Learn About Local Author Amy Shearn, Then Meet Her At The E 4th St Community Garden On Saturday
Author Amy Shearn has been living in the neighborhood for about a year, and she’s already created quite a home for herself and her family. She’ll be reading from her new book, The Mermaid of Brooklyn, this Saturday, July 20 at 10am at the East 4th Street Community Garden (between Ft Hamilton and Caton, where she’s a member), so we caught up with her to find out what’s happening at the reading (free copies of the book! crafts for kids!), what some of her favorite things are about Kensington, and how she manages to get any writing done with such imaginative kids around.
KBK: Tell us a bit about yourself.
Amy Shearn: I’m about five feet tall. I have brown hair. I wear glasses. I have extraordinarily terrible vision. Not to brag or anything.
Also, I’m originally from suburban Chicago, I went to college at the University of Iowa, I got my MFA from the University of Minnesota. The only remotely interesting thing about me is that I lived in New Mexico for a year, which I did specifically so as to have something remotely interesting about me.
What’s a typical day in your life like?
My two little kids — I have a 4-year-old daughter named Harper and a 2-year-old son named Alton — wake me up at 6am on the dot, and usually Harper announces what she is playing that day. “I’m Karen,” she said this morning, which is this mommy-character she plays. “This is my son, Sam. I’m going to make you some marmalade toast. Time to get up!”
Most days it’s just me and the kids, and we do some sort of outing. Kensington offers a nice little-kid-circuit: we love Greenwood Playground, the library, the community garden, getting a snack and disturbing the freelancers at Steeplechase or Lark, or going for a pony ride or to Prospect Park, where we have a very beloved top-secret special picnic place my kids call “The Running Place with the Woods.”
We are also entering this wonderful stage where we can venture a bit further afield. They love taking the bus to Park Slope, or taking the train anywhere, or nowhere at all. We often find ourselves at the Prospect Park Zoo or the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, and we have many ambitions for the summer, from Pier 6 to the French carousel in Bryant Park. Or we have a lot of playdates too. Afternoons are a bit mellower. “Karen” usually puts “Sam” to bed about 90 times. Not to brag, but they are very advanced pretenders.
If they ever go to bed, I usually try futilely to get some work done — working on my new novel, writing an article or essay for a freelance job, catching up on book-related social media. After some time spent staring at the screen I realize I’m too tired to write anything that makes sense, and then I read 3 pages of a book and then wake up with book-page-creases on my face. It’s very, very glamorous.
One day a week I work, and their lovely babysitter comes and I fall to her feet in thanks. Right now I write one essay a week for oprah.com, usually hunched over my laptop at Steeplechase or Lark and glaring at the kids who come in (sometimes my own). And one other morning a week and usually on Saturdays I work on my own writing — right now, it’s a new novel I’m slowly writing and that I currently have about one chapter of (the best stage of all).
What’s the best thing about being a parent in Kensington? And one of the hardest things?
I think the best thing is the wonderful community of parents I’ve met here. We live in a big building full of kids, and it’s really adorable. On these scorchingly hot days (as on rainy days, or freezing days) we wander from apartment to apartment having playdates. My kids love it. It’s also a bit quieter and mellower here than where we used to live in Park Slope. The kids can actually scoot down the sidewalk without bumping into 80,000 people.
The hardest thing is probably convincing friends in Park Slope that we are not actually that far away, and explaining how to get to an address on Ocean Parkway. Seriously. All those one-ways are no joke.
Your book is probably on a lot of people’s summer must-read lists. What books are on yours? Anything you’ve read lately that you’d recommend?
Oh, you’re very kind.
There are so many great books that came out this spring and summer, it’s really insane: I feel that everyone should read Jessica Francis Kane’s eviscerating story collection This Close, Jennifer Cody Epstein’s incredible novel The Gods of Heavenly Punishment, Julie Sarkissian’s lyrical debut Dear Lucy…there are more I’m forgetting I’m sure.
My book group just read Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings, which was really wonderful. I just devoured and loved The Next Time You See Me, which is a really smart and thoughtful and literary thriller by Holly Goddard Jones. Next on my bedside table are The Mapmaker’s War, by Ronlyn Domingue and Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life. Oh but if you’re looking for something funny, my version of a beach read would be Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette or anything by Caitlin Moran, who just makes me laugh and laugh.
I read male authors sometimes too, I’m sure I must.
Aside from possible mermaid sightings, what is the strangest thing you’ve ever seen in Brooklyn?
When we first moved here, my husband and I were in line at the DMV and saw a woman with a baby punch an old man in the face. We were like, “Man! Brooklyn!” But honestly I don’t think I’ve seen something quite so strange and intense since.
What is one of Kensington’s hidden (or not-so-hidden) gems?
I think Kensington Stables is such a weird and great place. There’s just something surreal about taking your kid for a pony ride in the middle of a normal Brooklyn day. I feel that our corner of Prospect Park is really quite superior to all others. And of course we need to say — what would we do without Hamilton’s?
The community garden might actually be my favorite place in the neighborhood though. Maybe I was just overly influenced by The Secret Garden, but having a key to a lush little hideaway, complete with sandbox, pond, and fairies (if you ask my children), is really extremely lovely.
What’s happening at the event on Saturday?
I’ll be reading from my novel and possibly talking about writing and publishing, if people are interested. I’m also giving away some copies of the book for FREE FREE FREE. And there will be some mermaid-themed crafts for kids too. The garden is so beautiful, and it is sure to be a lovely way to spend the morning. Also, come so I won’t be lonely.
Top photos via Amy Shearn
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