The Shady Ladies Literary Society is not your average book club. Combining cocktails and novels, the literary events in Detroit amplify the voices of women authors.
By Amber Ogden
Amy Haimerl is giving the word “shady” a whole new meaning with her Shady Ladies Literary Society. With rotating locations, food prepared by Detroit chefs and signature cocktails at every event, this is not your traditional book club.
Each Shady Ladies event is different from the last. The first in June 2017 kicked off in Detroit’s Elmwood Cemetery with a picnic dinner on the grassy knolls of the grounds. The March event took place at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit and featured Tomi Adeyemi, author of “Children of Blood and Bone.” (Haimerl invites an emerging woman author to each event.) Each guest enjoyed a four-course meal by chef Ederique Goudia of Gabriel Hall restaurant and the signature Shady Ladies drink of the night created by Cafe 78 in Detroit.
It was the second Shady Ladies event Bloomfield Hills resident Joscelyn Davis, 52, had attended. “I have a real passion for women working with women, helping women and supporting women,” Davis says. “When I found out that this was designed to support women writers and women readers, I thought, ‘Yeah, this is something I want to be a part of.’ ”
SEEN sat down with Haimerl, a 42-year-old Detroit resident, author and Michigan State University professor, to talk about what it means to be shady and why Detroit needs a Shady Ladies Literary Society.
How did you come up with the idea and create the Shady Ladies book club?
AH: It really came from my experience publishing “Detroit Hustle.” That was my first book, and I discovered that my publisher was not involved after my book came out. Like all publishers, they are dealing with a lot of other titles coming out at the same time, and I thought it was just me. But I discovered a lot of other writers were experiencing the same thing. So I was wondering, “What can I do to help solve that?” At the same time I was getting frustrated with being told that people didn’t care about Detroit. I planned my own book launch because my publicist and publisher didn’t think we had a literary market in Detroit. So that’s how it got started. I was having a problem, and I knew other authors were having a problem. So I came up with Shady Ladies.
Where did the name Shady Ladies originate from?
AH: It’s actually named after an old building located on Van Dyke that used to be a hair salon called the Shady Ladies Salon. I always loved it, so it stuck with me. But with that, I love how women put their own interpretation on what it means to be shady. Some women at first thought it implied that it meant lady of the night, and now the idea of being shady expands across the entire spectrum of what it means to be a woman. It is a woman who is writing interesting stories and interesting characters, allowing women to be the full spectrum of a woman. Sometimes we are good and other times we are messing things up, and that’s the full experience of being a woman. It’s also the idea of falling into that shady world of a deep book, sitting under that shady umbrella and the shade of this world being created. So what does “shady” mean? Women empowering women, and that we believe in the full range of women’s voices that are not one dimensional.
What can participants expect at a Shady Ladies event??
AH: The first event was done at the Elmwood Cemetery, and when you come in it’s beautiful. You come in through these giant old gates, and it’s a rolling hill with a grove of trees and a river opens up before you. We did a picnic on the lawn — not on the gravesites. Brooklyn Street Local catered the event. We had two authors Julie Buntin and Cristina Moracho, who both wrote murder mysteries, so it was perfect for the cemetery setting. We did five events last year. Each one was different. We have been at The Foundation Hotel — the food was the star for that event. I would say that the location is typically the star. We did one at Chene Park. I try to find locations that you can’t normally access, so you can get a private tour, but each event is unique and different.
Where do you foresee Shady Ladies Literary Society going in the next year?
AH: I’m just trying to stabilize how to continue doing this event and how often. I’m looking at growth and how do I accommodate 50-plus people for a dinner party. I’m learning and trying to evaluate the current model — does this event stay at 50 and intimate or do I expand it? I’m really excited to add a podcast because that would connect with my journalism aspect. I want to expand beyond authors and interview Shady Ladies with interesting stories and uplift their voices. I would like to create a book festival about emerging authors in the city of Detroit, not your traditional book festival. The literary society is about elevating women’s voices, not necessarily just focusing on authors.
For more information on becoming a Shady Lady, and to find out about upcoming events, visit shadyladiesliterarysociety.com.