Another Chapter – Audrey Dimola for It’s Queens Magazine, Volume 5.3, Fall 2013
What can I say about the first ever Queens Literary Town Hall? Thanks to the enthusiasm, the initiative, the energy of everyone in the room – it was incredible. The inaugural event of Queens Council on the Arts’ new 3rd Space series, it was a platform in which representatives from the Queens literary community – reading series curators, bookshop owners, festival organizers, workshop leaders, and so on – could come together to introduce themselves, present their work, and make connections with each other and with the writers, literature lovers, and locals in attendance.
As a born and raised Astoria/Long Island City girl, local pride has always come easy to me. I’ve been writing about, promoting, supporting, and participating in Queens culture as a journalist, writer/editor, poet, curator, press consultant, and volunteer since my college years, and crusading for Queens has become an increasingly important part of my life. Our beautiful borough is so widespread – vibrantly colored with diversity like no place else, each neighborhood serving as a world unto itself. It’s exactly what makes Queens what it is – but coupled with our longtime lack of literary hubs, the result is a community existing in pockets, left mostly to stumble upon each other’s efforts in happy accidents.
Thankfully, things have slowly but surely been changing – especially ramping up in the past year. We have two new bookstores in Astoria, our first formal literary journal, reading series emerging and continuing, and many opportunities to write, workshop, take classes, and perform popping up in different neighborhoods across the borough. We are becoming more aware that we need to help each other, reach out to each other, and capitalize on the new spaces locals are flocking to because they literally have not been able to find any fellow writers or lit lovers in their area – despite the fact that there are countless creatives unbeknownst to them all over Queens!
Even through getting the word out about the Town Hall and beginning the curating process, I came in contact with new groups, projects, and efforts for the arts and literary community in Queens I was completely unaware of. At this pivotal point at the beginning of the 2013-2014 season, I knew that if I could get all of these talented, driven people I was meeting together in a room – and invite anyone else who was interested to join in – we could all communicate, celebrate, and collaborate in an effort to spread awareness and keep our literary community strongly moving forward.
Sometimes we need to take that breath to come together and facilitate the conversations, the connections, the friendships, and the projects that in some cases, wouldn’t happen any other way. The groups and representatives I reached out to were so excited and eager to help, and the public response was just the same. The RSVP filled to capacity in advance, and Queens Council on the Arts ended up standing room only. We talked, presented, and performed to a full house for the entire duration of the event – and I couldn’t be happier.
We were joined by a representative from District 26 Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer’s office; Queens Poet Laureate Paolo Javier; Richard Jeffrey Newman of First Tuesdays Reading Series and Open Mic (Jackson Heights); Claire LaPlaca and Kea DeVay of Enigma Bookstore (Astoria); Tim Fredrick of Newtown Literary Journal; John Rice, Ann Podracky and Brian Kim of Oh, Bernice! Reading Series (formerly Sunnyside, now Astoria); Deborah Emin of REZ Reading Series (Kew Gardens) and the new Richmond Hill Library Readings; Aida Zilelian-Silak of Boundless Tales Reading Series (Astoria); Bridget Bartolini of Five Boro Story Project; Samantha Inniss of Art, Food & Soul (Jamaica); Lexi Beach of Astoria Bookshop; Wendy Angulo, Peggy Robles Alvarado, Erik “Advocate of Wordz” Maldonado, and Mark A. Vigo of Canvas of Words; Nancy Agabian of Heightening Stories workshop (Jackson Heights); Megan DiBello and Dan Dissinger of Poetry Teachers NYC, and Emily Herzlin of Mindful Writing and other workshops. I also represented my roving reading and live writing series Nature of the Muse, offered a special promotion for Jackson Heights-founded Theatre 167’s new show “PIRIRA,” and read a statement from theatre arts collective Mission to (dit)MARS (who run the Propulsion Lab playwrights’ workshop and the Launch Pad Reading Series for plays) because they couldn’t be there in person.
It was a night filled with promise – created by Queens, for Queens, in Queens. As the host and curator, I was overwhelmed with utmost pride for my borough and the people who feel as passionately about it as I do. At one point during the spoken word performance of Canvas of Words, tears came to my eyes. We sometimes get so consumed by the logistics – always rushing, rushing, rushing through our endless to-do lists, myriad jobs, and day-to-day grind. It was so special to just sit there in that moment and feel the resonance – to remember all over again just why I do this, why we all do this: for the love of words. Poetry, prose, novels, plays, spoken word, and everything in between – there is an inherent magic in sharing our stories and expressions, and together that night we proved to ourselves and to each other that Queens has so much more to share and do. We are constantly creating the kind of culture we want to be a part of. I always say – if we don’t do it, who will?
The first ever Queens Literary Town Hall occurred on Friday, October 18th, 2013 at Queens Council on the Arts. For more info on Audrey visit audreydimola.com, for an up-to-date list of Queens literary resources visit boundlesstales.com/queens-lit-resources, and to learn about Queens Council on the Arts’ 3rd Space opportunities visit queenscouncilarts.org/3rd-space or email firstname.lastname@example.org.