IT’S ALIIIIVE!: A Night With Brooklyn Indie Lit Mags at powerHouse Arena

1. Empty pews waiting for their parishioners. 2. The gang’s all here! From left to right: Tin House, Electric Literature, Slice, Council of Literary Magazines and Presses, Moonshot, SET, A Public Space.

Wednesday night saw a good argument that New York’s newest generation of literati has moved to Brooklyn. A Night With Brooklyn Indie Lit Mags, hosted by powerHouse Arena in Dumbo, brought together the editors of Electric Literature, Slice, Moonshot, SET, Tin House, and A Public Space, to discuss the life of literary magazines in New York City’s most populous borough.

Jamie Schwartz, managing director of the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses, moderated the event. The six editors, representing Brooklyn’s finest independent literary magazines, faced an attentive audience seated in pews or on the steps of powerHouse’s mini-amphitheater.

The editors introduced themselves and their magazines before Schwartz led them in a discussion that covered topics such as the economics of magazine publishing, building a readership, and the rise of the digital publishing.

1. Brigid Hughes describes founding A Public Space at a time when “the death of fiction was being declared.” 2. When asked how he managed his “labor of love,” JD Scott of Moonshot explained, “I don’t sleep anymore.”

A Q&A followed, raising practical questions about how to locate start-up funds. Brigid Hughes, founding editor of A Public Space, a nonprofit magazine of “art and argument, fact and fiction,” emphasized the role of national and state art grants. Celia Johnson, editor of Slice, agreed, adding that she and co-editor Maria Gagliano raised money with bake sales and house parties in their Brooklyn apartment which, she admitted, “I’m sure were illegal.” Both JD Scott of Moonshot and Halimah Marcus of Electric Literature praised Kickstarter, an online funding platform, for its role in generating money for their respective magazines.

Audience members also asked about the significance of digital publishing, and the panel offered a range of positions along the digital spectrum. Marcus discussed Electric Literature’s success after doing the unthinkable: replacing its print journal with Recommended Reading, a free magazine available weekly on Tumblr. Hughes honored the magazine’s initiative, stating, “What Electric Literature did was brilliant.”

1. powerHouse Arena’s one decoration: a giant pinecone chandelier! 2. Tom Watters, an MFA student at Brooklyn College; Judson Merrill, author and frequent contributor to The Outlet; and Anish, who was taken to powerHouse on her first visit to the United States. (She’ll be disappointed to learn that this isn’t representative.)

David James Miller, editor of the experimental poetry magazine SET, suggested that offering his journal as a free PDF download allowed him to curate more interesting selections without thinking about a “bottom line.”

Emma Komlos-Hrobsky, editorial assistant at Tin House, explained that that magazine offered limited free content online. Johnson and Scott stated that their magazines were catching up in the digital realm. Scott in particular saw the internet as an opportunity to showcase Moonshot’s emphasis on graphics, comics, and alternative narratives.

The evening offered each magazine the opportunity to display its personality. Yet what united Tin House’s emphasis on “voice-driven” narrative and Moonshot’s interest in diverse forms was what Johnson described as an effort to “bridge the gap between emerging writers and the publishing world.”

This focus resonated with the audience, whose rapt attention and intense note-taking revealed their interest in learning from the panelists. “There are five people writing this event up,” my friend Robert turned and said to me. “No. Actually, it’s nine.”


— Sam Gold is an OBIE-winning theater director. His latest work is Seminar.

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