September 30, 2014
Williamsburg dive bar is home to mostly-secret writer’s workshop/literary social club/email list
by Rachel Smitley
Walk into a dive bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn on any given Sunday and I bet you aren’t expecting to find a group of men and women, from all walks of life, quietly reading with their beers in front of them and their pens in their hands. But walk in to The Plank around 5:00pm on a Sunday evening and you’ll be walking into a meeting of the mostly-secret (or at least mostly secret until it was covered by The New York Times) writers club/literary social club/email list called “Literate Sunday.”
Literate Sunday is the creation of the Plank’s 37-year-old bartender, Matthew D’Abate and has become an elite event for those in the know (or those who check the Plank’s website and find this description). Each week writers from all over (but mostly New York), submit their short stories to the Literate Sunday email address [email protected] hoping to be chosen for that week’s Literate Sunday. D’Abate reads, prints and distributes the stories to “members” of the club for comments and feedback. He distributes 5 different stories during his shift at the Plank for interested patrons, and then sends one of the five stories via email to the list of 500 names that he has accumulated over the past few years.
The best part of Literate Sunday, apart from the bar’s self-proclaimed “Best Bloody Marys Ever,” is that all of the short stories are anonymous. Readers have no idea where each story came from and they have every possibility of holding a new, unknown author’s story in one hand and a well known, New York Times bestseller’s in the other (yes, D’Abate claims that some “famous” authors have been known to submit stories to Literate Sunday as well. Doesn’t seem like he’s too interested in revealing their names however, so I wouldn’t even ask).
“The point of Literate Sunday is to remove, if not subvert, the idea of fame, removing the ego and the names from the pieces so the stories may speak for themselves,” said D’Abate in an email he wrote to his list subscribers recently (see, I told you he didn’t seem interested in telling names). The idea for Literate Sunday originally came from a group of friends who wanted to share their writing anonymously and started the project for themselves in order to achieve that goal.
D’Abate says that his interest in the anonymity factor stemmed from the way that fiction was taught in academic settings, and the extreme emphasis that was put on the writer’s background and status. By taking off the names he is allowing readers to read the story for what it is, rather than what they’re expecting it to be. Anonymity is a rare thing these days since making a name for yourself on every available social media platform has become such a priority, so D’Abates strict no name policy is the most important aspect of the whole thing, and is surprisingly welcomed by both the writers and readers alike.
So, if you’re ever walking down Bedford Avenue on a Sunday evening and have a hankering for a beverage and some short stories, you could stop in at the Plank and take part in Brooklyn’s mostly-secret writers workshop/literary social club/email list event. Oh, and drink one of the Best Bloody Marys Ever, obviously.