What is your relationship to Queens?
Growing up in Manhattan, I used to take a lot of walks by the East River, but I never thought about what was on the other side, which is where I am now. I live in Astoria on Steinway Street. It’s changed how I’ve viewed Manhattan, for one thing. The pleasure sometimes of losing your bearings. Of not knowing where you are.
How would you describe the writing you do?
Usually, somewhere between memoir and reportage. (Even though my story for Newtown, “Steinway Street,” is fiction.) I intended to major in English but somehow I wound up in Urban Studies. It occurred to me a while later that I wound up combining the two.
How did you come to writing?
I was taking some literary journalism classes in school. In one class, the only assignment was to go into the city of St. Louis and write about somebody. After those classes ended, after I got out of school, I continued doing that even though nobody was paying me. Then I’d pitch the stories on spec. I had no car so I’d take an hour train ride and then bike through a highway just to try to find an interesting stranger. It was a weird, sort of magical time in my life.
What inspires you?
It’s inspiring when I find a sentence or a phrase so good I want to write it down. Sometimes if I’m reading something I really love, I’ll dog ear what feels like almost every page. (Ruining the book as an object, in the opinion of one friend.) If someone has that impact on me in real life, I’d say that’s inspiring too. That something they wrote or said is so striking, so moving, I want to keep it. Or so good I want to share it with someone else.
What does it mean to be a writer in Queens?
I don’t really know.
What writing project(s) are you currently working on?
I’m working on a collection of stories about strangers. I think of them as nonfiction parables. Little adventures I’ve had in knowing people, and not knowing them.
And, finally, my favorite question: What should I be asking you that I didn’t?
“What is True.Ink?”
A modern take on an old pulp, and the magazine I work for. A platform for telling stories and then living them. We celebrate adventure and expertise, and sometimes we even make our own products, like a hot sauce we cooked up on Fire Island.
We have a team that includes bull runners, magicians, a couple writers, one master escape artist currently in solitary confinement, and maybe you! We’re always looking for spare parts, so swing by and say hello.
Readers, tonight is the launch reading for Newtown Literary Journal Issue #7! At 7:00 p.m. at the Astoria Bookshop, Alex Alvarez will host readings by Issue #7 contributors Susan Coronel, Malcolm Chang, Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons, Bard Hovenga, and Suanne Kim. We hope to see you there.
Also, be sure to keep and eye on this space for more Queens literary events, and more from Newtown Literary contributors!