Yesterday afternoon I saw a post by Small Beer Press (on Facebook) mentioning that Kelly Link would be reading at a bookstore in Brooklyn and right about there I decided that I wanted to go – no, NEEDED to go – and then suddenly had to figure out how I was going to do that.
I currently live in New Jersey, towards the middle, next to Trenton, which is just over the river from Philadelphia. The bookstore is in New York, the city (and the state) making it a whole other state away from me.
The problem is, though, that I had to go. Not only was it Kelly Link, whose work I adore, but Tin House and Electric Literature (warning, current cover art – posted on their home page – is NSFW), both great markets that are nearly impossible to get into, and it was a chance to adventure into Brooklyn, where I’d never been. It was also possible, thanks to a combination of trains and subway rides, and since I’m due to leave NJ for upstate NY in a few months (where there are no trains) it was a trip I won’t always be able to make. This particular event would never actually happen again. Add to that my feeling that as writers we’re not just supposed to write but also to read, to listen, and to learn from the writers we admire. To not attend these kinds of events is to sit alone in our apartments, only learning from ourselves.
I worked out that I could take the NJ Transit train to Newark, then board a PATH train into NYC, walk a few blocks to a subway station, take the A to the High Street station, and walk a few more blocks to Powerhouse Arena. Do it in reverse, and I could get home. The whole trip cost me about $30, and I wrangled a ride to the train station. Texted Don (who introduced me to Kelly Link’s work in the first place) so I could share the squee, packed my travel bag with reading material, and I was ready to go. The first part of the trip was the longest and pretty uneventful – I found out that the .docs I’d transferred to my nook to read weren’t showing up, so I read issues 50 and 51 of Clarkesworld instead (note to self: get newer issues) and I’ll have to talk more later about how much I enjoyed those stories. I also had a story idea which uses a concept I’ve been thinking of off-and-on for years, which is always nice. Changing trains at Newark was as simple as getting out of train 1, walking a few feet, and stepping into train 2, which was waiting for us. I took a detour in NYC since the PATH train let me off at the World Trade Center…
I hadn’t been since before the towers fell, and I wasn’t sure what I was going to feel. There’s been so much construction that the actual site is obscured, though there’s a memorial now and WTC 1 has been rebuilt. I got a slice at Stage Door Pizza across the street from the site, grabbed a bottle of water to go, and found the subway station. Getting to Brooklyn was just two stops over on the A train, which is an express, and which showed up a few minutes after I got down to the track. I have to say that if I was going to live in a huge city again, it would have to be one whose mass transit was as great as New York’s. I don’t plan to, since I am a small town girl at heart and I love my (soon-to-be) home town, but if work or life ever forced me to move, I can’t do it without a bus/train system that runs well. What made living in San Francisco and then Sacramento bearable was living right downtown, where everything was within walking distance, or at most, an easy bus ride away.
I admit that I walked the wrong way when I left the High Street station, along a beautiful brownstone-lined street. I found out later I’d headed into Brooklyn Heights, which I’d definitely spend more time in. The restaurants looked delicious! Luckily I have googlemaps on my new phone, and it didn’t take long to get sorted out.
Powerhouse Arena is between the Brooklyn Bridge and the water, and is set up more like an art gallery than like a bookstore. There were a lot less books than I’d expected, laid out on tables instead of on shelves, and one side of the space was set up with a band and free beer.
The other side had giant concrete steps (thus the “Arena” part of the name) and I planted myself on the bottom one to wait for the start of the show. This turned out to be a brilliant idea, and I had a unobstructed view of the readers. While the pre-reading music played (CDs, not the band), a video show from Electric Literature played out on the wall closest to me.
After the intros, Matt Kish started with a presentation from his new book, Moby-Dick in Pictures. Marc Basch, who’d been sitting next to me on the steps, read next from his story “Three”, and then Tin House editor Elissa Schappell read from her story, “The Joy of Cooking,” which was reprinted in her new book, Blueprints for Building Better Girls. I’d have loved to get a video of Kelly Link reading, as she closed out the show, but she was recovering from a sinus infection and her voice wasn’t strong. The story was brilliant though and overall the event was worth the trip. Bonus fun: I spotted Erin in the crowd and via Twitter we arranged to meet up after the reading. I met her at Readercon and she’s the sort of folk I’d definitely actually plan to run into again in the future (though random surprise meetings are good too).
Electric Literature wrote about the evening on their blog, which you can read here, and posted a crowd shot – which I’m in! Not that’ll you be able to tell who I am but I know, because I was there.
Which is the point of doing things like this in the first place, isn’t it?
More images HERE (including the readers and images from the illustrated Moby-Dick)