Sneak Preview: Why Writing Matters to Lit Up's 10x2 Presenters

One of the most anticipated events at our annual Lit Up Gala (Thursday, November 3rd) is our signature 10x2 program, where ten Grubbies take the stage for two minutes each to read from their best work. This year, we spoke to each of our readers to find out why writing matters and to talk about what GrubStreet means to them.


Shirley Jones Luke: Neighborhood Classes

Writing matters because it saved my life. I've been writing since I was a little girl—poems, stories, plays. I was a child of a working-poor family. We were on welfare, receiving food stamps. We ate government cheese that was hard as a brick and lived in a subsidized apartment.  We shared our home with mice and roaches. Our neighbors were bullies who would steal our mail, pepper us with insults, and harass us at every turn. Paradise came in the form of a pen and a notebook.

As an adult, my life has been comprised of many twists and turns, ups and downs. I’m married with a child. I’m a homeowner. I have an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College. I’m a breast cancer conqueror. I’m helping my mother through her cancer journey. My trials have led me back to poetry and nonfiction. I’ve written many poems, which have been published in several literary publications. I’ve been accepted to conferences and retreats. I’ve connected with different writers and made new friends.

My writing goals are lofty—publish a book of poetry, write a memoir and draft a YA fiction series. When I’m not writing, I read the works of others for inspiration and study. Writing matters because writing matters.

GrubStreet is a writing oasis. It is a place where writers can be writers. As long as GrubStreet exists, I know that I have a home away from home. I enjoy being surrounded by like-minded people.


Wendy Mnookin: GrubStreet Instructor

Writing makes me pay attention. It gives me a way to make sense of experience. And for the time it takes to create a poem, writing gives me some control over experience. Writing is my way of being in the world.

Writing is a solitary pursuit, and I love those hours spent by myself working with words. But then I need a community. At GrubStreet I find other writers—both students and teachers—who understand the challenges and rewards of the writing project. I take heart from that community.


Robert Fernandes: Novel Incubator

Writing matters to me because I love books. Reading has been one of the biggest constants in my life. It infected me early on and I have never been able to escape its allure (not that I’ve ever tried, or would want to). I’ve heard of people coming back to reading, rediscovering it after bookless years, but books and reading have always been with me. About eight years ago I was looking for a condo and one of the criteria I supplied my realtor was that it had to have enough wall space for my bookcases. Immersing myself in a fabulous story—especially when it’s also fabulously written—is one of the most sublime experiences this world offers. I want to give someone out there the same life-affirming jolt that the best of literature has provided me.

Some years ago, a friend of mine and I embarked on what we later termed our Year of Writing. We provided one another with jumpstarts and wrote a short story every two weeks for a solid year. Prior to that, I thought I was done with writing, having exhausted all my ideas. That experience proved me wrong—I still had plenty of ideas. My friend then stumbled across an ad somewhere for GrubStreet and we both signed up for our first class, Ten Weeks, Ten Stories with Jami Brandli. That class bolstered my belief in my imagination but more importantly, and along with classes I have taken since then, most notably the Novel Incubator, introduced me to the absolute necessity of revision and editing, the true work of writing. Oh, and I’ve met some of the most wonderful people ever, people I hope to keep in my life for a million years.


Val Wang: Muse Presenter

Writing is the best method I have for exploring the mystery that lurks beneath the surfaces of all things.

When I moved to Boston for my husband’s work, he got me a membership, hoping I’d find a writing community here as I finished what would become my first book. A sense of belonging doesn’t come easily to me, but Grub’s combination of writerly rigor, unstinting warmth, and constant striving for inclusiveness of all kinds has helped make them, and Boston, feel like home for me.


Ethan Gilsdorf: GrubStreet Instructor

Writing is important to me. I've been a writer since I was a teenager, and ever since then, I have learned that the process of getting words down on paper and on pixel helps me process my world, understand myself and, above all, stay honest. I figure out what I think and feel and know by writing it down. Thoughts are fleeting; words are permanent.

I also feel strongly about the power of writing as communication. The written word—a well told story, a well-crafted poem, a thoughtful essay—is essential in building bridges and building empathy. Our job as writers is to convey the experience of being human (or whatever species we choose to write about), and record that, and pass that on so that not only the writer, but the reader, don't feel so alone. And if we’re lucky, we'll all get lots of readers.

I recently received a very generous email from a teenager in San Antonio, Texas, who had read my book Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks. He feels ostracized and judged for his interest in fantasy role-playing games and genre fiction. But he said my book gave him some courage and made him feel less alone and more accepted. My words, in their small way, have helped him. This—when my words can connect to a real person, even shift their lives in some microscopic way—is the reason I write.

When I first moved to Boston in 2004, I was searching for a writing community. I didn't know anyone in the city. I saw an ad for GrubStreet on the Red Line, I believe, or maybe it was in the Boston Phoenix or Weekly Dig. I walked into the door and talked to the staff, Chris Castellani in particular, who made me feel welcome. We talked about ideas for how I could become involved in Grub. I took a few classes. I became involved with creating the Young Adult Writers Program and shortly after that, I met my future agent Sorche Fairbank, as a student in her classroom. I began teaching adults. I became a board member. And I've made valuable connections the whole way. GrubStreet keeps me connected—isolation can be fatal to writers.


Join us and fellow Grubbies for a night of fun and literary magic at this year’s Lit Up Gala on Thursday, November 3rd. Throw on your best threads and head over to Laugh Boston for a party with a purpose: Last year’s Lit Up allowed GrubStreet to open our doors wider than ever. Because of the generous support of our community, we nearly doubled the number of scholarships we awarded – that translates to over 170 scholarships to aspiring, talented writers this year. Your donations help GrubStreet further our mission of expanding access, fostering a truly inclusive community, and encouraging the next generation of writers. Click here for tickets and more info!

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About the Author

Hannah is a fourth year at Northeastern University, working toward a degree in English and Communications Studies. She plans to pursue a career in Public Relations within the Publishing industry after graduation. You can typically find her in the Boston Public Library Reading Room, trying to condense her thoughts into 140 characters or less on Twitter, or wandering around the closest Sephora.

See other articles by Hannah McCabe
by Hannah McCabe

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