Grub Beat: The Fellowship Experience in Four Parts

by Mack Makishima

The whole Grub Street experience has a kind of music to it. Due, in part, to the fact that it looms over the Steinway piano shop, where music never really stops. You meet people, the students, the instructors, and the administrators behind the curtain, who all seem to have back-stories of their own, like characters in a ballad. The lyrics to the Grub Street song can come from just about anywhere there: a ghazal (A form of rhyming poetry. One of the many funny sounding words you learn at Grub Street), or conversation in the hallways. There’s rhythm in the writers’ gait: a quick Sousa march at lunchtime. All of this was evident even the first day I was there.

OVERTURE: Walking into the Steinway building, I scale the stone steps in front and pass by a staircase used only in case of emergency. I press the button and, as the elevator makes its gradual descent, I note the small hallway: the windows that show the beautiful, shiny pianos. There’s even a teenager in there, playing a piece I don’t recognize. Then, the door opens. I step inside. A man sitting in a chair waves at me as the doors close. We will eventually become one of those pairs who says hello in the morning.

HARMONY: The doors open, and I’m met by quiet yet busy sounds: a woman on the phone, clacking away at her keyboard. There’s moderate chatter, as there are other classes in session. I walk down the hall. The instructors show us the room at orientation. I pass by the kitchen; clean, organized, a few teachers in there drinking from colorful mugs and laughing about something. At the end of the hallway, there’s a sitting area, one that I will end up sitting in a lot in those next weeks. Entering the room, there are four girls sitting in a cluster at one end of the oval table, a short-lived habit. I sit down across from them. One boy sits at the other end, engrossed in a book. Two of the girls giggle to each other loudly about a goldfish. The rest of them look on at the pair and laugh and make remarks. Even the boy with the book stops to listen. People begin to trickle in. No sign of instructors yet. One girl comes in with partially pink hair. A boy comes in with a cast and a tie-dye shirt.

“Ha ha, this is the picture!” one of the girls in the cluster says, holding up a picture of the goldfish. “It died this morning, though,” she says with a shrug.

Then, I say something I would never say normally, but decide to venture anyways, “Hey, who likes magic?” And only at Grub Street would all of them laugh, and then nod their heads as I pullout my playing cards.

CONDUCTORS: “Hello everyone,” says a man, whom I later discover is named Adam, an accomplished writer and frequent instructor.

“We are so happy that young writers like yourselves put time and effort into entering this very selective program,” says a woman, Jenn, also accomplished, also a frequent instructor. “We’re going to start with some prompts, really dig into it.”

“We’re going to workshop these later this week,” Adam says, beaming at the promise a new group brings. “But for now, we’re going to read a story called, ‘The First Day.’ This is a story by Edward P. Jones.”

“We’re going to write a story based on this. Can somebody volunteer to read the first portion?” asks Jenn hopefully.

In any normal high school English class, this kind of request would be stifled by silence, but this was no ordinary class. After a brief two-second period of quiet, a bunch of hands floated up in the air like balloons. And we read.

INTERLUDE: Lunch. Twelve-thirty. The elevator already has a small, yet determined crowd trying to pack themselves in. By the time I’m able to squeeze into the elevator and get downstairs, I realize that I don’t know where I’m going. I haven’t really met anybody yet, and it might seem presumptuous of me to just invite myself along with a group.

“Hey,” calls the cast guy from up the street, “Are you coming?”

Well, that was easy. As we walk to the food court, which would end up becoming our regular haunt, we all really connect. Often times, we discover, not everybody will talk about writing or movies or which fictitious character would beat the other in a no-holds-barred street fight (Captain Morgan or Darth Vader?). This is what makes the group unique. When we finally get there, we get our food and flock to a table quickly. I have my own group, and it’s not even one o’clock.

The Grub Street Fellowship melody is very different from any other jam. It has bits of both regular summer camp and real world job. It’s casual like a summer camp, yet deadlines have to be met. It’s the kind of program that helps ease young adults into the grown-up world of work and responsibility. The whole of Grub Street itself is really an opportunity to work on our real world skills, but in the kind of environment that let’s us march to the beat of your own drum.

Benjamin "Mack" Makishima was one of the nineteen 2012 YAWP Summer Fellows. He is 15 years old, and has  participated in multiple Grub Street YAWP programs such as one of the weeklong camps (2011) and the free Saturday classes (2011-2012). Mack is currently working on submitting to literary magazines.


About the Author

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