At a New York City soirée ahead of the Narrowsburg event, Deep Water founder Aaron Hicklin read out the 11-step plan that started it all

Last night, in the most deliciously decorated Chelsea apartment, Aaron Hicklin hosted a literary soirée of mythic proportions: provocative and elegant, featuring book-lined hallways, deviled eggs, wines of all colors, and, of course, some of the city’s greatest creatives—Christopher Bollen, Marlon James, Ira Silverberg, Lauren Mechling, Alan Cumming, and many more. The occasion? A benefit for the Deep Water Literary Festival, which Hicklin co-directs with Lucy Taylor. Tucked into a small town on the Delaware River, the weekend-long June event is the only of its kind and caliber outside of the city. Where it lacks ease of access for those hailing from various boroughs, it offers rare accessibility to the nearby residents of Narrowsburg, and its neighboring towns across upstate New York.

This year’s iteration is centered on the theme Orwell in Our Time, pinning down the exact meaning of the term Orwellian. Its programming features some of the authors actually carrying the literary prophet’s legacy: Lucy Sante, Rebecca Solnit, and the novelist’s own adopted son, Richard Blair, to name a few. Under the apartment’s warm light, and over fast-emptying glassware, Hicklin offered a speech—outlining the making of the festival with a tribute of sorts: “Among George Orwell’s more whimsical essays is a short treatise, ‘A Nice Cup of Tea,’ in which the author of 1984 gives an 11-point guide to making Britain’s favorite beverage. With apologies to Orwell, here’s our 11-point guide to putting on a literary festival in upstate New York.”

1. Choose the smallest town you can find, if possible, with no more than 400 people.

2. Make sure that chosen town has no public transit links, and that the nearest railway station is 45 minutes away.

3. Check that said town has no existing hotels, so that you are forced to rely on Airbnbs for accommodation.*

4. Always say yes to everyone who wants to be involved, and worry about how to incorporate them into the program later.

5. Make sure there are only a few restaurants so that you are forced to bring in caterers.

6. Invite Joyce Carol Oates, and then put her up next to the tent where you are hosting your big festival party.

7. Make sure you keep Joyce Carol Oates awake at night, so that she has to shut your festival down.

8. Never learn from your mistakes.

9. Make sure that your little town with no transit, no hotels, no restaurants, is in the prettiest place imaginable, right on the bend of the Delaware River.

10. Tell everyone to bring their swimming costumes.

11. Remember, everything works out in the end.

*Good news: Since Deep Water Literary Fest was launched in 2018, we now have an excellent place to stay, The Blue Fox.

Deep Water Literary Festival will take place June 16 through 19 in Narrowsburg, NY.