Q&A with Class Instructor Roberto Montes

screenshot-2016-12-30-13-04-48Our free writing classes program continues this Saturday with Roberto Montes‘s “How to Commune with Ghosts.” In this class, students will explore how to access the supernatural way in which great poems seem to take on a life of their own. You will learn practical techniques to encourage this communion using hands-on exercises, prompts, and contemporary examples. We hope to see you at 2:30 p.m. at the Ridgewood branch of Queens Library.

Below, Roberto tells us a little about himself and his work.

What’s your connection to Queens?

I was born in Jamaica, Queens and spent the first years of my life there. In my early twenties I returned to Jamaica (as many creatures instinctually return to the place of their birth) and then later lived in Astoria. I cannot deny the impact Queens has had on me: its diversity of people, culture, and language has left its mark indelibly on my work. 

What can students in your class expect?

The class will explore and engage with methods to coax the unexpected from the aether and into our poetry. We will read from a variety of poets about jumpstarting the creative process including CA Conrad, Carmen Giménez Smith, Jack Spicer, and Charles Bernstein as well as participate in writing exercises to put their thoughts into practice.

What current projects are you working on? or What is your latest publication? (or both, if you’d like)

A new chapbook, entitled Grievances, is now available from The Atlas Review. Beyond that, I am working on putting the finishing touches on my second full-length manuscript.

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Q&A with Class Instructor Patricia Park

We are excited for this Saturday’s free writing class at the Maspeth branch of Queens Library, which will be taught by Re Jane author Patricia Park. The class, called “Show versus Tell,” will start at 2:30 and will expand upon that old writing adage, “Show, don’t tell.”

How does a writer convey information to the reader, advance the plot, build drama, and show character development without writing a thousand-page opus? At the same time, how do you highlight key moments in your characters’ lives concisely without risking summary as dramatic as an encyclopedia entry? The most successful fiction and creative nonfiction writers blend both the “show” and “tell.” In this session, we will study successful examples (from Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Jhumpa Lahiri, and others) and discuss the pros and pitfalls of dramatizing versus summarizing scenes. Writers will leave with strategies and exercises to apply to their own work.

Patricia was kind enough to answer a few questions about herself, her work, and the class:

What’s your connection to Queens?
I was born and raised in Flushing.

What can students in your class expect?

Students will come away with a deeper understanding of pacing and structure of novels and stories.

Tell us about your latest publication.
Last year I published my first novel, Re Jane. It’s about a Korean-American orphan named Jane Re, and it’s loosely based on Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. The novel is my ode to Queens—in all its outer-borough, working-class glory. It’s currently being developed for a TV series.

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Q&A with Class Instructor Norman Stock

screenshot-2016-09-19-18-31-29What’s your connection to Queens?

I worked as a librarian at the Queens Central Library in Jamaica from 1968 to 1973. I returned to Queens in 1990 and have been living with my wife in Jackson Heights since then. My activities in Queens include serving as literary consultant to the Sundays at Central Reading Series, participating in readings at First Tuesdays and other reading series, and editorial board work for Newtown Literary.

What can students in your class expect?

I will discuss expressing emotional truth in poetry through strong gut-level feelings with examples and exercises to practice writing poems of this kind.

What is your latest publication? What current projects are you working on? 

My latest publication is a book of poems, Pickled Dreams Naked (NYQ Books, 2010). I continue to work on poems for a new book.

Join Norman on Saturday, January 7 at 2:30 at the Jackson Heights branch of Queens Library for “Write from the Gut.”

A word from our soon-to-be editor

unnamed-4Earlier this week, we announced that issue 10, which is currently open for submissions, will the the last issue with founding editor Tim Fredrick at the helm. Effective issue 11, which will be published this time next year, Jackie Sherbow will be the editor of Newtown Literary. Below, a message from Jackie.

One of my first publications was a poem accepted in Newtown Literary’s third issue. Never having read my work in public before, I was thrilled and surprised to be invited to do so at that issue’s launch party. I experienced that night something I’ve seen over and over since then at this borough’s myriad literary events: the community’s support, acceptance, and heart, especially for new and even first-time writers. Thank you for welcoming me then, and thank you for welcoming me now. It’s an integral time for the force of community, and I’m so proud to be a part of this one.

As an editor and publishing professional, I inhabit worlds that—like so many—need vast improvement in terms of inclusion. Voices from marginalized communities are historically silenced; it’s the responsibility of each of us in our own capacity to make space for these voices. As you know by now, that’s exactly what Newtown Literary’s goal is. And what better place than Queens? The diversity of this borough is what inspires us.

As editor, I will allow these beliefs to inform my work… what we publish and how we publish it, from day one of submissions down to the final period’s placement. Writers matter, stories matter, words matter—syntax, spelling, and grammar matter. I look forward to the days ahead, more days working alongside the rest of the journal’s editorial team and the brilliant and different voices of Queens’s writing world.

Tim has done an incredible job building this journal and the Newtown Literary Alliance, creating a stable foundation for this outlet in our borough. I’ve learned so much from him in my capacity as associate editor, and we’ll be working together to ensure the high quality of the journal is maintained. I’m grateful he’ll be able to spend more of his time in the executive director spot, and I approach my new role with energy, openness, and a belief in the importance of the work of this borough’s creators.

A word from our editor . . .

fredrick-headshotWhen I started Newtown Literary with a handful of friends from the Queens literary community in the spring of 2012, I’m not really sure I know what I expected to happen. I certainly didn’t expect the literary journal to be working towards publishing its tenth issue, nor did I expect that we would publish more than 150 Queens writers (and counting). I didn’t expect that the number of people working on the journal would grow to include more than 25 volunteers nor that the organization would become large enough that I need to take bookkeeping lessons and spend so much time thinking about “income streams” and “semi-restricted grant funds.”

I’m happy the journal has gone beyond my or anyone else’s expectations. Because of the outpouring of support that journal has received, we’ve been able to branch out from publishing a literary journal to having a biennial kids’ writing contest and partnering with Queens Library to bring free writing classes for adults and kids to Queens—and there’s so much more to do.

Because our wish list for Newtown Literary Alliance, the organization, has grown and our desire to support the work of Queens writers has expanded from publishing their work to providing creative writing classes and other professional development (plus other projects that are in the works for the next 5 years), I’ve found myself not able to devote the time that each of these projects deserves—to say nothing of my own writing. So, it with great excitement—and, sure, a little sadness—that I announce that I’m turning over the position of editor of Newtown Literary to our current associate editor Jackie Sherbow effective issue 11. 

I’ve never seen this as Tim Fredrick’s Newtown Literary, so it is a great honor that someone else believes in what we have created enough to take on this enormous responsibility. I will remain the executive director of the larger organization, Newtown Literary Alliance, and devote my time to finding additional funds for the organization to pay our staff and contributors, creating new opportunities for Queens writers, and . . . well, you’ll see.

You will hear a little from Jackie in the next couple of days. She is an incredible editor and believes strongly in the mission of the journal, and I have no doubt that she will take the journal in great directions.

Q&A with Class Instructor Luis Francia

We are excited for our second free writing class, this Saturday, December 3, 2016, from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Queens Library at Jackson Heights (35-51 81st Street), taught by Jackson Heights poet Luis Francia, author of Tattered Boat. The poetry writing class is called “Stop Making Sense!”

Luis told us a little bit about himself and gave a preview of his class.

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What’s your connection to Queens?

My wife and I have lived in Jackson Heights for 20 years. It is an incredible and rewarding mosaic of races, creeds, cuisines, languages, dress—it is New York writ small.

What can students in your workshop expect?

They will learn that they do not have to have a narrative or storyline, or an important message, in order to create a poem. The workshop emphasizes the spirit of play and the lyrical impulse so that the burgeoning poet surprises himself or herself.

There will be short writing exercises, and pointers on craft to equip them with the tools with which to mine their material successfully. With its title taken from the rock musician—and now Noble Prize winner—Bob Dylan, the workshop will be productive and fun.

Mabuhay!

What’s your most recent publication?

Tattered Boat, a collection of poetry, was released in 2014. RE: Recollections, Reviews, Reflections, a collection of essays, was released a year later. Both published by the University of the Philippines Press. The book of essays was just awarded the Philippine National Book Award for Best Collection of Essays in English.

A new fundraising record for Book Trivia Night 2016

We spent the last week giving thanks for the Queens community, who once again turned out and helped us raise the funds to send our next issue to print. We raised over $900 at Newtown Book Trivia Night on November 18, 2016, which sets a new record for a fundraising event at Newtown.

We’d especially like to thank our sponsors, including authors  Patricia ParkNorman StockJoe OkonkwoRichard Jeffrey NewmanRoberto MontesTim FredrickAida Zilelian, Nancy Agabian, Malcolm Chang, and Luis Francia, as well as our business and organizational partners:

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Introducing our new poetry editor, Sokunthary Svay

We are pleased to introduce you to our new poetry editor, Sokunthary Svay. We’ve published Sok’s poetry, and she read at the opening reading for Queens Writes Weekend this year at the Queens Museum. She is an excellent poet and shares our values of inclusion and community. We are excited to have her on staff. To get in touch with Sok, email her at poetryeditor@newtownliterary.org. (Questions about the submission process, though, should be directed to our associate editor, Jackie Sherbow at associateeditor@newtownliterary.org.)

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Sokunthary Svay is a Pushcart-nominated Khmer writer (poetry and nonfiction) and musician from the Bronx, New York. Her writing has appeared in FLESH (Fixi Novo, 2016), Homelands: Women’s Journeys Across Race, Place, and Time (Seal Press, 2006), and more recently in Prairie Schooner, Women’s Studies Quarterly, LONTAR, and Mekong Review. She is the recipient of the First Friday Residency at the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning, and the Willow Arts Alliance/Weeksville Summer Arts Residency Fellowship. She is pursuing her MA in Language and Literacy at City College in Harlem. Her recent collaborations include two different settings of her poem “Morning Song” by award-winning composers David Schober and Liliya Ugay. She is a newly-minted Willow Books Emerging Writer currently completing her first manuscript scheduled for publication in Fall 2017. In addition, she is writing the libretto for a monodrama opera for soprano and piano.

Q&A with Class Instructor Bushra Rehman

Beginning November 5, 2016, in partnership with Queens Library and with support from Council Members Daniel Dromm and Elizabeth Crowley, Newtown Literary Alliance will begin offering free writing classes in library branches across the borough.

Our first class is taught by Queens-born author Bushra Rehman, author of Corona. She will be teaching “Truth & Lies: Writing Memoir” on Saturday, November 5, from 2:30–4:30 p.m. at Queens Library at Jackson Heights (35-51 81st Street).

Bushra was kind enough to sit down for a short interview.

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What’s your connection to Queens?

I grew up in Corona, from about one to sixteen, so all my formative years. My first novel is all about Queens as is much of my poetry. I teach in Queens, hang out in Queens, have many loved ones in Queens but don’t live here now. I need privacy!

What can students in your class expect?

Laughing. Writing. Telling Stories. Reading the work of two great Queens writers, John Leguizamo and Ishle Yi Park and writing at least two new pieces of memoir or autobiographical fiction.

What current projects are you working on? 

I’m writing a midquel to my first novel, Corona. Meaning, it’s not a sequel of Corona or the prequel. It’s the middle part of the story of the character Razia Mirza, a Pakistani girl from Queens. It’s the part I left out of the first book, her teenage years growing up, again, in Queens, but also discovering the subways and going into “the city.” It will be out with Tor Books in 2019. Before that, I have a long-awaited dream, my first book of poetry, Marianna’s Beauty Salon, coming out with Sibling Rivalry Press in 2018.