Celebrating GrubStreet’s Secret Sauce: Our Incredible Instructors

We're honoring our beloved GrubStreet instructors at this year's Lit Up gala. Read on as GrubStreet's Founder and Executive Director, Eve Bridburg, shares why we're giving our annual Grubby Award to the talented and generous writers closest to us.

Traditionally, at our annual Lit Up gala, we present our  “Grubby” Award to a writer who exemplifies the literary excellence and generosity of spirit to fellow writers, readers and one’s community that is at the core of our mission.  We’ve had the honor of recognizing Clint Smith, Alice Hoffman, Wally Lamb, and Lisa Genova among other brilliant writers.  But this year, in the midst of getting ready for our move to the waterfront, we’ve decided it’s time to honor the talented and generous  writers closest to us, the ones who hold and manifest our mission like no others:  our instructors.  

It’s impossible to overstate the contributions of our instructors in helping us grow into the innovative and inclusive organization we are today.  GrubStreet is known as a center offering innovative programming and that’s largely thanks to our instructors. Most new program ideas stem from our classrooms when instructors notice gaps, have epiphanies, or discover new ways of doing things as they respond to student needs.

Just a few of our wonderful GrubStreet instructors.

Back in 2010, instructors Michelle Hoover and Lisa Borders partnered with our Artistic Director Christopher Castellani to create our Novel Incubator, a groundbreaking program for novelists that was unlike anything else offered in the country.  Launching an MFA-level program was a bold move for a community writing center, and it’s been thrilling to see our novel students publish and thrive.  Their success has spurred more innovation and work with other instructors to build incubators in other genres. We now offer GrubStreet Incubators for the Memoir, Short Story, and Essay.

This year, teen instructor Anneli Matheson and Director of Community and Youth Programs Eson Kim wanted to pilot a free YAWP NaNoWriMo class for our teen community, but we'd already set the budget and schedule for the year. Instead of waiting a whole year, Anneli insisted on running a few pilot classes without compensation. She volunteered her time to see if the classes would work without adversely impacting our budget or the student experience if the pilot classes didn’t work out as planned. The classes ended up being among the most popular YAWP classes of all time and we look forward to offering them in the future. 

Our instructors generosity often stretches beyond the classroom where many put in extra hours to build community and foster connections among their students and fellow instructors.  When Alysia Abbott took over the Memoir Incubator, she started hosting cocktail parties in her home for her Memoir Incubator students as well as our Essay Incubator students in an effort to develop networks among our advanced nonfiction students.  From these social gatherings grew the Memoir Incubator alumni group which is now curating the Tell-All reading series.  

Moreover, our instructors have enthusiastically joined us in our commitment to creating a diverse community which goes beyond being welcoming to ensuring that we’re a place where all writers feel as if they belong and can get what they need to develop as writers.  

Toward this end, Instructors Susan X Jane and Milo Todd have led free instructor training workshops on "Race and Identity in the Creative Writing Workshop" and “Transgender Inclusion,” respectively, as a way to deepen cultural competency among our instructor pool. These workshops have also provided a more practical voice to our Instructor Access Guide, a living document aimed at providing resources and tools for our instructors as we collectively work to create classrooms in which all of our students can find their authentic voices and work toward excellence.  The guide was spearheaded by Director of Core Programming Dariel Suarez in collaboration with many of our instructors. It’s not only become a vital tool for us at GrubStreet, but we routinely share it with writing centers and writing teachers across the country.  

Additionally, over the past year, Marjan Kamali, Shubha Sunder, Stacy Mattingly, Dorian Fox, Nora Caplan-Bricker, and K Chess have worked with Dariel Saurez and Christopher Castellani to offer a suite of revised workshop models which examine the intersections of form and content, give the writer a stronger voice in her own critique, focus on revision strategies versus summary judgement, and incorporate other modes of storytelling.  One thing is clear from student feedback: these new models are more effective than the way we’ve been teaching for over twenty years. We look forward to launching the new workshops for the entire community once we move to the waterfront.  

These are just a few examples -- there are countless more! -- of just how lucky we are as a community to benefit from the talent, generosity and brilliance of our dedicated instructors.  In the fall of 2020, we’ll be engaging in artistic planning and thinking big about our future. One thing I know for sure: the voices and ideas of our instructors will be critical to our dreaming up the next chapter.  In the meantime, I can’t wait to honor them as a group at Lit Up on October 10th.

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About the Author

Under Eve’s (she/her/hers) leadership, GrubStreet has grown into a national literary powerhouse known for artistic excellence, working to democratize the publishing pipeline and program innovation. An active partner to the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture, Eve was the driving force behind establishing the country’s first Literary Cultural District in downtown Boston and securing chapter 91 space in the Seaport to build a creative writing center. The Barr Foundation recently named her a 2019 Barr Fellow in recognition of her leadership. Having graduated from its inaugural class, Eve remains active with the National Arts Strategies Chief Executive Program, a consortium of 200 of the world’s top cultural leaders, which addresses the critical issues that face the arts and cultural sector worldwide. Eve has presented on the future of publishing, what it takes to build a literary arts center, and the intersection of arts and civics at numerous local and national conferences. Her essays and op-eds on publishing, the role of creative writing centers and the importance of the narrative arts have appeared in The Boston Globe, Huffington Post, Cognoscenti, Writer's Digest and TinHouse. Eve serves on the Advisory Board of The Loop Lab, a new Cambridge-based nonprofit dedicated to increasing representation in the Media Arts. Eve worked as a literary agent at The Zachary Shuster Harmsworth Literary Agency for five happy years where she developed, edited, and sold a wide variety of books to major publishers. Before starting GrubStreet, she attended Boston University’s Writing program on a teaching fellowship, farmed in Oregon, and ran an international bookstore in Prague.

See other articles by Eve Bridburg


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