Listen to this week’s Kaatscast podcast to learn about arts and culture in the Catskills, creative writing and publishing with Simona David, Sharon Israel, Anique Sara Taylor, and Leslie T. Sharpe, authors affiliated with Writers In The Mountains (WIM). Kaatscast is a biweekly podcast produced by Silver Hollow Audio delivering history, travel guides, arts and culture, outdoor adventures, sustainability news and local interviews from New York’s Catskill Mountains and Hudson Valley. Celebrate the Catskills with Kaatscast!


Simona David ia media consultant, author of How Art Is Made: In the Catskills (2017), and former president of Writers In The Mountains (2012 – 2019), currently working as an advisor to the Board. Her website is simonadavid.com. 

Sharon Israel hosts the radio show Planet Poet-Words in Space on WIOX 91.3 FM (WIOXradio.org) in the Catskills, and hosts a podcast by the same name (available on Spotify, Apple iTunes and Google Play, and on her website at sharonisraelpoet.com). Sharon’s debut chapbook Voice Lesson was published in 2017 by Post Traumatic Press. She was a 2020 “quarterly challenge” winner in four lines Poetry and Art Magazine online at https://www.4lines.art/challenge/winners . Sharon has served on the Writers In The Mountains’Board of Directors for over a decade.

Anique Sara Taylor is the author of Where Space Bends published in May 2020 by Finishing Lines Press. Her works have appeared in Rattle, Common Ground Review, Adanna, Earth’s Daughters, St. Marks Poetry Project’s The World, and many anthologies. She has co-authored works for HBO, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster, and others. Anique holds an MFA in Poetry from Drew University, an MFA in Drawing from Pratt Institute, and a Diplôme from the Sorbonne University in Paris. An award-winning artist, Anique’s paintings have been featured in numerous museums and galleries throughout the tri-state area. She teaches creative writing for Writers In The Mountains and Bard LLI.

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, The New York Times, New York Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, San Francisco Chronicle, and Village Voice; The Villager; The Writer; and Psychology Today. Her latest book The Quarry Fox and Other Critters of the Wild Catskills, a lyric narrative look at the wild animals of the Catskill Mountains, was published by The Overlook Press in the spring of 2017. The Quarry Fox audiobook was published by Silver Hollow Audio in June 2020. Leslie has taught writing and editing at Columbia University, New York University and the City College of New York as well as Writers In The Mountains.

Writers In The Mountains (WIM) was founded almost three decades ago in Roxbury to promote literary arts in the Catskills and beyond. Over the years the organization has grown into a major cultural force in the region by significantly expanding its programs and outreach. In addition to its core mission, to offer creative writing workshops year-round, WIM has ventured into other arenas as well, by hosting a popular annual Literary Festival and a quarterly Literary Salon that bring together a variety of publishing professionals: whether be writers, illustrators, editors, literary agents, educators, consultants, and publishers.

Writers In The Mountains promotes literary arts while at the same time builds community. 

The pandemic however has forced the organization to re-invent itself. After New York went into lockdown in the spring of 2020, WIM took a pause, then re-emerged with a series of online programs that catapulted the organization into the national limelight virtually overnight. Once the programs were moved online, nationally recognized professionals from all over were able to participate, in addition to local communities in the Catskills, Hudson Valley, and New York City metropolitan area. Consequently, our literary community has grown bigger and moreover happier, because we get to learn from one another, and grow professionally at a different pace, which makes the experience ever more fulfilling.


Self-Publishing Workshop with Simona David

WIM offers creative writing workshops year-round with established professionals and covers anything from creative nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and publishing advice. For instance, this year WIM has offered for the first time a Micro-Memoir workshop taught by Linda Lowen, a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly – participants learn how to submit stories to The New York Times’ Tiny Love column. Several have already been published. 

Keynote Speaker Jenny Milchman in 2015

Launched in 2014, the festival had been taking place every year in the spring at Union Grove Distillery in Arkville. In 2020 the festival was canceled due to the pandemic. Beth Lisick, a New York Times bestselling author, was scheduled to be the keynote speaker; Beth is also an actress – she has appeared at the Cannes Film Festival and other events. Silver Hollow Audio was scheduled to be on the Publishing Panel to address the rise of audiobooks. The festival has been a great opportunity for authors to network and have a platform. 

Carrie Bradley Neves at the Literary Salon

A few years ago, WIM launched a literary salon to give writers taking its workshops the opportunity to share their work with the public, and also give the community a chance to get to know the writers. In between readings, there were opportunities to mingle, exchange ideas, and make connections. The pandemic has put this successful program on pause as well. It will be revived with a series of online readings.

Leslie T. Sharpe at the Catskill Interpretive Center presenting “The Arts Converge” in 2017

Over the years WIM has partnered with other organizations in the region to enrich the Catskills cultural life. In 2017, for instance, WIM hosted a series of Artist – Writer Talks called “The Arts Converge – Mutual Muses in the Catskills” in partnership with the Catskill Center. There were writers in conversation with visual artists or music composers to a great effect. In 2018 WIM hosted a series of workshops and readings at the Zadock Pratt Museum in Prattsville, partly funded by Poets and Writers, and New York State Council on the Arts. Leslie taught a nature writing workshop, Simona taught an art writing workshop, and Sharon performed music and poetry with composer Robert Cucinotta. That was a perfect example of synergetic artistic endeavors.

  • UPCOMING LITERARY JOURNAL                                                                       

WIM is currently working on launching a literary journal dedicated to authors who have an affiliation with the organization. More details will be revealed soon. Read about Writers In The Mountains at writersinthemountains.org.

Literary vs. Genre Fiction

This past Sunday Writers in the Mountains in partnership with Glaring Omissions Writing Group co-hosted a panel discussion Writing Fiction Today – Literary vs. Genre Fiction: Real Distinction or No Difference at All? at the Golden Notebook bookstore in Woodstock.


The panel discussion was moderated by Jenny Milchman. Jenny’s debut novel, Cover of Snow, earned starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist, as well as praise from the New York Times, San Francisco Journal of Books, the AP, and other publications. It was an Indie Next and Target pick, won the Mary Higgins Clark Award for best suspense novel, and was nominated for the Macavity and Barry Awards for best first novel. Her second book Ruin Falls, also an Indie Next Pick, was published in 2014 to starred reviews from Booklist and Library Journal, and chosen as a “10 Best of 2014” by Suspense Magazine. Jenny’s third novel, As Night Falls, will be published on June 30th, 2015.

Before I summarize the panelists’ remarks, allow me to make a few general considerations. Right before the panel discussion started, I googled literary vs. genre fiction. And the fastest answers I got were:

  • Literary is about explaining the world;
  • Genre is about escaping the world.


  • Literary fiction takes the awards (there are exceptions to this rule, as we shall see!);
  • Genre fiction makes the bestseller lists – it gets the money!


  • Literary fiction is more about advancing the intellectual discourse;
  • Whereas genre fiction is more about playing with emotions.

Last November Joshua Rothman from The New Yorker wrote A Better Way to Think About the Genre Debate (you can find full article here). Rothman pointed out that contrary to the general belief that genre fiction doesn’t get nominated or receive literary awards, Station Eleven, a dystopian novel by Emily St. John Mandel, made it in fact among the fiction finalists for the National Book Awards last year. Rothman also pointed out that novels such as Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment are both literary and genre fiction.

Now going back to last Sunday’s panel, here is what the panelists had to say.

Alison Gaylin

“I just like to write a good story. Booksellers find the distinction helpful to know where to shelve a book. And also publishers find it helpful to know how to market the book. There are many genres: romance, thriller, sci-fi, etc.”

Gaylin, a USA Today and international best-selling author, received an Edgar nomination for her first book Hide Your Eyes. Her Shamus Award-winning novel, And She Was, was also nominated for the RT award, the Thriller and Anthony awards. In addition to her six published crime fiction novels, she’s published the Young Adult mystery Reality Ends Here (Simon and Schuster/PocketStar). Stay with Me, her eighth book – and the third in the acclaimed Brenna Spector series – was just nominated for an Edgar Award for best paperback.

Elizabeth Brundage

“I agree with Alison that bookstore owners need to know where to put the book, but it could backfire in a way. I like to call my books literary thrillers. Because I put a lot of effort in every sentence that I write. I think it’s mostly the way the books are marketed that had created this distinction. My last book Stranger Like You was marketed as a thriller, as opposed to my first two which were marketed more like general literary fiction. Stranger Like You sort of got lost, and people couldn’t find it. The distinction is not what motivates me to write; I just want to tell a good story. And I think what people like is some sort of driving narrative focus. The effort you put into character development is what makes a novel more literary – the voice of the characters and things like that.

Write a book that conveys your vision of the world.”

Brundage holds an MFA from the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she received a James Michener Award. Before attending Iowa, she was a screenwriting fellow at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. Her short fiction has been published in the Greensboro Review, Witness, and New Letters. She is the author of three novels, Somebody Else’s Daughter, The Doctor’s Wife, and A Stranger Like You, all published by Viking. Her new novel, All Things Cease to Appear, is forthcoming from Knopf in 2016.


Peter Golden

“I think this distinction became a problem for bookstores after WWII. It’s a post-war problem. Writers wrote for markets. But in the 1950s, early 1960s writers began to go to universities, and write for tenure. That was a different novel than writing for the markets. They needed different reviewers saying good things about their books. And then what happened was that people in the academia became very resentful of people in the marketplace, and vice versa. Hemingway wrote The Sun Also Rises because he wanted to become a commercial writer; he didn’t think he could make it by just writing short stories.”

Golden is an award-winning journalist and the author of six full-length works of non-fiction and fiction. His first novel, Comeback Love, was published by Simon & Schuster. Some of his work has appeared in the Detroit Free Press Magazine, Albany Times Union, New Jersey Monthly, Microsoft’s eDirections, Beyond Computing, Electronic Business, Midstream, The Forward, and Capital Region Magazine. 

Going back to Jenny Milchman, a couple of days prior to this panel discussion, she started a Facebook thread, and engaged with fellow writers in a passionate, well-argued debate. One commenter remarked that good writing is good writing, and bad writing is just that – bad writing. Another one said that he thought at literary fiction more in terms of general fiction, whereas genre fiction is a clearly recognizable genre (or maybe even a niche genre, I would add). Yet another one added that it’s become fashionable to label almost anything outside of the genre fiction as literary, and that makes the label meaningless. One commenter discussed the dichotomy ideas vs. emotions: ideas as pursued in literary fiction by those intellectually oriented, and emotions as explored in genre fiction for readers looking to have an emotional experience. Someone else summed up that this is an overrated question, and that readers don’t understand or care about.

What are your thoughts about literary vs. genre fiction?

The Second Edition Is Now Available as Paperback and E-Book

BookCoverPreview - Copy

Art in the Catskills, The Definitive Guide to the Catskills’ Rich Cultural Life is a compendium of one hundred and twenty-three arts organizations, events and other attractions in the Catskills and surrounding area, some in the neighboring Hudson Valley, and others elsewhere upstate New York. The guide includes anything from museums and memorial sites to summer festivals, art galleries and residencies, as well as theater and literary retreats. It walks the reader through a wide geographic area, from Woodstock to Livingston Manor, and Saratoga Springs to Cooperstown. Easy to digest, Art in the Catskills is a great resource for art enthusiasts travelling through the region.