Writer John Greiner’s works — “Lunch Break”, “El”, and “Tuba” — were featured in Issue #4 of Newtown Literary. You can follow John on Twitter. We interviewed him about his writing, and his answers are below.
What is your relationship to Queens?
I lived in Astoria, Queens, in the 1990s before moving into Manhattan. After numerous years away from Queens, my wife and I moved back to Astoria in 2011. A lot had changed, while there was a lot that remained the same. A vibrant new cultural life in painting, photography, literature, the culinary arts, etc., had come into fruition. At the same time, Astoria maintained a sense of real neighborhood, a respect for history and the people who made it such a strong community in bad times, not just the good, a quality which unfortunately is dying out (or is pretty much dead) in Manhattan and Brooklyn (at least in the western half). I love New York City, it’s my muse, and Queens holds the qualities of New York City that I love: diversity, community, a sensitivity for the past that is still strong in the present and a sense of future where there’s possibilities open to all, not just a few.
How would you describe the writing you do?
I’m more intrigued by mood than narrative, though what I write has a narrative. It’s just not the main motivator in my poems, stories, and plays. New York City is a passion of mine, but it is not the surface New York that intrigues me; it’s the New York of lost dreams that hang on by a string, out of the limelight waiting to be voiced that I strive to capture when I’m writing. I like to write all of the incongruous fragments, the fleeting sights and thoughts that come together to reveal the unseen and overlooked truth.
How did you come to writing?
When I was young, I would draw a lot. To diversify my attention span, my mom used to pay me to write, so I started writing stories to go along with my pictures. I have three younger sisters and I would write plays that they could perform in. It was just something that came naturally to me.
What inspires you?
The infinite possibilities.
And what does it mean to be a writer in Queens?
The world comes together in Queens. As virtually anyone who lives in the borough knows, it’s the most diverse county in the whole United States. The stories, the cultures, are a wellspring for a writer. Walking through the streets of Queens, so many pictures comes to one’s mind; Queens transcends time and space in a way. In one block, you’re in Greece. Another you’re in China. Another you feel like you’re in some back street of Italy; on another, you feel like you’re in a Michigan suburb circa 1985, etc. Who could ask for anything more?
Readers, mark your calendars: