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Downtown residency brings authors to LV for a month

“I was expecting more of the glitz and glamour side of Vegas,” writer J.C. Hemphill says. It’s the day before he ships out, back to Virginia, his family, and real life, following a dreamy month he spent Downtown as the October fellow in a new program called Writing Downtown. Among other things, it provided him a studio apartment near Fremont Street and 10th — not exactly glitz and glamour central. But, he says, those thwarted expectations worked out just fine.

“Here, it’s definitely more real,” he says, heavy on the exposed urban grit that doesn’t comport with the city’s PR sizzle reel. “That’s been a little different. But I really like it. I’ve never lived in the heart of a big city.”

Writing Downtown is a partnership between Plympton, a nonprofit literary studio, and the Writer’s Block. Creatives spend a month here, free to focus on their work. (Funding comes from grants and private donors.) As part of the agreement, they engage in a public event at the Writer’s Block.

Diversity is built into the program. Hemphill writes genre fiction; September’s fellow, Jamel Brinkley, worked on a literary novel set in the South. November’s fellow, Jennifer Croft, translated Argentine, Polish and Russian poetry.

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What makes it dreamy? The chance to focus. “It’s been really productive,” Hemphill says. “I’ve never been able to be, I’m a writer, and my story’s the only thing going on in my life. That’s afforded me something that’s never been possible before.”

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