Writing About Ithaca


Ithaca, New York has earned a reputation as a font of artistic and literary creativity, giving the world books ranging from Grace Miller White’s “Tess of the Storm Country” (1909) to Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita” (1955).  The local literary scene is as active as ever and provides many opportunities for writers and their readers to get together, including one of America’s largest used book sales.  During the weekend of May 7-9 the first Finger Lakes Literary Festival – called “Spring (W)rites” – took place in Ithaca. The kickoff event of the Festival was WSKG Public Radio’s OFF THE PAGE, recorded on Friday afternoon, May 7th in the BorgWarner Community Room of the Tompkins County Public Library. Four writers who call Ithaca home and have brought  the city and environs into their writing shared their insights and experiences with WSKG’s Bill Jaker.

They are:

J. Robert Lennon, whose novel “Mailman” is set in a town that could easily (very easily) be Ithaca.  His other novels include “The Light of Falling Stars” and most recently “Castle”.  He is also a musician and an assistant professor in the Cornell University English Department’s Creative Writing Program.

Katharyn Howd Mahan, is the author of over a thousand poems and twenty books, including “Redwing: Voices From 1888” about the people in a mythical but realistic community in upstate New York.  She is a professor of writing at Ithaca College and in 2002 was named the first Poet Laureate of Tompkins County.

Beth Saulnier, an erstwhile reporter and current film critic for the Ithaca Journal, is author of the Alex Bernier series of mystery novels, including “The FourthWall”, “Reliable Sources” and “Ecstacy”.  Her stories are set in a “centrally isolated” college town called Gabriel, where “the guy slicing your bagel at the deli has a Ph.D. in philosophy”.  She also writes under the pen-name Elizabeth Bloom.

Michael Turback, is an Ithaca restaurateur, food writer (“A Month of Sundaes”, “The Banana Split Book”) and publisher. He is currrently at work on a cookbook in cooperation with the Ithaca Farmer’s Market. His newest book, ” Surrounded by Reality: 101 Things You Didn’t Know About Ithaca, NY (but are about to find out)” is planned as the first in a series of local histories.

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