Now in its seventh year, the Deep Water Literary Festival will return to Narrowsburg, N.Y., in the Catskills from June 21–23. This year, it has added a new independent book fair and expanded its programming to year-round.

Codirected by Aaron Hicklin, owner of One Grand Books in Narrowsville, and actress and event producer Lucy Taylor, this year's festival features the theme "Another Eden," which will explore utopian communities and the ideas that have inspired idyllic societies. The festival's program includes visiting and local authors and artists who will discuss this theme through panels, readings, art installations, and performances.

"We're really inviting people to come into this beautiful, small town that has been taken over by an extraordinary range of writers, thinkers, and artists for a weekend of conversation and debate," Hicklin said. "In particular, it's about the role of a festival like ours in finding ways to bring together and unite disparate parts of a community, appealing to audiences that are often marginalized or neglected, even up here."

This year's festival features a number of panels and conversations exploring the concept of utopia, what it means, and how people have tried to create better worlds for themselves and others. The theme is something of a counterpoint to last year’s program, which focused on the work of George Orwell. “It was quite dystopian,” Hicklin said, “so this year we thought we would go the other way.”

Notable authors attending the festival include Ada Calhoun, Cynthia Carr, Vivian Gornick, Jamaica Kincaid, Lydia Millet, Nell Irvin Painter, and translator and Spiegel & Grau editor Aaron Robertson. Gornick will explore finding utopia in the city, while Carr and filmmaker Matt Wolf will discuss the role of archives in biographies. Kincaid will discuss her connection to her Vermont garden as a space for enjoyment, solace, and political engagement. Millet will share how her life as a novelist and biologist intersect and how we can find meaning in nature.

Painter and Robertson will examine, in conversation, how Black Americans have envisioned utopia and the efforts to create a world free from systemic racism. "This conversation is timely and essential," said Taylor. "By bringing together these minds, we hope to shed light on the resilience, creativity, and hope that have driven the Black community's pursuit of a more just society."

New to the festival this year is the inaugural Deep Water Independent Book Fair, which will be held on Saturday, June 22. That program is being organized by Ahu Terzi, owner of the Hound Books in nearby Roscoe, N.Y. Participating presses include Nightboat Books, Whisk(e)y Tit, and several others awaiting confirmation. Publishers interested in participating should send an email to

"These days there are more bookstores and presses around,” Hicklin said. “We really wanted to connect both the bookstores and the small presses in this region, as well as from further afield, that represent independent authors or independent houses that might not get attention from some of the bigger presses.”

Last year, the Deep Water Literary Festival earned 501c3 status as a nonprofit, and has ambitions to become a year-round platform for literary education and community engagement. As part of this effort at outreach, Taylor has helped organize writing workshops in collaboration with the Black Library in Monticello, a community center serving the largest black community in Sullivan County.

"DJ and Michael, the founders of the Black Library, encountered pretty horrific systemic racism growing up in Monticello," Taylor explained. "But instead of leaving their community, they decided to stay and be artists there."

The festival is also collaborating with Black to Nature, an initiative of the storied Black-owned newspaper Amsterdam News, on a writing competition. The organizations will also develop an afterschool education platform that encourages middle and high school students to write and create, inspired by literature relevant to the festival’s theme.

"By investing in the next generation of writers and thinkers, we aim to create a ripple effect that will be felt for years to come," said Taylor. "These young voices are the future of literature, and it is our duty to nurture their talents and provide them with the tools they need to succeed."

As the DWLF continues to grow as a cultural institution and expand its year-round programming, it remains committed to its role in supporting the local economy, engaging the community, and fostering meaningful dialogue. "It's an opportunity for a dialogue that you don't necessarily get in the solitary ways you absorb books or reading," said Taylor. "Because the town is so small, you're standing next to a writer in the coffee line. It's an opportunity to stop and actually have a conversation with each other and with authors."

On June 21, its opening night, Deep Water will collaborate with regional public libraries to showcase Sullivan County's past and present poet laureates. In addition to the festival's conversations with writers, the program also offers theatrical and musical performances, film, and commissioned works from local artists.

"The idea is that a truly successful festival will have elements for everybody, not just people who necessarily read books," said Taylor. "We're trying to provide something that everybody can touch in the festival, whether they are interested in books or not."

Hicklin, who previously edited BlackBook and Out magazines and now publishes the literary journal Grand, aims to make the festival a coveted mid-summer destination for literati from New York City and the surrounding area. So far, the festival has attracted a number of high-profile supporters, including actor Alan Cumming, who participated in a fundraiser for the festival this spring; Booker Prize winner Marlon James has also participated in every festival so far, and recently joined the organization's board.

"Whether you're a literature lover or seeking a weekend of intellectual stimulation and creative inspiration, the Deep Water Literary Festival has something for everyone,” Hicklin said. “We invite you to join us in Narrowsville this June to immerse yourself in the power of words, the beauty of nature, and the bonds of community."