New York City


I was humored and humbled when Columbia University asked me to be on this panel:LATMFA

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Very much looking forward to reading, to hearing the work of my fellow alums, and to seeing anyone in NYC who is able to come!

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Columbia Selects: MFA Alumni Readings
Thursday, March 5 @ 7 pm
KGB Bar 85 E. 4th St
F Train to 2nd Ave

What is Columbia Selects?  The first Thursday of each month, the Columbia MFA program hosts a reading series featuring Writing Program alumni. These fresh talents are finished with or near to finished with their first books, but do not yet have a book contract and/or an agent. In recent years, many of our featured writers have achieved critical and commercial success. This is your chance to glimpse who you’ll be reading in 2016!

Join us Thursday, March 5th, at 7 pm, for our stellar March lineup! Selected by the Columbia Writing Program, our readers are sure to dazzle and delight.

Our lineup this month:

Tanya Paperny is an essayist, translator, and editor based (mostly) out of Washington, D.C. Her work has appeared in Pacific Standard, VICE, Washington City Paper, The Washington Post, The Literary Review, and in many other fine journals and magazines. Her collection entitled “Short-Shorts” was a semifinalist in the Gazing Grain Press 2014 Poetry Chapbook Contest. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center and OMI International Arts Center, and she is at work on a collection of essays about violence, trauma, and resilience.

Elysha Chang is a writer from Virginia who lives in Brooklyn. Her short fiction has appeared in Bodega Magazine, The Literarian, and Park Slope Reader. She is an Emerging Writer Fellow at The Center for Fiction where she is at work on her first novel.

Andrew Eisenman is a writer and editor in New York. He’s a former assistant fiction editor of The American Reader and, before that, an editor at NOON. A 2012 teaching fellow at Columbia, he’s currently a senior editor of Kindle Singles. Andrew is working on a novel about the unraveling of a wealthy Ohio family.

Columbia Selects is curated by Bryan VanDyke and Emily Austin.

That whole “shit X people say” meme trend has come and gone, but I just found some hand-written notes I must have written at some point in 2012 when I was still living in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

Here’s my own attempt at “Shit People in Crown Heights Say:”

  • “Goddamn it car alarms”
  • “I love you Queens but the G train is just not a real train”
  • “You’re in the Bronx? Uh, I just assumed the Brooklyn Botanical Garden”
  • “Take the 3 to the S to the B/Q” (a la this SNL skit about Los Angeles freeways!)
  • “I’ll just double park on Bedford Ave. while you run in”
  • “Fucking dog shit everywhere when it snows”
  • “Are you really eating a fish sandwich on the B44 bus?”
  • “No free Jehovah’s Witness bible, thanks though”
  • “Are you Jewish?” “Yes, but no thanks”
  • “I’ll take four doubles with extra tamarind sauce”
  • “Our mouse lives behind the stove”
  • “Do you use T-Mobile or Metro PCS?”

Not even sure these are relevant anymore as the neighborhood has fully gentrified, as evidenced by the presence of a STARBUCKS.

My latest article is up at The Jewish Daily Forward. It’s a profile of a prominent community leader in the predominantly Russian neighborhood of Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, NY. I’ve been working on this piece for ages, and I’m so happy to finally have it see the light of day.

An excerpt:

Located on the main stretch of Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach Avenue, among numerous Russian delis, Russian-language bookstores and a shuttered Russian travel agency, the Brighton Neighborhood Association stands out. Its window is one of the few on the block with signs predominantly in English, and it’s one of the few storefronts near the elevated tracks of the B and Q trains that doesn’t actually sell anything.

This doesn’t stop people — and definitely not elderly Russians — from strolling through the glass front door, unannounced, on a regular basis. Some mistake the office for a thrift store and start lifting up, one by one, the porcelain and enamel elephants, gifts from friends and other tchotchkes on the desk of Pat Singer, founder and executive director of BNA, a not-for-profit social service agency in Brighton Beach, a neighborhood that stretches for one mile along the Atlantic coast.

Singer has to break into her limited knowledge of Russian to shoo them away: “Not magazin, this office! Not for sale, nooo! Get your hands off my desk!”

The full article is online here. Also in print. Not sure where they are sold, to be honest. Try your local synagogue?

Over a year ago, I wrote:

There are hundreds of small presses cropping up all over the country, publishing in small volumes, often using handmade or letterpress technologies…One notable example is Ugly Duckling Presse (UDP), a Brooklyn-based small press that makes chapbooks, broadsides and artist books in their one-room studio. They’ve published over 200 titles in the last ten years and many of the ones they put out have some handmade element, whether it be a letterpress cover or a hand-stitched or rubber band binding. UDP books are well-made objects that encourage you to read more slowly, to really look at each page.

Last month, The New York Times shot a video about small and independent literary presses in Brooklyn, NY, and they featured Ugly Duckling Presse:

Go support UDP now, and you can say “I knew them when they were still underground…”

UPDATE: [1:46 pm]:  Samhita over at Feministing says it way better than I can: “I ask not ‘where is occupy?’ but what will it take for the mainstream political [conversation] to reflect [Occupy Wall Street] values?” Read her.

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It’s the beginning of year two of this movement. Almost one year ago, I filmed this video of the mass protest and march in Times Square NYC:

The crowds are now smaller, and I think it will take something major–like the election of Mitt Romney–to see crowds that big again.

But the urgency still exists, and I think most of the people who ever participated in any Occupy events would agree.

I have to admit, every time I’d walk by the remnants of the movement–stragglers still meeting, camping out, human mic-ing, arguing, squatting around the Financial and Flatiron District–I’d feel a mixture of regret for not getting more involved and a simultaneous tinge of judgment. Like, you’re still trying to revive this movement, to capitalize on that original energy? Of course most people only have the energy and interest for the occasional march and protest and aren’t going to be in it for the long haul, to build organization infrastructure (or organic structure, whatever the case may be). I am only somewhat surprised to remember that I–someone who a few years ago would have been in the front lines–is stepping back, observing, commenting.

There’s a place for everyone in this movement. The movement for transparency in our government, for getting corporate money out of our elections, for getting the financial priorities in this country realigned so that we don’t have teachers needing to strike in Chicago while other people are getting their pockets lined with bonuses and tax breaks.

I salute you Occupiers all over the country and the world. I salute the tens of thousands of anti-Putin protesters who gathered in Russia two days ago. I salute the Libyans who condemned the violence against the U.S. Ambassador.

Let’s get back to work, whatever that looks like for you.

Another instance of demolishing precious architecture in NYC: can you all even imagine what Penn Station used to look like? We would have had another magnificent Grand Central Station. Instead…well, you know what we have. In case you don’t know, here are some photos to refresh your memory.

The City Room blog at The New York Times recently gave us some archival documents from architects-turned-protestors who tried to stop this from happening. Interesting stuff.

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