Departures: New York
New York City is a writer’s playground. Its twenty-four-hour culture lends itself to sharing ideas with strangers while also creating new – possibly not-to-be repeated – stories. You either love New York or crave something a little smaller and a little less crowded, but whether or not it’s your cup of chow, a month in this city can transform your writing as well as your career.
What to take
Extra change for the 4 am falafel; we recommend Mamoun’s Falafel on St. Marks Place
A jacket for when that infamous wind begins to blow
Shoes that won’t give you blisters when you want to walk for blocks and blocks
Plenty of #hashtags. New York is in the top five active Twitter cities (Jakarta is number one) so #dontmissabeat
What to read
Shortlisted for the 2013 National Book Awards, Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner follows Reno, a fiery, motorcycle-driving conceptual artist who moves to New York, takes up with the wealthy son of an Italian motoring tycoon and finds herself in the midst of the radical and violent industrial protest movements in which his family is implicated. It explores the difficulties of belonging and finding your place in society, the art world, and the confusing, ever-changing city. ‘Enchantment,’ Reno says, ‘means to want something and also to know somewhere inside yourself . . . that you aren’t going to get it.’ Flamethrowers is an apt read for the plane, so you can be enchanted by this novel even before your arrival in New York.
Written in 1962, Another Country by James Baldwin is a fine novel that allows you to delve into the gritty splendour of 1950s New York. To avoid spoilers, the novel revolves around Rufus, a troubled African-American jazz musician whose story you follow, meeting his family in Harlem, and the jazz and literary scenes of Greenwich Village. The book contemplates racism, sexism, homosexuality, art and morality with a lasting honesty. You are reminded that love and hate are interchangeable and are often the only weapons we have with which to battle in this world.
Where to reside and write
Our first stop is the NYC Center for Fiction, which has been running since 1820 in the Mercantile Library and is the go-to place to attend literary events or workshops, borrow books, or get some writing done. If you are going to be in New York for a while then it’s probably worth purchasing a membership for $180. It is expensive, but the benefits, including unlimited borrowing from a great literary collection, are worth it.
If you’d rather escape the big city for a little while, the Edward F. Albee Foundation invites writers and artists from all walks of life to apply for their residency. Originally funded from the proceeds of the play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, the residency is held in the William Flanagan Memorial Creative Persons Center, otherwise known as The Barn. It’s open from mid-May to mid-October and you can apply to stay for either four or six weeks. The Foundation knows what they want and has very specific guidelines for how to apply – for example you must post your application through the USPS postal service. So find a friend of a friend or a relative who lives in the US and have them forward it to the centre with a US postage stamp. Reading the frequently asked questions is the best part of applying. Housing is provided but you will need to have your own food and transport.
About two-and-half hours up the Hudson you come to a place called Omi, a 300-acre farmland property with views over the Catskills and the Hudson River Valley. This beautiful location houses the Omi International Arts Centre, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to visual artists, writers, translators, musicians and dancers. Writers such as Kiran Desai, Colum McCann and Lee Tulloch are all alumni from the writing program. You can choose to stay for one week to two months and all meals are provided. The day time is set aside for writing and during the evenings notable editors, agents and book scouts are invited to share dinner, offering insights into the workings of the publishing industry, and introductions to some of its key professionals. Omi provides artists with a studio, living quarters and meals, however you are responsible for your own travel costs and writing materials. It is free to apply. Applications have now opened for Spring and Fall sessions in 2015 and will close on October 20 this year.
You cannot write about writing in New York without mentioning New York University. Their creative writing department houses celebrity writers such as Joyce Carol Oates, Zadie Smith and Jonathan Safran Foer. For those of you who are interested in publishing, NYU also has a Summer Publishing Institute that runs a six week course that will, as it were, ‘change your life’. You will be immersed in an intensive course that studies book, magazine and digital publishing, and combines workshops, strategy sessions and presentations from the leading figures in publishing to prepare you for the industry. At the end of the course you attend a Career Fair where you can interview with some of America’s leading publishing companies. The course costs $5,400 – not including housing – and to apply you will need to complete the Test of English as a Foreign Language and submit your scores on application.
For most, it is an unattainable dream to complete a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at NYU, but as a secondary option you could complete their summer intensive course. From May 17 to June 27 you can live the writer’s life in Greenwich Village while developing your craft. Readings and lectures from New York-based writers and publishing professionals supplement daily workshops and craft seminars. And don’t be worried about not having time to explore New York: field trips and cultural activities are an ‘integral component of the program’. The cost for the four-week program is $11,149 – again, not including housing – so it’s an expensive experience. You do not need a degree to apply, however you will need to submit a writing sample (1–3 poems or a piece of fiction and/or non-fiction that is 500–1000 words in length). Applications close March 15.
Where to submit
When thinking about literary publications in New York, The New Yorker and The Paris Review jump immediately to mind. Since 1925 The New Yorker has been publishing clever writings that span across all subjects, while The Paris Review is famous for its long interviews that expose authors’ philosophies on writing. These journals are great benchmarks to aspire to, but there are plenty of other journals in New York that are just as interesting.
n+1 is a print magazine of politics, culture and literature published three times a year. Established in 2004, it is currently at its eighteenth issue, themed ‘Good News’. Subscribing to this journal is highly recommended, as they’re at the centre of innovation for arts and culture in America, and regularly publish books and pamphlets that challenge and create debates. Submissions are open to fiction, essays and cultural writings, but do remember they only print three magazines a year and encourage you to have read previous editions before emailing them a query or a finished piece. Their upcoming publication MFA vs. NYC is a response to the widely read essay “MFA vs. NYC,” by Chad Harbach (author of The Art of Fielding) which argues that the American literary scene has split into two cultures: New York publishing versus MFA programs. This book is a collection of works from established writers, students and MFA professors, and New York editors and agents that discuss these two worlds and how writers live (or do not live) within them.
One Story is very simple. Every three to four weeks they mail out a single story to subscribers, through the mail or electronically, depending on the elected medium. The stories they send are literary fiction and they never use the same writer twice. As the journal is comprised of only one story, they ask that submissions be between 3000 and 8000 words. Submissions are open until May 21st and will reopen on September 1st, and if your story gets published you will be paid $250. They also have a teenage counterpart called One Teen Story for the budding YA authors out there.
The American Reader is the new kid from Brooklyn, created by two Princeton graduates over a cigarette in a fire exit staircase. The aim of the American Reader is to represent and inspire the new generation of literary voices emerging in America both nationally and on a wider scale. This is evident in their fiction and poetry, where the range of work varies from John Ashbery’s Stupid Petals & Other Poems or a translation of a bizarre Italian play called Lampedusa Beach by Lina Prosa (translated by Nerina Cocchi and Allison Grimaldi Donahue). They publish fiction, poetry (only suites of four to seven poems), essays and criticism. Submissions are open all year round, by email, and works published are, at this stage, unpaid.
Triple Canopy is a collaborative, online-only, non-profit magazine that covers art and literature. They share their name with a US military contractor and the three-tiered vegetation terminology of jungles. So at once, according to founding editor Alexander Provan, they are purposefully ‘beautiful… and very ugly.’ Their concept of ‘slowing down the internet’ allows longer pieces to flourish on their horizontal, left-to-right scrolling design. Part of Triple Canopy’s aim is to enrich the reading and viewing experience, evolving how the internet can be used on a literary platform. They produce only three editions a year but this magazine is gorgeous, and best read on a Sunday morning, with a cold-drip coffee in hand. You can submit your work individually, or collaborate with fellow creators to develop a proposal that will fit Triple Canopy’s outlook. If you are in New York, keep an eye on their site because they also host events in various locations. In January they opened their call for proposals, with the brief for submissions focussing on creating connections between books, manuscripts, lectures, exhibitions and their online publishing practice. If your submission is successful you will work closely throughout the year with the editors and receive an honorarium of $500. More information can be read on their website and submissions close mid-March.
Where to be festive
The Brooklyn Book Festival is an annual book fair that was first held in 2006 to showcase the Brooklyn literary scene. It focuses on an adult readership with a week of panels, workshops, readings, signings and book related vendors. This year it’s being held on the September 21st, with ‘bookend’ events being held the week before from the September 15th . Check their website in August for a list of scheduled events and guests. You’ll want to rent an apartment for the week and revel in Brooklyn’s literary coolness.
Founded in 2006 by PEN president Salman Rushdie, the PEN World Voices festival celebrates international literature and new writers. Held from the April 28th to the May 4th, this year is the 10th anniversary festival with their program still to be released. The festival is a powerful community gathering that has already hosted 1,400 writers from 78 different countries speaking 56 different languages. The PEN American Center, housed in New York, defends and promotes freedom of expression and the power of literature. They are currently working with PEN Myanmar to promote the work of writers such as U Zeya and Aung San Suu Kyi.
#TwitterFiction Festival 2014 will be held from March 12th to 16th, with the American Association of Publishers and Penguin Random House teaming up to have Twitter exploding with live story-telling and events. Kicking off in New York on March 12th with a #twitterfictionparty, authors such as Alexander McCall Smith and Benjamin Percy will be using twitter as the tool for storytelling. So watch from the comfort of your home as thousands of #twitterfiction tweets feed into your stream, or take a spur-of-the-moment trip to New York and celebrate Twitter-style.
As a side-note, New York author Teju Cole has recently used Twitter to create a short story by having his followers tweet 140 characters at a time. He then retweeted them in a chronological-story order: you can read it here.
Tweet to @seizureonline if you have any questions, comments or want us to look at specific locations. Next time we head East. Until then, keep tweeting!