Open art studio tours have become more and more common all over the country as studio visits trigger questions that aren’t often asked in formal settings such as galleries and museums, and allow for a more intimate interaction with the artwork.
This summer alone, four major open art studio tours take place throughout the region featuring a total of 160 artists from Saugerties to Treadwell and points in between. Building on a century-long tradition that started with the Hudson River School, contemporary artists continue to be inspired by the region once known as America’s First Wilderness, and what we refer to today as the place where American art was born.
Read my article in Chronogram to learn about Stagecoach Run Art Festival (July 7 – 8), Shandaken Art Studio Tour (July 20 – 22), AMR Open Studios Tour (July 28 – 29), and Saugerties Artists’ Studio Tour (August 10 – 12). During the tour you will meet artists working in all artistic disciplines and styles, ask questions, and purchase directly from the artists. Participants include abstract painters Adam Cohen and Tara Bach, landscape painters Ellen Wong and Richard Kathmann, still life painter Judith Lamb, and urban realist painter Lisbeth Firmin.
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.
Situated on the east bank of the Hudson River in Hyde Park, Dutchess County, Vanderbilt Mansion is a classic example of the Gilded Age country estate in America. The Gilded Age spanned from 1870 to 1900, and was an era characterized by rapid economic growth and wealth accumulation.
Frederick William and Louise Vanderbilt bought the estate in 1895, and expanded and re-modeled the property in the Beaux-Arts architectural style. The interiors are lavishly decorated with European antiques and period reproductions. The estate also includes gardens, designed in the Italian style, and overlooks the Hudson River and the Catskill Mountains. Guided tours are offered every day, year round.
119 Vanderbilt Park Road, Hyde Park, NY 12538
For more information and current hours of operation, visit
How Art Is Made: In the Catskills is a collection of interviews with some of the world’s most accomplished artists who live and work in the Catskill Mountains, New York. Five painters and illustrators, two ceramicists and printmakers, one sculptor, one weaver, and one writer discuss what inspires and moves them, what draws them to their medium of choice, what materials they use, how they approach a new artistic project, how they deal with setbacks, and how they celebrate success. Nine are formally trained at prestigious art schools; one is self-taught. What they all have in common is a rigorous studio practice, discipline, and the desire and curiosity to learn new things, and share them with the world.
Leslie T. Sharpe is an author, editor, and educator. She began her editing career at Farrar, Straus & Giroux and is currently an editorial consultant specializing in literary nonfiction, literary fiction, and poetry. 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). Leslie has been a regular contributor to Newsday’s “Urban ‘I’” column, and her essays and articles have appeared in a variety of publications including the Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor, Global City Review, International Herald Tribune, New York Times, New York Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, San Francisco Chronicle,and Village Voice; The Villager; The Writer;and Psychology Today.She recently finished her memoir, Our Fractured, Perfect Selves,and her new book, The Quarry Fox and Other Critters of the Wild Catskills, a lyric narrative look at the wild animals of the Catskill Mountains, will be published by The Overlook Press in the spring of 2017. Her poems for children have appeared in Ladybug Magazine.Leslie has taught writing and editing at Columbia University, New York University and the City College of New York.
Simona David: Leslie, you are well-known to the Catskills literary community as an instructor for Writers in the Mountains. You also taught for MediaBistro. And of course, for a long time, you taught at Columbia University in New York City. Your new book The Quarry Fox and Other Critters of the Wild Catskills will be published in the spring of 2017 by The Overlook Press. Congratulations!
Leslie T. Sharpe: Thank you. I am delighted to say that my book The Quarry Fox and Other Critters of the Wild Catskills is set to be published by The Overlook in spring 2017. The Overlook Press started in Woodstock, but their offices are now located in Manhattan. Since the 1970s the press has had a wonderful specialty area for Catskills books, Hudson River Valley books; that’s why my agent and I really wanted to be published by them. They have a large list, including literary fiction, literary nonfiction, history, and other parts of that genre. For instance, Alf Evers’ The Catskills, From Wilderness to Woodstock was published by The Overlook in 1972.
SD: You’ve been a naturalist all your life, very much involved with Audubon Society. What is a naturalist, and what does he / she do?
LTS: The thing that I’m proudest of with regard to my environmental credentials is that I was president of Junior Audubon when I was in the 2nd grade. I’ve also been the vice president of New York City Audubon Society, and editor of the Urban Audubon. And like most people who love nature, I’m a lifelong birder and naturalist. Of course, there are many definitions of naturalists. In a large sense, a naturalist is just someone who observes nature. This could be a backyard birder or a wild life biologist. Everyone who looks out their window, and watches their bird feeder, welcomes the hummingbirds, puts out sunflower seeds for the chipmunks, and watches their antics and often records them – this is what a naturalist is, and the basis of our knowledge about nature really comes from people like you and I who are not trained as scientists but watch and observe and record. And there are many events that honor this. For instance, National Audubon and other organizations have what they call “bird counts” such as the Christmas bird count in December: people are urged to go out and count the number of birds they see, which species, the number of birds in each species; and this kind of anecdotal information is an incredibly important part of our knowledge of birds and animals, and our sense of population rise and fall, and the effects of the environment on them, the effects of winter on them, and the effects of summer on them. So, yes, basically a naturalist is someone who just observes, and keeps a diary, and writes down his or her observations.
SD: One doesn’t have to have scientific training in order to be a naturalist. Is that right?
LTS: A naturalist has a very personal and deeply felt connection to the natural world. To be a naturalist in essence all you need is a pen and a notebook, perhaps a recorder. But the most important tools are your senses. It’s not really a division however between a naturalist and a scientist. For instance, Rachel Carson who was a scientist was also a naturalist. These are not mutually exclusive occupations. My point is that anyone can watch, anyone can observe, anyone can record. And those are very valuable insights.
SD: You teach a Nature Writing workshop for Writers in the Mountains in the tradition of naturalist writer John Burroughs, a Catskills native. Participants range from memoirists and essayists to journalists and scientists. Let’s talk about various approaches to nature writing.
LTS: There are so many aspects to nature. We think automatically of critters, and that’s largely what I’m writing about. But in my upcoming book I also have a whole chapter on wild flowers. Without dandelions in early spring what would the bees do? It’s the first thing bees find once they come out of their hibernation. Everything in nature has a purpose. And there are so many aspects to nature writing, not only the genre it can take, but also what you’re writing about. For instance, in my class we had people writing essays, journals, poetry, and some fiction as well. We had someone working on sketches for a book. A photographer, working on a multi-media project, brought his photographs to class, and shared some other angles.
SD: Let’s talk about the writing process. How does your routine look like? How do you alternate between observing nature and then writing about it?
LTS: It’s really organic. For instance, all the chapters in my book The Quarry Fox and Other Critters of the Wild Catskills are about different creatures. And they’re all marked by two things: it’s my direct experience with the critter, but it’s also the latest science on the subject. Because there is so much that is being discovered. And although my book is described as a lyric narrative book about the wild animals of the Catskill Mountains, it’s also informed by the latest science. One of the hardest things to do when involved with these creatures is to remain objective and not to become sentimental. Another struggle is to not interfere and not to project our own emotions on them. They have their own emotions.
SD: Have you done a lot of research for the book?
LTS: Yes. There are many sources, but you have to weigh them carefully. For instance, All About Birds, which is from Cornell Institute of Ornithology, that’s a fabulous resource. Audubon also has its own online resources. As a trained classicist, I very much enjoy doing research as part of the learning process. But I’m also scrupulous with my sources, both in print and online.
SD: Would you like to expand a bit, and talk about the genre of creative nonfiction?
LTS:The Quarry Fox, as narrative nonfiction, is themed to the wild Catskills, but every chapter is essentially a different personal essay. That is very much in the tradition of John Burroughs, the founder of the nature writing genre in America. One of the things that I do in my book, is that I dedicate each chapter to a nature writer that I love. The first chapter is dedicated to John Burroughs, a spiritual father of mine. I have a chapter dedicated to Edward Abbey, another one to Annie Dillard. I believe Abbey’s Desert Solitaire is the best nature writing book ever written. Dillard, on the other hand, is a mentor to anyone writing creative nonfiction.
SD: You have taught for Writers in the Mountains a workshop called Selling Your Nonfiction Book: The Art of Proposal Writing. Would you like to share a few tips?
LTS: Nonfiction is such a popular form, a lot of folks are working on memoir and personal essays. To sell a nonfiction book, whether you hire an agent or not, you need a book proposal to show it to the publisher. When it comes to nonfiction, publishers don’t want to see a whole book right away; what they want is a proposal. The proposal breaks down into certain aspects, including a marketing plan, a literature review, and some sample chapters. It’s important for the publisher to know who the book is for and how they can sell it, also if there are other similar books out there, and what credentials the author has. In my case, there are very few other books out there since John Burroughs that really cover the Catskills’ wild life. It’s important to know that everything you write when you submit to a publisher or an agent is a writing sample. The query letter is a writing sample, and is a sample of professionalism. The proposal itself, and the description of the chapters mirror the quality of the chapters themselves.
SD: What makes a naturalist also a good nature writer?
LTS: I am a writer, and I believe that we humans are hard-wired for stories. That’s what compels us. We tell our stories, and pass them down. Most people who write about nature are most certainly naturalists, they observe nature. Most naturalists are not necessarily nature writers. But what drives us as naturalists who are also nature writers is our desire to tell stories. How you tell your story is completely up to you. Nature writing is a great American form, not uniquely American, but this country is so extraordinarily beautiful, and there is such a diversity of landscape and critters and birds of all kinds that we’ve been shaped by it.