Casey Scieszka is a writer. She’s also the head innkeeper at Spruceton Inn, a Catskills Bed & Bar, a nine-room hotel located in the smallest of woodsy upstate towns. You know West Kill? No? How about Phoenicia? Look. It’s way upstate and is as off-the-grid as any serious writer could dream of visiting … or owning and managing.
During the weekends, Casey, born and bred in Brooklyn, can be found hard at work running this delightfully remote hotel five miles down a winding country road. The inn is a retreat mostly catering to New Yorkers who need to escape the City before they spontaneously combust from the congestion, the noise, and the constant busy, busy, busy. Here, two hours north of Gotham, the simple rooms are bright, clean, rustic and relaxed.
Inside the inn’s intimate bar, Casey made us both a couple of delish cups of coffee and told me she takes it upon herself to help slow down the frazzled, spinning minds of city-dwellers “to the speed of molasses because I want them to feel this,” she said, holding her hands up and around her gesturing at the lovely stillness of the place. I wondered, too, if she wanted her guests to feel and see as she does from behind her clear, calm eyes.
A nurturing, organized, whip-smart woman of just thirty-two years, she managed teams of electricians and plumbers, coaxing the aging structure to live on through her first two arctic winters up here. And, as if this weren’t enough, she and her husband, the children’s book author and illustrator, Steven Weinberg, also host an Artist Residency at the inn.
As talented as Casey may be as an innkeeper, she’s first and foremost a writer. She’s a writer down to the bone. When she talks of writing her eyes sparkle. During our chat, her keen sense for using just the right word made me sound like a stuttering character from a Beckett novel while her sentences sounded like prose written by Lorrie Moore (then revised by Tina Fey).
Her debut memoir for young adults (illustrated by her husband), To Timbuktu: Nine Countries, Two People, One True Story (Roaring Brook Press, 2011) features Casey’s bright, lively prose telling the tale of the couple’s travels from Morocco, through Asia and on to Mali.
This past March, Casey began work on her second book. During weekdays, a slower time for the inn, Casey takes to her writing studio. I can imagine her writing in the country quiet, so absorbed in her work she barely notices if a spring rain shuts the internet down for a few. I can hear the light clatter of her keyboard, the sound of the birds, the breeze. The stream shushes by in the back beyond the rough-hewn grass that breaks over the water where the land rises up into a cool wooded hill. The clouds of the Catskills float by above it all, slow as molasses.
Visit Casey’s blog to see what she’s up to…