Newtown Literary contributor: Catherine Thom
Writer Catherine Thom's work was featured in issue #9 of Newtown Literary. We interviewed her about her writing, and her answers are below. For more of Catherine's work, check out her blog and her poetry website, or follow her cat on Instagram.
What is your relationship to Queens?
I was born in Rego Park, was brought up in continually reside in Astoria. I work in Manhattan, just to shake things up a bit.
What is your favorite memory of Queens?
It's hard to pick just one - but what sprung to mind was the long walks I used to take with my Dad. Often we would go down to Astoria Park, and sit on the benches by the river. Dad would point out what part of the City we were facing, what small islands were nearby, or the names of each type of passing boat. These walks were wonderful times just talking with Dad, but it also made me the long walker I am today.
How would you describe the writing you do?
Writing is not my day job. Mainly I've been a blogger since before I knew about blogs. I love writing about my own experiences, and life observations. My main subject, especially in my main blog, is about the Tea Life, which is not really food writing, but a pairing of teas with complementary books, and my impressions of the tea businesses I've visited over the years. Someday I mean to pull it all into a memoir - I have the title but not much else at this point. I wrote a novel that will probably not see the light of day. I also write poems, which fight angst as much as possible.
How did you come to writing?
I've been writing since I was at least 7 years old. I started keeping a diary at that time, as I had an obsession with not forgetting anything about my childhood. It freaked me out that my parents had fuzzy memories about their school years, and I was determined to not let that happen to me. I've been mildly successful. I loved reading as soon as I could read, and always said I wanted to be a writer when I grew up, like Laura Ingalls Wilder. Like many girls of my generation, the Little House books were a massive influence on me, with a complete escape from my city upbringing. My mom bought me a pretty notebook when I was sick, and I immediately started writing (bad) poetry and what would now be called fan fiction. I need to find that book, and burn it.
What inspires you?
Long walks continue to spur on the inspiration. Sometimes it's what I see on a walk, and at other times the movement helps me process something I've read, but some of the writing I'm most proud of came after a particularly productive day for my Fitbit. I hear Charles Dickens was a vigorous walker. He had the streets of London, and I have New York. I can't say I'm anywhere near as productive as Dickens, of course. Also, I have vivid dreams most nights, and if they stay with me throughout a day, I'll mine them for inspiration. I know travel helps; I don't do enough of it to cite as a help to writing, but I'd recommend it anyway.
What does it mean to be a writer in Queens?
Queens is different than anywhere on the planet. It remains the most diverse place I've ever seen, with London coming a close second. Yet even though many writers and musicians have come out of this borough, it's still under the radar. In a way that's good, because one could get so wrapped up in the idea of being a writer and the sense of place that it could become distracting. However, I've seen a sense of community growing among aspiring writers, with workshops and a wonderful independent bookshop in my hometown (Astoria), and I hope that helps to quietly put Queens on the map as a home for writers and other artists. We already attract people from other boroughs over here for our variety of restaurant choices. Variety is key. You can travel the world just strolling from Astoria through Woodside to Jackson Heights. There are so many voices that just need a way to be heard.
What writing project(s) are you currently working on?
My writing has taken a backseat this winter to other projects, but spring usually has a way of starting things up again. I continue to blog from time to time, and the novel I mentioned before is in dire need of editing. I've scribbled some poems out over the past months that could use a little tweaking. I need to take a good hike around Central Park, and then get down to business.
And, finally, my favorite question: What should I be asking you that I didn't?
Tough one - possibly what my ideal writing life would be? At which point I would go into my fantasy of living in a thatched cottage in the UK with cats, ducks, and all the time in the world to write. I'd probably end up gardening.