From a Newtown Literary contributor: Elizabeth Jaeger
Writer Elizabeth Jaeger’s work was featured in issue #16 of Newtown Literary. We interviewed her about her writing and her answers are below. For more, check out her website. You can also find her on Instagram @jaegerwrites.
When you think of Queens, what first comes to mind?
Home. I don’t live there anymore, but it’s where I grew up. I lived in Glendale my entire childhood. Even though I have moved away, I visit often because my mom still lives in my childhood home. My spouse laughs at me because every time we’re on vacation and people ask me where we are from I always respond New York. I’ve lived in New Jersey for fifteen years, but I will always be a New Yorker. Queens will always be my home.
What is the last piece of writing you read that made you laugh or cry (or just especially moved you)?
Shortly after my dad died, a friend of mine sent me a book of poetry, Lord of the Butterflies by Andrea Gibson. I am a restless soul, and I have difficulty doing anything if it requires me to sit still. I do most of my reading while walking. As I read Gibson’s poems some of them had me sobbing so much people actually stopped me while I was out walking to ask if I was okay. Gibson’s poetry is powerful, and it set my already frayed emotions on fire.
What inspires you?
My son and traveling inspire me. I write mostly narrative non-fiction. Many of my essays are either about my son or trips abroad. But even my short story “The Treehouse” was inspired by a trip I took years ago to India and the character Tomas is based on a man I met in Nepal.
When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?
I love spending time with my son. I look forward to him being home from school so that we can do things together. I greatly enjoy the beach. I love to hike, especially in National Parks or anywhere new. I also dabble a bit in photography.
What writing project(s) are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on two projects. I’ve grown quite fond of the characters in “The Treehouse” and I want to spend more time with them. So I’m working to expand the short story into a novel. My dad didn’t have the best childhood. His father could be a very nice person when he was sober, but he drank too much, and when he was drunk he became violent. Though the novel will be completely fictional, certain aspects will be loosely based on my dad’s experiences. I want to explore the effects of alcoholism and abuse on children, and how challenging it can be to break a family cycle.
I’m also working on a memoir of my dad’s and my battle with COVID-19. On March 27, my mother called me early in the morning asking me to please come to Queens and take my Dad to the hospital. He couldn’t breathe. I raced across the bridges, desperate to save my dad. While he got sicker in the hospital, I stayed with my mom and got sick myself. I eventually recovered. My dad did not.
What does your writing process/routine look like?
I can’t do outlines. I’m incapable of plotting out a story. When an idea sprouts, I sit down and start writing. Sometimes I have a vague idea of where my story will take me, sometimes I’m simply driven by an image or an emotion. The story unfolds daily and I’m often surprised by where the characters lead me. Since I’m not good with outlines, I compensate with lots of revisions. Sometimes a final draft looks nothing like the initial one. In fact, revision is so vital that I have come to greatly appreciate the input I get from my writing friends, especially the Sourland Writers. I look forward to when it’s safe again to meet up with others, so that we can resume our monthly meetings.