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Why are you doing this?
Vol. 1 Brooklyn started out as a blog so I could get publishers to send me free books. At some point I decided it might also be nice to put on a reading series which I started at Bar Matchless three years ago. Now the site has a pretty large readership, a great team of editors, a dozen contributors and Vol. 1 does two events each month. I think we do it for a number of reasons. We get to meet authors we respect, get to introduce the world to writers they may not have known before, and it's really amazing when a writer comes up to us a few months after doing a reading and tells us they got something published in a big journal because they were published on Vol. 1, or they met their agent at our event.
Is there something particular to Brooklyn Lit beyond geography?
I'm always a bit perplexed by this idea that Brooklyn is suddenly a very literary place. Walt Whitman lived here, Arthur Miller, Woody Allen, Capote, etc. I think it really has something to do with that fact that writers are removed from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan, but still definitely in a city. I also believe walking is great for writers and Brooklyn is one of the greatest places on the planet to do that.
It might sound like a bit much, but a lot of the writers I know who have been in Brooklyn since around the start of the new millennium tend to point to Dave Eggers setting up the McSweeney's store (pre 826Brooklyn) as the catalyst to Brooklyn becoming the place it is. I heard stories of people going to a David Foster Wallace reading there with like six other people. But slowly, all the writers that really influenced post-9/11 literature (especially fiction) started coming here. I think that might have something to do with it as well.
Who's your favorite writer we've never heard of?
I'm not really sure if these are people that people haven't heard of. Some of them are already published or have stories in big magazines or journals, but I loved Adam Wilson's Flatscreen. I'm really looking forward to Rosie Schaap's Drinking With Men, I think Joshua Cohen is brilliant, Rachel Syme's biography on F. Scott Fitzgerald living in Hollywood is something I'm super interested in reading, and I love Kathleen Alcott's debut and Karolina Waclawiak's How to Get Into the Twin Palms. But there's an entire laundry list of other brilliant writers like Emma Straub, Alexander Chee, Jami Attenberg, Justin Taylor... and Zachary Lipez is a really great essayist. People who don't have books out yet that I love are James Yeh and Lincoln Michel (of Gigantic), Royal Young and I think people need to pay a lot of attention to Courtney Maum. She's fantastic.
I know that's a lot, but Brooklyn is also full of really fantastic folks who write about books as well. Maud Newton, Jacob Silverman, Michelle Filgate, Ed Champion and so many others. I think that so many people who love literature in one place really gets into the soil. It also can't hurt that there are several great indie bookstores and lots of coffee.
Do you also write yourself?
I do. I just finished my first book and I'm about to start doing research on my next one. I've been published by the New York Times, The Paris Review, NPR, the New York Observer, Tablet, The Rumpus and a bunch of other places.
What's your day job?
Writing and editing.
What impact do you think Brooklyn Lit has had on the publishing world at large?
I think that even though we're living in Brooklyn we still live in the New York City bubble where we tend to forget that there is a whole world past the city limits. Roxane Gay and Blake Butler are brilliant and prolific writers who live in Illinois (Gay) and Georgia (Butler) and the world (including Brooklyn) come to them. Brooklyn is part of a bigger picture.
What does the future look like for Brooklyn Lit?
I think it looks bright. I think it's a really great community. A lot has been written about how the literary community lives online these days, but you wouldn't know that if you attended readings and parties here. People socialize here, friendships are made and ideas are cultivated. I think that will continue and you'll see more and more happen in the next few years.