From a Newtown Literary contributor: Sue Mell
When you think of Queens, what first comes to mind?
When I think of Queens, Kissena Park always comes to mind, home to my first childhood adventures.
How does Queens influence your writing?
I’ve written a lot of stories that take place in New York. Having grown up in (and recently returned to) Queens, it’s an inseparable part of my worldview, my voice. Oh so many hours on the 7 line, the buses 26, 27, and 17! Seriously, though, riding public transportation gives you all these pauses, this time to look out the window, or at other people, and think. For nearly a decade, I’d written only fiction, but when I moved back from San Francisco, in 2018, I started writing nonfiction again.
What is the last piece of writing you read that made you laugh or cry (or just especially moved you)?
The last book I loved was Joan Silber’s novel Improvement.
What inspires you?
I’m always inspired by image first. Color. Light. The way a place, a person, or object looked at a particular moment in time.
What does your writing process/routine look like?
I write at home—in my mom’s house, the house I grew up in. She's ninety, and I have daytime aides, but am otherwise her primary caregiver. So, at around 6:45 a.m, I write for an hour in bed (gasp!), and then, once I’ve I got my mom squared away for the morning downstairs, I come back up and settle in a small armchair with my laptop (and breakfast, of course). At 11:00, I’ll take a break to fill the bird feeder—a great source of entertainment for us both—and then work until lunch. Saturdays, when my brother visits my mom, I spend a long day in the city, see a movie or a play, or meet up with friends. But I still write, using an app called Ulysses, on my phone—riding the LIRR or the subway, at a friend’s apartment, or at the Lincoln Center Library. The phone makes for a surprising concentration of focus. (People call it discipline, but I’m just too anxious if I don’t write every day.)
When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?
I’m fond of meeting friends, old and new, at the Maison Kayser on Broadway at 76th or at Harlem Shake, the above mentioned movies and plays, and I watch way too much TV. (Such good writing there, these days, right? Uh-huh.)
What writing project(s) are you currently working on?
I’m currently revising the draft of novel that’s based in Brooklyn and upstate New York. (Sorry, Queens!)
What should I have asked you that I didn't?
Not the answers to any question you might’ve asked, but . . . most of my books are still out in San Francisco.
Chips are important. (See photo.)
*Also note copies of Newtown Literary issue #14 at the center of the bigger book shelf above :)