Ever wonder what your writer friends get up to in their spare time? Do you have some old journal entries or essays collecting dust in a drawer you’ve always secretly wanted to share with the public eye? If so, The Silent Barn could have just the thing for you. TFW is a new monthly reading series co-curated by writers Gabriela Tully Claymore, 22, and Nina Mashurova, 26, that celebrates and welcomes material untried and unexpected: journalists reading their poetry, musicians reading their essays, and so on.
Both of TFW’s curators write predominantly music-centric cultural criticism (Gabriela is an assistant editor at Stereogum and Nina has edited for Impose Mag and written for outlets like Pitchfork). They have both consistently written poetry or prose for years, but found their professional identity as writers could sometimes make it difficult to share that work.
“When you’re working all the time or freelance hustling and trying to get paid, it’s hard to find motivation to do the creative work you want to do,” says Gabriela. “And some people have that outlet in music or whatever, but what if writing is pretty much all you’re invested in? How do you have a driving force that makes you want to do these things? I’m an editor, and when someone pitches a story we’re always looking for a reason why this is a relevant thing. There are so many culture writers who can write [something] like, about how some album helped them get through a breakup that’s never going to get published anywhere. So there’s so much stuff that goes nowhere, or it goes on Tumblr and a bunch of music or culture writers read it but no one else knows it exists.”
Not only that, but the literary and poetry scenes could seem inaccessible for a writer who writes poetry but does not consider themselves predominantly a poet. “I used to intern for this one reading series, and everyone there had, like, an MFA from the New School or something. And everyone was amazing, but everyone’s bio is like, they’ve published seven chapbooks and went to Yale and did a residency,” says Nina. “It’s really intimidating to jump in and read, even expressing wanting to read at a thing like that feels really alienating.”
“I guess if you’re not making a chapbook or super advertising your things, it’s really hard,” adds Gabriela.
They had both entertained the idea of doing a reading series of sorts for a while, and when they realized the Barn had some free space, they jumped on it as a quasi New Years resolution. They decided on TFW for a name (for the internet newbie, it stands for “that feeling when…”) because they wanted to bring the online writing community to an IRL space where they could share work without it being immortalized on the web, as well as encourage material more grounded in emotions than clickbait.
“With this, it’s a DIY ethos,” Nina said. “I’ve seen people play shows [here] where it’s their first time drumming. I feel like people want to share [writing] work but maybe don’t feel comfortable jumping into something where it feels like there’s a bigger barrier to entry. [But] we have this big list of readers. People are hyped.”
The Bushwick DIY space as their choice of venue was no coincidence; both have lived there in the past, and Nina currently books shows there. Despite their main identity as writers, both are largely involved in the DIY music scene and met because they frequently attended the same shows.
Their friendship has also paved the way for a fruitful collaboration; TFW held its third reading this past Wednesday, with the “spring vibes” theme “tfw u almost resurrected.” The vibes were indeed nice and mellow, and the crowd was plentiful. After a bout of socializing time, the readings began.
Firstly, there was Barn resident and event coordinator Megan Manowitz reading humorous yet quaintly touching poetry, Rolling Stone staff writer Brittany Spanos reading a school essay from 2011 about her grandmother and the films they would watch together, and LA-raised music writer Collin Robinson delivering smooth flow about formulating one’s identity. After a brief intermission for writers and spectators alike to meet and mingle, curator and Mask Magazine writer Ruby Brunton dramatically read a series of “tragic poems” paired with self-aware life advice, some consisting of her own tweets. Lastly, there was musician, poet, and songwriter Amy Klein, delicately delivering verse about love and the violence of America. Nina and Gabriela shared their own work, as well. True to TFW’s mission, it was a nice variety of work from an interesting array of creators, and the audience generally gave all readers generous attention.
Though much of the crowd there looked like your typical Barn showgoer, Nina and Gabriela tell me they’ve had plenty of first-timers and and folks from other art scenes. I spoke to some people there from Long Island who rarely venture to Brooklyn and had never been to the Silent Barn before.
“New York is a big, much-happening, lonely-making kind of place if you don’t have a grounding space,” Gabriela says. “I feel like Silent Barn is that place for me, and bringing more people into these spaces is cool.”
“There’s a good energy,” says Nina. “I think we might’ve accidentally latched onto something that people wanted and didn’t know they wanted.”
“It’s still an evolving project,” Gabriela adds. “But it’s cool to have an event where afterwards people are like, ‘How do I do this reading?’ Just come to the thing and say hi. That’s the whole point.”
To find out info on when the next TFW event is, like them on Facebook.