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Itty Bitty Bookstore Carves Out Space for Crown Heights Writers

By Sonja Sharp | September 24, 2013 8:55am
 Hullabaloo's Kickstarter campaign gives supporters a chance to have their name immortalized by a local novelist, among other artsy incentives. 
Little Zelda's Michael de Zayas Launches Kickstarter for New Bookstore
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CROWN HEIGHTS — Reality writes.

Crown Heights' booming literary scene is about to get real with Brooklyn readers, as itty-bitty new Franklin Avenue bookstore Hullabaloo gears up to host what may be the borough's only nonfiction reading series.

"It's a nonfiction reading series, but I’m keeping it pretty open in terms of what that means," said Shelf Life Reading Series founder Becca Worby, 27, which kicks off Oct. 1. "I have a dream team list [of writers] I’ve been pulling from."

With one of the borough's biggest monthly book events and a deep bench of young writers, Crown Heights is already among literary Brooklyn's most prominent neighborhoods. Crowds of local bookworms pack Franklin Park for the bar's popular monthly reading series, while the upstart Renegade Reading Series has earned a devoted following in its two years on the block.

"Writing is so solitary that I think having a lot of readings and a lot of literary events is...a way to be social while still being involved in literature," Worby said. "I work in coffee shops a lot, and there’s a lot of writers around — you walk in and you’re part of an army of MacBook Pros. It's humbling and great to think we're all really trying to do this."

But while Manhattan writers have begun to rally around creative nonfiction, Worby said Shelf Life is among the first such series to arrive across the bridge.

"In Manhattan you’ve got Big Umbrella, a nonfiction reading series that's been around for about six months," Worby said. "There’s another called Freerange Nonfiction [in Manhattan], but I don’t know of another nonfiction series in Brooklyn, so I'm excited about making that happen."

Hullabaloo, too, hopes to bring something unique to the local literary scene.

"It’s tiny, it’s affordable, it’s doable," owner Michael de Zayas said of the store, the latest of several pint-sized ventures he and his wife have started in the neighborhood.

"I plan to be there myself full time, because I want to be surrounded by books and literature and ideas and meet people who are interested in conversations about books," de Zayas said.

De Zayas said he hopes his 250-square-foot bookstore will become a hub for Crown Heights writers.

"Crown Heights is really chock-full of writers and artists and there’s not a place for them right now," de Zayas said. "This bookstore will hopefully be a home for writers and artists who surface in this neighborhood."