Originally published in Queens Chronicle.
In a small packed room in the back of Astoria’s Enigma Bookstore, an audience shifted from quiet laughter to penchant silence. Writers read aloud poetry and stories that retold fairy tales, reminisced on a concert or mourned childhood friends.
Queens Writers is a new monthly reading series that hopes to serve the borough’s long-time scribes by nurturing a community that supports each other’s literary works.
“[Queens writers are] tired of the idea that in Manhattan there is some kind of monopoly on culture, monopoly on literature, and that there isn’t culture, there isn’t art in Queens. There is,” said Gil Fagiani, a published poet and founder of the reading series.
He said there are Queens residents who have been writing for years but haven’t been published because they lacked a writing community that could offer support. This series is meant to fill that gap and connect long-time writers with published authors.
“A reading series can play a key role to help move someone forward in a literary career,” he said. “The fact that there is some sort of group of people sustains them and raises their morale, more hope that they can go forward with their writing to make it more than a private enterprise.”
While new series have been developing throughout the borough, Fagiani thinks his is unique. Most others serve new and younger writers while Queens Writers is geared toward an older crowd, people have been writing independently for years but need be part of a group to get them to the next step.
“Within 20 years there have been reading series rather sporadically in Astoria and Long Island City,” he said. “But now I see a greater possibility of a writer’s community evolving, one that maybe in the future will span the age differences.”
The next Queens Writers reading will be on April 16 in Enigma Bookstore, located at 33-17 Crescent St. in Astoria. Along with its normal featured published writers, it will include an open mic.
Fagiani hopes the open mic will help build a supportive literary community between emerging and accomplished writers in Queens. “When I think about some of the Queens writers, I see them in the future as maybe publishing a book,” he said.