Writerly Happenings: Your Fall Reading And Writing Checklist


by Phoebe Zinman

To honor the passage of bright summer days into the crisp academia of autumn, I decided to talk to Beaconite and Exceptionally Smart Person Sarah Uzelac about her summer reading list that she always posts on Facebook. All these other exceptionally Smart Women respond to it, and then I crib the whole thing and work on it all year long. 

Sarah! I love your summer reading list posts! Do other people talk to you about it or is it one of those weird Facebook things that you don’t talk about in real life?

Other people totally talk to me about this in real life and it is one of my favorite uses of social media. It makes me feel super connected to people to know we share a love (or hate) for a text - even if we can’t ever meet up IRL to discuss it.

What were some of the highlights of this year’s summer reading? Did you try anything you expected to not like and love it?

I’ve been on a real nonfiction jag this year and I can’t seem to step away from it for long. Usually I’m all fiction all the time, but I think maybe, given the state of our country at the moment, I’m subconsciously hungry for truth and information and super smart people telling me stuff? This summer I really loved The Furious Hours, by Casey Cep and the grief memoir Tell Me More, by Kelly Corrigan, and my favorite fiction from this summer was Fleishman Is In Trouble, by Taffy Brodesser-Akner. I just realized those are all women authors - I think that might be another unconscious theme for me these days: Enough with the dudes, already.

(I’m so with you. Enough, already. Grab your pom poms and warm the bench.)

 What are you reading right now? 

Right now I’m reading Edith Wharton for the first time ever (even though my husband has been trying to get her on my radar for like 10+ years). We took a little visit to her estate (The Mount) in upstate NY this summer - seeing her space and learning more about her life is what tipped the scale for me. I started with a couple of short stories (Xingu and Roman Fever) and they blew my mind with the perfectness of her descriptions and how incredibly dead on and absolutely CUTTING the social interactions were.

So right now I’m about a third of the way into House of Mirth and am loving it. And if you’ve never made the trip up to The Mount - do it this fall! Have a glass of Prosecco on her amazing terrace overlooking her incredible gardens and wander through her beautiful home and see for yourself what a genius she was.

[Editor’s Note: Sarah is married to NY Times Magazine staff writer Sam Anderson, whose most recent book Boom Town is available at Binnacle Books in Beacon, where he read earlier this year.]

What’s next?

I’m not sure - what are YOU reading??

I just borrowed The Flick from my Mom and read it in one night. It’s by one of my favorite playwrights, Annie Baker. And I just discovered, amazingly, that it’s being put on at Vassar on Wednesday to Saturday, October 9-12. Thanks, Hudson Valley. Keep it local, babies.

Speaking of Vassar College, I’m ashamed to admit I have never investigated their Elizabeth Bishop collection and am adding that to my Fall Goals checklist along with this Edith Wharton jaunt. 

Ok, so, back to Sarah… Who has lived in Beacon for a hot minute (over 10 years) and so of course I want to know what is your favorite new spot in town? What old spot do you miss?

We moved to Beacon in 2005 back when there was only *one* coffee shop and the Mountain Tops shop and that was basically it! I love this town so much. I love the new connections through town to the Madam Brett walking path along Fishkill Creek, I love Big Mouth Coffee, and the Himalayan stall in the new food hall, and the Beacon Yoga Center (because they have hatha and hatha is the best yoga). I miss the unobstructed view of the mountain while walking down Main Street and the comedy shows David Rees and Sam used to host – those were the good old days.

[Author’s Note: An Aside: Those comedy shows were as spectacular as the view of the mountain! But things change like the leaves, which lets me transition gracefully into our official Writerly Happenings round up for September…]

Writerly Things To Do

Speaking of recommendations, I discovered that Binnacle Books has this super sweet matchmaking feature on their website and you can order up a custom Binnacle Book match! 

How was the Artichoke??? We are so sorry to have missed it on the 14th. I’m guessing the next one will be in November. There’s still so much glowing Fall weather in between [fingers crossed].

On Saturday, September 21, we’ll see you at the Spring Street Reading Series at Atlas in Newburgh, which is dreamily titled “The Exile’s Child is Also an Exile” in which Faisal Mohyuddin, Natania Rosenfeld, Ruth Danon and Edwin Torres “explore the ways in which the children of the displaced carry the experience of exile into the next generation.” I mean. That doesn’t resonate or anything. 

Then head down to the Hudson Valley Writers Center in Peekskill on Sunday, September 22, for the ferocious billing of Sean Thomas Dougherty, Jeffrey McDaniel (Cold Spring local and Sarah Lawrence prof) and Michelle Whittaker. Have lots of fun and then go back on Friday, October 4, for master class with Arthur Sze (um, wow).

Split Rock Books in Cold Spring is keeping it pretty chill as we all settle in to Back to School land, but their graphic novel book club on the 23rd looks pretty spectacular. Kingdom by Jon McNaught portrays the realness of a family’s summer vacation. On Sunday, October 6, from 10:15 to 10:45 am they are having a storytime for little ones and award-winning author and illustrator, Elisha Cooper, will be reading from River - as in, our very own Hudson.

Want to do some of your own writing? Writer (and Artichoke storyteller) Donna Minkowitz’s fall workshop will begin September 25 from 7 to 9 pm, and goes for eight Wednesdays. Participants in the small workshops will “work on writing about our lives using the senses, emotion, lyricism, critical insight, and storytelling come to create profound and relatable works of personal writing.” Email her for more info at minkowitz46@gmail.com.

And Ruth Danon is starting up live writing in October, so you should check her website for more details. But only if you like doing experiential, improvisational writing to generate unexpected results and language in the company of really interesting and talented people and getting lots of insightful feedback. You don’t want that.

Then get your head out of that notebook on Sunday, October 13, and head down to Oak Vino for monthly literary salon Get Lit, featuring Matt and Emily Clifton. Matt and Emily wrote the beautiful Cork and Knife (locally profiled to an extreme extent on Published Local on A Little Beacon Blog, written by yours truly). If you aren’t yet getting the email newsletter, previewing articles from A Little Beacon Blog, you must get on that. Fall goals! Check!

Go fight your way through an apple orchard on a Saturday if you must, but treat yourself to some writerly nourishment afterwards. Don’t anyone talk to me about pumpkin-flavored anything, though. We’ll see you back here to jump in some leaves before Halloween…