So who’s writing these stories?
My name is Katherine Osborn Abbott, and I go by Kate. I have lived in the Berkshires off and on — mostly on — for almost 20 years, and I have written about this place for most of that time in newspapers, magazines, novels and poetry.
I grew up on the Connecticut coast, in Guilford (not far from New Haven), and intimately connected with an old inland farm and a cabin in Maine. I learned to play soprano, alto and tenor recorder, ride a horse mostly without falling off, drive a tractor, read Le Silence de la Mer in French and love the poetry of Richard Wilbur, Martin Espada, Robert Frost.
In the fall of 1996 I unpacked at Williams College with the bright red-orange bedspread my mother had taken to her own dorm room. My room-mate said we’d be able to steer by it in the dark. Sharing a room with Karelle was one of the best things about that long-ago year. Poetry with Louise Glück, Chaucer, the view from Berlin Mountain at dawn, all-night trivia at the radio station, playing Joshua with the marching band at full blast in the library … it was a good introduction, and it led to contradance music, stories with Jim Shepard and a thesis on Jane Austen with Robert Bell.
After college (and an internship at Mass MoCA the summer it opened) I stayed to become a reporter with the Berkshire Advocate, a now-vanished free weekly newspaper. In those days it covered all of Berkshire county and into southern Vermont with a newsroom of some 15 people, and I became one of 2 or 3 people in the Southern Berkshire office. My editor and I covered half the county between us — theater, black ash baskets, select boards, town meetings and all. By the end of four years I had become associate editor in charge of the small south bureau. I also became communications director for Inkberry, a literary nonprofit in North Adams, and wrote freelance for the Women’s Times, a local monthly journal.
Then (here’s the off part) I left for three years at the University of New Hampshire to earn an MFA in fiction, to write three drafts of a novel set in a town suspiciously like Williamstown and live by the Oyster River in a room with white pines outside the window. I had the great good luck to study with Alex Parsons and Charles Simic, to work in the writing center and help build the website for the program’s first online literary journal, and to publish poetry in journals including the Comstock Review, Fourth River, Intelechy International and Qarrtsiluni.
In January 2008, the Berkshire Eagle took me on as editor of Berkshires Week, a weekly arts and culture magazine that had covered the scene for decades. At the time it ran full-strength from May to October, up to 40 pages a week, and became a smaller section inside the daily paper in the winter. In my time there, the magazine expanded to a year-round, running in three local papers, and I worked with freelancers and staff and interns to fill it with as many as 20 stories a week. I wrote them myself too, as often as I could — stories about art and music and theater, Chinese literati painters and giant ceramic vessels and bronze sculptures and local history … and a series of profiles in partnership with Multicultural Bridge highlighting people of all kinds and backgrounds.
In midsummer 2015, the changing media world turned me loose to write freelance and explore the writing world. So for many years this has been my beat. It has been my job to know these mountains inside and out. And here I hope to share them with a wider world.