Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Writer's Trip to NYC

Out of the blue I found myself preparing for a trip to New York (first time). Trying to be practical I decided to make a plan of things I can do to take full advantage of my trip. Soon, I noticed that aside from the many tourist stuff (museums) and not-so-tourist stuff (trapeze school) I can do there’s nothing publishing/writing related to do . . . I mean there are tours of NBC studios, NYSE and the Federal Reserve, but, understandably, nothing similar for any companies in publishing. There are lots of internships, but I can’t do anything like that. . . . So I thought I’d ask. I did manage to find some writing classes that will be taking place at various Borders stores, but if you or other agents/editors/writers who read your blog have any suggestions I’d really appreciate the input.

I honestly can’t think of anything like you describe. In other words, there are a lot of museum-type things—visiting famous writers' bars, for example—but I can’t think of publishing excursions where you learn about publishing. Although, I don’t know that a trip to NBC studios teaches you much about being a news anchor, either.

The thought of a trip to a publishing company makes me laugh. I imagine tour groups squeezing around piles of books and peering into editors’ offices, trying to see an editor around the stacks of paper on her desk. Trust me, a publishing office in reality is nothing like those you see on TV or in the movies.

Certainly there are classes available in NYC for writers, through NYU or other schools, but that’s probably not going to work for someone who is just taking a short trip. I’ll turn this over to my readers. Anyone have favorite literary trips in NYC, or elsewhere for that matter?



steeleweed said...

How long in NYC?
There are many places with associations to writers - Dylan Thomas & White Horse Tavern; Edna St. Vincent Millay's apartment in Greenwich Village; e.e. cummings place, etc.

WendyCinNYC said...

There's a literary pub crawl:

I've never been on it, but it does stop by a pub where my writing group meets. You can, at the very least, stop in for a game of pinball.

Joules Evans said...

Probably not the genre your reader was after, but a couple of summers ago our teenage son took us on a Spiderman tour of NYC. We saw Peter Parker's apt., ate pizza at the parlor where he got fired, the Daily Bugle building, he pointed buildings where he defeated Doc. Ock, and other bad guys, and the Empire State Bldg.... We did not carry a map. Our son created the walking tour from the comic books. And Xbox 360. One of the best literary tours I've ever been on.

Anonymous said...

A really good friend of mine edits a literary magazine in NYC and there are almost ALWAYS events going on for local poets and writers through his magazine.

Maybe your trip will correspond with one of these? I'm a writer myself, who dabbles in poetry, or maybe vice versa, but I know if I were closer to NYC (or planning a trip there) I would try hard to go to one of these: it seems like a great little tight-knit community.

Here is their info: "" - maybe this site will yeild more like communities in the Big Apple?

Good luck to you!

Yossi Mandel said...

Don't come here to learn about punctuation, style, or the old New Yorker headquarters.

Come to be inspired. Come to see life. Diverse, clannish, gritty, sparkling, straight, crooked, polish and perish, it's all here.

Ride the subways. Ride all the lines. To the end. During rush hour.

Walk Central Park. In the morning. All the way through.

Walk Broadway at showtimes. Then walk it at 3 am.

Jog along the rivers. Watch the traffic cops in action. Get in an argument which someone random. Talk about life with someone random. Someone immigrant, someone fifth generation, someone in a suit, someone without pants.

Don't go to a cosmopolitan city to sightsee. Go to wallow.

Kate Sheeran Swed said...

KGB Bar is a great place to visit for literary events, they have all kinds of readings and events, and it's not a touristy spot at ALL. Neat spot, too.

Here's their website:

Peg Cochran said...

Have a martini at the Algonquin Hotel and channel Dorothy Parker! There are also a number of cool mystery bookstores if that's up your alley.
Also try and click on Writing/NYC.

Anonymous said...

Is the Algonquin Hotel still open? Long ago, this was a haunt for some of America's most famous writers, such as Dorothy Parker, et al. When I made my first trip to NYC many moons ago, a writer-friend and I went there just to drink in the atmosphere and bask in its history.

I also think it would just be inspiring to find some good Brooklyn coffee shops and see where actual writers are hanging out and writing.

One last thing to visit is Washington Square by NYC. Many famous stories and novels were inspired by this locale--understandably.

Alexis Grant said...

Two ideas, both of which are more about inspiration than anything else:

1. Visit a few bookstores! There are the famous ones, like The Strand, but NYC also as some fabulous niche bookstores. For example, since I write travel, I visit Idlewild Books when I'm in town; they specialize in travel. Even stepping into a Barnes & Noble in NYC can be fun, since the store is probably six times larger than what you're used to.

2. Coffee shops. Find one, soak in the atmosphere, and write.

Have a great trip!

Anonymous said...

Is Janet Reid still giving those tours over at Fineprint?

Anonymous said...

yes, if you're a recently published author who hasn't met her/ his editor in person, there is:

- the swanky publishing lunch where you are asked, "What are you working on next?" That experience is educational in two ways: you realize all the queries in the world mean nothing if you're sitting across the table from a buyer (and your agent is on your right, encouraging the conversation), and that if you can sell, I mean really pitch a story, you can walk away from that lunch w/something close to a deal (and a mysterious five pounds.)

- after said lunch, there's an offer to tour of editorial offices, you'll be introduced to your copy editor, the publisher, the book club person, publicists, & a whole bunch of people you won't remember (but your agent will, and she'll tell you who they are so you can send thank you notes to all of them which you will because you're a pro.) This tour starts in your editor's office, and winds around through the offices. It's humbling, and a little strange: this place that's previously been a NYC address, far removed (it's on a high floor with a breathtaking view of the city, where you're looking exactly, who knows, but it's good), and filled with people staring at screens (presumably working on books) makes it all real in a surreal way. Nothing actually happens in front of you (in the way of Universal Studios pyrotechnics or dinosaurs leaping out of dark corners) but when the elevator doors shut, you realize you've learned something.

The agent's office is a whole other experience & probably preempts your lunch/editorial office tour. The agency is laid out funny, and is filled with books, some of them v. ancient looking, since this agency's been around since the dawn of publishing. You're introduced to your agent's colleagues (the film person, the translation person, an agent you've seen online) and are then ushered back to your agent's office where she takes calls, and then reaches for a coat, and off you go. On the subway ride to the lunch, you discuss what is what with your agent: what can I discuss, what can't I? She demurs, & you realize this is kind of like figure skating: she'll stand on the sidelines, but you're the principle, this is your moment to shine (or flop). The grumbling subway ride gives the experience your about to have - the most expensive lunch in your life, a vertigo inducing tour of the offices - a touch of reality. You're surrounded both by people who don't give a woot /rat's ass about publishing, and many who do because you look around and see, half the people in the subway car are reading: Books.

Kris Bock said...

You can do your own Literary Cocktail Tour. This could include the St. Regis Hotel, with the historic King Cole Bar -- mural by Maxfield Parrish, and Bemelman's Bar in the Carlyle Hotel, with every wall painted in murals by Ludwig Bemelman of the Madeline children's books fame (he did them to pay his rent). And then perhaps a stop at The Plaza, made famous by Eloise (another children's book series). The Round Table Room at the Algonquin Hotel was the stomping ground of Dorothy Parker, George S. Kaufman, Harold Ross and fellow literary lights in the 1920s.

Harold Underdown, author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books, gives guided walking tours of many interesting sites, with lots of historical anecdotes, but I'm not sure if they are regularly scheduled or specially arranged.

Mary Beth Bass said...

If you'll be in NYC on the first Monday of any month be sure to come to Lady Jane's Salon, NYC's landmark Romance Novel Reading Series at Madame X Bar. Mingle with writers, readers and industry pros.

And if you'll be in the city between now and May 22, 2011 don't miss the THE DIARY; THREE CENTURIES OF PRIVATE LIVES exhibit at the lovely and awesome Morgan Library. Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne, John Steinbeck, Charlotte Bronte and many more.

Anonymous said...

What an interesting question. I agree with the person who said "soak up the city." Walk around ethnic neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens and eat weird food. Make up stories about the people you see on the subway.

There are also some small historic museums that might be useful in your writing, depending on your subject matter -- I love the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side, where you get a guided tour through apartments re-created in the style of immigrant families in the 1880s, 1900s, 1920s.

Write Eat Repeat said...

I'm not sure when you're going, but check out Housing Works Bookstore Cafe. They often have amazing events lined up. Some book readings by AMAZING authors, music other times, you really should check it out. Here's the link:

Alison said...

You could always visit the Newseum in Washington, DC. It's not exactly the same as touring a book publishing house, but at least it's writing-related. ;)

The Novel Road said...

With regard to a place to go for a writer, try The Center for Fiction. Here is the website:

Melissa said...

The Chelsea Hotel, formerly a low-rent haven for not only writers but several famous musicians and Warhol factory stars.

Stephsco said...

Like Alexis mentioned, visit soem bookstores. I bet you could do a little poking around online first to find some unique ones, depending on your interests. I LOVE little used bookstores and cute niche bookshops. If I buy from a unique place, I always associate that place with the book.

NYC is so inspiring in general. I think it's interesting to think of a theme, but hopefully you don't get too bound by it. Simple things like the observation deck of the Empire State Building and Times Square are top tourist spots for a reason. Don't miss out on the essentials!

Anonymous said...

Fabulous thread! I hope you'll make it a sidebar link.

Kate Douglas said...

Yossi Mandel--you are so right! I'm a California girl, live in the mountains in a tiny, rural community. NY is like another planet to me, and Manhattan the most fascinating place of all. When I'm there I walk and inhale. A lot. The smells alone are amazing, and no one can explain it if they haven't experienced it.

If you're a romance author, Romance Writers of America will be holding their national conference in NY at the end of June. Info on their website at

And, fwiw, the first time I went to NY, I got to see my publisher's offices (Kensington Publishing)and what a trip THAT was. Editors really do sit behind piles of manuscripts that have fallen to the floor and scattered about, and their offices are filled with stacks of books and post it notes and stuff. Reminded me of my office here at home...

hillary said...

Definitely hit some of the great bookstores! The NY Public Library is amazing too, and worth an afternoon.

Find out if there are any readings going on...prose fiction, poetry, poetry slams, book signings, etc.

Not explicitly career-building, but potentially related:

Take advantage of the city's amazing museums and historical landmarks to do research for things you are writing or plan to write. Eat foods you don't have access to at home. Choose a few neighborhoods to explore on foot. Keep a travel journal.

Msb said...

Take the #1 train to Christopher Street and just walk West. I'd be surprised if you didn't meet a ghost or two.

Julia's Child said...

Get thee to a Moth event! The Moth ( holds incredible story slams. Many excellent novelists participate.
Also-- the S'nice coffee shop is filled with writers... you may bump into Malcolm Gladwell. But he'll probably be too busy cranking out his next best seller or New Yorker essay to look up.