstater.com.
Learn more at Upstater.com.
At the Union Grove Distillery in Arkville, NY on April 24, 2016
© 2016 Simona David