In Ontario County, as throughout the Finger Lakes region, an ever-increasing number of writers ply their trade. Responding to the area’s scenic beauty and its rich historical past, their books may focus simply on the area’s natural wonders or combine these features with a narrative.Today the reader is presented with a greater variety of Finger Lakes’ topics than ever before. Looking for evidence of the paranormal? How about learning about an obscure murder trial? Want to compare the appearance of a landmark today with its earlier image? Books on these and many other themes await readers.
With so many visitors attracted to this area, today’s titles make discovering its lush scenery easier than ever. Similarly, writers examine the built environment from the famed 19th century Erie Canal to the 20th century mansions of entrepreneurs like Rochester’s George Eastman.
Writers need not live here to explore the area’s multifaceted character. However, those who write about the Finger Lakes region quite often call it home. Some were raised here and perhaps moved away, or have vacationed here frequently. The growth of self-publishing has also made it easier and more affordable to publish a book. Writers sometimes offer electronic versions of their books.
The area’s rich history, ranging from the Iroquois confederacy to the Revolutionary and Civil War eras and beyond, is interpreted by numerous historian-writers. Important religious, political, and social movements originated right here in the Finger Lakes. Mormonism, the Underground Railroad, and the women’s rights movement provide writers with a wealth of material. Many local municipal and county historians have penned titles, wanting to ensure that a record of their communities, geography, and businesses survive. Their works make certain that lesser known Finger Lakes inhabitants and events will not be overlooked.
Of special interest are the published collections of historic photos in the form of early postcards that record communities, their pastimes, landmarks, and scenery over time. Biographies of Frederick Douglas and Susan B. Anthony are joined by those of pioneering aviators and other legendary personalities. Historic markers, roads, and monuments are among the topics chronicled in illustrated volumes.
Recreational activities – amusement parks, movies, and sports – are all fodder for a Finger Lakes writer. The area’s vibrant past lends itself to colorful tales of historical fiction. There are authors who write for young adults; their fiction and non-fiction stories are set in the region. Tales of “coming of age” explore the lives of youngsters growing up here. Mystery writers in multi-volume series revisit the area through the persona of their fictional characters.
The glacially-formed lakes and the wineries that dot their hillsides today are more frequently the focus of books. Like the gorges, waterfalls, and lush scenery of the lakes that attract photographers, the wineries themselves offer writing opportunities. With the growth of the Finger Lakes wine industry, today's writers feature the backstories of individual wineries, their vintners, awards, and even recipes to pair with these wines. Fiction writers have chosen them as a backdrop for tales of intrigue over such hackneyed settings as the mean streets of a big city.
Who are all these Finger Lakes authors? Some follow in the footsteps of the legendary Arch Merrill who wrote countless stories and books about the Finger Lakes back in the 1940s and 1950s drawing on his years as a journalist. Others are trained librarians or educators, employed in a variety of schools or academic settings. Some have a background in the fine arts. They may be first-time writers or have many volumes to their credit. Often they combine a flair for prose with the skills of a dedicated researcher. Sometimes they have left behind the corporate world or similar livelihood to take up writing full-time. And a few reach their retirement years and simply want to fulfill a long-held desire to put pen to paper proving that you are never too old to realize that dream.
To read reviews of some books written by Finger Lakes writers go the website of Life in the Finger Lakes magazine, www.lifeinthefingerlakes.com and search for “Book Look” in the Article Archive.