Meet a Grubbie: Joseph Santaella

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 Joseph Santaella. Joseph is a reader for the acclaimed literary magazine Ploughshares. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Puerto del Sol, Queen Mob's Teahouse, and Flash Fiction Magazine, among others. His screenwriting has been featured on National Television and in 2015, his screenplay, The Guest, was selected as the "Best Short Screenplay," in the Puerto Rico Horror Film Fest's Screenplay competition. Check Joseph in action during his one of his classes: 6 Weeks, 6 Stories and The Lengths of Fiction.


What's your favorite writing prompt?

During one of our MFA workshops, our professor, Pamela Painter, gave us a cool writing prompt that went something like this: You went away on vacation and sublet your apartment to someone you barely knew. Now you’re back and about to go into your apartment. You put the key in the lock, but find that you can’t unlock the door. Someone has changed the lock. What happens next? I love this prompt because it lends itself to so many crazy outcomes. 

How do you beat a bout of writer's block?

My go-to solution (or best attempt) is to go explore local museums. I’ve had great results from spending a few hours wandering around the MFA. It’s hard not to get inspired while surrounded by so many amazing works of art. One of my last stories flourished thanks to Claude Monet’s Rouen Cathedral, Façade, which is currently on display at the MFA.

What's your teaching philosophy?

For me, teaching and learning is a shared act. I don’t believe in a system of education where a teacher sits down and spouts knowledge at their students for three hours and then everyone goes home. So, I guess my teaching philosophy is “We learn from each other.”

What are you reading?

I just finished reading Bluets by Maggie Nelson, and two novels by Alejandro Zambra: The Private Lives of Trees, and Bonsai. I just started reading Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood, which is hilarious, insightful, and poetic in a way only Patricia Lockwood could be.

Do you have a favorite local, independent bookstore? Where and why?

I love the Brookline Booksmith in Coolidge Corner. The staff is fantastic, super helpful and knowledgeable. They also have a huge used books cellar, and they host a reading once a month called Breakwater, which brings a lot of MFA writers together to share work and drinks.

What’s your go-to karaoke song?

Although I’m a terrible (terrible!) singer, I have two go-to karaoke songs: Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen and Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars.

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