Word Up Bookstore

When I first moved to New York City, and specifically here to Washington Heights, I was nervous. I was nervous for a lot of reasons, mostly because I was doing a Big New Thing with my life. After 4 years out of college and 4 years in college in the more-or-less constant company of my beloved bosom friend, Rachel, I was moving in with my girlfriend, Charlotte. I also didn’t have a job, exactly, or much of a plan aside from getting a job somewhere and writing more and maybe applying to PhD programs someday. I was nervous about leaving Boston, leaving the friends I had there. I was nervous about not being in school again for awhile. And I was nervous, especially, deep-down, seriously nervous, because my new neighborhood didn’t seem to have a bookstore.

I hoped, of course, that Charlotte’s and my relationship would grow deeper and stronger without my losing the deep, daily friendship I had with Rachel. I hoped that I wouldn’t discover that Charlotte and I worked great long- distance, and not so great no-distance. I hoped that I would like New York. I hoped that I would find ways to work and play and live and connect and love my new situation, while staying in touch with my friends scattered in their various haunts. And I hoped I would find great bookstores close to home.

So far, most of my hopes have been fulfilled in various, lovely ways. These weekend, Charlotte and I are celebrating our five-year anniversary (the actual date of our anniversary is rather vague: we were doing a theater workshop when we actually got together and everyone in the workshop was pretty much living in the same apartment, and well… we just can’t remember the date, so we celebrate sometime in July.) Turns out we work even better no-distance than long. I still talk to Rachel every day, and to several of my other beloved bosom friends weekly or so, though there are also many of you with whom I would love to be in better touch. I’m hoping this blog, while boosting interest in and sales of my writing to sky-rocketing levels, will also provide a means of in-touch-ness with those I have not spoken to in awhile. New York has gone from overwhelming to friendly, in a strange transition I don’t know how to describe. I’ve written more (did you catch the 500 posts about The Clown and the Magician?), and I’m starting a PhD program in English at CUNY in the fall.

But… But. No bookstores close to home. Until about a month ago, when we heard about this pop-up bookstore that is so very, very close to where we live. What, you ask, is a pop-up bookstore? It is a bookstore that springs up with little warning, that is perhaps temporary, and that, in this case, is designed to provide literary and musical and performative community space, along with lots of interesting books to buy.

Word Up Bookstore is housed in a former pharmacy, with the pharmacy awning still out front. It is small-ish, but has lots of open space, especially at the back, where there is a lovely small stage and performance area. There are bookshelves filled with books, many by local authors, many strange, beautiful, random, political, quirky books. There is a terrific sale on books by Seven Stories Press, so there are lots of books available for $3 or $5, and there’s even a table of books for free. Word Up has lots of art on the walls, paintings and all kinds of decoration done by local artists, and, in one especially decorated corner with lots of yellow and pink, you can find out what your sign is on the vegetable zodiac (determined by birth year), and, if so inclined, buy a packet of seeds of your zodiac vegetable. I am a chili pepper. Charlotte is a tomato.

There are readings and/or concerts and/or comic book workshops, self-defense classes, and other things harder to classify almost every night. The space is hot, and there are a few places where the walls and ceilings are a bit holey (mostly cleverly hidden with art), but it is the one place I voluntarily go where I know it will probably be ten degrees hotter than the outside, and sometimes even than my home.

The first or second time I went in, I learned that Word Up is entirely staffed by volunteers, and I started volunteering shortly thereafter. Initially, Word Up was supposed to only exist for one month. They planned to close it down last night. The space, in a long saga I don’t fully understand, has been donated by its owner, a New York realty company called Vantage, through a Community Outreach program they have. Looking up the company online makes for some interesting reading. Anyway, the overall response to the bookstore has been incredibly positive, and so Vantage and the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance and Seven Stories Institute worked out a plan to keep it open at least through the end of September, perhaps longer.

Last night we had a volunteer meeting, and it was really great to meet a motley assortment of people in my neighborhood who all love the bookstore. I don’t know where it’s all going, but I’m loving it so far, and I wanted to tell you all about my literary-community-volunteer experiences. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by Word Up and check it out. And whether you are or not, here’s the link to their blog: http://wordupbooks.wordpress.com/



Hello all!  Welcome to my new blog/website devoted to my various writing endeavors.  Check out the About Me and the More Writing, Please! pages for exciting content, because all my blogging energy for today has gone into those, and I cannot promise incredibly exciting content here at the moment.  In the coming days and weeks, I will post more introduction-type-stuff about me, the writing I’ve linked to on the More Writing, Please! page, and whatever else comes to mind.

I hope you will introduce yourselves, too, and let me know, if it is not immediately obvious, how you found me.  I look forward to playing with you in the days to come!