Queens Literary Journal Showcases Local Writing Talent

By Paul DeBenedetto on December 7, 2012 10:29am | Updated on December 7, 2012 1:33pm

QUEENS — An Elmhurst writer and teacher is hoping to highlight the Queens literary scene with the publication of Newtown Literary, a new journal featuring works exclusively by Queens writers.

More than 130 submissions from lifelong residents, immigrants and transplants from other cities in the United States were pared down to just 26 participants, editor Tim Fredrick said.

"I found out there was a lot of really good writing going on here," Fredrick said. "We're starting to see all this literary stuff start to bubble up in Queens."

The project started about six months ago, after Fredrick raised a little more than $1,000 in donations to help with the cost of printing, outreach and starting up a non-profit, the Newtown Literary Alliance.

Alongside organizations like the Jackson Heights Poetry Festival, Fredrick hopes the journal will be another outlet for the Queens literati to shine.

"Now that all these opportunities are beginning to happen we see all the talent starting to reveal itself," Fredrick said. "Many of the submissions we got were from lifelong Queens residents."

Originally from Pittsburgh, Fredrick became a Queens resident himself 15 years ago, after moving to Astoria at the age of 21. Now 36, he lives in Elmhurst and teaches English at the Queens Paideia School in Long Island City.

His love of the borough has led to a concerted effort not to make the journal an attempt to copy the esthetics of Manhattan or Brooklyn.

"We're working really hard not to be the 'third borough,'" Fredrick said. "Queens is a little different. It's a much more diverse group of artists and writers."

That diversity is reflected in the breadth of submissions, ranging from neighborhoods usually associated with arts and culture like Long Island City and Astoria, to areas like Glendale and Richmond Hill, where fewer young artists live.

For some, the journal was a way to try something new. Kew Gardens resident Malini Singh McDonald, 37, works in theater, but writes poems on the side, usually for herself.

Newtown Literary's homegrown feel compelled Singh McDonald to submit her work, something she said she's never before done.

"It's inviting," Singh McDonald said. "I was like, 'you know what? Let me just send it in with no expectations.'"

Other contributors saw Newtown Literary as a new outlet for their passion. 

Astoria writer Annabel Short, 35, runs the blog 30th Ave: A Year in the Life of a Street, where she profiles locals. For her contribution to the journal, she combined and expanded upon a few profiles, including stories about an Ecuadorian crossing guard, a Greek auto mechanic and children from the Astoria Houses working on a video project.

The finished product, a short nonfiction piece entitled "Littoral Zone," is a look at the way cities and neighborhoods change over time.

Short's husband Carlos Hiraldo, 40, also contributed to the journal, writing a series of poems featuring their 2-year-old son.

"It provides an outlet, and brings people together across the borough," Short said of the journal.

The publication will have its official unveiling Dec. 14 at Waltz-Astoria and plans on printing two more issues in 2013, one in the Spring and one in the Fall. Beyond that, Fredrick said he wants to expand the Newtown Literary Alliance to independently publish books and to include more work in a variety of languages.

But those are down the line, and for now, Fredrick just wants the journal to show people a complete picture of Queens.

"There's something very urban about Queens, but there's also this multicultural aspect," Fredrick said. "And I hope that's sort of reflected in the journal."

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