Newtown Literary is looking for an Assistant Blog Editor

Do you enjoy this blog? Do you want to be part of it?

Come join a nonprofit literary organization dedicated to writing and community.

Newtown Literary Alliance is seeking an Assistant Blog Editor to work with our Blog Editor and Executive Director to increase content on the organization’s blog. We publish posts about our journal and events, including interviews with our contributors, spotlights on local writers, and highlights of major events. The Newtown Literary blog is an important element of the work Newtown Literary Alliance does and serves as an important gateway to the work we do. Possible contributors, readers, supporters, and funders read our blog, so we take what is published there seriously and strive to have high-quality content.

Duties of the Assistant Blog Editor include:
–Soliciting, and following up with, Newtown Literary contributors for blog posts.
–Obtaining photographs and links from blog contributors.
–Compiling information on local literary events.
–Providing editorial review of completed posts before posts go live.
–Occasional writing and editorial duties.

This person will report primarily to the Blog Editor, but may also work with the Executive Director, Editor, Social Media Coordinator, Intern, and others. Work can be done at home from personal computer; most communication will be electronic. Blog posts will be completed approximately weekly, with possible increases surrounding major events (e.g., Queens Writes Weekend, Trivia Night, etc.).

Candidates should have proficiency/experience with communicating with others via email, editing using Chicago Manual of Style, proofreading, writing, using blog platforms such as WordPress, photo editing, and posting/scheduling on social media—or at least be willing to learn. The abilities to meet a deadline and communicate well are paramount, though.

This is primarily an unpaid position, but when funding is available (usually around the publication of the journal), the Assistant Blog Editor will receive a small stipend. There are opportunities to get involved in the organization in other ways (e.g., proofread the journal, help out at events, meet up socially).

Please send a cover letter, resume, and writing sample to


Newtown Literary Contributor: Gil Fagiani

Writer Gil Fagiani’s poem “Jazzing with Machito” was featured in Issue #7 of Newtown Literary. Here, he discusses poetry. You can learn more about Gil at Kites Without Strings or in this New York Times piece. 

What Is My Idea of Poetry

When I lived in East Harlem in the 1960s, I was struck by the creative and powerful way young people spoke in this poor quarter of upper Manhattan, a mixture of English and Spanish, slang and argot. While their material conditions were depressed, their speech was dynamic. Their voices heightened a lifelong interest I’ve had in expressive spoken language. Engaged for more than 40 years in social work, I now realize those voices I’d heard constitute the major influence on my aesthetic as a poet. I think in terms of “people to people”, what I observe, perceive, I seek to reshape, enhance, and redirect back to people—not just a literary audience. Poetry is concentrated, powerful verbal communication. For me, it represents the ability to transmit the complexity of experience more intensely than other forms of verbal expression. While I try to respect all poetic traditions, even the most avant-garde, I place a high premium on accessible communication. One of my greatest satisfactions is to be approached by someone who says, “I’m not into poetry, but your work really moves me.”


Thanks, Gil!

Readers, mark your calendars:

QWW: A word from Site Captain Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons

Kelly Jean is Site Captain for the Sip-N-Scribe: QED event taking place on Saturday, May 14 at 2:00 p.m

queens writes and sipnscribeRecently, I joined creative forces with Jenn Wehrung, who teaches the Young Writers Workshop at The Astoria Bookshop, to co-host a monthly Sip-N-Scribe at QED: A Place To Show & Tell. We are thrilled to be holding a bonus Sip-N-Scribe this Saturday, May 14, at 2:00 p.m. as part of Queens Writes Weekend.

Sip-N-Scribe is a chance to push away from your keyboard, put pen to paper, and mingle with other writers in person. While writing is primarily a solitary act, there are also times when you need to shake things up a bit and draw inspiration from fellow scribes.
Here’s how it works!

  • Round 1: Sippers-N-Scribers are given the first half of a creative writing prompt and start writing.
  • Round 2: Everyone trades papers with a partner and, inspired by the second half of the writing prompt, continues working on the piece the first person started.
  • Intermission: Drinking is not required, but beer, wine, and non-alcoholic beverages will be available for purchase along with light snacks and pastries.
  • Round 3: One last trade, plus a TWIST to finish the piece with style.

At the end of the session, people are encouraged to share the writing they co-created. The first two brave souls to share win a cookie! The goal is to experiment with something new on the page in an informal, relaxed way, all while hanging out with your friends and hopefully making new ones.

No one is here to write the next Great American novel. But hey, if that happens, please include us in the special thanks!

Thanks, Kelly Jean.  Readers, we hope to see you there!

Be sure to check out the other Queens Writes Weekend events.

QWW: A word from Site Captain Jennifer Harmon

Jennifer is Site Captain for the Writing about Family event taking place on Sunday, May 15 at 1:00 p.m. 

I’m looking forward to seeing familiar faces and meeting new people at my Writing About Family meetup on Sunday, May 15. I’ll be holding it in my apartment in Astoria from 1:00-3:00 p.m. It feels powerful to bring writers into my home and connect with one another in person.

I plan on reading a piece by my mom called “Mothering” since she is my creative writing inspiration and favorite poet. I remember reading this particular poem she wrote about my grandmother, which showed me it was okay to express honest, uncomfortable questions and emotions about family members and specific feelings/situations. I would also like to share one or two poems I’ve written about my mother and father to kick off the event. It’s going to be a delightful afternoon of experimenting with some writing prompts, sharing our work with one another, and expressing ourselves in a creative, supportive environment.

English: Verrazano-Narrows Bridge
English: Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The topic of writing about family has always been an important part of my artistic expression. I began filling pages of journals back in elementary school and poetry soon became an invaluable tool to cope with life changes dealing with family issues like blindness, diabetes, divorce, and the physical loss of a loved one. It’s also been a fun, fabulous way to capture magical moments and celebrate the beauty of family traditions (traveling, shopping, sharing clothes and jewelry, cooking, fishing), unique bonds, and gratitude for where I come from and who I am today. The other night on the subway, I found myself jotting down lines on the back of a receipt for a new poem about my mother-in-law Carmela and our bike riding adventure over the Verrazano Bridge.

Since August of last year, my husband and I have been holding a monthly private open mic for comedy, poetry, music, and storytelling in our living room. It’s pretty magical to see what happens in our home on a regular basis. We have three cats who normally hide, but lately Jupiter, the black and white cat, has been coming out to join the party.

Can’t wait to celebrate Queens Writes with everyone during the weekend of May 13-15th! It’s amazing to be a part of such a wonderful artist community in Queens!

Thanks, Jennifer.  Readers, we hope to see you there!

Be sure to check out the other Queens Writes Weekend events.

QWW: A word from Site Captain Joan Becht Willette

1873 Beers Map of Astoria, Queens, New York City - Geographicus - Astoria-beers-1873
By [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Joan is Site Captain for the Prompted Writing: Astor Bakeshop event taking place on Saturday, May 14 at 4:00 p.m

It is exciting to be a Site Captain for Newtown Literary for the third year! My event is held at The Astor Bakeshop, along with my monthly “The Enchanted Goddess Writing Workshop!”

This is a “writing prompt” meet, eat, and write group. It is wonderful to gather in community and write together, break bread together, and share with our neighbors in Astoria! A lively exchange of stories and laughter always ensues!

The Astor Bakeshop is a cool neighborhood venue with great food! Newtown Literary provides such a valuable literary resource for writers to be seen and published! I was honored to be a contributor in the Fall/Winter 2014 issue! Come out and join the fun!!!

Thanks, Joan.  Readers, we hope to see you there!

Be sure to check out the other Queens Writes Weekend events.

QWW: A word from Site Captain Craig Schwab

Craig is Site Captain for the Saturday in the Park: Forest Park Band Shell event taking place on Saturday, May 14 at 1:00 p.m. 

By Jim.henderson (Own work) [CC0 or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The location for this site will be the iconic space in Forest Park, Glendale, known throughout the neighborhood as The Band Shell. I will be asking those who attend to write something many people no longer do these days. The idea stems from the concept that writing can be informative and also expressive in nature. In my novel, Something in the Neighborhood of Real, the characters interact through several decades by way of letters they send to one another.

The best reaction I had about my novel came by way of a letter from The Louis Armstrong House Museum in Corona, Queens – informing me my novel was made a permanent part of the museum archives. Armstrong plays a key role in my novel as both a mentor and inspirational character.

I intend to have those who show up write a letter to anyone they wish to communicate with in their lives. I will ask they share something on paper that details how they are truly feeling.  I will invite anyone who wishes to read aloud from their letter. My hope is they then mail their letters creating what I believe is a formula for sharing our words in a way that lives and breathes beyond the computer screens we have become accustomed to using today.

Thanks, Craig.  Readers, we hope to see you there!

Be sure to check out the other Queens Writes Weekend events.

Queens Young Authors and Poets: 2016 Poetry Winners

Newtown Literary Alliance is proud to announce the winners of the 2016 Queens Young Authors and Poets contest, poetry division.

Queens Young Authors and Poets 2016 contest

Grades 3-5

First Place: Jingcheng Qian, Oakland Gardens (Grade 5 at PS 115) – “Essence of Hope”

Second Place: Cindy Cetina, Floral Park (Grade 3 at PS 115) – “Flowers”

Third Place: Qicheng Sun, Fresh Meadows (Grade 5 at PS 115) – “Reading a Book”

Grades 6-8

First Place: Rachel Duze, Hollis Hills (Grade 8 at MS 172) – “Education”

Second Place: Syeda S. Rahman, Jackson Heights (Grade 6 at the Garden School) – “Listen”

Third Place: Sowjanya Sritharasarma, Queens Village (Grade 8 at MS 172) – “Rainy Days”

Grades 9-12

First Place: Hyvil Escayg, Ozone Park (Grade 11 at High School for Construction Trades, Engineering, and Architecture) – “Addicted”

Second Place: Gabrielle Campbell, Laurelton (Grade 11 at Cambria Heights Academy) – “Modern Throne”


The contest was judged by about two dozen Queens writers, with the final selections made by Newtown Literary Poetry Editor Stephanie Davis.

The first place winners in each of the categories above will be printed in Issue 8 of the journal, due out in June. We are working on securing a time and venue for the awards ceremony, also in June, to which all of the winners will be invited to read their work and celebrate their accomplishment. (They will receive a separate email with the details of the awards ceremony in the weeks ahead.)

Congratulations to all the winners. To those who did not win, we sincerely hope this will not deter you from continuing your writing. The world needs to hear from the youth of Queens!


Watch this space for our Prose winners!

Readers, mark your calendars:


Newtown Literary Contributor: M. Leona Godin

Writer M. Leona Godin’s piece “A Paris Wasting” was featured in Issue #7 of Newtown Literary. Here, she discusses the story. You can read more from Leona at, and follow her on Twitter @DrMLGodin.


Leona-Godin-160webCathryn Lynne Photographer


The Detective Story Behind “A Paris Wasting”

I’d heard from my mother years ago that my childhood friend had died young, causes unknown. When the news struck me, googling hadn’t risen to ubiquitous, so the hearsay sufficed. But recently, having thought of her randomly one day, I finally typed her name into the search box. The details of the two online obits were intriguing with respect to her life and virtually nonexistent with regards to her death. She died, apparently alone, in a German city “with many projects left in progress.”

When I’d first heard of her death, I’d assumed rather offhandedly that it must have been suicide. How else would a 30-year-old who had everything die? But it didn’t feel right. Drugs crossed my mind, but were quickly dismissed, as being just too far-afield from her personality–the one I remembered from when we were little playing horsey games, and also from  the one glimpsed in the obit, lovingly and respectfully written by her parents on two coasts. She had, after a youthful stellar career in horse jumping, moved on to a worldly, writerly academic life. She was, no doubt, an overachiever, a winner from a winning family.

We’d made friends early in my long career at an all-girl private school in San Francisco. I was a scholarship child whose mother wisely told her upon her entrance in first grade, “You will be going to school with people who have much more than we do, but never be jealous. Just enjoy the experience.” My friend, who we will call Catherine as in my story but not real life, was among the richest of the rich. My mother dropped me off every weekend to play at her walled mansion where the living room, or rather I must call it a drawing room for its old-world appearance, likely boasted a greater square footage than our entire apartment.

My mother’s advice proved prophetic when Catherine invited me to visit Disneyland. Flying in the family’s private plane and staying at a villa was almost more amazing than the amusement park and I remember chattering away about it excitedly, having no feelings of jealousy tainting the wonder of it. But I hadn’t seen her since 4th grade, when she’d left our school to attend one closer to the family ranch with its horses she rode competitively.

The sparse but loving obituaries referred to her early success in that austere competitive world, and then of an equally stellar academic career. Also mentioned were her two publications, which turned out to provide the overwhelming fodder for my fictionalized snapshot. I’ve no idea what actually happened to her in that lonely death, but her short story published in a highly respected literary journal a year or two before her death, and an academic paper published a couple years earlier still, offered clues to a life. The picture emerged, colored by intense solitude and keen sense of particularity.

Thus “A Paris Wasting” is a wild amalgamation of Catherine’s published writing and my memories, as well as a few news clippings. There is also one more line of inquiry pursued as a result of reading her academic paper on Catherine of Siena but, for fear of spoiling the story, I will leave that thread unspoken…

The methodology of juxtaposing Memories with research represents a new approach to writing for me. I’m so proud to have it appear in Newtown Literary. There are others from this collection, both written and planned, so I will take this happy publication as encouragement to continue!

Thanks, Leona!

 Readers, mark your calendars:

Queens Literary Community Gears Up for Book Trivia Night

RichardQUEENS, NY—Queens literature lovers are gearing up for the second annual Book Trivia Night in Astoria. Scheduled for November 2 at Break Bar and Billiards, the event will test teams’ knowledge of categories such as “Books You Should Have Read in High School,” film adaptations, translations, and mysteries. Proceeds will benefit Newtown Literary, the nonprofit journal that publishes Queens writers and poets.

Newtown Literary Event Organizer Valerie Keane sees the event as an opportunity for readers and writers across the borough to come together for a night of fun.

“The unique thing about our event is that most Queens literary groups will be participating,” Keane said. “This is not only a fundraiser to keep their own Queens literary journal going, but also
an opportunity to show their community what unique, literary riches each group has to offer and attract people to their own events.”

First Tuesdays Reading Series host Richard Jeffrey Newman will return to emcee the five rounds of trivia. Prizes will be awarded to trivia champions and raffle winners, including a bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne; gift certificates for Restaurants.comYoga Agora, “PR in a Pinch for Writers”, and Good Fortune Design Studio; two tickets to a show by the First String Players theater company; and a tote bag full of books from Astoria Bookshop.

bookshop“Newtown Literary’s mission to support literary culture here in Queens aligns perfectly with my goals for the Astoria Bookshop,” store owner Lexi Beach said. “I’m proud to carry the journal on my shelves, and delighted to participate in the Book Trivia Night by offering some prizes.”

Jackson Heights-based creative writing workshop leader Nancy Agabian formed her own Heightening Stories trivia team for last year’s event.

“The trivia night gives us a chance to step into the literary scene in Queens in a slightly different way,” Agabian said. “Instead of workshopping or reading to each other, we can have a beer with our peers and feel a part of the open community of writers that is Newtown.”

Funds raised from admissions, raffle tickets, and mulligans will go directly toward printing the seventh issue of Newtown Literary, slated for release this December. Last year’s event exceeded the organizers’ expectations and, as the top fundraiser in the nonprofit’s history, enabled the journal to publish its fifth edition: the Speculative Poetry and Prose issue.

Doors open at 7:00 p.m., with trivia beginning at 7:30. Advance tickets are available on Eventbrite for $8, and teams of 4‐6 players that register in advance are eligible for a free mulligan. Individuals orgroups smaller than four will be placed with additional teammates when they check in at the event. Tickets will also be sold at the door for $10.

Attendees are encouraged to Tweet about the event using the Twitter hashtag #NewtownTrivia.

For more information, visit or contact Event Organizer Valerie Keane at

Newtown Literary Contributor: Laura Grow-Nyberg

Writer Laura Grow-Nyberg’s story “Forsan miseros meliora sequentur” was featured in Issue #5 of Newtown Literary. We interviewed her about her writing, and her answers are below. You can read more from Laura on her blog, or follow her on Twitter @LauraGrowNyberg. 

What is your relationship to Queens?
My husband and I moved to Queens in 2009, not long after we got married. We lived in Astoria until last year, when we bought a house in Rego Park

How would you describe the writing you do?
It’s all “genre”, all the time. I’ll try to write about romance or family dynamics or a coming-of-age, but then aliens attack or a ghost shows up or somehow time travel gets involved. If people want to read metaphors into that, I’m all for it, but really it’s more like, “You know what would make this story a lot more fun? Nanites!”

How did you come to writing?
I honestly don’t remember. I was one of those kids who was always making up stories and devouring books, and I never saw any reason why I shouldn’t.

What inspires you?
Other people’s stories. More than a few of my story ideas have seeds in what, if I’m being honest, I’ll call fanfiction, but as I play with characters and settings, they get so far away from the original properties that I think the fandoms would be more angry with me posting them on Archive of Our Own – “X doesn’t act like that!” Well, no. She’s “Y” now.

Dreams can also have an influence, but I’m not going to bore you by talking about last night’s dreams.

What does it mean to be a writer in Queens?
Any time you deal with a multicultural community, you get a window into not just all the cultures that comprise it, but also any multicultural situation in your head: vampires in Philadelphia, an alternate-history Roman Empire, time-traveling to Tenochtitlan, settling in on a space station, or examining the different myths of Santa Claus that exist worldwide. And it’s pretty hard to get more multicultural than Queens.

What writing project(s) are you currently working on?
My book club’s annual holiday party always involves a murder mystery game, and this year I decided I’d write one instead of purchasing it. My premise is that a supervillain has been murdered, and his henchmen have to figure out which of them did it. The party will also be a play-test.

And, finally, my favorite question: What should I be asking you that I didn’t?
You should probably ask me who the killer is, but if I told you that, you wouldn’t want to play!

Thanks, Laura!

Readers, mark your calendars: