Rob Spillman

Award-winning Memoirist
Editor & Co-founder of Tin House

Readings & Lecture Topics

  • An Evening with Rob Spillman

“Thrilling, dangerous, necessary” –NPR

“Spillman brilliantly—thrillingly—captures the velocity and the changing sounds of youth as it simultaneously hurls away from, and toward, home. ” —Nick Flynn 

Rob Spillman is the author of acclaimed memoir All Tomorrow’s Parties (Grove Atlantic, 2017), about which Anthony Doerr writes: “If you’ve ever been young, in love, and desperate to live an authentic life, this book is for you: a ravishing memoir about a young man’s quest for art, meaning, and a place to call home.” Spillman is also the editor and co-founder of Tin House, an eighteen-year-old bi-coastal (Brooklyn, New York and Portland, Oregon) literary magazine. He is the 2015 recipient of the PEN/Nora Magid Award for Editing as well as the 2015 VIDO Award from VIDA. A Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick, the book has received praise from the New York Times, and starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and Booklist.

Poets & Writers named him, “One of the most prominent figures in independent publishing.” He is a widely published and praised essayist, with essays, reviews, and criticism appearing in Salon, Guernica, the New York Times Book Review, Bookforum, the Boston Review, Connoisseur, Details, GQ, Guernica, Nerve, Rolling Stone, Salon, Spin, Sports Illustrated, Time, Vanity Fair, Vogue, among other magazines, newspapers, and essay collections. He also served as the Chair of the 2017 PEN World Voices Curatorial Committee.

In an interview with Interview magazine, Spillman said about growing up in a bohemian West Berlin artist community, “I think once I experienced that life I loved it. I loved being around people living for their art. They were all living through their art and didn’t consider what they were doing work, so I couldn’t think of anything other than that. Especially when you look at people who hate their jobs and are just punching the clock. I’d much rather eat ramen and do something that I love.”

Spillman has guest taught at universities around the world, including Queensland University in Brisbane, the Farafina Workshop in Lagos, Nigeria, the SLS Workshops in St. Petersburg, Russia and Nairobi, Kenya, the Catholic University of Santiago, Chile, the Universities of Florida, Houston, Kansas, New York University, the Colleges of Brooklyn, Amherst, Williams, Grinnell, Luther, and is currently a lecturer at Columbia University. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, writer Elissa Schappell, and his two children.

Rob Spillman’s Website

Rob Spillman is the author of acclaimed memoir All Tomorrow’s Parties (Grove Atlantic, 2017) and the editor and co-founder of Tin House. He is the 2015 recipient of the PEN/Nora Magid Award for Editing as well as the 2015 VIDO Award from VIDA. He is also the Executive Editor of Tin House Books and co-founder of the Tin House Summer Workshop, now in its fourteenth year. His writing has appeared in BookForum, the Boston Review, Connoisseur, Details, GQ, Guernica, Nerve, the New York Times Book Review, Rolling Stone, Salon, Spin, Sports Illustrated, Time, Vanity Fair, Vogue, among other magazines, newspapers, and essay collections. He is also the editor of Gods and Soldiers: the Penguin Anthology of Contemporary African Writing, which was published in 2009. He has taught at universities around the world and is currently a lecturer at Columbia University.

ALL TOMORROW’S PARTIES (Grove Atlantic, 2017)

“With wry humor and wonder, Spillman beautifully captures the deadpan hedonism of the East Berliners and the city’s sense of infinite possibility” –New York Times Book Review

Born in Germany to two driven musicians, Spillman’s childhood was spent among the West Berlin cognoscenti, in a city two hundred miles behind the Iron Curtain. There, the Berlin Wall stood as a stark reminder of the split between East and West, between suppressed dreams and freedom of expression.

After an unsettled youth moving between divorced parents in disparate cities, Spillman would eventually find his way into the literary world of New York City, only to abandon it to return to Berlin just months after the wall came down. Twenty-five and newly married, Spillman and his wife, the writer Elissa Schappell, moved to the anarchic streets of East Berlin in search of the bohemian lifestyle of their idols. But within Spillman’s constant striving—for beauty, for inspiration, and for identity—he soon discovered he was chasing the one thing that had always eluded him: a place, or person, to call home.

In his intimate, entertaining, and heartfelt memoir, All Tomorrow’s Parties, Spillman narrates a colorful, literary, and music-filled coming-of-age portrait of an artist’s life that is also a cultural exploration of a shifting Berlin.

Inside the Geeky, Revolutionary World of Minecraft – Salon

Yes, It’s About Racism: on Claudia Rankine and Citizen – Guernica

ALL TOMORROW’S PARTIES (memoir excerpt)

“Was gibt’s?” I ask, and our guide snorts. He explains, in German, which I quickly translate for Elissa, that we are in an old ball-bearing factory. He tells me this as he dances across long, sagging boards stretched between cinder-block islands. Our flashlight beams ricochet off the oily water, which has a ferrous, noxious reek, and I picture my foot dissolving in it as if it were sulfuric acid. A faint, far-off beat—a fast, steady thump, thump, thump—matches the pulse in my ears.
“Is there another room to the factory?” I call after our guide, repeating the question in English for Elissa.
“No, no,” he replies. “The party isn’t in here. This is only the passageway.”
Before I can begin to think about where we are heading, on the other side of the waterlogged basement a six-foot-wide hole opens into a dank tunnel. The thump, thump, thump of music is now clear. And up ahead a bright light pulls me forward.
“Entschuldigung, excuse me,” my new friend says, shining his flashlight over my shoulder. I turn around and Elissa catches up to us. She gives me her “What have you gotten me into?” look and I give her my “You agreed to this” look back. I also silently give her what I hope is reassurance and I think she’s on the same page but I really don’t care because we’re obviously on the cusp of something weird and quite possibly wonderful.
“Where are we?” I once more ask our guide, who moves aside so that we can be the first to step through the hole and into a cavernous space constructed of gray granite blocks, the vaulted ceiling sweeping up a good hundred feet. People are dancing everywhere—on piles of paving stones and railroad ties, and in the long trench that runs through the center of the giant space. They are dancing to the loud, steady, bass-heavy electronic music, something that sounds like Kraftwerk crossed with Donna Summer. The dancers cast huge shadows from the low, icy-white strobe lights ringing the room. Atop a Lincoln-Log-like construction of scavenged railroad ties perch two sets of turntables and two young men with black-bubble headphones who are bobbing along to the music.
“Where are we?” I shout.
“Under the Wall,” our guide yells. “This is an old subway station, from before the war, closed off for forty years. Now we break through and have a rave.”
“I never want to leave,” I say—out loud, I think. I can’t believe this. We are literally between countries, under two countries.
I close my eyes and let the concussive bass vibrate through my body. I can feel the beat of my heart aligning with the beat of the music. I’m dissolving, breaking into a million particles. I am nowhere. I am home.