The DJN chats with the creative couple behind the upcoming Detroit Writing Room.
Photography by Sacred Overstreet-Amos
1. Give us the low-down on how you met each other.
Stephanie: I’m from Farmington Hills, and Jake is from Birmingham. We were both living in Washington D.C. in 2014. I was an editor at U.S News & World Report, and Jake was working at the National Press Club. We met through mutual friends since we were both in the D.C. journalism realm and University of Michigan alumni. We didn’t know each other growing up in Metro Detroit or during the year we overlapped at the University of Michigan. The cool thing we discovered months into our relationship is that our grandfathers were friends back in the day. When Jake met my grandfather Irving Steinberg (known as The Major) at his 97th birthday, he told us that he used to play cards and go drinking with Jake’s grandfather. I guess we were destined to meet.
Jake: I concur with my wife’s statement.
2. Where are you both currently living and working?
Stephanie: We moved back to Detroit in 2016 and lived downtown for a few years. We had read about the Detroit entrepreneurs and people our age opening coffee shops, clothing shops, restaurants and small businesses in Detroit. As a journalist, I wanted to tell the stories of what was happening in my hometown. I took a position as a features reporter at The Detroit News until late 2018. I’m now the managing editor of SEEN Magazine. It’s the best job because I get to tell the stories of people who are positively impacting Detroit and Metro Detroit.
Jake: Since relocating to Detroit, I founded my own media and public relations firm, Espresso Public Relations. I specialize in offering communication services to some of Detroit’s most innovative companies including Lyft, Techstars Detroit, Warmilu, Proud Detroiter, Automotive Hall of Fame, Harris Marketing Group and more. I also represent high profile public figures like Aretha Franklin’s personal photographer Linda Solomon. I am excited to be representing Linda for her upcoming new book release, The Queen Next Door, which features exclusive photographs captured at Aretha’s home, private birthday parties and music rehearsals with James Brown, Keith Richards and Ron Wood.
3. You’re not only life partners, but also business partners and founders of The Detroit Writing Room. What inspired you to create this space?
Stephanie: While reporting on entrepreneurs at The Detroit News, I got an inside look at their challenges and needs. Many of them had amazing ideas for their businesses, but didn’t necessarily know how to translate that in writing. Many needed help with their press releases, website copy and professional bios, while others struggled with social media and content creation.
We came from D.C. where there were a ton of shared working spaces. At the time in 2016, there weren’t many co-working spaces downtown. I began to develop an idea for a co-working space that was different from the rest in that it would be a cozy living room environment and have writing coaches who could help entrepreneurs with their writing needs. I wanted it to be a resource for local authors, journalists and bloggers who wanted feedback on their writing or a space to write. I also decided to add photography and graphic design coaches to help with visual storytelling needs. Lastly, there’s no place to go downtown for local or visiting authors to give book talks; I had just come off a 15-city nationwide book tour and had nowhere to go downtown to give a book talk (Source Booksellers in Midtown was the closest option). So I really hope we fill that downtown need and become the go-to-spot for book talks and signings.
Jake: My wife is the most talented person I’ve ever met. Naturally every idea she has is a great idea, and The Detroit Writing Room was the greatest idea. My dream scenario has always been going into business with Stephanie. Even our Rabbi suggested we work together (Hi Mike!). We both love newsrooms and Detroit. In a way, that’s what The Detroit Writing room will be: a place where Detroit’s most talented journalists gather to provide writing expertise to the community.
4. What can people expect when visiting The Detroit Writing Room?
Stephanie: You can be a member of The Detroit Writing Room, drop in for a day to work, or sign up with a coach. Many of our coaches are award-winning journalists, and we hope to create a newsroom atmosphere where you’re here to work and write — and produce your best work — but also make connections with the coaches and fellow creatives and entrepreneurs around you.
There’s no greater feeling than the bond of a newsroom where you’re all striving toward the same goal of being in the best in your business and producing the best work. There’s a camaraderie that’s difficult to explain; it’s a feeling evoked by tight deadlines, the thrill of breaking news and the knowledge that what you do is a public service for the community — to bring them news and information every day. We’re not going to be breaking news at The Detroit Writing Room, but I hope that members and guests experience that same feeling of a close-knit newsroom that feels like family.
Jake: The Detroit Writing Room can be rented for private events after 6:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. There’s a shortage of affordable event rental space in Detroit. We plan on allowing the community to book private events like receptions, birthday parties, holiday parties, wedding rehearsal dinners and more. We will also host public events throughout the year such as book talks and signings, movie screenings, poetry slams, literary workshops, panel talks and art exhibits.
5. What are some of the unexpected bumps you faced while building your business? Alternatively, what have been the most rewarding aspects?
Stephanie: The most rewarding part is working with Jake to develop and build a business of our own. We came back to Detroit to be a part of this renaissance. I’ve loved telling the stories of people who are building Detroit up, and now I’m excited to pursue my own idea and contribute to the effort. There have been many challenges along the way, and it’s taken a lot more time than expected. Like I mentioned, I thought of this in 2016! Finding an affordable space that fit our vision was one of the most difficult aspects, but we’re grateful we discovered this location on Washington Boulevard and owner Jordan Wolfe believed in our vision and gave us an opportunity to finally get this off the ground. In a twist of irony, the space is right across from where we used to live — we could even see it from our balcony.
Jake: It has been smooth sailing so far, but we will be prepared to meet and overcome challenges.
6. When you’re not knee-deep in planning for the projected June 2019 opening of The Detroit Writing Room, what are a few fun activities you enjoy doing together?
Stephanie: This question makes me laugh because I feel like The Detroit Writing Room is the only activity we’ve been doing for a few months. However, we did just get an adorable Teddy Bear English Goldendoodle puppy named Magglio. He’s 4 months old now and a ball of energy. I’ve learned the hard way to put away all socks and towels. We’re hoping he’ll calm down soon so we can make him the Chief Morale Officer and bring him to The Detroit Writing Room!
Jake: I strongly feel Stephanie was neglected as a child from watching every good movie known to man. That’s why I enjoy making her watch with me the most important culturally significant films of our time like Dumb and Dumber, Stripes and pretty much every movie that’s not Disney.
The Detroit Writing Room has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $20,000 by May 24. The funds will help build a kitchen and private coaching rooms, buy computers and furniture such as couches, tables, chairs, bookshelves and lighting, and make other improvements to the space so that it becomes everyone’s dream writing space. Contribute to the Kickstarter here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1705539107/help-launch-the-detroit-writing-room
Stephanie Steinberg is a lifelong Detroiter and grammar enthusiast who only edits with purple pens. She’s been a journalist for the past decade and held her first editor-in-chief title at the University of Michigan student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Stephanie has written for several publications, including The New York Times, Boston Globe, USA Today, CNN.com and Huffington Post. She spent several years in Washington D.C. as a health and money editor at U.S. News & World Report. There, she fell in love with a fellow Wolverine (see below) and decided to move home with him to cover Detroit’s comeback as a features reporter for The Detroit News. She then became the managing editor of SEEN Magazine, telling the stories of the people and places that define Metro Detroit. Stephanie is the editor of the book In the Name of Editorial Freedom: 125 Years at The Michigan Daily (University of Michigan Press). She despises the Oxford comma and loves curling up with a book and coffee to dive into a good story with her dog Magglio.
Jake Serwer is the founder and CEO of Espresso Public Relations LLC, a PR firm representing Detroit entrepreneurs and businesses. His career started in the TV industry — kicking off with his own music TV show at the University of Michigan (Go Blue!). After getting a master’s in sports business from Georgetown University, he was a producer for Bloomberg News and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. Jake then served as the business development executive at the National Press Club in D.C., where he managed its in-house broadcast studio and organized events for Fortune 500 CEOs, political candidates, authors, influencers and celebrities — he even bonded with George Clooney. Jake had no choice but to help his wife open The Detroit Writing Room and looks forward to helping organize events and coach members on PR practices.
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