Writer Michael Stahl’s essay “Remembering Mixed Tapes” was featured in Issue #3 of Newtown Literary. We interviewed him about his writing, and his answers are below. Check out his site for more great writing!
What is your relationship to Queens?
I was born, raised, am living in and still loving Astoria. This community has changed a little in a lot of ways since I was a kid, and I feel more at home now than ever. I’ve spent some time living abroad, but, if I can help it, I can’t imagine ever leaving.
How would you describe the writing you do?
I tend to write about good people with interesting and unique stories. I haven’t covered very heavy, hard-hitting topics yet. I suppose I’d rather bring pleasant feelings to people’s lives more than anything else, hence my, perhaps excessive, use of alliteration.
How did you come to writing?
I never seriously considered being a writer until a few years ago. I finished my master’s degree and was still a full-time teacher. It felt like I had tons of time on my hands all of a sudden, so I began blogging, just for fun. The writing was well-received and my confidence grew. I began to meet more and more local artists who were, in short, “just making it work.” They inspired me and made me realize that I could–and should–give the freelance life a shot. I blame them…and I tell them as much rather often.
What inspires you?
Good writers inspire me. I feel I’m very steeped in a learning phase right now, which will never end, of course, but I still need to grasp a lot of foundational concepts. So, when I read pieces by others and I feel the choices that they’re making and see their methods of execution, it makes me want to try it out too.
What does it mean to be a writer in Queens?
It’s very important to me to be recognized as an Astoria-based writer. It’s in my byline. When people think “New York,” they think either “Manhattan” or “Brooklyn.” If readers like what I do and see that I’m from Queens, I want to communicate to them that there’s good stuff coming out of my home borough as well.
What gave you the courage to give up a teacher’s tenure for your writing?
I gave up teaching for writing because I thought it would be great to earn money doing something that was a lot of fun. I loved teaching, but there’s a ton of politics involved. Most teachers I know are completely disillusioned with the job, but they carry on because, either they still really want to help the kids they can reach, or they’re just in a situation where they can’t be as completely irresponsible as I was two years ago when I decided to quit. I feel with writing, I can have a positive impact on others, while also garnering personal satisfaction.
What kinds of struggles have there been, and how did you face them? And what have been the rewards?
The biggest struggle I’ve faced, to the surprise of probably no one, is concerns about money. In some ways it’s actually been “easier” than I thought, in that I haven’t really been close to panicking. One just has to have faith in themselves, but it can be unnerving, and I work harder now than I ever have in my life. Over time, going through the times of trepidation, but coming out of it intact, I think I’ve gained confidence that I won’t fall off a financial cliff. That has helped me be a more productive writer of late, which is good because there is nothing more gratifying than getting published.
And, finally, my favorite question: What should I be asking you that I didn’t?
You should be asking how much coffee I have to drink to get through the freelancer’s day.
And exactly how much coffee is that? Or do I not want to know? 🙂
It’s not that you don’t want to know. It’s that I’m too ashamed to admit it. 😉
And thank you, good readers, for making this year’s Queens Writes Weekend such a success!
Also, the “Third Fridays, Queens Writers Series (TFQW)” will read at Enigma Bookstore in Astoria on May 16th at 6:30. The format includes both featured readers and an open mike. All Queens writers are welcome. Mark your calendars!