Newtown Literary Contributor: Nicole Haroutunian

Nicole Haroutunian’s work was featured in Issue #9 of Newtown Literary. Below, she discusses her story “In the Morning” and how she wrote it around her friend Lindsay Sullivan’s song by the same name, which you can hear on Spotify or buy on iTunes. You can read more of Nicole’s work at NicoleHaroutunian.com.

When I needed a few song lyrics to put into a character’s notebook for a short story in my book Speed Dreaming, I knew I wasn’t equipped to write them. Aftlindsayforsiteer a few mortifying attempts, I texted my dear friend, songwriter Lindsay Sullivan, who was at JFK, waiting to board her plane back to L.A. after a too-short visit to New York. Before she even took flight, she sent me back two perfect verses.

So when Lindsay released her most recent EP, Cross-Constellation, I wanted to return the favor. She didn’t need a short story for her song like I need a song for my short story, but we were both excited by the prospect of a reciprocal effort. I listened to the album’s first track, “In the Morning (E.S.T.)”, on repeat, jotting down phrases and images that stayed with me.

I started with the title. Because I first met Lindsay when I was living in Williamsburg in 2003, the story began to take shape on a morning in that time and place, back when The Bagel Store on Bedford Ave. was the spot to grab Saturday morning breakfast. The next line that struck me was this one: There was a time when the rocks bit the tides / and a shark came so close / pulled me aside and said whoa, it’s a warning. Fourteen years ago, the way to get to the East River was to duck through a chain link fence at the end of North Seventh Street. I braced for the worst and said whoa, it’s coming. I thought the protagonist, a young woman in a new city, a new job, a new relationship, would spend the story anticipating disaster, but not necessarily doing her best to avert it—isn’t disaster exciting, sometimes, when one is 22?

My Williamsburg phase lasted three years before I landed in Woodside, Queens, where I have spent the past 10 years and counting. Lindsay held out longer in Brooklyn but went much further when she left—all the way to the West Coast. The characters in the story head to a mattress store on Queens Boulevard, hoping to equip their new life together with some sort of comfort, but wind up sharing nothing more than a paper cup of coffee under the rumblings of the 7 train and later, tossing and turning on a cheap consolation mattress, dreaming of sharks and riverbeds. It is hard to know at the end of my story if the couple is going to make it, but listening to Lindsay’s song, I think that at least one of them will, one day, make it to L.A.

Thanks, Nicole!

 

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Newtown Literary Contributor: V. Joseph Racanelli

Writer V. Joseph Racanelli’s story “Thanksgiving in Black and White, 1979” was featured in Issue #8 of Newtown Literary. We interviewed him about his writing, and his answers are below. You can follow him on Twitter @respectthetroll.

 

photo-literarian
Photo by Lou Peralta

What is your relationship to Queens?
I am Queens bred, having spent my formative years growing up in Woodside and Whitestone, both basically immigrant neighborhoods. As an adult, I moved to Brooklyn (at a time when the taxi drivers refused to go there). Now I’m living in Manhattan, where I was born, but planning to return to Queens. I look fondly back on my years there. I’m hoping to get more stories out of my Queens life, past and future.

What is your favorite memory of Queens?
I’m not sure I can give you one favorite memory. There are many. Let’s say I had a happy childhood, for the most part. Lots of friends, stickball, touch football on 64 St., and hardball games on abandoned highway utility field near the BQE. Lefthanded batters couldn’t hit the ball too far as it would end up on the highway and then we’d have to dodge cars to get the ball back. We only had one ball. Queens made me a Mets fan, and I’m still not sure that was a good thing. I went to my first dance at 12, sponsored by the nuns of St. Sebastian. I’m a proud graduate of Queens College.

When I lived there, Halloween was a day when kids could go out on their own to trick or treat. It was a neighborhood of both middle class folks in two family homes and working class families in small apartment buildings. The loveliest times were probably when I was in grammar school, in St. Sebastian’s, Woodside, a time before all those teen hormones kicked in and life became far more complicated. I also remember the influx of drugs in the late ’60s and early ’70s and watching my older friends shoot up.

How would you describe the writing you do?
My fiction–I am a journalist by day–is sometimes autobiographical, sometimes not. I explore both family issues that I’ve experienced, but also ones that are completely made up. The story that appeared in Newtown Literary is partially based on a real incident, but is mostly fiction. I also am moved to write about (fictional) people whose choices are limited to bad and worse. That’s a big theme, perhaps because I’ve been lucky enough (so far) where that hasn’t been the case for me, though I know plenty of people where it is a fact of life.

I spend part of my year in Sullivan County, which is pretty hardscrabble. I run into people and situations that have affected me deeply and they have found their way into my short stories.

I am working on a novel now that is partly set in Italy, where I lived for four years in the 1990s. My parents are from there, and there’s plenty to mine from that, too.

How did you come to writing?
At the risk of sounding pretentious, writing came to me. I might be one of the few writers who can tell you exactly how and when. I remember that I was in the 7th grade of St. Sebastian’s when our teacher asked us to write a fictional one page story. I was a fiction virgin. I wrote something silly about the dust mites in our classroom organizing into an army. After that, I couldn’t stop. I have never veered from the path.

 
Thanks, Vito!