Marie Carter is a Scottish writer, editor, writing teacher, and tour guide based in Astoria. Her first book, “The Trapeze Diaries,” based on her experiences learning trapeze, was published by Hanging Loose Press. Her novel, “Holly’s Hurricane,” is coming out in September.
Marie currently teaches Memoir and Creative Writing at Gotham Writers’ Workshop.
Fascinated by New York City’s macabre and little-known histories in her writing and life, she decided to further her interest by becoming a licensed tour guide with Boroughs of the Dead. She created and guides the “Haunting Histories and Legends of Astoria” tour and also leads other tours in Greenwich Village, Lower Manhattan, Brooklyn Heights, and Roosevelt Island.
Marie also lectures on various aspects of the city’s history on a regular basis at QED (27-16 23rd Ave., Astoria). She will be giving a lecture on Hart Island at QED on the afternoon of Saturday, June 9. The Mysterious History of Hart Island ($10): Hart Island has been a tuberculosis sanatorium, a Union Civil War Camp, a women’s insane asylum, and a boys’ reformatory. It was also used to launch missiles during the Cold War in the sixties from the Nike Missile Site, and it housed a rehab facility called Phoenix House in the sixties and seventies. It has been and continues to be used as a potter’s field. Get more info here: www.qedastoria.com/collections/marie-carter/products/the-mysterious-hist...
Her website is mariewritesandedits.com; and her tours are at www.boroughsofthedead.com.
QG: What made you decide to move from Edinburgh to New York?
PearceMC: I visited New York on vacation, while I was
R. studying at the University of Edinburgh, and I immediately A. felt at home here. I grew up in a working-class Scottish town where I stood out like a sore thumb just because I
Colin was a book nerd and had English parents. I always felt like an outsider in that environment, but in New York I could
Photo fit in. I love the diversity and creativity of the city, and that there are so many “weirdos” just like me! I also find there’s such a positive, supportive, can-do attitude here that’s so inspiring.
QG: I know that you’re conducting a lecture at QED Astoria called “Wicked Mothers: A Dark Celebration of Mother’s Day,” and you do some spooky tours in the neighborhood. Can you tell me what first interested you in the macabre, and what do you find most rewarding or fascinating about it?
MC: I went on a school trip to York when I was 11 and they took us on a ghost tour. I loved it so much! I thought it was such a captivating way to learn about and connect with history.
In my heart, I’m a history geek (my dad was a tour guide in Edinburgh), and giving ghost and macabre tours is my sneaky way of getting people excited about history. I think it’s a memorable and vivid way to learn because macabre and ghost stories often have this element of mystery and otherness to them that people can find so enthralling.
I’m also fascinated by lesser-known histories that often fall into the category of the macabre, for example the portion of the city that was dumped on Roosevelt Island back when it was Blackwell’s Island. Essentially, the people who ended up there in the 1800s and early 1900s were criminals, the poor, the “insane,” the diseased—basically people the city didn’t want. I’m coming back to the theme of the outsider again!
I’m always wondering why certain harrowing and compelling histories have fallen into the realm of obscurity, like the General Slocum Disaster. It’s not always a clear-cut answer. I have a novel coming out in September called “Holly’s Hurricane” that deals with this very theme.
QG: What do you consider the most difficult, and by the same coin, rewarding aspects of writing?
MC: Writing is deeply rewarding and frustrating because there are so many different directions you could take a piece. On the one hand, I love the imaginative and creative possibilities, but I sometimes become aggravated by this because I also have to settle down at some point and stick with a particular story.
QG: Do you have any advice for firsttime writers or people struggling to get started with their craft?
MC: Yes, my favorite advice to give my students at Gotham Writers’ Workshop is to turn off the editor part of the brain when you start writing. I personally find it excruciating to write and edit at the same time and it can also take all the air out of someone’s writing if they try to do that.
Allow yourself to make mistakes. I remember an editor once told me the best writers are not necessarily the ones who can knock off a polished sounding piece in one draft. The best writers are usually the ones who keep getting punched and they keep getting back up. They’re the writers who learn from their mistakes, are open to feedback, willing to change, and therefore the ones who end up growing the most.
QG: What are some of your favorite things about Astoria?
MC: I love that there are still a lot of mom and pop stores in the neighborhood and stores with things I actually need, like grocery stores, pet stores, bagel stores, hardware stores, yarn stores (I like to knit), and so forth. I love Astoria’s population (and food!) diversity, and its fantastic cultural and historical institutions, like Greater Astoria Historical Society, QED, Noguchi Museum, Socrates Sculpture Park, Welling Court, Museum of the Moving Image, Astoria Bookshop, Astoria Park, and—I could ramble on and on!
This column was originated in July, 2013 by Nicollette Barsamian.