Writer Khurram Kalim’s work was featured in issue #11 of Newtown Literary. We interviewed him about his writing and his answers are below. For more of Khurram’s work, check out Bronx to Bushville and Banished to the Pen, or follow him @Khurramala on Twitter.
What is your relationship to Queens?
I was born and raised in Queens. I grew up near the corner of Union Turnpike and Main Street. I went to school in Queens. I’ve spent most of my working life in Queens. I played baseball and basketball at a countless number of parks in Queens, from Vleigh to Cunningham to Hoffman to Juniper. I live on Long Island now (no, Queens doesn’t count as living on Long Island), but I continue to work, study, play, and hang out in Queens.
What is your favorite memory of Queens?
There isn’t one specific memory, but it’s the diversity of Queens that plays in my head when I think of it. It instantly triggers that warm feeling of home.
How would you describe the writing you do?
I’d describe my writing as constantly changing. I’m not nearly close to a refined, consistent style or voice. If anything, my style in a particular time reflects my deficiencies as a writer at that given time. Right now, for example, I’ve been writing shorter first-person fiction (usually in the 1,000 word range) because I’m not quite where I’d like to be as a storyteller of a longer work, nor am I fully confident in my ability to write in third-person. When I feel like I’ve improved to tackle something else, my writing will change again. Recently, I’ve been writing a little more poetry, and it follows the same logic as my prose writing does: since I don’t have a mastery of language or vocabulary that sometimes carries the storytelling and depth in poetry, I’ve been writing with a prose-y narrative style fit to a poetic form to try and accomplish the same effect better poets do with their language dexterity.
How did you come to writing?
Reading was always an important part of my upbringing. I think writing is a natural progression from reading, so at some point, it just became the next thing to do. It helped that every step of the way, I’ve been surrounded by people who enjoy writing. Not writers by profession, but people who like writing and the process of writing regardless of their notoriety or ability. That community of friends and family brought me to writing and has kept me from straying too far away from it.
What inspires you?
Mostly other writers. I like to read the works of writers from all levels of skill and profession (from amateur writers to journalists to renowned authors), and when a work really sticks, my response is generally to write more. This is especially true when my friends and family share work with me. Their work usually inspires and motivates me to get something written down.
Music is also a big influence on what I write. A good song is my go-to prompt.
What does it mean to be a writer in Queens?
The crazy thing about Queens is that almost any story you can tell will be relatable to a very wide range of people. Writers in and from Queens basically stumble into shared experiences. You can start out trying to write about, say, a particular experience from your culture, and discover that your story is a known one across the map. Queens’s diversity emphasizes its people’s similarities, and the writing Queens produces does the same.
What writing project(s) are you currently working on?
Right now, I’m focused on improving as a writer. That means I’ve been writing stuff that usually doesn’t get completed and that I probably will not submit, but I’ll share with a few friends and family I know can help me get better. It’s been mostly the poetry I mentioned before, as well as a few short stories that start and stop with no particular goal. I want to improve before committing to a longer project. Other than that, I’ve been writing for a few baseball blogs. I like the challenge of mixing baseball’s analytics-driven approach with creative writing.
And, finally, my favorite question: What should I be asking you that I didn't?
If you were to ask me what I’m reading right now, I’d say I’m re-reading The Doll’s Alphabet by Camilla Grudova, and Alice Munro’s Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage. I’ve learned a lot about writing short stories from both before, and I think there’s more I can learn from those two great collections. Of course, I’m also reading Newtown Literary issue #11.
Which I happen to be in.