Naturalist John Burroughs built his log cabin in West Park, Ulster County in 1895, in the Adirondack style. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1968, the cabin retains most of its original furnishings, and is open to the public year round. Slabsides is one mile east of Riverby, Burroughs’ main residence. The naturalist wrote some of his most celebrated essays while at Slabsides. He also wrote extensively at Riverby, as well as the Woodchuck Lodge in Roxbury, Delaware County, in the Western Catskill Mountains.
Since 1993 John Burroughs Association has honored authors, illustrators and publishers of nature writing by awarding three annual awards: John Burroughs Medal, John Burroughs Nature Essay Award, and Riverby Awards. The Awards Ceremony takes place every year in April at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.
Woodchuck Lodge, also known as John Burroughs Memorial State Historic Site, was built in the 1860s in the rustic farmhouse style, in Roxbury, Delaware County. It was Burroughs’ summer residence from 1910 to 1921. Burroughs is best known for his collections of nature essay such Wake Robin (1871), and Signs and Seasons (1886). The naturalist writer was friends with many luminaries including President Theodore Roosevelt, industrialist Henry Ford, inventor Thomas Edison, and poet Walt Whitman. Burroughs went to school with financier Jay Gould.
Born in Roxbury on April 3, 1837, he died in 1921, five days before his 84th birthday. He is buried at Boyhood Rock, where he used to play as a child, right next to the Woodchuck Lodge.
Guided tours are offered the first weekend of the month from May to October. Special events and talks are organized the first Saturday of the month, as part of the Wild Saturday series.
1633 Burroughs Memorial Road, Roxbury, NY 12474
For more information and current hours of operation, visit
THE MAURICE D. HINCHEYCATSKILL INTERPRETIVE CENTER
MT. TREMPER, NY
SATURDAY, MAY 27 AT 1 P.M.
Art Writer Simona David in Conversation with Painters Margaret Leveson and Lisbeth Firmin, Printmaker and Ceramicist Peter Yamaoka, and Textile Artist Tabitha Gilmore-Barnes
Art writer Simona David will discuss her latest book, How Art Is Made: In the Catskills (2017), and share the stage with several acclaimed artists who live and work in the Catskill Mountains: painters Margaret Leveson and Lisbeth Firmin, ceramicist and printmaker Peter Yamaoka and textile artist Tabitha Gilmore-Barnes. How Art Is Made: In the Catskills pays homage to the place where American art was born through a series of conversations with creatives who live and work in the Catskills. Recent works will also be exhibited.
Artists featured in this book include sculptor Brian Tolle, known for The Irish Hunger Memorial in Battery Park City (2002), and more recently for Miss Brooklyn and Miss Manhattan, two replicas of Daniel Chester French originals that sit on the façade of the Brooklyn Museum – Tolle’s replicas were installed on Flatbush Avenue by the Manhattan Bridge in December 2016.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 12 AT 1 P.M.
Poet Sharon Israel in Performance and Conversation with Composer Robert Cucinotta
Composer Robert Cucinotta and poet and soprano Sharon Israel will discuss their unique roles as each other’s muses. Cucinotta will play electronic works inspired by Israel’s poems, feature the poet’s voice, or both. Israel will read from her new chapbook Voice Lesson, including poems set to music by Cucinotta or inspired by his compositions.
Israel is the host of Planet Poet–Words in Space, an edition of The Writer’s Voice on WIOX 91.3 FM in Roxbury, NY. Her debut chapbook Voice Lesson was published by Post Traumatic Press earlier this year, and her work has appeared in Per Contra, SPANK the CARP, 5:2 Crime Poetry Weekly, Medical Literary Messenger, and Spry Literary Journal. In 2016, Israel appeared as a panelist at the Massachusetts Poetry Festival in Salem, MA.
Born in Brooklyn, Cucinotta studied composition and electronic music at the Conservatory of Music at Brooklyn College with Jacob Druckman, Robert Starer and Charles Dodge. His work MASQUE: the Tempest was premiered at the 2015 Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice by mezzo-soprano Maria Todaro, bass Bradley Smoak and pianist Doug Martin. Recent recordings include Divertimento For Mr. Brooks (2013), Koool Kitchen (2013), Dracula: Harker’s Journal (2014) and Life On The Screen (2016).
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 23 AT 1 P.M.
Nature Writer Leslie T. Sharpe in Conversation with Photographer Rudd Hubbell
Photographer Rudd Hubbell, who’s been documenting the natural beauty of the Catskills since the 1970s, will be in conversation with nature writer Leslie T. Sharpe.
A descendent of the area’s first settlers, Hubbell has captured thousands of photographs of our spectacular wilderness. He enjoys looking closer than the broad view, and always tries to focus on the things most of us overlook or take for granted. “Every scene is constantly changing and transforming, and I strive to capture that,” Hubbell says.
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 (The Overlook Press, 2017), is a lyric narrative look at the wild animals of the Catskill Mountains. Sharpe will read from this work and discuss the genre of nature writing as it relates to the Catskills.
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. For more information, visit writersinthemountains.org.
The Maurice D. Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center is a partnership between the Catskill Center and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, with generous financial support by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and Catskill Watershed Corporation and generous staff and volunteer support from Catskill Mountainkeeper, Catskill Mountain Club, Catskill 3500 Club, and the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference. To learn more, visit catskillinterpretivecenter.org.
The Catskill Center has been promoting the Catskill Mountain Region through regional advocacy, environmental education, arts and culture programming, invasive species management, and land protection for over 45 years. The Center stimulates, conducts, and supports integrated actions to protect vital ecosystems and unique landscapes, to enhance economic opportunities for all the region’s residents, to preserve cultural and historic assets and to further a regional vision and spirit. For more information about the Catskill Center visit catskillcenter.org.
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.
Writers in the Mountains (WIM) announces a six-week nature-writing workshop, Seeing Nature in Words with Leslie T. Sharpe, at the Delaware County Historical Association, 46549 State Hwy 10, Delhi, NY, Saturdays, 11 am to 1 pm, from May 9 to June 13, 2015 (skipping Memorial Day weekend).
Whether one is writing to change the world or simply for the pleasure of recording one’s observations in a notebook, when the relationship between the observer and nature is at the core of a work, the writing is almost always personal and intensely felt. It is this passion that makes the genre so dynamic, and also so accessible to read and to write. The goal of this class is to encourage writers to explore their special relationship with the natural world—be it in the Catskill High Peaks or a backyard garden, expressed as a description of a single flower or as an essay probing an environmental issue—in their own true voice.
Leslie T. Sharpe is an author, editor, and educator. She has a BA (Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude) in Ancient Greek Language and Literature from Wheaton College, and received her master’s degree in Ancient Greek from Columbia University, where she was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow. 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 the PEN American Center, she is the author of Editing Fact and Fiction: A Concise Guide to Book Editing (Cambridge University Press), which is regarded as a “modern editing classic.”
Sharpe has taught in the undergraduate and graduate writing programs at Columbia University’s School of the Arts; Introduction to Publishing and Editorial Process at City College of New York’s publishing certificate program; and Manuscript Editing at New York University’s certificate program in book publishing. She teaches online courses for the cutting-edge all-media website mediabistro.com, including The Nonfiction Book and Nonfiction Writing Master Class.
Leslie has also a been a regular contributor to Newsday’s “Urban ‘I’” column, and her essays and articles have appeared in a wide 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 is currently at work on a new book, The Quarry Fox and Other Tales of a Catskill Summer. Her poems for children have appeared in Ladybug Magazine; Who Knew? Catskill Literary Journal; and From the Catskills.
Leslie’s approach, as an editor as well as a writing teacher, is to find the strengths in the work at hand and build on them. That method is rooted in her respect for every writer and their creations. She believes it is especially important that a workshop environment allow writers to feel safe to express themselves and their thoughts and feelings as well as observations—especially when working in those creative nonfiction forms (journaling, personal essay, memoir) that use the first person “I” voice, and that speak directly out of one’s personal experience.
To register, call (607) 759-6138, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. To register online, visit writersinthemountains.org. This class is $100 if registered by April 18 or $125 thereafter. Partial scholarships may be available.
Writers in the Mountains is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization with a mission to provide to a nurturing environment for the practice, appreciation, and sharing of creative writing.