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Reading Series Census: Rooftop Readings NYC

By on Saturday, September 5th, 2015 at 9:04 am

The New York City Reading Series Census is an ongoing project to catalogue the contemporary literary scene. Any reading series curator in the New York area can take the survey here.

What is the name of the series, and what is the significance or meaning of the series name?
Rooftop Readings NYC. It’s fairly simple and straightforward: readings on rooftops. But the name is more than a physical location — it’s also an idea. We see this as an experiment in re-appropriation of an underutilized space, where we can use the environment and the cityscapes to enhance the experience of attending literary readings. Independently, each activity is poetic and profound, offering equal escapes from a city of constants. Together, they equal an entirely new creation. How often are you able to stand on a rooftop and view the skyline of Manhattan? You’re listening to excellent writers read while watching the sun slip behind a city containing the best literary community in the world.

Who founded the series, and who runs it now?
Three nonfiction writers (from The New School): Artrit Bytyci, Demetri Raftopoulos, and Brett Rawson.

What genres or mediums does the series include?
We welcome any expression — (slam) poetry, storytelling, essays, short stories, memoirs, or otherwise. We search for creativity and try to pair together a lineup of readers that speak to each other. We have a microphone, projector, and coolers of beer. Multimedia and thirst can be accommodated. We also have the best pico projector, thus we can showcase various projects anywhere we want.

What is the format of the series?
The format is in constant flux, as everything about our readings are seasonal – the time, reader’s material, our outfits, and beverages. We announce each event ten days in advance, since that is the best weatherpeople can do. As for the event itself, we have two light readings before sunset and two dark readings after sunset. And in between, we have an intermission, as well as an inter-mission, while watching the city put on its make-up. Each reading is limited attendance, since rooftop safety is first, but beer-safety is second — we provide heavy drinks and light bites at no cost to our readers or listeners.

Where does the series take place?
The venue moves between different rooftops of NYC.

When and how often is the series performed (and is it seasonal)?
Monthly, and very seasonal (see above).

How long has the series been active?
This is the our first season. We hosted our inaugural reading in August 2015 and are looking forward to the September reading at the moment. The event filled up in three days, and we enjoyed the 60-person gathering and breaking view from a shipwreck-looking roof.

Where can people find information about series on the web?
On our website,, Twitter @rooftopreadings, Instagram @rooftopreadingsnyc, and our Facebook page

Do you take submissions, solicit material, or a combination?
A combination. For the inaugural reading, we reached out to our four readers. While it is an aboveground reading series, it is also an underground reading series — we rely on word of mouth to reach our readers and listeners, and so we also ask our readers to recommend others and rely on them to bring in new listeners. We welcome people to send us their material if they are interested in reading. We love getting to know new writers, readers, and thinkers.

Did you set out with specific goals when the series was launched and have they changed over time?
No. So, yes. We didn’t expect the first event to fill up in three days or to have 60 people on the first rooftop. We hope to learn a lot from our successes, but also even more from our failures. We are approaching it the way scientists view an experiment. This adds a level of uncertainty but also excitement. But we don’t think it can go severely wrong. So long as we have a rooftop, sunset, beers, and stories, we are happy.

What distinguishes the series from others?
That it is both an aboveground and underground series. We exist online, but we rely mostly on word-of-mouth. And the view and beverages are free of cost to everyone who attends. We want to provide more spaces that can serve as commons to our communities.

The next Rooftop Readings is scheduled for Monday, September 14th, 2015, weather permitting. Check for information regarding location, weather, and RSVP.



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