November 19, 2014

Writers’ group robbed at gunpoint


The Lark Cafe, via its website

The Lark Cafe, via its website

There are plenty of well-known dangers lurking in the world, feasting on writers. Dangers like unwelcome criticism. Internet harassment. Obscurity. Writer’s block. Heart issues brought on from too much sitting. Hand cramps. Paper cuts.

Here’s a new one: armed robbery.

At the LARK Cafe in Kensington, Brooklyn last week, a writers’ group was held at gunpoint. Each writer was told to hand over her computer, and many lost other personal possessions. The staff were threatened, too, and the robber’s face was covered, so the witnesses couldn’t share a physical description. The group was wrapping up their session around 10 PM.

The writers admitted the computers were less important than the work they contained:

We are writers, mothers, teachers and artists. The armed robbery at LARK on November 13th shook all of us deeply, although not necessarily in the way it has been portrayed in the media coverage. Many of us are native New Yorkers, so we know crime is part of our city’s fabric. We also know when economic times are hard, crime increases. Times are hard for many of us. This includes the man who robbed us, as well as the writers in the workshop. 

For many of the students in the class, the loss of our computers equals the loss not only of a material object, but the loss of an “office” directly tied to our livelihoods. For some of us, it meant the loss of unpublished manuscripts we had been working on for years. For others, it meant the loss of lesson plans, syllabi and photos of our families. The saddest part of course is the loss of a sense of safety in a place that has been our writing home since last Spring. 

The cafe’s owner, Kari Browne, initiated online crowdfunding to cover new computers for the people who were held up. Ditmas Park Corner reported that police coverage is being increased in District 70.

Just a quick reminder to back up your work right now, if you can.


Kirsten Reach is an editor at Melville House.