I MET NITA several years ago when working with the Peace Corps Fund. She was writing then and just beginning her successful Sunday Salon held at Stain, a bar in Brooklyn, NY. A great organizer, she has been all writers in the New York region, and has certainly helped RPCV writers, inviting them to read and discuss their work. Finally I caught up with Nita to ask her about her writing and her salon.
You grew up where, Nita?
I grew up in Ketchikan, Alaska. I went to Whitman College in eastern Washington where I majored in French language and literature.
And you were in West Africa as a PCV?
Yes, I was a PCV in a French-speaking village in Cameroon where I taught English as a Foreign Language to middle and high school students. I was there from 1988 to 1990.
What happened after the Peace Corps?
After the Peace Corps, I spent a year decompressing back home in Ketchikan. Then I moved to Seattle for another year before attending graduate school in New York. I graduated from Teachers College, Columbia University in 1995 and got a degree in TESOL and taught in the New York City public school system for over nine years.
Have you published much writing?
Much? I’d say not much, but I’ve been published in a teachers’ anthology, the National Peace Corps Association magazine WorldView, and a webzine (www.ducts.org). I’m still working on a collection of related nonfiction pieces, sending out to literary magazines, and receiving a healthy amount of rejection letters. Did I say healthy? I mean ridiculous amount.
When did you start Sunday Salon?
I started Sunday Salon in 2002, the summer after I received my MFA in Creative Nonfiction from The New School. One of my instructors, the poet and essayist Honor Moore suggested I start a reading series when I asked her what I should do next (that is, besides to continue writing). As the series took off, I realized how important it was for me as a writer working in isolation to have a community to connect to on a monthly basis.
How does it work?
Writers submit to us on-line or are recommended to us by other writers (or literary folks), and if we like their work, they read at the Salon.
What well known writers have read at the Salon?
Some well-known writers who’ve read at Sunday Salon are Alison Smith (Name All the Animals), Jonathan Dee (The Lover of History), David Gates (Jernigan), and David Treuer (The Translation of Dr. Appelles).
One of the latest developments of Sunday Salon (now in it’s fifth year!) is our newest “sister series” in Nairobi, Kenya, which started after I connected with some literary enthusiasts during my participation in the Summer Literary Seminars in Nairobi in December 2006. There’s also a Sunday Salon in Chicago and you can check to see who’s reading on our new and nifty website SundaySalon.com. We’ve started a webzine, so keep an eye out for some excellent writing.
How does an evening work at the Salon?
The evening readings go like this. Four writers read their prose for about 15 minutes each with a short intermission between the first two readers. Occasionally, we’ll have a musician open up and/or play during the intermission. Stain has a casual, cool atmosphere that displays artists’ original work on the walls and that changes monthly, and Krista Madsen, the bar owner and fellow writer, serves all New York wines and beers.
Tell us more about SundaySalon.com?
Well, we’ve got a whole new look thanks to my talented bro-in-law web designer, which includes the blog and interview section as well as the new webzine. You can see who’s read at the Salon and who’ll be reading and check out everyone’s bios. There’s also a photo gallery of Salons and writers. And, there’s a link to our sister Salons in Chicago and Nairobi.
What is your “day job”?
I’m a curriculum consultant for the Student Press Initiative (SPI) out of Teachers College, which promotes student publication. Basically, I support teachers and their students in the writing process and by the end of the year, their work is published in a book. As a writer and educator, I think it’s a dream job!
Finally, the specifics about Sunday Salon?
Every third Sunday of the month; 7 p.m.; Stain Bar, 766 Grand St. in Williamsburg, Brooklyn 718.387.7840.