Spotlight on: The Greenpoint Writers Group

Abby Ronner reading her short story at The WORD ©Ona Abelis

The WORD Bookstore‘s basement is a magical wonderland for writers who know when to go—essentially, anytime that The Greenpoint Writers Group (GWG) is meeting for workshops or giving a reading. This is a fun group, and they are taking applications…

The WORD welcomes the gathering of writers ©Ona Abelis

The 8 core writers of the GWG (Jonathan Herzog, Crispin Kott, Luke Ohlson, Danielle Pollack, Abby Ronner, Kate Weinberg, Laura Weinert-Kendt, & fearless leader Nathaniel Kressen) are laughing at something when I tiptoe down The WORD’s basement stairs. Everyone looks up at once and smiles. Someone offers me wine, and I scurry off, too intimidated to mingle. It’s 6:15 pm, and there’s 10-14 people, not nearly enough to fill all of the green, white, and black folding chairs. At the front of the room, a small platform is flanked by black curtains on either side, and boasts a lectern in the middle (no mic). And the writers? They are greeting both friends and strangers alike like old friends, and everyone is welcome to some wine. There’s an iPod playing tunes, and I start bobbing my head as a baby (a baby!) makes an appearance. This is not your Manhattan reading group. And as the basement fills up—from 14 to 25 to 35 to standing-room only and maybe even 40 people—it starts to get hot and loud. Then, the lights flash two times, and we begin.

Nathaniel Kressen takes the stage (He’s the one who offered me the wine, I think). Kressen introduces the GWG as “the resident writing collective of The WORD bookstore,” and outlines the tiers: Tier 1) a bi-weekly gathering open to all for workshopping, and Tier 2) the core group, which meets for 8 or 12 week ‘intensives’ that progress into a public reading at The WORD. The first reader up, Kate Weinberg, is enthusiastic and polished, and the audience quickly settles in. Her work has the hallmarks of a great shorty story—original, fluid scenes quilted carefully together & an underlying message—as she paints an image of a strange, small town populated only by cousins. The next seven writers have similarly impressive writing chops, and the audience is pleased, clapping enthusiastically and cheering. After all, it is a Saturday night in The Capital of the World, and we could be off, in Manhattan, crowding those writers’ readings…

Crispin Kott captivating the audience ©Ona Abelis

But Brooklyn holds its own, and in some ways (according to this reviewer) does better than its neighbor. No frills, no pretense, no cliquey discussions of M.F.A.’s from here-and-there. It’s a gathering of friends, and some of the writers have kids and parents in the audience.

Afterwards, everyone is invited to head down the street to drink with the writers at Broken Land, where I catch up with writer Laura Weinert-Kendt. “We have a good group of people,” she explains, “People are really committed, and each person gets close to an hour of feedback, which is quite a lot.” A young novelist slides into the booth to chat with us, and Weinert-Kendt takes the time to ask about her life and her work, and we all discuss the fledgling industry and the writers’ fight against Amazon. (Is self-publishing the way to go these days?) When Kressen joins us, the talk turns back to the GWG. Both writers speak highly of their GWG colleagues and the support that they’ve received over the summer. Three to four of their group “are finishing novels that we’ve worked on forever,” adds Weinert-Kendt. It’s intense, but encouraging to hear.

Then, as suddenly as it all began, the party breaks up at once and the young novelist and I are left staring at each other. “Good luck with your novels,” I say, and we both finish our drinks.

The Greenpoint Writers Group meets regularly in the basement of The WORD Bookstore (Twitter @wordbookstores) on 126 Franklin Street in Greenpoint.

Biweekly Meetings are open to all writers who wish to attend. Intensives operate 3x a year, are comprised of 8-12 weekly meetings, & culminate in public reading events called Local Organic. Intensives are restricted to a small group of GWG core members. Applications open for new core group membership at the start of each year (Jan 2015), with limited spots available. For more information, e-mail [email protected].

About Ona A

Ona Abelis is a Brooklyn poet & journalist. Follow her on Twitter & IG @obelis as she follows her dreams.

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