James McMenamin is a writer/instructor based in Queens, NYC. He has written poetry, short fiction, as well as articles about community based issues. He is Vice President of his local community civic group, and Vice President of a history preservation alliance. He has also been involved in several writing workshops in NYC with peers, in both Manhattan and Queens. He continues to feel excited about reading new work, and exploring ways to express the written word as it reflects themes on society and plays on language.
Interview with James Mcmenamin
TTJ: What inspired you to start writing?
James: I suppose I began writing once I wanted to express my feelings and opinions on issues affecting my environment and the world around me.
TTJ: When did you start writing?
James: In my mid teens, I wrote some movie reviews for the high school paper, and some first attempts at fiction.
TTJ: Have you always wanted to be a writer?
James: I'm not sure. Going far back in time, I think the mind was very impressionable, and changeable.
TTJ: What advice would you give a new writer, someone just starting out?
James: I'd simply say keep writing, and reward yourself with each acceptance, and don't get down over refusals.
TTJ: Writing can be an emotionally draining and stressful pursuit. Any tips for aspiring writers?
James: Yes, feelings of anxiety can occur, and pressure if you're required to complete something on time.
TTJ: How do you handle writer’s block?
James: It's difficult to force oneself to get in the proper mood. Just accept where you are in the moment, and let any negativity pass, and the tension will lighten.
TTJ: Describe your writing space.
James: At home primarily, either at a standard desk or in a chair, and I write often in a notebook first.
TTJ: What is the most difficult part about writing for you? What do you love most about the writing process?
James: I would think revising, or getting feedback you may not agree with.
TTJ: What does success mean to you?
James: Success isn't monetary, but just a feeling of self worth and respect once you feel you've gained enough acceptance.
TTJ: How do you handle literary criticism?
James: At times, it's not easy, especially having been in some writing groups with people of different styles and backgrounds of understanding.
TTJ: What was your favorite part, and your least favorite part, of the publishing journey?
James: I love expressing myself, especially when I'm pleased with the material, and also getting a positive reaction.
TTJ: What made you want to become a writer?
James: I thought I wanted to have a full career as a journalist, but wasn't sure in what capacity, but also tended to be more creative minded.
TTJ: Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share with your readers about?
James: I usually return to unfinished writings, or plan ahead on ideas I have for non-fiction community based pieces.
TTJ: Where do you draw inspiration from?
James: I'd say one can draw inspiration from issues presented in the news and events in society which have multiple angles and encourage different point of views.
TTJ: What books or authors have most influenced your own writing? And why?
James: I would say reading Beat poetry, and New Journalism writers, that put one in the story, rather than from a detached viewpoint.
TTJ: What do you like to do when you are not writing?
James: I've always been a news hound. I read, or interact with people in the community.
TTJ: What is your greatest accomplishment in your writing career?
James: I wrote for a few community newspapers in the initial hopes of pursuing a career. Then by the mid 1990's, I was drawn into the culture of open mike poetry readings, which led to opportunities to showcase writing. I've been published in Brevitas, Nomad's Choir, Performance Poets, Afterword, Mobius, Brownstones Anthology, etc. I've co-organized readings in NYC, and have facilitated writing groups with peers. Nine years ago, I started teaching creative writing classes within the Queen's Library's Adult Learner Program. Students in my classes have gotten published yearly through NYU's Literacy Review and Symphony Space's All Write Program. Recently, I've been writing articles on topics of local historical interest for a community based magazine, the Juniper Berry. I hope to consolidate poetry some day for a book, although its not in the planning stages at this time.
TTJ: Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
James: Nope, never thought about that.
TTJ: What did you want to be when you grew up?
James: I suppose it was somewhat flexible. I do not recall having any fascination with one or another professions, like some kids want to be an astronaut or a baseball player.
TTJ: Share something your readers wouldn’t know about you.
James: Most people think I'm quite extroverted and active, but I'm 50/50. Other days, I prefer quiet and aloneness.
TTJ: What’s your favorite spot to visit in your own country? And what makes it so special to you?
James: I haven't travelled much, but it's always good to connect with areas of nature, rather than be constantly swallowed by buildings and constant development. My favorite place in Queens? Hard to choose since so much has been lost to ”progress” or modernized, but I'd say Juniper Valley Park which is beautifully maintained and always connects me to childhood. Citi Field where the Mets baseball team play is another, in that the love and passion that runs through my blood continues and always childhood memories become revived.
TTJ: What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
James: I suppose grasping the proper ways to use words at school, or having that reinforced at home.
TTJ: Do you have any hidden or uncommon talents?
James: Good question. I love trivia, but concerning myself, if there's anything that's remained hidden, it's yet to be discovered.