Lit Crawl Love

13 09 2010

Saturday, September 11, 2010 could not have been a more beautiful evening, and it was made all the more beautiful thanks to the surge of literary love that took over the East Village (literally, in some cases). The 16-venue event was nothing short of magical, with a buzz of energy in each room and overflowing onto the streets.

As promised, The Paris Review brought “it” — and it brought the crowds (we estimated 150 folks crammed into Fontana’s). There was also a lovely 9/11 tribute compliments of some beloved denizens of the Lower East Side, but the highlight of the night may have been the street takeover that occurred when one venue wanted to charge our guests admission.

The hippie staff at Yippie Cafe had agreed to wave their usual cover for our free event, but on the night of new management changed their tune. But lit lovers are not to be thwarted. We stuck it to the “hippie” man and took our Urban Lives reading to the streets, literally. It was a wonderful and powerful sight to see 50-some lovers of literature on the sidewalk listening, rapt, to the readers who took their turn on a planter box stage on Bleecker Street. Only at Litquake.

Thanks to all who made it a memorable night, and stay tuned for details of next year, and a possible springtime foray.





Piece of Home

2 10 2008

Tomorrow evening marks the opening night of Litquake, San Francisco’s 10 day literary extravaganza, and (in my humble opinion) the best thing to happen to literature in a very long time. Now in its sixth year, Litquake overflows the already great city of San Francisco with writers and readers who gather nightly at various locales for readings and revelry, with everything from comedy to a special Kidquake, because it’s never too early to hook ’em on books.

If I sound like I’m gushing, it’s because, well, I am. I had the fortune of working on Litquake for two years, and, at the risk of sounding dramatic (and offending family and friends) it was one of the hardest-to-leave-behind aspects of my California life. It is wistfully that I announce it this year, since, alas, I will be here in New York rather than at opening night with Porchlight Storytelling or any of the other great events in this year’s stellar lineup.

I know, I live in New York City, capitol of all things literary, right? And we have the New Yorker (capitol of all magazines literary) Festival, right? Right. I am surrounded by brilliant writers and fantastic reading series and the New Yorker Festival, but it’s not quite the same. For one thing, events at the New Yorker Festival sell out in a hot second, and for another, at at least $20 a pop, this poor struggling writer can’t afford to go to too many of them.  Litquake, on the other hand, is many days of inexpensive (and often free) readings. So my whining is not for naught.

What’s a girl to do? Bring the festival here, that’s what. And I did! This year, I joined forces with a fellow San Francisco transplant to put on a Lit Crawl here in NYC. Lit Crawl, is the phenomenal culminating evening of Litquake, a literary pub crawl that literally takes readers to the streets of the Mission District.

This year in SF they have 45 venues in total. Our modest Lit Crawl New York, which started in the Lower East Side and then crawled to the East Village and along the L train to Williamsburg, had 17, but it was a huge success (in my humble opinion). The literary community really rallied round us, and we had big name particpants from the New Yorker’s Ben Greenman to readers from Bloomsbury and Penguin. it was enough to draw New Yorkers out, even on a rainy night. I heard nothing but good things and queries about when the next will be. And so, though I can’t be in SF, at least I had the next best thing. (And now I catch my breath before it’s time to start planning for next year!)

Does it get much cooler then crowds of readers drowned in red light? Not likely.

Does it get much cooler than crowds of readers drowned in red light? Not likely.





Hair

6 09 2008

This is a belated PSA for anyone in New York this week with some time to spare. Every summer thousands of New Yorkers engage in a ritual: they see free shows. But first, they camp out for hours at a time to secure tickets for said shows. The name of the “ritual” is Shakspeare in the Park but this year there is a slight diversion. Instead of the bard, New Yorkers are seeing a lively rendition of Hair.

Last week, I got up at 5 am and headed to the Delacourt Theater with a giant coffee to camp out until the box office started passing out tickets at 1 pm. Before you start groaning, I have two things to say: 1) the line is all part of the fun. It’s there that you meet the colorful cast of characters also crazy enough to wait around for free tickets. Plus, there is something oddly freeing about a person telling you that you must sit in the sun and not leave your spot for six hours. 2) The show is well worth it. For one thing, it’s simply grand to sit outside and watch a great show. But Hair is energetic and beautifully done. Masterful light work brings the psychadelic era to life, and the cast is not only talented but fun. It’s clear they enjoy what they’re doing, and they make others enjoy it as well.

And (now for the soapbox part) it’s topical. We may not spout free love or hold be-ins anymore, but we’re still at war. Seeing this great show and talking to the passionate people around me (this was after Palin’s speech so many were up in arms) made me both proud to live where I do and ashamed at the lethargy of my generation. But enough preaching: go see Hair! (And hurry: it closes this weekend.)





Where the Internet Is

7 08 2008

As a freelance writer who gets a little stir crazy at home, one of the biggest challenges is finding new and appealing places where I can settle in and log on to get work done.

My usual go-to joint is Gramstand, a fantastic little tea place just blocks from home, where the internet is free, the people are nice, and the great tea drinks abound. Not only that, but I can settle in and work for hours, or a whole day without being bothered. (I just discovered this week, too, that the Stand, as I like to call it, is connected with a “Coworking” group, Coobric, whose mission it is to link up freelancers like myself so they don’t feel as alone in the world (enter warm and fuzzies), which makes me feel even better about hanging out there all day every day.

But lately Granstand’s basement, where I typically camp out, has felt a little stuffy. It’s still great for settling in to a quiet workspace, complete with big tables that allow me to spread out and friendly seeming people, but in the balmy days of summer in New York, a basement with no AC gets to be a bit of a stuffy, sometimes stinky place. Not to mention that being without daylight can sometimes take its toll on a girl.

That’s not to say that I’m ruling out the G-stand, but today I just needed a break from “the regular.” In desperate need of daylight, Libby (my freelance buddy) and I decided to pick a good spot in between our respective Upper East and Lower East Side homes, and headed to Bryant Park, where the sunlight, and the wireless, are free. It turned out to be quite the adventure, but proved more conducive to people watching (the lunch crowd there can get quite feisty when fighting over seating, especially on summer Thursdays when Broadway comes to Bryant) than to working. The internet was patchy and there was a bit too much going on for concentration.

But where are there other options for internet in Midtown? We found a great site designating some, but most didn’t work out so well. Until we found SubtleTea, Midtown’s version of G-stand, and a little bit of heaven. Big windows let in lots of daylight, and a long wood table makes for great communal workspace. Plus a great selection of mags means built-in break times. Then there is the tea selection, which is so vast as to be almost overwhelming, though the friendly staff is always on hand to advise—and give samples. Then there are a wide array of yummy frappes, from peanut butter chai to some great green tea concoction, and more tea-inspired tasties than one can possibly imagine. My new favorite place? Possibly…