Erika Anderson is a freelance writer and editor living in Brooklyn, New York. She teaches for the Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop, works as an editorial assistant and social media director for Guernica, and co-hosts the Renegade Reading Series. I sat down the other day with Erika to talk about reading series, cookies, and emerging writers.
– Geoff Bendeck, Nonfiction Editor
LUMINA: So how did the Renegade Reading Series come about?
Erika Anderson: That history predates me. We celebrated the two-year anniversary in August. Caitlin Elizabeth Harper, who went to the New School, as well as Rich Moy, started it as a way to have a place for their New School friends to read after they graduated. What happens in that blank space between when you graduate and have a book out? There are just fewer opportunities to read for emerging writers.
LUMINA: How did you become co-Hosts with Rich Moy?
EA: I had read there in May of last year and then Caitlin moved to Vancouver and asked me to take over. I said, “Maybe with a co-Host?” So Rich and I both signed up and I think it’s the perfect combination. He’s so fun and ridiculous.
LUMINA: So why the focus on just emerging writers?
EA: I think it’s easy for us to feel invisible at this stage, like Joshua Mohr, an author who I am friends with has said, there is no lonelier place than in the middle of your first book. It’s good to be supporting each other and have that sense of community. I don’t think community can be underestimated. In this sort of petty world of ego, pub credits and who is your agent, we need sweet spots of generosity. That’s been really vital for me and I want to help provide that for other people.
LUMINA: How’s Renegade different from other reading series?
EA: I feel like this is my Time magazine interview! Baked cookies. There is free wine! Rich also always plays Bieber Believer and gives away things he finds in his closet or on the street. I read my epic high school breakup poetry. Maybe I shouldn’t say epic. We focus on prose, we kind of have a no more than one poet rule.
LUMINA: I think that’s a good rule. (laughs.) I like that rule.
EA: We really want it to be more entertaining than serious.
LUMINA: So what is up with Crown Heights? It seems like every emerging writer and young person in publishing, I meet these days, lives there.
EA: (Laughs.) I know. I think that Penina Roth kind of did that with starting the Franklin Park Reading Series. At AWP, I would stop by all the booths, and people would say “Oh yeah, I live four blocks down from you.” Emily Wunderlich who runs, Big Umbrella Reading Series is in the neighborhood as well as Christine Vines who runs, Fiction Addiction. There are like four of us who run reading series and live there.
LUMINA: What type of writing makes for great readings?
EA: I think having a world created for you is important. Like Stacy Parker Le Melle’s essay at the last Renegade. So many nonfiction writers say, “Who am I to write about my life?” You can say, “I was just at a concert at the Apollo Theater and people were dancing.” Honestly, who cares? And yet, she slowed down so much in those moments to question sexuality, womanhood, initiation into womanhood, and parenting. When you are willing to slow down that much, I’ll go anywhere with you as a listener.
LUMINA: What advice do you have for people who are thinking about starting a reading series?
EA: It has to be fun. You should be comfortable doing public speaking behind a microphone. Also, have a great location! That’s the trickiest thing. Find a place where they won’t play music that overshadows the readers. Also, don’t make people pay!
Interested in submitting your work to read at a future Renegade Reading Series? Rich and Erika can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. More info can be found on the Renegade Reading Series Facebook page.