Meet Elisa Albert, Author of After Birth

ElisaAlbert200We sent out a survey asking the same eight questions to our speakers to help you get to know them better. Here’s Elisa Albert, who will be speaking at BinderCon on Saturday at the Great Hall at Cooper Union at 11:30 a.m. as part of the panel Mothers Writing Motherhood.

In a few sentences, who are you?

Author of The Book of Dahlia, How This Night is Different, and the soon to be published After Birth.  Only as good as whatever I’m working on.

Describe one moment, event, person, relationship or other thing that put you on the path to becoming a writer, or told you that this was going to be your career.

High school English teacher Mr. Bellon, college profs poet Mary Campbell and novelists Stephen McCauley and Jayne Anne Phillips.  Grad school mentors Binnie Kirshenbaum and David Gates.  All these people looked me in the eye and said some version of “You are for real.  Keep writing.”  And so I kept writing, with that precious sense of being artistically “parented”.  I needed that.  Their belief in me allowed me to indulge the possibility that I might consider believing in myself.

What’s essential for your work routine, ie. early morning start, some type of music, clean teeth, a looming deadline?

If only there were foolproof conditions.  Sometimes I need to stretch and breathe, sometimes I need to walk, sometimes I need to run.  Sometimes I need music loud, sometimes I need it soft.  Sometimes I need silence.  Sometimes I need a nap. Sometimes I need to read something I love.  Sometimes I need food or a drink.  Sometimes I need a break.  Sometimes I need to push myself harder.  Sometimes I need to go away for a few days.  Sometimes I need to fart around on social media.

After casting a glance at our program, who’s another speaker you’re excited to see at Out of the Binders and why?

I’m looking forward to hearing what my fellow panelists have to say; all are writers I admire.  I’m excited to soak up the energy in general; it’s an interesting movement and moment.

Why do you think this Out of the Binders conference needs to exist?

If we don’t take each other seriously and read each other’s work in earnest, how can we possibly complain about our fate/status in the larger literary community?  It’s incumbent upon us to simply have the conversations we want had, write what we want read, celebrate the work we want celebrated, raise our voices about what matters and why.

What’s one link, aka URL, you’d give to someone who wants to read or find out more about your work?


My friend, the artist Orli Auslander, did the drawings for my site.  I love her sensibility.  She’s working on a graphic memoir.  I can’t wait to read it.

Let’s get people to connect with you: what’s your Twitter handle/Facebook page/website?

twitter: @Eeeeelisaalbert

instagram: @elisatamar

Anything else?

Instagram is my favorite social media.  My breathing gets really shallow when I’m on twitter for any length of time.

I just read Anya Ulinich’s LENA FINKLE’S MAGIC BARREL in two days and didn’t want it to end.

Everything Jeanette Winterson says about writing/writers strikes me as dead right.  Her essay collection ART OBJECTS is a gift.


Speaker Survey: Meet Lisa Levy of Dead Critics

We sent out a survey of the same eight questions to our speakers to help you get to know them better. Here’s Lisa Levy, who will be speaking at BinderCon on Saturday at the Arthur L Carter Journalism Institute at NYU at 10 a.m., as part of the panel called Dear Reader, I Reviewed It

LisaLevy_200In a few sentences, who are you?

I am a book and cultural critic based in Brooklyn, and the Mystery/Noir editor at the LA Review of Books. Current and past preoccupations include psychoanalysis, pop culture, American intellectual history, genre studies (particularly of the essay), and, of course, noir and detective fiction.

Describe one moment, event, person, relationship or other thing that put you on the path to becoming a writer, or told you that this was going to be your career.

I got published in Highlights magazine when I was eight. It was a poem called “Orange,” which is still my favorite color.

What’s essential for your work routine, ie. early morning start, some type of music, clean teeth, a looming deadline?

I work best when I have a lot of projects going on at once: usually one long piece, a few short ones, some pitches brewing, and the constant treadmill of editing and assigning.

After casting a glance at our program, who’s another speaker you’re excited to see at Out of the Binders and why?

I’m excited to see Leslie Jamison, as I thought The Empathy Exams was great. I’m also interested in the practical stuff, like Laura Shin’s workshop on freelancing/not working for the man.

Why do you think this Out of the Binders conference needs to exist?

Gosh, so many reasons. I think women need to be reminded over and over again that self-promotion is not bragging, but is necessary to make a name and a life for oneself. I think women need to do more to be resources for each other and share our experiences as writers, general and specific. I showed my husband a post I wrote on a Binder asking for advice and the amazing response. He said, “Wow, when you take the men out you really get past the bullshit and straight to the good stuff.” That pretty much sums it up.

What’s one link, aka URL, you’d give to someone who wants to read or find out more about your work? 

One link, so hard! What a Sophie’s Choice. I’ll give it to this essay [From The Believer], which is a piece about Elizabeth Hardwick whom I passionately admire.

Let’s get people to connect with you: what’s your Twitter handle/Facebook page/website?

Twitter: @reallivecriticFacebook and website Dead Critics.

Anything else?

I cannot emphasize enough how much Binders has changed my attitude toward my career. I feel better about being a writer now than I have in years, and like the possibilities are infinite if you are willing to work hard and break down some doors (or knock very loudly). I’m grateful for and awed by this community of formidable women.

I also really like monkeys wearing clothes, so I highly recommend this blog.


Talking to Jenny Lumet

JennyLumet200Jenny Lumet captured our hearts with her first screenplay, Rachel Getting Married, which won the 2008 New York Film Critics Circle award. She’s been writing ever since, while also trying to level the playing field for other writers who happen to be women and minorities. We caught up with Lumet as she and five other moms hung out with their kids in a New York City playground, to talk about upending the status quo, her unceasing optimism, and her participation in the BinderCon Writing for TV and Film panel.

Out of the Binders: How does it feel to be universally loved by women everywhere as a result of your screenplay?

Jenny Lumet: I had absolutely no idea until you just said that! (laughs) I know that the movie did well and people liked it. And I’m glad I was able to reach people. The whole idea of Binders illustrates how women really want to connect over creative things and creative freedom. It’s such a wonderful way to connect without the burden of any kind of stridency.

Everybody’s so brave that I’m thrilled if Rachel Getting Married touched them.

You were originally a teacher?

Yes, I was the drama lady at a hippie school called Manhattan Country School. Everybody pays what they can afford and it’s based on the civil rights curriculum. They didn’t have a drama person, so I said, Well, I’d love to create a curriculum for you, but it has to be Shakespeare. Even though he’s dead, white, and a European male, I think he’s really important. Every year, for seven years, I did the eighth grade play and that still remains the most satisfying creative experience of my life. Except for the year with that fucking obnoxious kid who gave me a root canal [because] I was grinding my teeth so much! (laughs)

In 2011 you said: “I’m a woman of color in the middle of my life. I’m not supposed to be in Hollywood”. Sadly, the 2014 Hollywood Diversity Report from UCLA, which you’ve circulated, indicates nothing’s changed. The report concluded there’s still a disconnect: Though films and TV shows with racially and ethnically diverse casts make more money and get higher ratings than those without, minorities and women are still “woefully” underrepresented among creators, directors, and actors.

Yes, nothing’s changed for 50 years. It may be marginally better. My work involves a lot of white men, and I hear a lot of them complaining about how hard it is to get a movie made. I say, No, actually now it’s the same for you as it is for everybody else. Yes, it’s egregious. I’m not supposed to be here, and I’m not leaving, which is awesome. (laughs) It’s my job to be a pain in the ass. And I take my job as a pain in the ass very seriously!

Speaking of which, the work you’ve started on behalf of women and minorities at the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE), holding town halls meetings, is that part of being a pain?

Yeah! I believe in guilds and in unions. My dad [director Sidney Lumet] was a big guild and union guy. When there’s a minority issue, a female issue, people tend to throw programs [at it]. You know, we’re gonna create a program for five women writers to tell their stories. I’m not knocking those programs; I’m glad they exist. But one of the brilliant things Toni Morrison said was, a huge tenet of racism and misogyny and chauvinism is distraction: Prove your stories are worthy. So we all run around and prove our stories are worthy. Prove you’re funny women. So women run around proving they’re funny. Prove your movie will make money. So somebody makes a movie that makes $125 million. All the while, everybody else is going about their business. They’re distracting from the work, the only thing that matters. There are only two people of color on the WGAE council. So I thought, let’s create a diversity caucus. But if it’s gonna mean anything, we should listen before we decide what people need. People want to be heard, even if it’s just for a minute.

So BinderCon, what made you want to participate?

I believe in the power of a group of concerned citizens—it’s very American. It’s an incredible act of citizenry. Part of a nation’s legacy is its art and its creative force. What are we gonna leave behind? As an American citizen—straight up—what kind of country do I want to live in? I’m female, I’m of color. The only thing that I have on paper is the Constitution. That’s fucking it! So I believe in being the best citizen I can be. This group power and elevation of consciousness is revolutionary.

How do stay so positive? How do you see a way forward with a structure that’s seemingly dead-set on keeping the status quo?

Oh yeah, well fuck it!

A day at a time, an idea at a time, a word at a time…

Yeah, there’s nothing to be taken personally. The minute anybody starts taking this stuff personally…Yes, it’s sexist, yes it’s racist, so what else is new? No one is going to give me a job because I’m righteously indignant. I’m gonna just do my work and I’m gonna get another job. And I’m not gonna work unless you pay me. I’m optimistic because here I am in the middle of this life, in this world, in this country, and so is everybody else. And there’s dialogue and discourse. And fuck it! You wanna make it difficult? Then you wanna make it difficult; that’s nothing new. I just don’t care!

Can you say what you’re working on, what we’ll all be buying tickets for?

Since Rachel, I’ve worked steadily. I actually haven’t taken a vacation. There are two pilots and two features going on now. Oneof the features will probably get made, but I’m not done with the script yet. I have absolutely no idea what will happen. The job is in the writing. You do your work and you collect your paycheck and then you do your work again the next day. What gets produced and what gets made, I don’t have that much control over unless I’m raising the money myself. And I haven’t done that.

Thanks so much for your time. And be prepared for a SRO crowd at your BinderCon panel!

Wow, thank you. You have no idea—my life is about holding people’s gum!

Come see Jenny Lumet speak on Saturday October 11, at 3:30, as part of the Writing for Film and TV: Breaking In, Breaking Through panel at BinderCon.  Tickets are on sale through EventBrite.




BinderCon on the Cheap

Hello and welcome to the BinderCon blog, where we’ll be posting content from our organizers, speakers, scholars and volunteers about the conference but also the wider experience of being female or gender non-conforming in the writing world.

Today let’s talk logistics of attending our Out of the Binders conference. New York City is known for being expensive, and while many spend thousands on rent, food and going out, many more New Yorkers squeeze all the good out of this city on a tight budget.

Washington Square Park by Roey Ahram

Washington Square Park is close by and has plenty of space to hang out. Photo by Roey Ahram

Where to sleep (and shower and stuff)

If you’re a visitor, even better, you’re in luck: the most expensive thing about New York City is rent! When finding a place to stay, consider how far away it is from the conference but also other places you might want to visit, like Central Park or the bars of Williamsburg.

The conference is easily accessible by the A, B, C, D, E, F, M, 6, N or R trains – and that’s just the two closest stations. No matter where you stay, your best bet for cheap lodgings is Airbnb. Look for good reviews, consider traveling with someone if that makes you feel more comfortable, and I hate to say it, but: prepare for the worst. A very nice couple was recently unceremoniously tossed from an Airbnb listed apartment in my building because the wrong neighbor found them out in the lobby.

Technically, short-term rentals are not allowed by many apartment buildings’ rules, but there are literally hundreds of wifi-enabled private rooms or apartments available on BinderCon weekend for less than $100, so it’s worth a look.

If that’s not for you, for about the same price if you book soon, you can stay in a regular old hostel, in either a private or bunk room, at The Bowery House, a mere nine-minute walk away.

Where to eat (and take pictures of your food)

The following are recommendations are all BinderCon team-tested and approved!

Dos Toros Taqueria (Fourth Ave & 13th St.) (6 blocks from conference): Killer tacos, burritos, and quesadillas, including corn tortillas for GF folks. Seating is limited, but the park is a few blocks away for anyone who wants to take their tacos to go.

Fresco (Second Ave b/w St. Marks & 9th St.) (3 blocks from conference): Known for its fantastic gelato selection (rosewater and lemon basil, anyone?), this cute cafe also has delicious salads, sandwiches, pastries, and coffee.

Atlas Cafe (Second Ave near E. 4th St.) (3 blocks from conference): Beloved tiny East Village cafe that serves Moroccan-inspired vegan and non-vegan sandwiches, pasta, crepes, and more.

Mamoun’s (on St. Marks Place, almost at 2nd Ave.) (less than a block from conference): This was recommended a few times by fellow binders. Serving better quality falafel and kebabs and other traditional Middle Eastern food.

Eileen’s Special Cheesecake (17 Cleveland Place, b/w Spring and Kenmare) is a fifteen minute walk from the conference area and perfect for those with a sweet tooth.

Red Bamboo (West 4th St. b/w 6th Ave. and MacDougal): A cozy vegan brasserie popular with local students and Earth-loving types, Red Bamboo often has a lineup but is great for a catch-up dinner with friend or new conference mates, and will set you back around $20 for dinner.

Joe’s Pizza is $2 and is the epitome of a New York slice. Enough said.


Where to hang out

Bar 169 by Chris Goldberg:Flickr

Bar 169 by Chris Goldberg/Flickr

Since you’re already here, you might as well enjoy all that New York City has to offer; here are a few places you can hang out, have a drink, read a book or catch some culture for cheap.

Bluestockings is a volunteer-run trans-inclusive feminist bookstore and cafe open til 11 every night. They often have talks, readings or other events on the weekend, and it’s also a friendly space to just hang out and read a book.

MoMA’s Free Fridays is a perfect way to see art and do some serious New York City people-watching between 4 and 8 for completely free.

Triona’s is a no-frills sports bar that shows “all the good games” for football fans, according to our friend Mina from WAM!

As for bars, you can’t walk a minute without seeing one.  For a fancy cocktail try Death & Co. For a not-painfully hipster music bar try Cake Shop. For a weird New Orleans-themed locals bar go to Bar 169 – and if we missed your favorite, let us know on Twitter or Facebook.