written by Tim Fredrick, Editor of Newtown Literary and Executive Director of Newtown Literary Alliance, Inc.
In 2011, before Newtown Literary, before I started publishing my own short stories, I ran a Queens Writers Meetup group, through which I met many people who would turn into good friends and colleagues. After several months running the group, I received a message from Aida Zilelian announcing a new reading series, Boundless Tales, and inviting members of the group to submit their work for consideration to be included in the series, which at the time, took place at Waltz-Astoria on Ditmars Boulevard.
I’d never read my work in public nor had it published; heck, I had barely shown my creative work to anyone outside workshops. But the announcement indicated that the reading series was looking for writers of all experience levels, so I submitted a story called “Driving Lessons,” thinking I’d probably be rejected.
When I was invited to read for the February 2012 reading, I immediately wondered what I had gotten myself into. Surely, I’d be booed off the stage. As with most things in my life (including Newtown Literary!), I signed up for something not quite considering what it would entail. But, like most things in my life (including Newtown Literary!), I wound up glad I had rushed in without thinking it through. I read that night in a room in front of many friends from different areas of my life, as well as several strangers. My hands shook, my voice wavered. I’m not a great reader of my work, especially when the tone of said work is serious as “Driving Lessons,” but that first time was especially awful.
Because I had been accepted to read at the series and the feedback I received when I did read, I walked away that night feeling—probably for the very first time in my life—that my writing was good and that I wasn’t completely ridiculous for wanting to have a career as a writer (still ridiculous, just not completely ridiculous).
This is the power of a reading series like Boundless Tales, one that opens up its stage to any writer, no matter her background, experience level, or the number of publications under her belt. I went on to read more at Boundless, as well as other reading series in Queens, and am honored to have been invited to read at the five-year anniversary show in September.
Boundless Tales and its spirit of community, shining the light on more than just those with connections, is one of the great things about the Queens literary community. As I got to know more Queens writers, including those I met that first night, I began to realize that what was happening in the Queens literary community was very, very special. Boundless Tales—and its creator and curator, Aida Zilelian—were a major factor in not just my own writing career but also in showing me that a literary journal focused on Queens made sense. The spirit of community that Aida fostered at Boundless Tales directly influenced how I began thinking about what Newtown Literary would look like. To open the pages of Newtown Literary to every writer in Queens—not just those with a resume, not just those who’ve been published before, not just those who knew someone or had done favors for someone, not just those with an MFA—became a mission that I still hold dear. This, because of Boundless Tales and Aida Zilelian.
I say this with the utmost certainty: Newtown Literary would not exist if it weren’t for the inspiration and community I found at Boundless Tales. I hope you will join me on September 9 at 7 p.m. at the Queens Council on the Arts in Astoria to celebrate this very special reading series, a vital part of the very special literary community we have built here in Queens.