Monthly Archives: June 2012

Thank you! + Make Music New York today + Concrete Justice tomorrow + Pugs and Beats on the weekend

Thank you all for making our first birthday so wonderful. We haven’t quite recovered yet(!) but will pass on a full report—photos, videos, and all—very soon. As for the Birthday Fund Drive, we fell a little short of our $10,000 goal, but not by much. A hearty, hearty thank you for all who donated, or otherwise contributed; we begin Year 2 on much sturdier footing thanks to you. And to anyone who still would like to donate, please do! Though our Birthday Fund Drive is over, the action at Word Up is far from over. 

Today, for instance, we are a venue for Make Music New York. The sidewalk in front of Word Up will be a stage from 1 to 9pm! The full schedule is below. All performances will be streamed live on

1:00 PM – 1:30 PM: John Whoever
2:00 PM – 2:30 PM: Charles Pape
2:30 PM – 3:00 PM: Alexa Dexa
3:00 PM – 3:30 PM: Malcolm Tent
3:30 PM – 4:00 PM: Michel Rae Driscoll
4:00 PM – 4:30 PM: P Wise
4:30 PM – 5:00 PM: Ultrabunny
5:00 PM – 5:30 PM: MC Maniphes
5:30 PM – 6:00 PM: Marvalous
6:00 PM – 6:30 PM: Carla Lynne Hall
6:30 PM – 7:00 PM: Abstract Artimus
7:00 PM – 7:30 PM: Poingly
7:30 PM – 8:00 PM: DJ Boy
8:00 PM – 8:30 PM: Dom P with Alvarez and Will Glass
8:30 PM – 9:00 PM: Schattenkabinett

Tomorrow, we have special guests Concrete Justice—a collective of homeless and formerly homeless artists in NYC—hosting our open mic, and then launching their own book, Street Poetry. Arrive at 6pm for the open mic, then stay to hear Concrete Justice read from their new collection, Street Poetry, starting at 7pmfollowed by a book signing and party! Free refreshments will be provided, and books will be available. Hosted by Theatre of the Oppressed NYC with Places for All and Fractious Press. Visit for more info.

We keep going through the weekend, with the fruits of two Word Up volunteers’ labors launching on Saturday.

On Saturday from 11am to 1pm, join Jen Monsen Leach for the book launch of Not Now, Ollie!—a children’s book about a wise Pug who teaches his busy owner a thing or two about making time for what’s important. Self-published as a Kickstarter project last December, Jen Monsen Leach raised over $5000 to produce this book. Featuring original illustrations, the book will appeal to kids and Pug people of all ages. Jen will also have her crafty creations from pennymadeit for sale.

Then Saturday from 6 to 9pm, join drummer/producer Will Glass for the second Alighting Records  release, a collection of improvised live hip hop entitled Beat Fields. In celebration, we’re hosting a multimedia showcase of Heights hip hop, featuring Will Glass on drums with Ben Abrams (keys, bass), DJ Ruffneck (turntables), and The Machine, Dom P and Alvarez (on guitar), Avalon the Dawn, and more. Video graffiti projections by Rickflicks. The evening will conclude with an open mic cipher—so MCs, bring your rhymes!


Word Up’s 1st Birthday Party TONIGHT!

It’s a bookstore

The week leading up to the opening of Word Up last year was a week that a lot of people thought we were crazy. As we posted a long time ago, this is what the space looked like when we first moved in:

Beginning of June 2011

Curewell just moved a few doors south.

We moved in the night of June 13. Then we came back at 4pm on June 14, in case anyone showed up, because that was the day we were originally going to open. Someone came by all right, 4pm on the dot: Marilyn from the New York Times. Then came Mike on behalf of the Manhattan Times, with Carla of DNAinfo. Everyone had camera in hand, but all we had at the time was a big empty space and piles of boxes and bags.

Photo credit: Mike Fitelson

It wasn’t till the next day when there was more interesting stuff to look at. . . .

Photo credit: Art by Dj Boy

The afternoon of June 15, Dister looked for inspiration in the books that had arrived from consignees. That evening, he and Feegz staked a claim, on the bookshop’s behalf, to the front wall.

As they painted the wall, people came in and asked us questions.
—A bookstore? A bookstore? Here? A bookstore?
—Don’t open a bookstore. You gotta open something HOT.
—A wha?
—Yeah, good luck with that.

These unsolicited comments led Dister to make the sign that many have since snapped photos of:

In the meantime, Abby Walthausen, whose poetry book The Internet is available at the shop, created the Word Up foil painting.

Foil on the left (where did my photos of foil-painting-in-progress go?)

Will, Robin, and others cleaned, and Vern processed consignment books. Alison made sure people were eating. Dj Boy ran around and took pictures, left the shop to take pictures of some other event, then returned to take more pictures. Neighbors—strangers—walked by, sat in our few chairs, and watched, and talked. Slowly it dawned on us that we should get their emails and phone numbers . . . to ask them to come back the next day to help. Some of them did, and have been helping out as Word Up collective members ever since.

On June 16, it was time to get serious about furniture. After all, the grand opening was to be June 17! With the help of Bob and Mino from People’s Theatre Project, we had selected some furniture from Materials for the Arts the previous week, but finding help for the pickup was proving difficult. In the end, Inju from Kaboom Press helped with some heavy lifting in Long Island City, and with guiding the goods into the Craigslisted truck.

One of the rolly cases didn’t quite fit inside the truck. If you think this looks precarious, imagine the feeling (and that nerve-racking bouncing) while sitting in shotgun riding on the bridges between boroughs.

Back at the shop, Sandy kept watch, then helped unload once we arrived. A whole load of neighbors showed up to move the furniture into place. People who came to put their books or art on consignment were set to work immediately! At the end of the night, though, there were still massive piles of boxes all over the place. But we did need to sleep . . .


To celebrate our anniversary, we have commemorated some of these early icons. If you donate at various levels, you can get a T-shirt or button, showing the rolly cases that we have pulled and pushed out with much effort day after day over the past year, signaling to all who walk past our storefront that there are books within.

Adult tees are available in XXS to XXL, in heather red, heather gray, and heather dark gray.

Kids’ sizes available in blue/red.

Buttons are good for all ages!











And we made magnets so that you can stick a bit of proof of our beginnings onto your fridge:

With Dister’s original lettering

Now that we’ve been here for almost a year, we’ve built up a whole new set of iconic images based on the people, books, and experiences that have comprised Word Up over the past year. We hope we’ll be able to unveil new things at next year’s anniversary, and all the ones beyond—because we plan to be around for those, unlike what we thought at this time last year, when we thought this was a 1-month project, a transitory activity, rather than a real, live manifestation of all our neighborhood has wanted for so long, and has worked toward building for a year, with real sweat and spirit.

Wednesday of the Birthday Fund Drive: Inwood, Bronx, Jersey, Commitment, Visibility, Pride

At our 7th event of our Birthday Fund Drive tonight, Personal Days, Desperate Nights, Ed Park, Jon Michaud, S. J. Rozan, and S. A. Solomon will be reading, and Uptown Collective editor in chief Led Black will be introducing the readers and moderating any talking afterward.

How did this reading come about? In some ways this started with the Led BlackJon Michaud connection. Jon Michaud’s novel, When Tito Loved Clara, is set in Inwood, so of course avid reader Led pounced on it, loved it, then made it the inaugural title in the Led Black Book Club. At one of the first meetings about Word Up, the writer of this blog post obtained a copy from Led. Besides screaming PAYSON! every time that beautiful little Inwood street was mentioned in the book, she couldn’t put the damn thing down.

Check it, Inwoodites!:
“We’re used to seeing such picaresque depictions of culture clashes from the point of view of the charming outsider . . . or the beleaguered inhabitant, who watches time march past (or over) his old bodega. But where Michaud differs is in his far more precise (and correct, for the record) depiction of the straddling of cultures by both kinds of inhabitants: the residents who’ve brought the farmer’s market to Inwood and the Dominicans who’ve brought moro to Oradell.”—Lizzie Skurnick, Barnes & Noble Review

“The delights of the novel are not only the rich inner lives of the characters but the vibrant descriptions of an oft-overlooked bit of New York, an area where the American experience is still very much the immigrant experience, where it’s difficult to say which culture—that of the old world or of the new—is the culture. It makes you want to hop the M100 uptown and check it out for yourself—with Jon’s book in tow, of course.”—Macy Halford, The New Yorker

But then, what next? There are shadowed corners of Inwood Hill Park that show themselves in When Tito Loved Clara, so that made us think of other shadowed corners of areas close by. Enter Akashic Books, the indie publisher with a large community-minded heart—whose tagline for Pete’s sake is “the reverse-gentrification of the literary world”—with their popular place-based Noir series, and soon we had S. J. Rozan, editor of Bronx Noir, and S. A. Solomon, contributor to New Jersey Noir, on the bill too. For Manhattanites who think those places are far away: the Bronx and Jersey are hardly more than 10 (traffic-free) minutes from any point uptown.

To round out tonight’s reading bill, we are honored to have Ed Park, author of the office romper Personal Days and its cousinly (but no longer) weekly newsletter The New-York Ghost, not to mention editor of a million things we like a lot. Ed doesn’t live all the way uptown but he has a secretly special place at Word Up all the same. Years ago, Ed was looking for a book for his dad, shopping at his local independent bookstore, and took a chance on an independently published book he thought looked interesting and had never heard of before. Turns out he liked it, wrote about it, and soon an indie publishing project (born in the Bronx and the Heights) that was facing a heartbreak future became a thing. A low-key thing, an under-the-radar thing. A thing that enjoyed the independent spirit in authors, publishers, bookstores, and heartily appreciated every time someone spent a moment with a book, or some form of bound and printed words, and decided to take a chance. It’s that final act of committing that can push an idea to the next level. And as this happens incrementally, over and over . . . you eventually get to a place where you’re co-supporting a 1000-square-foot bookshop and art space on Broadway full of unusual locally crafted and drafted items that are waiting for chances to be taken. You get Word Up! And all the other things in our neighborhoods that have the spirit of Word Up, whether you are uptown, or in the Bronx, or in JerseyBut, of course, we would be remiss not to reiterate that act of commitment. And because it’s our Birthday Fund Drive, we shall link back to where you too can make a commitment!


INTERMISSION: Another thing we would be remiss not to mention is that we are all here, reading or writing about this Birthday Fund Drive, because 1) we already know we like books and bookstores, and 2) we have the internet. This is not something that is a given. If you have grown up in a neighborhood without a bookstore, or with very few, and with few and crowded public library branches relative to the concentrated population of your neighborhood, how are you going to know if you like books? Word Up regularly sees teachers come by to buy books for their school libraries that are either understocked or in some kind of temporary holding and inaccessible to students. This happens. It doesn’t happen in all neighborhoods, but it does in some, and it’s in those neighborhoods that it’s important to have something as simple as books—and readers—visible on a regular basis. This is where Word Up comes in. This is why we are asking you to help us stay.


And, the night continues! A special event we are having at Word Up following the Ed, Jon, S. J., and S. A. reading is another installment of inQbator, the monthly Queer literature and cultures program in Washington Heights. inQbator is celebrating Pride Month with tonight’s program Color Me Queer, which will include the works of local Latina poet Yoseli Castillo Fuertes presenting her recent book of poetry De eso sí se habla / Of That, I Speak, the multimedia readings and presentation of Brooklyn based artist Michael Newtown, and the performance art piece, “Besame, Besame Mucho” by Hector Canonge, director of the film series CINEMAROSA. inQbator will be at 9:30pm tonight.

Yoseli Castillo Fuertes will read from her book De eso sí se habla / Of That, I Speak, a bilingual poetry collection that samples 20 years of writing. The book is an invitation to a meaningful talk, one that promotes change, reflection; a conversation that challenges all political, social, sexual and economic norms women are subjected to for being women. The poems talk about topics the Hispanic/Latin culture prefers to hide; therefore this book forces the reader to confront reality. Yoseli was born in the Dominican Republic and at 16 migrated to the United States. She is a bilingual-dominican-latina-lesbian poet-activist-teacher-aunt. Since August 2005 she has been organizing the Gay & Lesbian Bohemian Night, an LGBTQ Open Mic in Washington Heights. Her poems and short stories have appeared in various anthologies in New York, Madrid, Argentina and Santo Domingo.

Michael Newton was born and raised in Pennsylvania. He attended Bard College and currently lives in Brooklyn, NYC. He has worked as a barista, survey-taker, dishwasher, junk-yard assistant, farm hand, pipefitter, construction worker, receptionist, and journalist. He is now a tutor and a marketing-writer. As a performer Newton has tackled a variety of forms including: stand-up comedy, devised theater, experimental opera, shadow-puppetry, post-dramatic narrative, and film. As a performance poet Newton has appeared at Rehearsal, Putney Swope, and the Performers Forum. Newton’s poetry has appeared in Krispy Kreme magazine and he currently writes about transmedia technology and art for the website

Hector Canonge is an interdisciplinary artist whose work incorporates the use of New-media technologies, physical environments, cinematic and performative narratives. In his work he explores and treats issues related to construction of identity, gender roles, and the politics of migration. His performances mediate movement, endurance, and ritualistic processes as well as the interaction with the public. Canonge’s performance art work has been presented at Topaz Arts, Queens Museum of Art, Bronx Museum of Art, Flux Factory, Panoply Performance Laboratory, Surreal Estate, IATI, Crossing Art Gallery, Y Gallery, Cadwell College, Grace Exhibition Space, Vaudeville Park, recently at Northwestern’s Queergasm at Defibrillator (Chicago) among others. He organizes the seasonal performance art festival ITINERANT, is the director of the monthly film series CINEMAROSA, and runs the monthly artists’ series A-Lab Forum for his nonprofit arts organization QMAD, Queens Media Arts Development.

This time last year, we almost had the key to the store . . .

The morning of June 12 last year, a few of us got up way too early on a Sunday morning then drove through the Harriman fog to Pine Bush, New York.

Some people think 20 feet is not that long, but some of us are just not that tall.

There we picked up a 20-foot U-Haul and emptied out a garage that had been doubling as a warehouse. After arranging hundreds of boxes at the back of the truck, we brushed the dust off our bruised arms and began the trek back to NYC at dusk.

View from the garage emptied out in Pine Bush NY

The return trip was fraught with minor complications: we entered the GWB on the wrong level . . . we had to remember the details from our crash course on truck routes now that we were back in the city and needed to park in Lower Manhattan . . . we were forced to get a better handle on the width of our vehicle once those yellow taxis started swarming around Madison Square Garden . . . we had to find a lot that would take a 20-foot truck after hours . . . without going too much into detail on the numerous ways we almost ended up with various tickets and violations throughout the evening, we report that every single altercation ended in the most charmed way possible—as if the city wanted us to make sure we got this truck of books to the new, then-temporary home of Word Up the next day.

We were so hungry, Gabe ran out to get a hot dog, and I got behind some horses so that I’d have to drive slowly till he returned with two cooked dogs.

Then, the next morning on June 13, after unloading some of the boxes at one location in Lower Manhattan, we began the slow trip back uptown to stock Word Up. Of course it was right around rush hour.

We sat in a lot of traffic on the drive back uptown.

Because we wouldn’t be arriving uptown in the truck till well after business hours were up, we had to figure out how to obtain the key—so that we’d have somewhere to unload this truck full of books. Thus the first of the kind of tag-teaming that goes on at Word Up: Harol had the key and gave it to Diana, who met up with Robin, who passed it onto Gabe and Jacob and Vern, after we did a quick detour picking up furniture from Alison. That truck traveled the city before it got to 176 St. and Broadway; that key traveled the Heights before it got to 4157. But there we all finally were, at the same time, now with Will rolling in to help unload. In the dark. Because we didn’t yet have electricity. That late, late hour of June 13, we finally had a place we could enter; we just couldn’t see it, really. Didn’t stop Dj Boy from showing up that night with a camera. But no matter what, a grand opening date change was in order: originally set to open Word Up on June 14, that evening we pushed the opening till 3 days later—to June 17. Plenty of time to obtain electricity, furniture, more books, and more volunteers, right??


The events we have had so far during our Birthday Fund Drive have been a lot of fun, and full of a lot of love, so thank you for coming out. We had a great day of readings on Sunday and got a lot of folks outfitted in our new T-shirts. On Monday, The Cheese Guy and the Truck Farm gave us a lot to reflect on, and to be inspired by. Tuesday night, at No Name, the Eric Vetter-hosted comedic and storytelling series that has been running at Word Up since September 2011, the crowd got some respite from the rain and enjoyed stories from Tom Shillue, Leighann Lord, Marilyn Torres, Lee Alan Barrett, and Armando Batista, and more.

And: THERE ARE ANOTHER 4 DAYS OF BIRTHDAY EVENTS! We’ve almost been here for a full year, which was the last thing we thought would happen when we dragged ourselves out of bed the morning of that Pine Bush trip. So please come celebrate with us—and launch us all into Year 2 with the knowledge that you’ve made it real clear that you love books, that you want books, that you need books to spread through our community. Show up to our Birthday Fund Drive this week and help ensure that Word Up remains here, in our neighborhood, and built by you.