Wednesday, March 27, 2024

This non-fiction reading series in the East Village turns 10 on Monday

Image via @missmanhattanny 

On Monday (April 1!), the Miss Manhattan Non-Fiction Reading Series turns 10.

Author-photographer Elyssa Maxx Goodman hosts and curates the monthly series at Niagara on the SE corner of Avenue A and Seventh Street.

Here, Goodman, author of Glitter and Concrete: A Cultural History of Drag in New York City, talks more about one of the few non-fiction-only readings in NYC... 

Why did you decide on non-fiction when launching the series? 

Non-fiction is just the genre I know best. I enjoy fiction and poetry, of course, but my heart is always with non-fiction. I also realized at other series I had been to around the city that there would be something like one non-fiction reader every third time or something like that, and I wanted to create more space in New York for work in the genre. 

At Miss Manhattan, I like to have all styles of non-fiction, too — memoir, essay, storytelling, humor, journalism, you name it, as many types of truth-telling as possible. 

What were your initial goals with the series? 

Since non-fiction is the kind of writing I do, I wanted space for it, and I also wanted to meet people working in it. I was very early in my freelancing career, maybe three years in, and I wanted to be able to engage with writers I might not have otherwise known. 

It was important to me, too, to create a place where good writing is just good writing, so I would have both emerging and established writers — you didn’t need to have a book out to read here, you just had to have great work. 

Lastly, I wanted an event that felt accessible, where the spirit matched my own — I’m a bubbly, sassy, outgoing person, and I think literature should be fun, a place to take the work seriously but not ourselves. I think it’s worked so far.

Did you ever envision this would be running for 10 years? 

I’m honestly always just so consumed with booking the event from month to month that it definitely crept up on me and has been creeping up on me for the last 10 years! 

As much fun as it always is to meet people, I just want to have a good show now. I want the readers to have fun, I want the audience to enjoy themselves, and I want to enjoy myself, too! If none of those things were happening I wouldn’t have wanted to continue. It’s always been a labor of love. 

What has made the back room of Niagara a good home for the readings? 

I love this space at Niagara because its East Village art and punk roots run deep. In the 1980s, it was A7, famously the site of New York’s hardcore scene — there’s a plaque in the back room detailing all the bands that played there; after that, it was King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, a site of experimental theatre. 

We get real cozy and the DIY energy is real. That I get to do my reading in a place like that is such a gift, not to mention the Yoshitomo Nara drawings on the walls of the bar. The staff has been so supportive throughout the years, and I’m grateful the reading continues to have a home there. 

What are a few of the 10-year highlights for you? 

I’m always looking for new, talented writers, and I’m proud of the times I was right about writers like T Kira Madden and Joel Kim Booster. I also love when really established writers come and have a blast. Joan Juliet Buck, the former editor-in-chief of French Vogue, came to read one night and was cheering everyone on from a seat on the banquette. 

What’s wonderful, too, is when people come to the reading as either writers or audience members and keep coming back. They bring their friends, want to read again, or even become friends! I met Naomi Extra that way. I read her work online and loved it, so I invited her to read, and now I’m proud to call her a friend. She’ll be reading at the anniversary, too! 

The greatest compliment is when people want to come back for any reason. I’m so glad they’ve found reasons for the last 10 years. Here’s to many more.


No comments: