Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Interview with the Author of The Brooklyn Experience: The Ultimate Guide to Neighborhoods & Noshes, Culture & The Cutting Edge

Meet Ellen Freudenheim

1. What inspired you to write your book?  Curiosity!  In my experience—I’m an 8-times published author—the best books seek to answer a question. The Brooklyn Experience is 350-page guidebook, with a ton of practical information. But undergirding all the useful tips and neighborhood profiles I was also trying to answer the question: What’s happening not just in, but also to, Brooklyn?
Suddenly Brooklyn has a global profile; it’s the hippest place in the universe. So with all this buzz, can Brooklyn hold onto its soul, its moxie, and historically feisty attitude? Is gentrification Manhattanizing and whitewashing Brooklyn?  Will it keep its diversity? Describing Brooklyn is like putting two hands on an elephant. I interviewed dozens of movers and shakers, and visited dozens of neighborhoods.

The Brooklyn Experience is my 4th Brooklyn guidebook in 25 years. When my husband and I moved here from Manhattan, we had no clue where we were so we did some research, got interested, and ended up writing a book. Turns out, that was the first independent guidebook to Brooklyn since the end of World War II! I never set out to be a Brooklyn maven. But it’s true, life’s what happens when you’re making other plans, and I now have a body of work that provides a longitudinal view of Brooklyn, in print.

I was inspired to write the guidebook I myself would have wanted to read if I were exploring Brooklyn for the first time. It’s not glib. It has some depth, and scope.

2. What is it about? The Brooklyn Experience is a two-fer, two books rolled into one.

On one level, it’s a very practical guidebook to a place with an international brand and reputation. It features over 200 pages detailing interesting things to do and places to go in over 35 distinct Brooklyn neighborhoods. It offers an insider’s view of historical sites, great festivals, where to go kayaking and cycling and shopping, where to find vintage stuff and see cool street art, and of course where nosh your way through the Brooklyn culinary renaissance. Oh, and how to walk the Brooklyn Bridge.

On another level, the book also offers perspective. It delves into facets of old and new Brooklyn. Brief essays cover everything from the old Mafia to the new green revolution to Brooklyn traditions in literature, political activism, and the embrace of immigrant cultures.  
This book multitasks: it’s a resource for actual visitors but also armchair travelers.

3. What do you hope will be the everlasting thoughts for readers who finish your book? Ha! That’s easy!

“Man, I didn’t know there was that much history…fun…food…coastline, you name it, in Brooklyn!”

4. What advice do you have for writers? Oh, my advice is to…write! I mean, books don’t write themselves.  I have to laugh when people say, oh, you must write so easily. I don’t think any writer just peels off good work. It takes time, energy, attention, re-writing. Writing is just plain hard work. There’s a Yiddish word, “sitzsfleisch.” It means, screw yourself to your seat, sit yourself down, go to work, and persevere. So, keep at it.

5. Where do you think the book publishing industry is heading? I’d say that the publishing industry may be headed to … Brooklyn! Seriously, Brooklyn is home to New York’s most important public literary event, the Brooklyn Book Festival, held every September in Downtown Brooklyn. Brooklyn’s home to a zillion writers and literally dozens of indie publishers and leading indie bookstores. The industry has survived the first wave of challenges from e-books and portable devices; at least in Brooklyn, it’s headed toward the next really hot…bar.

6. What challenges did you have in writing your book? Time, choice, and calories were challenges. I had less than nine months to research and write a finished manuscript of over 100,000 words, because the publisher had production deadlines. That’s killer. I cancelled my life to get it done. As for choice, Brooklyn’s blossomed, so deciding what to include or not was, well, excruciating, because a lot of places are mom and pops, and I felt a kind of responsibility to them. Finally, I included dozens of pizzerias and hundreds of eateries in the book—and if you don’t think that adds up to a lot of calories, there’s bridge I’d like to sell ya’.

7. If people can only buy one book this month, why should it be yours? Three reasons. First, this book will lead you to many wonderful places you never knew existed, like Green-Wood Cemetery.  Second, Brooklyn is microcosmic. It’s a wildly diverse place –a place that spans both rich and poor, artists and bankers, ninth generation Americans and off-the-boat immigrants. People sort of coexist. It’s real, relatable and reflects so much of what is going on elsewhere in America.  Finally, you will get a bang for your buck. Why? Because my book includes a unique bibliography of seventy-five novels, all set in different Brooklyn neighborhoods, so my one humble volume leads readers to dozens more books…you can just keep reading about the characters, cultures, histories, struggles and opinions still emanating from this roiling place, which standing on its own would be America’s fourth largest city.

About the Author: ELLEN FREUDENHEIM is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn, and has published widely. She is the author of eight books including a 2004 award-winning guidebook to Brooklyn and over a thousand articles online to help visitors and residents find their way around the Big Apple’s hippest and most diverse borough. Her books include Queens: What to Do, Where to Go (and How Not to Get Lost) in New York’s Undiscovered Borough, and most significantly, Brooklyn: The Ultimate Guide to New York’s Most Happening Borough.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2016

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