Where Did the Words Go? Near the Water, at WORD

1. If these two had superpowers, Nika Stelman would become liquid and roll around, and Jason Medrano would not fly, but hover. 2. Marie-Helene Bertino negotiates a podium-free reading, “I promise there will be no audience participation.”

Prepositions are paramount. Monday’s outdoor event, Words by the Water, became Words near the Water when the sky fell, prompting us to take shelter in the underground reading room at WORD in Greenpoint to hear three women writers rock it: Katie Bellas, Marie-Helene Bertino and Fiona Maazel.

A roof over our heads was only one benefit. The other starts with “r” and ends with “é”. Kurt Cavanaugh of the Open Spaces Alliance, who started the reading series this summer, told one of the early birds, “the basement’s cool because you can legally drink here.” Early bird: Because it’s a basement? Kurt Cavanaugh: Because they’re not selling it and it’s not a park.

And so the (responsible) basement drinking commenced.

1. Katie Bellas is thinking about thinking about writing her first tweet. 2. Kianoosh Hashemzedeh, editor at The New Press, and essayist Melynda Fuller.

In Katie Bellas’ “Glissando”, when a couple faces financial ruin, the doorman takes note, “making judgments and then articulating them to the judged.” (Behold! I too possess this special skill.) Our male narrator knows that his doorman “is not ignorant of the knowledge that all corrupt men share of each other.” Bellas’ corrupt narrator concludes, “I’d known, even in the tapping of the note, what would happen.” Uh oh. (Read the full story here.)

1. Indomitable readers Marie-Helene Bertino, Katie Bellas and Fiona Maazel. 2. Tim Erwin, who teaches at Brooklyn College and edits for Electric Literature, Bellas, and her proud brother, Andrew Bellas.

Marie-Helene Bertino read from the perspective of an alien who faxes findings to her home planet, whose name “does not have an English equivalent. It sounds like a cricket hopping onto a plate of rice.” The alien gave us humans a fresh perspective. For instance, “When people are late, I assume they’re busy planning my surprise party.” Mental note: try this out. Sadly, things did not work out for the alien girl and her ex-boyfriend — he wasn’t fond of analogies. “He would ask me, ‘How was your day?’ And I would say, ‘If my day were a bug, I would crush it.’” Little worry, because her ex is no more. “He’s dead now. And by dead, I mean dating a stripper.”

1. Fiona Maazel foregoes self-deprecating remarks, “This excerpt is awesome!” Agreed. 2. Noelle Richardson just moved here from Delaware, and Time Out told her to come to WORD.

Fiona Maazel’s twenty-five year old character Anne-Janet “was on a cancer furlough and was making the most of it.” How so? Speed dating, of course. “She wanted to date, but without much exposure to men,” Problem, meet Solution. Meanwhile, Anne-Janet’s mother is in a hospital with staff reminiscent of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’s Nurse Ratched. Nontheless, it’s off to the speed-dating event for Anne-Janet, a place where “helixes spiraled from the ceiling with rainbow-colored pipe cleaners.” She meets a man who tells her, “Your face is like a song. Like ‘Take Five.’” Not too shabby.

Sad you missed it? Understandable. But not to fear: Words by the Water will be back next summer. And you can catch work by all three writers in Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading: here, here, and here.


— Erika Anderson [text and captions] moved to Brooklyn from Geneva, Switzerland. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts, contributes to Hunger Mountain and tweets for the Franklin Park Reading Series.

— Kai Twanmoh [photos] is a sometimes contributor to Electric Dish. You can find her here.

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