Meet a Grubbie: Kelly J. Ford

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 Kelly J. Ford. Kelly's debut novel, Cottonmouths, came out June of this year. She is a GrubStreet Novel Incubator graduate and a current contributor/editor for Dead Darlings, a writing-focused website. Her short fiction has appeared in Black Heart Magazine, Fried Chicken and Coffee, and Knee-Jerk Magazine. Catch Kelly in action during her Jumpstart Your Novel class starting August 3rd or her #OurVoices LGBTQ teen writing camp from August 7th to 11th. 


What's your favorite writing prompt?

Local news headlines.

I’ve been obsessed with crime and punishment stories since I was little. A lot of weird stuff happens in small towns across America. As the adage goes, truth is stranger than fiction, but in fiction it has to make sense. There’s a fun challenge in taking a local headline and then re-engineering a story to figure out how someone ended up in that situation. Plus, by reading the comments on news sites (I know, it’s a tricky thing to wade in there), you get a real flair for the local lingo and color of a region.

What's your teaching philosophy?

First, it’s important to make a safe space for students to create and explore. I don’t believe we need to be brutal with each other or our work in order to learn and grow. Lord knows there’s enough of that in the world. I really love the GrubStreet model that workshops should be supportive yet rigorous. That model allows students more leeway and confidence to experiment.

Second, beautiful sentences are gold, but I’m more thrilled when a student uncovers a truth or a critical element to their story by wading into the muck. Those submissions can be messy and difficult, but they tell me that the writer has the courage to tackle the meaty, macro level. That’s where the magic happens.

When do you feel most like a writer?

When I’m struggling to put words on a page.

What’s one piece of advice you’d like to give to writers?

A lot of aspiring writers are in a rush: to get this thing written, to get an agent, to get published.

It’s a good idea to settle in and get comfortable. Writing and publishing requires a lot of patience and revision. Sometimes it feels like it’s all for naught. But nothing you write is a waste of time. You may not always use what you write, but every sentence is a building block for becoming better at your craft.

Weirdest, or worst job you ever had?

Between semesters in college, I had a job in a factory taking microwave parts off an assembly line after they’d been painted black. These were the metal mesh screens that are inside the door. We had to wear thick gloves so we wouldn’t burn our hands. At the end of our shifts, we had to take paper clips and poke through the holes that still had paint in them. Summers in Arkansas are brutal anyway, but it was so hot in there I nearly passed out. I got into a bad habit of drinking Coke Slurpees for lunch from the nearby 7-Eleven, which also led to my first gym membership.

What is the strangest place you've ever been?

I used to work in travel and have visited a lot of places all over the world. But Arkansas, where I’m from, is still the strangest place I’ve ever been.


Want to find out more about all the other amazing Instructors at Grub? Check them all out here and, while you're at it, make sure you check out all the classes we're offering here

About the Author

GrubWrites is a space for the writing and reading community to share ideas and seek advice, a place where writers at the very beginning of their careers publish alongside established authors. Book lovers, we bring you reviews, recommendations, and conversations with exciting new authors to keep you up to speed on all things lit. Writers, this is your one stop shop for expert craft talk, opinions on how we learn and teach writing, and essential advice about the publishing industry.

Plus, we want to hear from you! Our ongoing call for submissions is open to literary community members of all types and persuasions. We want to hear from students, teachers, authors, readers, editors, agents, publicists, and any devotee of the written word. If you have something to say about writing, reading, the publishing industry, or anything related to the literary world, this is the place to voice it. We’re particularly committed to advocating for a diverse range of voices in the literary marketplace and raising the visibility of writers from under-represented communities.

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