Longstanding business journalist Amy Haimerl’s resume includes roles as senior editor at Fortune Small Business, personal finance editor at money.cnn.com, and entrepreneurship editor at Crain’s Detroit Business. She also teaches entrepreneurship at Michigan State University. As a first-time author, she penned the buzzworthy Detroit Hustle: A Memoir of Love, Life and Home, a book chronicling how she and her husband were priced out of their Brooklyn neighborhood and decided to buy an abandoned house in Detroit. Today, the West Village-based multihyphenate merges her expertise with Shady Ladies Literary Society, an event series that pairs Detroit’s literature enthusiasts with emerging women authors. One thing she’s learned: “Launching and running a business is totally different than writing about it.”
Hour Detroit: How did the Shady Ladies Literary Society get its start?
Amy Haimerl: I was discovering how hard it is for emerging authors — especially women — to get their stories out there. Publishers aren’t really investing in book tours and bookstores can’t afford to fly [authors] in. Detroit also gets skipped over by the publishing world so we don’t get access to all of these great thinkers and stories. I was thinking of ways to support these authors [and introduce them] to Detroit so that they go back and tell their agent and their publisher and their friends about this beautiful, complicated city. I thought, “What if we could bring emerging women authors to Detroit and pair them with emerging women chefs and bartenders and host literary dinner parties in unique locations?” … Women have come out of the woodwork and told me that what they love about Shady Ladies is that it’s women empowering women. The books are important, that’s what draws us together. But the real binding idea is that, in a world that’s ever more polarized, coming together and sharing our stories over good food can bring us together — plus, cocktails. [Laughs]
What does an event look like?
An author, good food, and a unique location. We’ve also had amazing bartenders create a cocktail that tastes like the book, which is super fun. We started in Elmwood Cemetery … we’ve done a picnic at Bloody Run Creek, and we were at the Detroit Whiskey Factory. I own all the tables and chairs, I bring the linens, [all] the glasses. … I set it all up so, it’s about what I can manage, but [keeping it small] also creates a real intimacy where you can … get to know the author. One was at Detroit Foundation Hotel and that was our fanciest. There were 80 women talking and laughing and I thought, “If I don’t do anything else, I can look back on my life and feel proud for having built this.”
Who is a Shady Lady?
You have to be a debut or emerging woman author. By woman we mean, if you identify yourself as a woman, you’re welcome. If you’re a man who just believes in our mission, we welcome you to all of our events but you can’t be a Shady Ladies author. This is just for elevating emerging women authors … a voice that needs some elevation early in her career.
“Women have come out of the woodwork and told me that what they love about Shady Ladies is that it’s women empowering women.”
— Amy Haimerl
What was your experience promoting Detroit Hustle?
My publisher was extremely hands off once the book came out. Many other authors I’ve talked to have found the same situation: They are thrust, unexpectedly, into needing a media strategy to promote their book. I am lucky that I was media, so I at least had some people to call. I kept thinking about those who might not have the visibility yet have a wonderful book. Shady Ladies could give a handful of women something different: some fanfare, sisterhood, and support. And by including the book in the ticket price, the authors say they feel free to be more authentically themselves … rather than feeling like they have to be “on” and selling the entire evening.
Have you considered helping local authors promote their works?
I would be interested. Right now, I’d like to develop a Shady Ladies podcast, which wouldn’t be just about books but about sharing women’s stories from their work to their backstories. It would also be amazing to work with all the literary groups in the area to put together a Detroit book festival. We’d take part of the Shady Ladies ethos — it could be all emerging authors, not just women — and do a book festival that becomes a place you go in the publishing world to get to know the next big things. I want Detroiters to have the opportunity to look back and say, “I got to talk to her when she was just forming as a writer.”
Why is it important for you to merge culinary and literary talent?
I’ve always seen food as a mechanism for supporting entrepreneurial opportunity, for immigrant communities, for people of color. … Being able to work with some more grassroots chefs and food operations helps bring them to the light so that an audience that wouldn’t normally see them gets to support them as well.
In Her Library
Six women authors Amy Haimerl loves
[The] book [she co-wrote], When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir, will help women understand why Black Lives Matter had gotten started.
Tomi will be here for a Shady Ladies event in March. Her first novel Children of Blood and Bone, is a young adult fantasy novel that talks about class and power dynamics. It’s nice to see this young, powerful, black protagonist.
Zinzi [What We Lose] is just this delightful young woman [and] was at our event at Chene Park. It was amazing.
Most of us know the Time trilogy — the A Wrinkle in Time movie comes out this year! Her adult fiction is also fantastic.
If I could study anything, I would get a degree in Chicano/a literature. That love was sparked by Castillo’s So Far from God: A Novel. Her memoir, Black Dove: Mamá, Mi’jo, and Me, came out in 2016.
Her collection of essays, High Tide in Tucson, was the first time I discovered that form. It changed me as a writer.