Tag: Roxbury

Featured Destination: AMR Open Studios Tour 2018

AMR (Andes – Margaretville – Roxbury) Open Studios Tour 2018 will take place Saturday and Sunday, July 28 – 29 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. with close to thirty participating artists and artisans working in all disciplines – painters, sculptors, photographers, printmakers, ceramicists, furniture designers and textile artists. Located in a bucolic scenery, all studios will provide unique experiences for visitors to explore the area and learn directly from the artists.

Launched in 2012, AMR Open Art Studios Tour has grown into a major cultural attraction, as art tours have become more and more common all over the country. 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 art work. As art historian George Philip LeBourdais eloquently articulated in a piece for Artsy magazine in August 2016 “The studio is where strange magic happens, as much for the artist’s imagination as for the public’s. It’s the conjuring place of new concepts, styles, or forms. Sometimes it even comes to be seen as sacred, a place where visitors become pilgrims to the altar of art.”

Participating artists this year include Adam Cohen, Amy Masters, Ted Sheridan, Alan Powell, Lisbeth Firmin, Ellen Wong, Peter Yamaoka, Gerda van Leeuwen, Frank Manzo, Helene Manzo, Tabitha Gilmore Barnes, Gary Mayer, Barbara Alyn, Oneida Hammond, Ken Hiratsuka, Roshan Houshmand, Agnes Freas, Esther de Jong, Lesley A. Powell, Rosamond Welchman, Robert Axelrod, Deborah Ruggerio, Gary Mead, Anthony Margiotta, Rebecca Andre, Patrice Lorenz, Sharon Suess and Gail Freund.

Big Red Kill, Patrice  Lorenz
Big Red Kill by Patrice Lorenz. Contributed photo.

 

A good place to start the tour is the Wawaka Grange in Halcottsville. Several artists will be showing at this location, including painters Agnes Freas and Oneida Hammond, and photographer Rebecca Andre. Art in the Catskills will present and sell autographed books – “How Art Is Made: In the Catskills,” which features a host of Catskills creatives, including sculptor Brian Tolle and urban realist painter Lisbeth Firmin, will be offered at a discounted price.

Still in Halcottsville, ceramicist Rosamond Welchman, who has participated in the tour every year since it launched in 2012, will open her studio located at 266 Halcottsville Road. For forty years, Welchman taught mathematics and education at Brooklyn College. Since retiring and moving to the Catskills, she has returned to her earlier love of visual design and ceramics. Her professional interests in mathematics (especially geometry) and in teaching (especially problem-solving) have had a strong impact on her ceramic work as well. Welchman’s pottery is hand-built with an emphasis on surface texture, often with patterns influenced by her travels around the world. “Wherever I go, I look for new forms and textures,” she says. “This year I am particularly interested in architectural pieces made from cut slabs of clay fastened together,” she adds.

Painters Robert Axelrod and Sharon Suess will also open their studios in Halcottsville at 261 and respectively 239 Halcottsville Road.

IMG_1435
Yellow Flowers, oil on linen, 6″ x 9″, 2018 by Amy Masters. Contributed photo.

In Arkville, painter and printmaker Amy Masters, and architect and printmaker Ted Sheridan will open their studios located at 222 Chris Long Road. Over the past two years Masters has had a prolific time producing a new host of works: etchings and colorgraphs, as well as paintings from her summers spent in Maine. The artist is inspired by the natural world and the actual objects and vistas around her studio in the Catskills, but what she mostly likes about her work is re-arranging and re-envisioning the landscape in the abstract. One can see in her recent paintings a slight departure in color and texture compared to previous works.

Masters’ husband, Sheridan will be showing new works on paper using iron and iron oxides in addition to drawings and watercolors. A few years ago, Sheridan began experimenting with metallic compounds, corrosion, and magnetic fields to create original patterns of rust on paper. Coming from the world of architecture where everything is controlled and precise, in recent years Sheridan sat to explore the randomness of the oxidation process in metallic prints, and gradually began working on more and more elaborate projects.

Ted Sheridan
Furroughs #5, 24″ x 30″, iron and iron oxide on paper, 2018 by Ted Sheridan. Contributed photo.

Painter Anthony Margiotta will be showing at his studio located at 355 Route 3 in Halcott Center, while multi-media artist Alan Powell and painter Lesley A. Powell will be showing at their studios located at 993 Main Street in Fleischmanns.

stairs-to-the-reservoir
Stairs to the Reservoir, 14″ x 10″, watercolor, 2015 by Lesley A. Powell. Contributed photo.

“The canvas is now my stage,” says multi-disciplinary artist Lesley A. Powell. Since childhood, Powell has been attracted to non-verbal means of artistic expression whether be dancing or painting. As a choreographer, her interest revolves around the dancer’s ability to change the performance space, working under the influence of German expressionist dancer Rudolf Laban. Over her decade-long career, Powell has produced numerous shows for whom she designed anything from costumes to posters, brochures, and playbills.

pond-ocatskills
Pond O’Catskills,  24″ x 18″, oil painting, 2016 by Lesley A. Powell. Contributed photo.

As a visual artist, Powell focuses on human anatomy and body movement to depict either dance or circus scenes as well as nudes. She is drawn however to a broad range of media and thematics. Watercolors are prone for still life because of the space required to do the work, she explains, whereas oil paintings allow for more creativity and give the artist more time for reflection and revision. The tone, the feeling and the expression, Powell adds, are also different in oil compared to watercolor. When working in watercolor, the artist uses a more subdued color palette given the spontaneity of the medium, whereas in oil she prefers bolder and richer colors.

Fifth Avenue (gouache)
Fifth Avenue, 7″ x 15″, gouache, 1995 by Lisbeth Firmin. Contributed photo.

In Margaretville, urban realist painter Lisbeth Firmin will open her studio in the Commons Building at 785 Main Street, and show recent works and works in progress. For over four decades Firmin’s work has been in hundreds of solo and group shows across the country and internationally. She was the cover artist for the 2008 spring issue of Epoch, Cornell University’s literary magazine, and was the featured artist in the 2008 summer issue of the Gettysburg Review. This summer Firmin is showing a new series of paintings and monotypes at Rice Polak Gallery in Provincetown, MA. “What’s happening these days is that I see something about the light on a figure, and this is what interests me,” she says. She insists that her work is not about the colors, but about the light and shadow in the composition, apparent in works such as Fifth Avenue (1995), and Woman on a Train (2014). Firmin is one of the artists featured in “How Art Is Made: In the Catskills” book by this author.

Still in Margaretville, poet and furniture designer Gary Mead will open his studio and gallery located at 1289 South Side Road, painter Barbara Alyn will open her studio at 806 Main Street, and painter Patrice Lorenz will open her studio at 359 East Hubbell Hill Road.

Barbara Alyn
PINK, acrylic painting, 12″ x 12″ by Barbara Alyn. Contributed photo.

In Andes, participating artists include sculptor Ken Hiratsuka, who will open his barn at 34325 State Hwy 28, and painter Roshan Houshmand whose studio is located at 495 Main Street.

View to the 1800_s From Dugan Hill Road, Roxbury, NY, July 2017 (oil on linen, 16” x 20”) by Ellen Wong. Contributed Photo
View to the 1800’s From Dugan Hill Road, Roxbury, NY, oil on linen, 16” x 20”, 2017 by Ellen Wong. Contributed photo.

The largest group of participating artists this year is in Roxbury: painters Ellen Wong, Adam Cohen, Helene Manzo, Esther de Jong, Gail Freund and Deborah Ruggerio, ceramicists and printmakers Peter Yamaoka and Gerda Van Leeuwen, photographer Frank Manzo, and textile artist Tabitha Gilmore-Barnes, will all open their creative spaces and engage in dialogue with visitors who often enough are artists themselves. One might dedicate one of the two days to visiting Roxbury’s studios only as driving from one place to another can take a bit of time.

Poet and painter Esther De Jong, a former fashion model, will be showing her pencil drawings and Catskill landscape oil paintings while working on a new large figurative work during the open studio; visitors can watch her paint and ask questions. De Jong, who is formally trained at the National Academy of Art and Design, co-founded by Thomas Cole in 1825, refers to her paintings as “lyrical images,” reflections of her poetry. De Jong’s studio is located at 50 Maple Lane in Roxbury.

Adam Cohen
War Paint, acrylic on canvas by Adam Cohen. Photo © 2017 Simona David.

Abstract painter Adam Cohen, known for works such as Intuition (2015), a finalist in the Art Olympia International Competition in Tokyo, Japan, and Mystic Marsh (2014), shown at the Morren Galleries in Amsterdam, Netherlands, is an intuitive painter whose style has been defined as Gestural Abstraction; his paintings are very much sculptural, and have a visceral look and the kind of inexhaustibility that the artist strives to achieve in his work. Cohen is currently working on a new series of paintings as many of his works have sold out in various galleries. He was recently featured in a solo show at Abmeyer + Wood Fine Art Gallery in Seattle, and is getting ready for a solo show in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 2019. Cohen is one of the artists featured in “How Art Is Made: In the Catskills” book by this author. His studio, located in Roxbury’s Historic District at 53856 State Hwy 30, will give visitors a glimpse into the creative process and the naissance of new works of art.

IMG_3191
Cemetery Road, 10″ x 20″, oil on canvas, 2018 by Deborah Ruggerio. Contributed photo.

Still in the Historic District, painter Deborah Ruggerio will open her studio located at 54096 State Hwy 30 for the first time this year. “Through a variety of media and techniques I hope to encourage the viewer to look a little more closely at nature’s intricate beauty at different times of the day, changing with the seasons to experience and savor the essence and beauty in nature,” she says. “Whether it’s in the solidarity of a rock formation or in the delicacy of the flower petals that bloom in the spring for only a short period of time, there’s a magnificent canvas to experience every day. All one has to do is take the time to look, see and experience,” she adds.

Mixed media artist Gail Freund will also be showing at 54096 State Hwy 30.

Across the street, at 54091 State Hwy 30, painter Helene K. Manzo and architect and photographer Frank Manzo will open their studios and show works produced over the past year.

Landscape painter Ellen Wong will open her studio located at 121 Shephard Lane in Roxbury. Initially trained as an abstract painter, Wong discovered in time that what she really wanted to do was landscape painting: “I noticed that every time I went somewhere I always brought with me my watercolors, and I always sketched where I was; somehow that’s how I got to understand, absorb or take in a new environment – I felt very sensitive to place,” she says. The recipient of many grants and fellowships, including the New York State Council on the Arts Decentralization Grant Program, as well as a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, Wong studied in the Art Department at Brooklyn College with Philip Pearlstein, known for reviving realist figurative painting in the 1960s. Pearlstein’s departure from Abstract Expressionism back then made him a renegade in the art world. It’s that kind of artistic sensibility and daring attitude that Wong had learned from Pearlstein. She has been painting the Catskills since the 1970s when she opened her studio in Roxbury.

Ceramic Vase by Peter Yamaoka. Photo Credit Simona David
Ceramic Vase by Peter Yamaoka. Photo © 2017 Simona David.

Ceramicists and printmakers Peter Yamaoka and Gerda Van Leeuwen met in a Boston airport in the early 1980s as they were both traveling to and from Provincetown. They married three years later. Yamaoka studied at the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design, while Van Leeuwen received a degree in art from the University of Utrecht in her native Netherlands. In college both artists studied painting, but later on they switched to printmaking. Since moving to the Catskills in the early 1990s both artists became ceramicists: Yamaoka prefers voluminous mythology-inspired vases, while Van Leeuwen makes small porcelains inspired by animal life. Both Yamaoka and Van Leeuwen work and teach in a fully equipped ceramics studio in Roxbury, while exhibiting extensively throughout the Catskills and New York City. Van Leeuwen’s latest show “Diamonds & Rust,” which includes recent works produced over the past winter, is on view at Longyear Gallery in Margaretville through August 6. Both Yamaoka and Van Leeuwen are featured in “How Art Is Made: In the Catskills” book by this author. Their studios are located at 777 Carroll Hinkley Road.

Also featured in “How Art Is Made: In the Catskills,” textile artist Tabitha Gilmore-Barnes will open her studio located at 424 Carr George Road in Denver, an idyllic hamlet of Roxbury. Trained at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) and the Center for Tapestry Arts in New York City, Gilmore-Barnes designs both functional and aesthetic products using traditional American patterns. Her work can be seen in museums and gallery exhibits, and at various arts and crafts fairs throughout the region. “Weaving is one of the oldest forms of a blend of art and function. The techniques of twisting fibers to make them stronger and durable started out probably in the earliest times of mankind history. From those twisted fibers men and women learned to do basketry, learned to create fabric, and also to use it for decoration.”

For maps and more information, visit http://www.amropenstudios.org/ and www.facebook.com/amropenstudios/.

 

The AMR – Andes, Roxbury, Margaretville – Open Studios Tour 2018 is funded by the Delaware County Department of Economic Development – Tourism Advisory Board and The Lindsay A. and Olive B. O’Connor Foundation, and by the 29 participating artists and their 35+ community business sponsors. Additional community support from the Longyear Gallery (Margaretville) and the MARK Project (Arkville).

 

SPONSORED STORY

© 2018 Simona David

 

Raining Poetry & Painting in Roxbury 2018

Raining Poetry & Painting in Roxbury 2018 – a public street art project, on the sidewalks of Roxbury during Celebrate Roxbury Summer Festival, Saturday, July 7, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Raining Poetry

Twenty visual artists will be paired with twenty selected poems: the artists will stencil their visual responses on the sidewalk next to the chosen poems. This doubling promises to be a fun and unexpected way to experience the beauty and synergy between poetry and painting.

Poetry Reading and Reception at 2:00 p.m. in front of Roxbury General, 53587 Main Street, Roxbury, NY. Participating poets will read their six-word poems, artists will discuss their visual responses, and audience participation is encouraged.

Raining Poetry & Painting in Roxbury 2018, sponsored by Writers in the Mountains, is made possible, in part, with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) Decentralization Grant Program, with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and is administered in Delaware County by the Roxbury Arts Group (RAG).

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.

Impressions from the AMR Open Studios Tour 2017

Launched in 2012, AMR Open Studios Tour has grown into a major art destination, forging new and unexpected connections between artists, and their patrons from near and far. Given its success in previous years, in 2017 AMR – Artists Making aRt ™ – Open Studios Tours 2017 expanded to include some 40 artists from Margaretville, Roxbury, Stamford, Delhi, and surrounding areas. The tours took place on two different weekends in July: Saturday and Sunday, July 8 – 9 in Stamford-Delhi art community, and Saturday and Sunday, July 29-30 in Margaretville-Roxbury art community. Both weekends attracted a myriad of visitors, many artists as well as collectors from the Catskills, New York City, and abroad.

AMR 2017. Photo © 2017 Simona David

On the first weekend, watercolorist June Lanigan who, at 91, continues to paint and make collages, showed recent works and discussed what moves her these days. Although Lanigan works in other media as well (i.e., oil, and acrylic), she is most fond of watercolors; and everywhere she goes she brings along a sketchbook to take in the environment. The portrait of a flapper draws my attention in Lanigan’s immense home that she shares with her family while painting in the Catskills. Lanigan is the founder of MURAL Gallery in Hobart, and has had a long connection with the area.

June Lanigan. Photo © 2017 Simona David

Both Lanigan’s daughters Tracy Jacknow and Toni Layden-Rodgers as well as her grandson Jess Zimmerman are painters; each has a distinctive style, and is attracted to different subject matters. Jacknow, for instance, paints abstract and impressionistic like landscapes, while Layden-Rodgers is interested in domestic scenes, still lifes, and portraits, whereas Zimmerman paints bold, urban scenes.

Jess Zimmerman. Photo © 2017 Simona David

Jacknow is married to stained glass artist Barry Jacknow, whose work is inspired by the Art Deco movement, and the work of architect and designer Frank Lloyd Wright. Stained glass has had a long tradition in New York going back to Louis Comfort Tiffany’s Art Nouveau lamps and decorative objects that became synonym with sophistication. Jacknow sources his stained glass locally in Stamford, and works meticulously to create patterns and contrast colors for most effect.

Barry Jacknow. Photo © 2017 Simona David

My next stop was at Robert Schneider and Susan Goetz’s mansion in Stamford. Husband and wife, Schneider and Goetz had studied at the Art Students League of New York, and also privately with accomplished painters. While Schneider specializes in landscape, Goetz dedicates most of her time to still life and portrait. Her studio is filled with family portraits and domestic scenes signifying opulence and good taste. Goetz was commissioned by West Point’s class of 1931 to paint a series of portraits which included Presidents Eisenhower, Reagan, and Bush, and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Goetz comes from a family of artists – her father Richard Goetz, who passed away in 1991, was an accomplished painter as well. A portrait of her mother by famous painter Nelson Shanks illuminates the hallway.

Susan Goetz. Photo © 2017 Simona David

Both Goetz and her husband Schneider were featured in American Artist in November 2007.

Schneider, who is very much fascinated by the Hudson River School of Painting, captures through his plein airs spectacular views of the Catskill Mountains and the Hudson Valley as well as the Leatherstocking region where the family has spent a lot of time. Schneider was featured at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown in 2016 in a one man show called “A New York View.”

Robert Schneider. Photo © 2017 Simona David

My last stop that weekend was at Solveig Comer’s ceramics studio in South Kortright. Located in the basement of a former church, the studio has three electric kilns, and lots of fine porcelain for many bowls and cups to come. The artist patiently explains the difference between using an electric kiln versus a gas one, and the differences in output each creates. It is a laborious process, but Comer doesn’t seem to mind.

Solveig Comer. Photo © 2017 Simona David

***

The second weekend was a marathon of exhibits, demonstrations, conversations, and parties centered around Roxbury which had a stellar participation this year with the likes of Adam Cohen and Brian Tolle opening their studios as part of the AMR Tour for the first time.

Roxbury Abbey. Photo © 2017 Simona David

Brian Tolle showed several of his works at Roxbury Abbey including three Levittown style houses made of platinum silicone rubber. Also, visible in his studio was a head sculpture of Benjamin Franklin, as seen by Brian Tolle. In 2016 Tolle exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia as part of “Commander in Chief” art show dedicated to American presidents.

Brian Tolle. Photo © 2017 Simona David

In addition to works by Tolle, Roxbury Abbey also hosted that weekend a group show curated by Ace Ehrlich who brought several artists from the city just for the event, including German artist Thorsten Brinkmann.

Brian Tolle’s Studio. Photo © 2017 Simona David

The youngest participant in the tour was Sophia Maduri, who showed her work at the Grange in Halcottsville, and sold her first drawing right there – the beginning of a career. My book “How Art Is Made: In the Catskills” was also for sale at the Grange, and provided more context for some of the artworks shown during the tour, a symbiotic relationship.

Sophia Maduri. Photo © 2017 Simona David

Also in Roxbury painters Esther De Jong and Michael Guilmet opened their studio for the first time. De Jong showed some of her oil paintings and pencil drawings, while Guilmet displayed two dozen oil paintings in various styles, and depicting various subject matters – winter landscapes, abstract compositions, and lots of portraits, many of those on commission. Recently De Jong and Guilmet curated an exhibition at Orphic Gallery in Roxbury that included some of the best artworks produced in the region from painters like Adam Cohen, Ann Lee Fuller, and Christopher Durham.

Esther De Jong. Photo © 2017 Simona David
Michael Guilmet
Michael Guilmet. Contributed Photo.

Lisbeth Firmin was one of several artists participating in Margaretville area – her studio is located in the Commons Building. This year Firmin showed some of her urban landscape paintings as well as monotypes produced while studying at Scuola Internationale di Grafica in Venice this past spring. Later this month Firmin will lead a one-week drawing workshop at MURAL Gallery in Hobart, designed as an intensive combination of lectures, demonstrations, and studio exercises.

Lisbeth Firmin’s Studio. Photo © 2017 Simona David

AMR Open Studio Tour 2018 will include even more artists and activities to showcase the abundance of artistic endeavors our region is known for.

© 2017 Simona David

 

 

Featured Artist: Leslie T. Sharpe

Leslie T. Sharpe. © Simona David
Leslie T. Sharpe. © Simona David

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.

John Burroughs Memorial Home in Roxbury, NY. © Simona David
John Burroughs Memorial Home in Roxbury, NY. © Simona David

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.

Leslie tweets at https://twitter.com/catskillcritter.

© 2016 Simona David