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Friday, August 31, 2012

New page in Salon history

A lot of you who follow this blog, I count as my friends - and as such, I want to take a little break from trying to inspire all writers who are parents and just sit back with a cup of coffee and thank you for everything you've ever done for me. You know who you are: I emailed or called you or you replied to a desperate Tweet or FB post and when you found me struggling to get my ass over whichever fence was currently in my way, you gave me either the shove or the swift kick in the rear to get me the rest of the way over. I'm being all facetious but that's my nature - so let me drop the eternal sarcasm and tell you seriously and with all warmth: thank you for not giving up on me.

Thanks to your belief, the Pen Parentis Literary Salons were picked up by Andaz. Starting on the Second Tuesday of September (which happens to land smack-dab on my least favorite day of the year, thanks to the fact that since 2001 I've lived one block from the madness) and going until May from 7pm -9pm, please join me at the Andaz. They have a spectacular bar and food menu - my favorite drink is the 'corpse-revivier' - and have been so welcoming and excited to host the Salons that I am shaking my head wondering why I never left the last million times they invited me.

For you, because you are so lovely, here's the messy story. Ready?

In late 2008, I was looking for a place to house a salon that Arlaina Tibensky and I were vaguely considering. We thought it would be inspiring to hear from a bunch of authors who had somehow managed to find time to write despite having little kids. I had date night with my husband at a "new Todd English" restaurant that had just opened nearby. It was overbooked, but the hostess was happy to let us eat "in the library"...one look at the floor-to-ceiling books and I knew Pen Parentis had found its home. It took a little negotiating to convince the GM of the place that we weren't a book club, but once he got the idea he was grudgingly interested in giving us a trial. We? Completely in love with our new space.

Once we had a location, we aimed higher: thought it would be great to hear from people who were able to actually manage to publish something great despite having kids. "Great" was loosely defined as: we liked it, or had heard of it and really wanted to read it. Luckily Arlaina and I have wonderfully divergent taste in books, so that she'd invite people I hadn't heard of and I suggested people she was wary of (our earliest meetings were fairly hilarious). What stunned us was the overwhelmingly positive response we got from everyone: even people like Jonathan Lethem, who we had tracked up to Maine where he has a secluded writing cabin, were intrigued by our idea. And others were positively gracious; Jennifer Egan and Deborah Copaken Kogan not only read for us but also gave us names of friends who had kids, who were also great writers. Arlaina and I were astonished by how many of the writers who were successful had a small tight community of other writer-parents to hang out with. Our salons mattered to people. Each time we'd present a pair of authors, at least one of them would tell us they ached for this sort of a group when their kids were really little.

Pen Parentis grew up around that idea. Building a community of writers that are parents has been a spectacular job - and social media has grown up with us, so that now we have not only this blog, but a Twitter feed (@PenParentis) and a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/penparentis) as well as our website. We just started a private LinkedIN group to allow for the kinds of intimate discussions that happen all the time at our salons -- if you or anyone you know is a writer with kids - please feel free to request membership! It's free and we'd love a huge active group!

Sorry - got off story!!  I was telling you about our move.  So over the years we learned that the location was a property that was used to train new managers. Over the three years, I met something in the line of seven restaurant managers, three events managers, four sales managers, and at least four GMs. Each time I called it seemed someone had moved on or was about to be replaced. It was a little exhausting to explain, over and over, that no, we were not a book club. Not even a "high-end" book club. But the library kept us. Brass railings, candles, and most importantly, books that someone lovingly chose - all of them were books a real human being might read. All the way to the ceiling.

Then this summer rolled around. We had our first community-wide children's lit festival. 175 people turned out. It was magic. I called up our space to make sure we were on track for September only to discover the whole restaurant had closed. The new GM was in the middle of ripping out the bookshelves. He told me I would be delighted with the results - it would be a lovely country Italian place. 

Like Harry's Italian across the street? I asked, or more like the expensive Italian around the corner?
He was ripping out the books. I felt justified in being a little bit mean.

But no hard feelings. I knew right where to go. The GM of Andaz Wall Street was constantly wondering if I was ready for a new location. I had always passionately loved his property: they brought in a farmers' market, opened an outdoor bier garden, their staff had always been so lovely to me. I loved going to Wall and Water to eat, it's by far one of the best restaurants downtown. The bar downstairs is sleek and spectacular. Really, all Andaz hotels are a vision, they just feel special the second you walk in. And how great was it to finally find a GM who loved the idea of hosting a series of literary salons. They showed me a lovely space with floor to ceiling windows - showed me where they would set up a bar. They were gracious and welcoming and excited to work with us to promote the event. It was a whole new partnership.

So now I share this excitement with you. We've worked hard to book gorgeous writers for this upcoming season. Our Fellowship winner, Sarah Gerkensmeyer is flying in from Fredonia to accept her award and read her winning story. September 11, 7pm -9pm - come to the second floor of 75 Wall Street (in the Andaz Hotel) and let us entertain you. You deserve it. You know you do.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry guys - this got reposted by accident -- but THANKS anyway to you. New post coming up today that's actually NEW!!

    xoxo

    ReplyDelete