Writer Jennifer Kitses’ work was featured in issue #13 of Newtown Literary. We interviewed her about her writing and her answers are below. Jennifer is the author of the novel Small Hours (Grand Central Publishing). For more, check out her website jenniferkitses.com. You can also follow her on Twitter @jenkitses, Instagram @jenniferkitses, or Facebook.
When you think of Queens, what first comes to mind?
Woodside was my first neighborhood when I moved to New York, and I now live in Jackson Heights with my family. To me, Queens is a place that is accessible (though some neighborhoods are more affordable than others), and in that way it feels like an older version of the city. Whenever I meet someone who is considering a move to New York, I suggest they at least check out Queens. At the worst, they can have an amazing meal somewhere. (Don’t believe me: check out Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown” episode on Queens.)
How does Queens influence your writing?
Queens has a welcoming and encouraging writing community, and it’s meant a lot to me to be a part of it these last few years. I go out every month with a group of writers who live in Jackson Heights and Forest Hills ⎯ we met at a Mystery Writers of America meeting, and discovered that several of us lived within a few blocks of each other. For anyone looking to check out the Queens literary scene, I’d recommend the LIC Reading Series, Noir at the Bar: Queens, and of course Newtown Literary’s events at Terraza 7 and elsewhere. We have three great independent bookstores here (Astoria Bookshop, Book Culture LIC, and Kew & Willow Books) and they all host great readings and author events.
What is the last piece of writing you read that made you laugh or cry (or just especially moved you)?
I loved Maggie O’Farrell’s I Am I Am I Am. I read it in small doses, usually before bedtime. Which usually meant that I wound up staying up for hours, because that book not only made me laugh and cry, but also terrified me!
What inspires you?
Other writers. Lately I’ve realized that much of what I’ve written or tried to write has been a response to the books I’ve loved. What I wind up writing doesn’t resemble those great books, but I can feel their influence.
When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?
Walk. That's how I give myself a chance to think or to clear my head. I used to jump on the subway to have thinking/head-clearing time, but because of the state of the subway system, that's not really an option anymore, unfortunately!
What writing project(s) are you currently working on?
I’m working on a longer project that is still very much in progress. The short story that appeared in Newtown Literary was something I wrote while taking a break from that ⎯ I wanted to feel like I’d completed something, and you can wait years to have that feeling with a novel.
What should I have asked you that I didn’t?
I always love to know what people do for a living. My background is in journalism, but for the last ten years or so I’ve been writing for universities. It’s great because I get to interview people who are doing very different things, and that’s something I miss when I spend too much time at my desk.