Meet a Grubbie: Jennifer Crystal

GrubStreet runs on coffee, printer ink, and community. This series features just some of the Grubbies who make our community strong. In this edition, meet Grub Instructor Jennifer CrystalYou can catch Jennifer in person this September, in 6 Weeks, 6 Essays, starting Thursday, September 7th, and Writing About Place, starting Monday, September 11th.


What author, living or dead, would you most like to have dinner with and why?
What an honor it would be to have dinner with Maya Angelou. Her words have spoken to me since I first read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings in ninth grade, and watched her deliver “A Rock, A River, A Tree” at Bill Clinton’s Inaguration that same year. She was humbly commanding as both a writer and an orator; her writing prowess and her empathetic grasp of the human condition inspire me to be a better writer, teacher, and person. I’d love to get her advice on how to best meet these trying political times, in my writing, in my classroom, and in my life.


What's your favorite writing prompt?
“And after that, nothing was ever the same.” (Credit Doug Whynott, Emerson College.)


What's your teaching philosophy?
My teaching philosophy stems from lessons learned years ago as a summer camp Head Counselor. In that role, I focused on effective leadership, safety, and fun. As a creative writing instructor, my priorities are the same: to coach my students in such a way that I learn from and with them; to establish a trusting, inclusive, and constructive classroom environment; and to help students experience the thrills of artistic excellence and growth.


What are you working on right now?
I’m working on my second memoir. On a small scale it’s a medical mystery, tracing my multi-decade journey with tick-borne illnesses. On a much larger scale, it’s about the struggle of being sidelined by life, about resilience, love, faith, and hard-won aspirations. My hope is that it will serve as inspiration to anyone wrestling with adversity.


What’s your go-to karaoke song?
Just a small town girl,
Livin’ in a lonely world
She took the midnight train goin’ anywhere…

(Sing it with me, readers!)


Do you have a favorite local, independent bookstore? Where and why?
Trident! Besides offering great books, readings, and events, they also have good food and fun gifts. Where else can you drink an organic smoothie, hear a new author, buy greeting cards that put Hallmark to shame, and purchase a funky pair of knee socks?


Want to find out more about all the other amazing people who make the GrubStreet community what it is? Check them all out here! And while you're at it, see what other classes are on offer at Grub this fall.

grubstreet Image
About the Author

Jennifer Crystal holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Emerson College and a B.A. from Middlebury College. She specializes in non-fiction, especially writing to heal/narrative medicine, travel writing, memoir, personal essays, and op-eds. She is the author of Et Voilà: One Traveler's Journey from Foreigner to Francophile (Belfort and Bastion), and spoke at the 2017 Boston Book Festival about that book. Her second memoir, about her medical trajectory, is on submission. She is represented by Kerry D'Agostino at Curtis Brown. Jennifer's work has appeared in The Boston Globe,, Transitions Abroad, Abroad View, Spry Literary Journal, and many other publications. She writes a weekly column for Global Lyme Alliance, which has received mention in CQ Researcher, The New Yorker and Her website is

See other articles by Jennifer Crystal