Nicki Pombier Berger is just a cool, talented writer. A few times, she gave me and Myla Goldberg a lift to Bed-Stuy Brooklyn after we had all been working hard in Myla’s Novel Workshop, which is where I was first stunned by Nicki’s work. I thought Nicki innovative and gifted, complicated, and a joy to work with. She was hip and smart and when I heard she was gracing Fictionaut with her awesome presence, I couldn’t have been more excited. I think she still has my copy of Janet Fitch’s more recent novel, Paint It Black, which reminded me of the mystery within Nicki’s work. Atmospheric and rocking, this writer, and universally likeable. She is a moderator at the Underwater New York group along with another MFA colleague of ours, also who also has same name as us, Nicole Haroutunian, whom I also remember as a fantastic writer and editor and voice within our program. I decided because the crew is avant-garde and this interview is running on the 1st of the year, to ask the crew just 1 question.
Q (Nicolle Elizabeth for Fictionaut): What is Underwater New York?
Underwater New York is an online collection of stories, art and music inspired by objects found underwater in and around NYC. Myself and my co-editors, Helen Georgas and Nicole Haroutunian, met in the MFA Writing program at Sarah Lawrence. Last spring, around the time I was graduating, I read an article by Chris Bonanos in New York Magazine that itemized all this crazy evocative stuff under the waters around our city. I couldn’t stop thinking about how fun it would be to imagine stories behind things like a Formica Dinette standing upright at the bottom of the East River around 16th St, and the grand piano dredged from the harbor, and the dead giraffe found by the Army Corps of Engineers, and the fleet of Good Humor ice cream trucks that comprise an artificial reef off Rockaway Beach. I sent the article to a bunch of my writer friends and invited them to imagine stories, and what began as that fun summer writing project grew when I saw how enthusiastic people were about the idea. Nicole and Helen came on board, and when we connected with Adrian Kinloch, our designer and photographer extraordinaire, together we built out a vision for a website that could house diverse creative content – art, stories, music – inspired by underwater objects. We launched the project this October with a party on board The Frying Pan, a lightship that was once underwater itself and is now a rusty, barnacled party boat docked in the Hudson River. We’re planning future events as well – next up is Underwater New York at Free Music Friday at the American Folk Art Museum, March 5 – and we hope to lead excursions to explore our city’s edges, as we did with a recent trip to Dead Horse Bay, a beach littered with early 20th century toys and bottles and other once-underwater detritus. We take story submissions in any medium and any genre on a rolling basis, and our list of objects is always growing, as is our list of contributors. I think people are really taken by this notion that castaway objects have some value: as signifiers or symbols, or artifacts of some lost moment, individual or historical, or simply ways into a story waiting to be told. It’s been very exciting to see the creative work that has come of this project so far, and we’re hoping with our Fictionaut group to inspire even more great fiction!

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    […] Fictionaut talks to Nicki Pombier Berger from Underwater New York. […]

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