Newtown Literary contributor: Mark Blickley
What is your relationship to Queens?
I teach at York College in Jamaica and live in Long Island City.
What is your favorite memory of Queens?
My favorite memory is the first time I ever visited Queens as a kid from the Bronx to see the 1964 World's Fair. That experience was one of the highlights of my childhood and whenever I return to Flushing Meadows Park it always echoes a reminder of that joy.
What writing project(s) are you currently working on?
I’m working on completing my novel, Danger: Falling Rocks. One of the two protagonists is a frog named Broc. I’ve published six chapters from this work-in-progress, but have procrastinated completing it for too many years and have decided that this summer I am determined to finish it. I'm also working on a play about the great French artist Suzanne Valadon, Valadon: Reclining Nude.
How did you come to writing?
When I was 7 years old I won a school poetry contest for my magnum opus verse, “My Turtle”. The instant Bronx Public School celebrity I got for this literary achievement included gifts of coins, candy, gum, and comic books, which made me think it’s pretty cool to be a writer. I didn’t publish my next piece until exactly 25 years later because of the time I took off for sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll.
What is your favorite medium to write in?
Scripts—plays and screenplays. For me, content dictates form, though I do find it far easier to write scripts than prose or poetry. I consider myself much more a storyteller than a wordsmith. My imagination tends to be driven by character and plot as opposed to being language driven, which seems to be what fuels so many fine prose writers and poets.
What kinds of stories do you like to read?
It's kind of weird, because I write mostly fiction and plays, but my reading tastes the past several years has definitely been nonfiction. I’m particularly fond of biographies and history. Today I just finished reading a wonderful book by Sherill Tippins, February House. It chronicles the time period of 1940-42 within a house on 7 Middagh Street in Brooklyn, where a cadre of explosive artists—W.H. Auden, Carson McCullers, Benjamin Britten, Jane and Paul Bowles, Gypsy Rose Lee, and others—undertook an exciting urban experiment in creative communal living.
Do you have a favorite author that you find particularly inspiring?
There are so many authors I revere, but I suppose John Steinbeck would top the list. His storytelling skill, combined with his poetic language, continues to hold me in awe. However, if you consider a film writer/director as an author, the single most inspiring piece of work I’ve experienced that most encouraged me to seriously try and become a writer would have to be François Truffaut’s film, The 400 Blows. Viewing it at age 29 changed my life. It taught me that one could turn childhood trauma into a positive work of art.
If you could have personally witnessed anything, what would you want to have seen?
The 1939 World's Fair at Flushing Meadows Park.