The Grubbies' Guide to the Boston Book Festival

The fifth annual Boston Book Festival is taking place this Saturday, October 19th, and it's shaping up to be a fantastic event. Grub is proud to be hosting a Writer Idol event in the morning and manning a booth on Copley Square all day long.  Below is our annual "Grubbies' Guide to the BBF," listing all workshops and events that feature a Grub Street instructor, student or friend. For the entire schedule of events and presenter bios, be sure to visit the BBF website at  Please stop by our booth and say hello if you're downtown!

Morning Events


Grub Street Presents: Writer Idol
10:15 AM – 11:45 AM
Grub Street Artistic Director Christopher Castellani - Host
Grub Street Instructor Steve Almond
Grub Street Instructor Sorche Fairbank
Grub Street Instructor Lauren Macleod
Muse & the Marketplace Presenter Mitchell Waters
Location: Old South Mary Norton, 645 Boylston Street

Author Steve Almond will perform the first page of YOUR unpublished manuscript for the audience and a panel of three literary agent judges: Sorche FairbankLauren MacLeod, and Mitchell Waters. When one agent hears a line that would prompt her to stop reading, she will raise her hand. Almond will keep reading until a second agent raises his hand. The agents will then discuss why the lines gave them pause and offer suggestions to the author. All excerpts are read and evaluated anonymously. Note to participants: Please bring THE FIRST 250 WORDS of your manuscript double-spaced, titled, with its genre (fiction or nonfiction only, please) marked clearly at the top. Given the volume of submissions, we can’t guarantee that yours will be read aloud. This session is not for the thin-skinned! Emceed by Christopher Castellani and sponsored by Grub Street.

When Pictures Speak
10:30 AM - 11:30 AM
Grub Street Student Kelly DuMar
Location: Boston Common Carver, 40 Trinity Place

We’ve all had the experience of hearing the whispers of photographs that seem to have a deeper story to tell. In this workshop we will let the photographs “speak”—writing poems that capture the feelings, personalities, relationships, rites of passage, cultural identity, and family history evoked by photographs. As a group, we’ll explore the photos as a warmup to generating first drafts of poems. Beginning and experienced poets are welcome—bring along a photo or two to get the process going! Facilitated by playwright and poet Kelly DuMar. Advanced registration recommended—unregistered attendees will be admitted on a space-available basis. Sponsored by

BBF Unbound: The Plot Conjurers
10:30 AM - 11:30 AM
Grub Street Instructor and Muse & the Marketplace Presenter Hallie Ephron
Location: BPL Mezzanine, 700 Boylston Street

Crime fiction is a hugely popular genre. Mystery authors are often asked how they come up with all those twists and turns and make it all come together at the end. In this panel, authors show how it’s done. Flying without a net and taking story ideas from the audience, five best-selling crime fiction authors—Peter AbrahamsLinda BarnesMike CooperSara J. Henry, and Steve Ulfelder—will conjure a plot and, along the way, reveal their tricks and tips for weaving together setting, characters, and storyline. Moderated by Hallie Ephron, author of There Was an Old Woman.

One City One Story
11:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Grub Street Literary Council Member Rishi Reddi
Location: Boston Common Hancock, 40 Trinity Place

Join Rishi Reddi, author of this year’s One City One Story pick, in a discussion of her story, “Karma.” Did the plight of the immigrant couple in “Karma” resonate with you? Or was it the sibling relationship that struck a chord? Come tell us your thoughts. Haven’t read the story yet? Pick one up at the BBF tent! Moderated by Alicia Anstead, editor-in-chief at The Writer magazine.

Readings: Secrets and Lies
11:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Muse & the Marketplace Presenter Dawn Tripp - Host
Launch Lab Student Andrew Goldstein
Grub Street Instructor Randy Susan Meyers
Trinity Forum, Copley Square

Three skilled authors read from suspenseful, atmospheric works that explore hidden lives, secrets, and lies. Andrew Goldstein reads from The Bookie’s Son, his “powerful debut” (PW) about the son of a debt-ridden bookie father, set in the gritty Bronx of the 1960s. Douglas Kennedy presents Five Days, a “gripping emotional rollercoaster” (London Daily Mail) about a last-chance love affair. Randy Susan Meyers’s new novel,The Comfort of Lies, about the far-ranging effects of a love affair, is “sharp and biting, and sometimes wickedly funny” (Boston Globe). Hosted by Dawn Tripp, author of Game of Secrets.


Afternoon and Evening Events


Being and Becoming: Identity in Fiction
12:30 PM – 1:30 PM
Grub Street Instructor Jessica Keener
Location: BPL RABB, 700 Boylston Street

Celebrate National Reading Group Month with a look at the power of storytelling as it reveals the truths of identity—mistaken, hidden, and nuanced. Amity Gaige’s Schroder is the dramatic tale of a husband and father who is not the man he claims to be; Miriam Karmel’s Being Esther explores the continuity of the self amid the waves of change comprising a long life; and Jessica Keener’s Women in Bed offers nine linked stories considering women’s identity at every stage of life. Moderated by Ann Kingman, host of the blog and podcast Books on the Nightstand. Sponsored by the Women’s National Book Association, Boston Chapter.

Fiction: Americans Abroad 
12:30 PM – 1:30 PM
Muse & the Marketplace Presenter Dawn Tripp - Host
Grub Street Artistic Director Christopher Castellani
Grub Street Instructor Henriette Lazaridis Power

Location: Boston Common Hancock, 40 Trinity Place

Join four amazing authors writing in the tradition of the American abroad. Christopher Castellani, in his much-lauded All This Talk of Love, examines love across generations as he sends his fictional family on a fraught trip to the motherland. In The Clover House, a “powerful story of family, betrayal, and forgiveness” (Booklist), Henriette Lazaridis Power’s protagonist goes to Greece to uncover family secrets. In his debut, Paris Twilight, a novel with “real emotional pull” (PW), Russ Rymer’s Matilde takes on a mysterious medical case in Paris and uncovers secrets about her own past. In Necessary ErrorsCaleb Crain dissects the experiences of a young American’s year in post-Communist Prague in a feat of “observational wonder” (Library Journal). Moderated by Dawn Tripp, author of Game of Secrets.

Readings: Love and Hope
12:30 PM – 1:30 PM
Grub Street Instructor Michelle Hoover - Host
Grub Street Instructor Daphne Kalotay
Location: Trinity Forum, Copley Square

Hear from three of the most captivating writers around on the subject of what keeps us going in life. Daphne Kalotay, in Sight Reading, writes “elegantly and ably about music and emotion, drafting a moving meditation on the sacrifices made for art and the mysteries of the heart” (PW). Douglas Bauer’s beautiful memoir-in-essays, What Happens Next? Matters of Life and Death, observes with candor and humor the sensual pleasures of food and friendship and the inevitable decline of the body. Douglas Trevor’sGirls I Know is an “affecting novel of love, coming-of-age and theistic ontology… As much a love song sung to Boston as a conventional novel.” (Kirkus). Hosted by Michelle Hoover, author of The Quickening.

Fiction: Out of Darkness
12:45 PM – 1:45 PM
Muse & the Marketplace Presenter Kim McLarin - Host
Muse & the Marketplace Presenter Paul Harding
Location: Trinity Sanctuary, Copley Square

It is said that even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness. In EnonPaul Harding’s “gorgeous and haunting” (PW) follow up to his Pulitzer Prize–winningTinkers, the grandson of George Crosby deals with a crushing tragedy. Ayana Mathis, inThe Twelve Tribes of Hattie, an Oprah pick, writes with “blazing insight” (Booklist) of the anguished legacy of the Great Migration. These accomplished authors explores the darkness with moderator Kim McLarin, author of Divorce Dog. Sponsored by The Writermagazine.

Heroes and Antiheroes
1:15 PM – 2:15 PM
Muse & the Marketplace Presenter Claire Messud

Location: Old South Sanctuary, 645 Boylston Street

Explore the powerful tropes of the hero and antihero with our engaging panelists. Beloved Harvard professor and authority on Homeric studies Gregory Nagy, author ofThe Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours, argues that our conception of the hero is very different from that of the ancient Greeks. Pop culture critic Chuck Klosterman, whose new book, I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling With Villains (Real and Imagined), looks at the bad guys. Meanwhile, Claire Messud, whose wrenching The Woman Upstairs is called “an astonishing feat of creative imagination” by Kirkus Reviews, presents a female Dostoevskian antihero. Joseph Koerner, the Victor S. Thomas Professor of the History of Art and Architecture at Harvard, moderates.

Poetry: Spoken Word
1:15 PM – 2:15 PM
Grub Street Instructor Regie Gibson
Location: Cuffs Bar, 350 Stuart Street

Witness mentor and mentee as two of Massachusetts’s celebrated poet-educators take the stage alongside their students. Regie Gibson, winner of the 1998 National Poetry Slam, has taught and led workshops for a number of high schools, universities, and organizations. José Olivarez is a Chicano poet and educator from Illinois who graduated from Harvard University and taught with Young Chicago Authors, as well as at other schools, universities, and poetry slams across the country. Sponsored by Mass Poetry.

Mapping Your Story 
1:30 PM – 2:30 PM
Grub Street Instructor Michael Blanding
Location: Boston Common Carver, 40 Trinity Place

A map recreates an area in miniature, allowing us to picture, navigate, and control geography. The paradox of mapmaking, however, is similar to that of storytelling—as soon as you decide what to leave in and leave out, you necessarily change the story you have to tell. We’ll examine how maps—from A.A. Milne’s Hundred Acre Wood to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth—help elucidate and complicate the books they accompany. Then, after learning the essential elements of mapmaking, participants will draw their own maps to enhance a story of their own choosing. Facilitated by award-winning journalist Michael Blanding. Advanced registration recommended—unregistered attendees will be admitted on a space-available basis. Sponsored by

Historical Fiction: Imagining the Past
2:00 PM – 3:00 PM
Grub Street Instructor and Muse & the Marketplace Presenter Michelle Hoover - Host
Grub Street Instructor and Muse & the Marketplace Presenter Julie Wu
Location: Trinity Forum, Copely Square

Join us to discuss the challenges and rewards of writing historical fiction with the authors of some of the year’s best historical novels. In The Movement of StarsAmy Brill’s “sparkling debut novel” (Vanity Fair), a young Quaker woman in nineteenth-century Nantucket has astronomical aspirations; Ghost Moth, by Michèle Forbes, takes us to Ireland during the “troubles” in what Publishers Weekly describes as a “richly imagined” debut; bestselling author Dennis McFarland presents his moving novel of the Civil War, Nostalgia; and Julie Wu’s “deeply compelling” (Boston GlobeThe Third Sonis a love story that begins in 1940s Taiwan and continues to the American west of the ‘50s and ‘60s. Moderated by Michelle Hoover, author of The Quickening.

Flash Fiction Open Mic
2:00 PM – 3:15 PM
Grub Street Instructor and Board Member Ethan Gilsdorf - Host
Grub Street Instructor Steve Macone - Host
Location: Old South Mary Norton, 645 Boylston Street

It’s your turn behind the microphone in this flash-fiction recording session. No need to sign-up ahead of time—just take a number when you arrive and be ready to step up to the mic and read your very, very short story. The Drum, an audio literary magazine, will record each story and choose the best ones for publication in the magazine. Each piece must be no longer than three minutes, so rehearse! We will hear as many stories as time permits. Hosted by Ethan Gilsdorf and Steve Macone. Sponsored by

Fiction: Domestic Disturbances 
2:30 PM – 3:45 pm
Muse & the Marketplace Presenter Ann Leary
Grub Street Literary Coucil Member and Muse & the Marketplace Presenter Tom Perrotta

Location: Trinity Sanctuary, Copley Square

Domestic dramas large and small play out in the novels and stories of our four incomparable authors. Tom Perrotta’s short story collection, Nine Inches, is by turns funny and poignant. J. Courtney Sullivan’s highly entertaining and perceptive The Engagements explores marriage. Ann Leary writes with humor and insight about small town intrigue and a woman’s struggles with alcohol in The Good HouseGeorge Harrar, in the gripping Reunion at Red Paint Bay, explores how disturbing secrets can lie beneath the surface of the most respectable-seeming life. Moderated by Robin Young, host of WBUR’s Here & Now. Sponsored by Other Press.

Memoir: Husbands, Fathers, Sons
3:00 PM – 4:00 PM
Grub Street Instructor Alysia Abbott
Muse & the Marketplace Presenter Kim McLarin
Location: BPL Commonwealth, Dartmouth Street Entrance

Three memoirists take a deep look at relationships with the men in their lives. Anthony D’Aries, in his award-winning The Language of Men, struggles to come to grips with the legacy of his Vietnam vet dad. Kim McLarin discusses men, but also race, motherhood, and more in Divorce Dog. And in Fairyland: A Memoir of My FatherAlysia Abbott looks back at her life growing up in the gay culture of ‘70s and ‘80s San Francisco. Moderated by WBUR’s host of Radio BostonAnthony Brooks.

Readings in the Forum: Americana
3:30 PM – 4:30 PM
Muse & the Marketplace Presenter Dawn Tripp - Host
Grub Street Instructor Lisa Borders
Muse & the Marketplace Presenter Elizabeth Graver
Grub Street Literary Council Member and Muse & the Marketplace presenter Ladette Randolph
Location: Trinity Forum, Copley Square

Setting plays an essential role in each of the evocative novels considered here. Ladette Randolph’s Haven’s Wake, set in eastern Nebraska, revolves around the death of a Mennonite family’s patriarch. Elizabeth Graver’s The End of the Point follows a family at its summer house on Buzzard’s Bay from WWII through Vietnam. In Lisa Borders’s The Fifty-First State, a New York photographer returns home to south Jersey to care for her younger brother. JoeAnn Hart’s Float is a satirical tale of financial desperation, organized crime, conceptual art, and the plastic-filled ocean in a hardscrabble town on the coast of Maine. Hosted by Dawn Tripp, author of Game of Secrets.

Page and Stage: Teen Spoken Word
3:45 PM – 5:15 PM
Grub Street Instructor Regie Gibson - Host
Location: Old South Mary Norton, 645 Boylston Street

The talented teens from Mass LEAP are back, bringing BBF audiences their blend of powerful emotion, provocative ideas, and rhythmic words to create a stirring experience that straddles the space between poetry and storytelling. The host for this exciting session, Regie Gibson, winner of the 1998 National Slam Competition, will kick off the proceedings with a spoken word performance.

Fiction: Dirty, Crazy, Endless Love
4:30 PM - 5:45 PM
Muse & the Marketplace Presenter James Wood - Host
Grub Street Literary Council Member Andre Dubus III
Location: Trinity Sanctuary, Copley Square

Three distinguished novelists discuss variations on the theme of love. The compellingAndre Dubus III speaks about his collection of linked novellas, Dirty Love, an exploration of disillusionment and yearning. Nicholson Baker, “one of the masters of the contemporary novel,” (Booklist) revisits the hapless hero of The Anthologist, who remains unlucky in love but ever hopeful in Traveling SprinklerJamie Quatro discusses her story collection, I Want to Show You More, a “dogged, brutally thoughtful piece of work.” (New York Times) Moderated by New Yorker book critic and author of The Fun StuffJames Wood.



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.

See other articles by Info
by Info


Books & Reading Events

Rate this!

Currently unrated