The (L)It Girl of Crown Heights

In March 2009, Penina Roth put together a reading at a new bar called Franklin Park in Crown Heights, where she’d lived for about ten years, featuring three of her close friends. “I thought it would just be a fun night for locals and my writer friends,” she told us. “But Franklin Park’s owners were impressed by the turnout—we had about 60 people—and the drink sales, so they asked me to turn it into a monthly event.” Roth (who, improbably—at least for the world of Brooklyn hipster lit—is an Orthodox Jew) broadened the author pool to include friends of friends (of friends); she promoted it with fliers around Crown Heights and surrounding neighborhoods, on internet message boards and blogs. “By our first anniversary,” she told us, “we were drawing people from all over the city who were interested in our lineups and didn’t mind traveling out to one of Brooklyn’s less glamorous neighborhoods.” Today, the monthly Franklin Park Reading Series is the borough’s premiere literary event, each month drawing big names (alumni include Colson Whitehead, Jennifer Egan, Rick Moody and Mary Gaitskill) as well as local authors (like Helen Phillips, Amy Sohn, Emma Straub and David Goodwillie) to read before crowds of 150 or more. “Writers appreciate our audience’s enthusiasm,” Roth told us. Second Mondays at Franklin Park, 618 St. John’s Place

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