Lit At Lark’s Amy Shearn On This Sunday’s Kickoff, Our Literary Community & Why It’s Important For Writers To Stick Together


Lit at LarkPhoto via Lit at Lark

This Sunday, our neighborhood’s own literary series, Lit at Lark, kicks off its second season with readings by New York Times bestseller Miranda Beverly-Whittemore (who’s going to be at the Brooklyn Book Festival the following week) and debut novelists Siobhan Adcock and Vica Miller.

Before the series gets rolling, we wanted to touch base with its curator, Kensington resident and author Amy Shearn, to see what we can expect from this upcoming wordfest, which comes complete with a happy hour special just for the Lit at Larkers and informal, salon-style chats following the readings.

Tell us about Lit at Lark, which is celebrating its second season. How/why did you decide to start the series last year, and what did you learn during its inception?

Amy ShearnIt all started when I did a reading at Lark Café when my novel The Mermaid of Brooklyn came out in the spring of 2013. Lori and Kari at Lark loved the idea of tapping into the literary community in our neighborhood, and asked me to curate a reading series. This happened at a time when I was feeling like there were so many great literary events I could never get to because they were during my kids’ bedtimes or whatever, so I decided I would just bring the literary events to me!

I’ve learned that the creative community in the Kensington-Windsor Terrace/Ditmas area is even stronger than I’d suspected, which, as a somewhat recent transplant here, makes me very happy. As a result of Lit at Lark I feel like more of a part of our great (and perhaps still slightly off-the-radar) community. I’ve also learned that running a reading series is really a lot of work, and that the masters like Penina Roth (of the great Franklin Park Reading Series) and Amanda Stern (of the also great Happy Endings Reading Series) have a special kind of magic!

I’ve also been so impressed by the enthusiasm and generosity of my authors. As a writer myself, I know it’s easy to fall into the trap of (falsely) thinking we writers are somehow in competition with each other. As if there weren’t enough words out there! But working with writers has been incredibly nourishing to me creatively. Getting to know so many creative people feels like a great gift.

Was there anything unexpected that happened last year? Any favorite crazy moments?

There was one reading I actually couldn’t go to because of a family situation, and I had Mary Phillips-Sandy host in my stead – it was so lovely to know that this thing had gotten bigger than me. It was a bit like leaving your baby with a sitter for the first time and realizing that everyone’s totally fine!

I don’t know if we’ve had any really crazy moments. But I did enjoy the zaniness of the reading that coincided with the Church Avenue Street Fair in the spring – there’s something rather surreal about talking literature with a huge motorized bounce house in the background. It reminded me of that Donald Barthelme story about the balloon, somehow.

What will you be doing differently (or the same!) this year?

I learned that it makes sense to have at least one author with a brand-new book and at least one very local author at each event. It can be hard to lure people out of their apartments and to a reading on a Sunday, especially during the winter. But if it feels more pressing, somehow they make it. And I keep telling myself I’m going to get some awesome graphic designer to make a logo. So any awesome graphic designers reading this please email me! (This is KensingtonBK butting into the conversation here. You can email Amy at [email protected]!)

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Photo via Lit at Lark

What can you tell us about the authors who will be participating this year?

Oh man, I have such great authors on board, it’s crazy. For our season opener on September 14th, I have bestselling novelist Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, whose book Bittersweet was basically everyone’s favorite summer read; debut novelist Siobhan Adcock, whose book The Barter is this incredibly smart, funny, creepy, sad, and wise treatise on love, parenting, and PS ghosts; and novelist and salon series curator Vica Miller, whose debut novel Inga’s Zigzags masterfully captures the Russian/American experience.

In October, neighbor Anya Ulinich, who I often run into at our shared “office” Steeplechase, will be reading from her critically acclaimed graphic novel Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel; Andrew Lewis Conn will read from his new novel, this amazing sweeping epic called O, Africa!; and I will be launching this funny little project I’ve been working on – a novella written by my late grandmother, that’s going to be published as a chapbook! I’m extra excited about that one, obviously.

And in the months ahead, many great surprises. Students from Rachel Sherman’s Ditmas Fiction workshops will read. I have a fabulous night of poets, including the author of the “coolest book in the world,” Matthea Harvey. I might try to get my kids to host a children’s literature event in the spring or summer. In short, many great events are ahead!

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Photo via Lit at Lark

What has Lit at Lark meant for the literary community in the neighborhood?

I think that, in the absence of a super-local bookstore or other literary meeting place, this reading series has given us all a way to find each other. I quickly realized that some of the nice people in the audience were accomplished and talented writers themselves – Rachel Cantor, my first regular, ended up reading when her book A Highly Unlikely Scenario came out. This is really what I wanted from the series, and I’m so happy it’s evolved into this lovely, warm, friendly meeting place. Our audience is almost always all writers and creative types, and the discussions after the readings become these really inspiring conversations.

Lit at Lark 4Photo via Lit at Lark

How do you see this series evolving? Say, ahem, into holding a Ditmas Park Book Festival? Just saying.

That’s a great idea! It’s been great working with Word to sell books at the reading, and bring a tiny pop-up bookstore into the community – they sell not just the authors’ own books but also their recommendations, which is a neat twist. So clearly the Ditmas Park Book Festival is next. With writing workshops and editor panels… let’s get on this!

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And, bonus food question: what is your favorite snack at Lit at Lark?

Oh, pie from Four and Twenty Blackbirds, without a doubt. Any flavor. All flavors. Maybe even all at once.

Lit at Lark, which is free and open to everyone, will be held this Sunday, September 14, from 5-7pm, at Lark Cafe (1007 Church Avenue). Beginning in October, it will be held the third Sunday of every month. To keep up to date with Lit at Lark happenings, visit its Facebook page here. And, any neighborhood author interested in reading in the series can email Amy at [email protected].

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