Writer Sandra Proto’s poems — “I, Do Dance Your Dance, Rockaway”, “Lady in the Park”, and “the boy with the worried eyes” were featured in Issue #4 of Newtown Literary. For more creative work from Sandra, check out her website and blog. We interviewed her about her writing, and her answers are below.
What is your relationship to Queens?
I was born in Queens but when I was one, I lived in Chicago for a year. When I came back to New York, I lived in Rockaway for a year or two then I moved to South Jamaica, Queens. My family resided in South Jamaica until I was nine and moved back to Rockaway. I lived in Rockaway for 30 years until I got married and relocated to Long Island. I’m a Queens Girl through and through and specifically consider myself a Rockwaywite.
How would you describe the writing you do?
I would say I’m an Eclectic Confessionalist. I am a memoirist by nature who likes to write in different genres, whether it’s in play form, short story, poetry, or essay. If I want to write about a certain subject matter, I let the subject matter find the right genre to tell its story. I remembered I wanted to write about a true paranormal occurrence and I did it as a fictionized story. I sent it out for publication and it kept getting rejected. I didn’t know why it was getting rejected, so I went to my writing critique group with it. They literally tore it apart and sensed that there was more to the story then what I was telling them. I realized that the story was not in its correct genre. I needed to tell the story as it really happened and not hide it in fiction. I still haven’t found a home for it but I feel better that I stayed true to it.
How did you come to writing?
As a kid, I was very emotional and self-conscious: I was overweight, clumsy, wore glasses, and was not comfortable in the skin I was in. I had very low self-esteem. When I was 12, we started writing poetry in school. I remembered a guest poet had come to our class and said that we were at the best place to write poetry and to get our feelings out because we had the beach. I first started writing a diary in my bedroom (hiding my marble composition book between my mattress and box spring), and then poetry. I eventually went to the beach (which was a few blocks away) and wrote on the boardwalk and jetties. During those early years, I composed “Blackberry Beauty”, a poem about identity and Colorism; and “Light”, a poem about racial tolerance. I kept my writing hidden until I was in college and shared it with my roommate and close friends.
What inspires you?
A lot of things inspire me: Life…Death…my daughters…everyday events…current events…books…other writers.
And what does it mean to be a writer in Queens?
In my eyes, Queens is the most laid back of all the boroughs. There is a different energy that I feel with the parts of Queens that I’ve been associated with. It’s not a hustle and bustle to get somewhere but a stroll (when we get there we get there). So… I guess to be a writer in Queens entails taking your time and enjoy the experiences that inspire you to write.
What writing project(s) are you currently working on?
I’m working on my third book, entitled Sketches. Sketches is an Ekphrasic poetry collection derived from my late sister’s renderings. Also, I’m working on a children’s poetry book (inspired by my daughters) and a book of short stories and essays.
And, finally, my favorite question: What should I be asking you that I didn’t?
How am I keeping my sanity with a seven- and eight-year old? The answer: I’m always writing (LOL)!
Readers, mark your calendars:
- Tickets are limited for the September 26 Poetry and Apple Picking excursion sponsored by Poetry and Coffee. Sign up now for some great Autumn inspiration!
- The Queens Young Authors and Poets Contest needs your support! QYAP is the biggest writing contest in the borough, inviting kids in grades 3 through 12 to submit poetry or prose. The winners get published in an upcoming issue of Newtown Literary. Between now and September 30, you can support the contest at our IndieGoGo page, where you can learn more about the contest and the great perks we have for donors!
- Will you be at the 2015 Comadres and Compadres Writers Conference on October 3 at The New School? If you are, be sure to look for our own founder, Tim Fredrick, as he leads a panel on getting published in mainstream literary journals.
- On October 4 at 5:00 p.m., come to the Astoria Bookshop for Poetry and Coffee’s discussion of Memorial: A Version of Homer’s Iliad by Alice Oswald. Tickets are free but required.
- Boundless Tales is accepting submissions for its current reading series! Submissions are considered on a rolling basis; the next reading will be October 8.
- Delve deep into your personal writing as Heightening Stories presents the Creative Nonfiction/Autobiographical Fiction workshop. Enrollment is open until November 4.
- Work on your development and revision skills! Heightening Stories presents the Community Writing Exercise Workshop. Enrollment is open until November 10.