Newtown Literary Contributor: Suzanne Bennett

Writer Suzanne Bennett’s story “The Adoption” was featured in Issue #8 of Newtown Literary. She discusses her piece below. Find out more about Suzanne and her writing at her website.

The dystopian story “The Adoption” grew from my wondering about the growing importance pets have in the lives of humans. The particular seed of the story sprang from witnessing a friend struggle to pay for her cat’s care after it developed cancer.

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Petunia

On a less lofty scale, I’m sure Petunia, the half Persian cat who ruled our house for 23 years, was the model for the adopted cat, Zohra, a Persian—and the name of an actual Persian Princess.

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Scott Joplin‘s grave

I’m not sure how the piece became futuristic, or landed in Queens exactly. A writing workshop in Diversity Square led by Nancy Agabian during one of Queens Writes Weekends got me to focus on the Square, which became the opening setting; a trip to St. Michael’s Cemetery for the annual Scott Joplin tribute  prompted a walk through their amazing crypts and statues and it became the home for some of the characters.

Dealing with cataclysmic factors that created the story’s futuristic world led to research on dangers for the New York metropolitan area which revealed, among other things: the presence of an earthquake fault that runs along 125th Street in Manhattan; that Indian Point nuclear plant can only withstand a quake of 6.1, which is less than what is predicted for the area’s next quake; and that New York City could be flooded by 2050, sooner if we don’t get more proactive about our energy uses.

I read about the consequences of earthquakes, hurricanes, and tidal waves. For months my night table had a stack of sleep-deterring books, with names like Disasters: Natural and Manmade!

Pictures of disaster zones were key in constructing the setting of the story, as were Jackson Heights and Elmhurst neighborhood spots where I took notes and photos.

When the central character, Lovell, popped into my head, I was surprised but ended up becoming quite fond of him. He’s one of the reasons “Adoption” is becoming a series of stories. Also, I enjoyed creating the walk-on characters, which gave me an opportunity to highlight the amazing diversity of Queens.

Speculative fiction is not a genre I’ve read deeply in, or thought I would write. We live in such traumatic times, I suspect it’s no wonder many writers are drawn to it. It occurs to me, too, that writing speculative fiction gives a way to address ideas that might seem heavy-handed, or over-whelming if set in the present. We like to kid ourselves that disastrous times are way far away in the future.

Thanks, Suzanne!

 

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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 http://www.geographicus.com/mm5/cartographers/beers.txt [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. 

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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.

QWW: A Word from Site Captain Christina Tesoro

Christina is Site Captain for the Shut Up & Write:Topos Bookstore Café event taking place on Saturday, April 25 at 1:00 p.m. If you’re interested in attending, please go to https://www.fac​ebook.com/event​s/1397413633914​848 to let Christina know you’ll be there. 

Anaphora poem. “An Anaphora is ‘the repetition of a word or expression several times within a clause or within a paragraph’. In poetry the repetition of the phrase can be just at the beginning of each line, setting the tone as a meditation or a mantra, or it can be utilized more subtlety within the poem. The poem can be free verse or prose style.”

The term ‘anaphora’ comes from the Greek for ‘a carrying up or back,’ and refers to a type of parallelism created when successive phrases or lines begin with the same words, often resembling a litany.”

When I was a little girl, I had a litany. I had two. The first was, “It’s ok, Seena.” (I called myself Seena.) I would say it whenever I got a shot at the doctor’s office, or whenever I fell down a scraped a knee. It’s okay. It’ll be okay. The other was “Sí se puede.” It’s something my grandfather use to tell me in letters whenever I would write to him to tell him my improbable dreams. It means yes you can.

I’ve been looking up prompts for Saturday’s QWW: Ridgewood Edition. I’ve actually been kind of nervous about it — it’s a little difficult to find good prompts on the internet. There are a lot of silly prompts, a lot of prompts geared toward classrooms. And silliness is great! I’m frequently a silly person. But I don’t want QWW at Topos to feel like a classroom.

One of the prompts I found was to write an anaphora poem. I don’t consider myself a poet. I leave that for the true poet-souls, like my chica Crystal. You can’t help but be a poet if you’re around Crystal.

But I like the word anaphora.

So there’s a prompt for you. Anaphora. Repetition of a word. Give me free verse, or prose, or whatever your heart desires. Sí se puede. Just write it.

I like picnics. Here’s a picnic basket full of prompts. Some of them I stole from the Internet. Some of them are somewhat silly. Things that teenagers would take and run with — what does the kitchen look like in the creepiest coffee shop in the world? What kind of superpowers would your grandmother have? What would her costume look like? I’m not asking too many big questions. Instead I want you to run with it. Crystal wants you to write on your nerve, and I do too.

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

 To read more of Christina’s thoughts on poetry, prompts, and the upcoming event, check out her blog!

QWW: A Word from Site Captain Joan Willette

Joan is Site Captain for the Writing Prompts: Astor Bake Shop event taking place on Saturday, April 25 at 3:00 p.m.

The Enchanted Goddess: Literary Creative Arts Community is excited to sponsor a fundraiser for the Newtown Literary Alliance this Saturday, April 25th at 3:00 p.m. at the Astor Bake Shop at 12-23 Astoria Blvd. L.I.C.   We will have fun prompts, great food, and uproarious creativity and laughter to share!

My first published poem, “Paradise Found in Socrates Park”, was recently published in the Winter 2014 Newtown Literary Journal.  It literally changed the trajectory of my creative life!   My new organization at https://www.facebook.com/literarygoddess was launched shortly after.  I have also been asked to feature at The Queens Book Festival at Flushing Meadow Park in June, The N.Y.C. Poetry Festival on Governors Island in July, and The Queens Lit Fest at L.I.C. Bar in August.

Tim Fredrick and his staff tirelessly support and promote writers all over Queens. Queens Writes Weekend is a wonderful opportunity to get a “taste” of the savory creative community thriving in Queens!  Come out and support Queens Writes Weekend at many sites all over Queens!  The Enchanted Goddess: Literary Creative Arts Community is waiting to welcome you with open arms this Saturday!

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

QWW: A Word from Site Captain Rich Watson

Rich is Site Captain for the Shut Up & Write: Wallenberg Square event taking place on Sunday, April 26 at 1:00 p.m.

My writing site for this year’s Queens Writes Weekend is at Forest Park’s Wallenberg Square, on the corner of Metropolitan Avenue and Park Lane South, on Sunday the 26th, beginning at 1:00 p.m. It’s a largish open space with plenty of benches and shade. It’s comfortable and relatively secluded, without too much noise from nearby traffic. We’ll talk for a little bit about Newtown Literary and writing in general, to try and get a sense of what everyone wants out of their work, and then we’ll write. If you need story prompts, I’ll have some. The purpose is to start getting down some ideas as a first step towards something longer or deeper. I was published by NL recently, and doing this is my way of saying thanks. I hope you get something positive out of the experience.

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

QWW: A Word from Site Captain Crystal Rivera

Crystal is Site Captain for the Poetry Prompts event at Q.E.D. A Place to Show and Tell taking place on Sunday, April 26 at 11:00 a.m.
It’s April, and now really feels like the time to just join in on the spring buzz and write on your nerve. Go for it. Give yourself permission to write strangely, differently, loudly, quietly, and — dare I say it? — “badly”. Just write without all the added pressures of perfecting/editing during these two hours. If there’s time, those who’d like to share what they’ve written can do so. 
 
Come a few minutes early to grab some coffee and snacks! We will begin at exactly 11:00 a.m
 
No worries if you’ve been experiencing a writer’s block of sorts, or if you’ve never written a poem. I’ll be providing poetry prompts that’ll hopefully loosen you up, write freely, get you to celebrate your wild (your voice, too.) We are also in celebration of Queens and community and the collaborative experience! So prompts will have a bit to do with this as well. Here’s one:
 
Found Poem Prompt: Please bring any Queens textual sources you can get your hands on! Your local newspaper, funky menus from local restaurants/cafes, a book of poetry/fiction from a Queens writer (Newtown Literary among others will be sold at this site [wink wink]). Just make sure it’s something you’d want to use to compose your own poem. Try to keep your text simple! We won’t be spending too much time on this, as it is only one prompt out of a few others.
 
Thank you and see you soon.

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

 For more information about Crystal, check out her website!

 

QWW: A Word from Site Captain Karyn Slutsky

Karyn is Site Captain for the Shut Up & Write: Private Home in Forest Hills event taking place on Saturday, April 25 at 2:00 p.m. If you’re interested in attending, please email events@newtownl​iterary.org to let Karyn know you’ll be there and find out the address. 

Saturdays are best spent quiet, with good coffee at the fingertips. We feel strongly about that, and about bringing people together in our home to inspire each other. In this cozy writing session, we’ll gather in our living room and dining room with a large couch and enough chairs to fit a whole bunch of people with space and privacy to spare. Young helping hands will be around to serve up hot and cold drinks and snacks, leaving you free to focus on your writing. So join us in Forest Hills for a writing experience that will leave you feeling relaxed and connected to other local writers and community-minded folks.

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