Meet a Grubbie: Stephanie K Brownell

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 Stephanie K Brownell. Stephanie has taught at Boston University, the Cambridge Center for Adult Education, The Eliot School, and the Urbano Project. She is a member of Artists' Theatre of Boston, Company One's 2017 PlayLab, and the Dramatists Guild of America. Stephanie has been a Kennedy Center Fellow at the National Playwrights Conference, a student of New York Theatre Intensives with Ensemble Studio Theatre, and an Assistante de Langue in Angouleme, France. Stephanie will be teaching Teen Mini Camp: 3 Days, 3 Genres from July 5th to July 7th. 


What's your favorite writing prompt?

I really enjoy collaborative writing. I feel like if you're in a room full of writers and you're not capitalizing on each others' presence... well, that's too bad. As a playwright, I have a lot of collaborative prompts, but my favorite is one I call "Cups." The most basic version of it is this: Each participant takes five slips of paper and writes down two characters, two wants, and a setting (one on each paper). Then we mix up the papers (in cups!) and each writer draws two characters, two wants, and a setting. Then we write. The specifics of this exercise are flexible, but the idea is to get you writing things you might not normally think of as your style. If one of your characters happens to be a pet parrot and your setting is a ski lodge, then you really have to get creative.

How do you beat a bout of writer's block?
I'm a multi-genre writer, so when I'm stuck in one area, I go somewhere else. There have been long stretches where a particular project has stalled or given me grief, but I'm never not writing, even if it's academic. I'm very reflective and sometimes things need time to gestate. Getting into a new head space can help. See "feeling like a writer" and "most interesting hobby" for more on head space.

What's your teaching philosophy?
Collaboration. I do the work. You do the work. We come together and make some meaning. I don't believe in a top-down system of education. Everybody brings their own experiences into a room and we need everyone's perspectives in order to have any hope of making sense of the world.

What are you reading?
Right now I'm reading mid-Neapolitan novels with Elena Ferrante, which I'm obsessed with. Waiting on the next book from the library is killing me. My audiobook of the moment is Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero. In hard copy, fiction is Lady Oracle by Margaret Atwood; poetry is Diary of a Wave Outside the Sea by Dunya Mikhail. For theory I've got "Le Stade du Miroir" by Lacan, and drama is Franklin by Samantha Noble. I like to mix things up.

When do you feel most like a writer?
If you had asked me this question a week ago, I wouldn't have known known what to say. Thankfully, I just got back from the Southwest Popular/American Culture Conference, so I can tell you that I feel most like a writer when I'm surrounded by scholars. Maybe it's the contrast, or maybe it's the way scholarly work makes my brain feel electric. Creative and analytical inquiry have always gone hand in hand for me, so a conference is a goldmine.

Weirdest, or worst job you ever had?
I used to be the receptionist for a group of Catholic nuns at their motherhouse. It was a great college job and a pretty unique experience that helped me get to know a lot of amazing women.

Most interesting hobby?
I do lots of stuff, but as an interdisciplinary artist, all of the things you might normally think of as hobbies are actually part of my career: writing, drawing, sewing, crafts. What that means is it's a real joy for me to make a spreadsheet, color code a schedule, or balance the checkbook. It's all about balance. I need to stretch my brain in new ways. I'm also quite a fan of yoga, which stretches different parts of me.

What is the strangest place you've ever been?
Strange feels a bit loaded, but there's a little town in France called Trôo in the middle of the Loire Valley that is made up largely of troglodytic homes dating from the 11th century, some of which you can visit, but many of which are still occupied. They have awesome little chimneys that stick up from the hill like you might imagine a Hobbit hole would. For a lifelong Lord of the Rings devotee, that was pretty awesome. They also have a singing well, a petrifying cave, and a little overlook inside a maze with an incredible view. Also in France, Nantes hosts the Machines de l'Ile where you can take a ride on a life-sized mechanized elephant. And I did.


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 Stephanie will be teaching 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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