As you sip on your coffee and order a pastry, the atmosphere buzzes with creativity. Writers are typing away at their novels in the Writers’ Studio and readers are gather in the reading room with noses in their current favorite book. The Center for Fiction recently opened its new location at 15 Lafayette Avenue in Downtown Brooklyn. “Brooklyn is a center for writers and literature,” Noreen Tomassi, executive director of The Center for Fiction, explains. “There are so many writers, there are so many independent presses that have their offices in Brooklyn. It’s just a lively, lively area for literature.”
The Center for Fiction, originally named The Mercantile Library, switched locations from Midtown Manhattan to the cultural hub near the Barclays Center that includes Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), BRIC, and more. Tomassi felt that the Center for Fiction would thrive best amongst the other cultural organizations in the area and longed to be part of that community.
Tomassi describes the new space as a second home for readers and writers in which they can develop a community of shared interests when they walk in the door. Influenced by houses of literature in European cities, the Center for Fiction hosts a bookstore, library, Writers’ Studio, café and more. “What I’m really most excited about is that we do many things all in one space. You can come here and have a coffee or a glass of wine, eat in the café, or be in our reading room to read and talk with friends over a drink,” Tomassi explains.
The new location’s 18,000 square foot space — four times the space of the previous location —is designed by Julie Nelson at BKSK Architects and allows for more workshops, classes, and seminars. The Center for Fiction’s new, innovative design aims to encourage more group discussions and places for members to meet with other readers and writers. Through an addition of both open and closed work spaces, the Center for Fiction hopes to achieve an increase in their workshops and seminars. Also unique to the new Brooklyn center is the 160-seat, state-of-the-art auditorium with high quality recording and streaming services. The auditorium will be used for author discussions dedicated to fiction, and events for children in kindergarten through twelfth grade.
The Center for Fiction offers unique programs such as, “A Novel Approach” in which members pay a fee to converse with a book therapist. Clients share their current state of what is going on in their lives, and receive a personalized list of books for the year based on what they would like to accomplish through their reading. For an extra free, you can get the books delivered to your door each month.
Other programs include the “Literarians” reading group that meets on Thursday afternoons, which is one of the longest running book clubs in New York City. The terrace will be opening shortly as the weather warms up, and is a perfect place to enjoy a drink and talk with friends. Tomassi emphasized the need for physical spaces in a digital age, “I think it’s important to have physical spaces where we can get together with people who share the same interests, not just online.”
The Center for Fiction organizes writing workshops with a wide range in genre. The center is renown for its Crime Fiction Academy, taught by authors such as Megan Abbott and Michael Connelly. Workshops are offered in other genres such as fantasy, sci-fi, horror, and for other writing skills. Tomassi explains that there is three times the space for workshops and classes than the Center’s previous location in Midtown.
A basic membership to the Center for Fiction starts at $150. Non members can use the café and buy books, but they do not have access to the reading room, the terrace, or the Writers’ Studio. All proceeds from books purchased at the Center for Fiction bookstore are donated to their KidsRead program that supports literacy for children in underprivileged parts of New York City. “There is a writing cliche, ‘Write the book you want to read,’ and for me this process has been ‘Create the place you want to be in,’” Tomassi said.
Next, check out the Top 10 Secrets of Downtown Brooklyn.