The Grubbies' Guide to the Boston Book Festival 2014

The sixth annual Boston Book Festival is taking place this Saturday, October 25th, 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 GrubStreet 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

The “Whydunnit” in Crime Fiction


GrubStreet Instructor Kate Flora

GrubStreet Launch Lab Participant Barbara Ross

First Church Chapel, Berkeley & Marlborough

Contemporary crime novelists are likely to explore character and motivation in greater depth than twentieth-century authors who specialized in Whodunnits, Locked Room, and other puzzle-centered mysteries. In the modern day, the “why” is as important as the “how.” Sisters in Crime authors will engage the audience in a discussion of traditional motives—greed, lust, power, fear, rage—and how variations on these themes and relationships drive today’s crime fiction, and different subgenres, in often unexpected ways. Session participants Sheila ConnollyRay DanielKate FloraArlene KayMarian LanouetteEdith MaxwellLiz MugaveroLeigh PerryBarbara Ross, and host Julie Hennrikus will offer their expertise and elicit audience involvement in this interactive session.


Grub Street Presents: Writing Idol


GrubStreet Instructor Sorche Fairbank

GrubStreet Muse & the Marketplace Presenter Dawn Tripp

GrubStreet Artistic Director Christopher Castellani – Host

Old South Mary Norton

Authors Dawn Tripp and Christopher Castellani will perform the first page of YOUR unpublished manuscript for the audience and a panel of three literary agent judges:Sorche FairbankKimiko Nakamura, and Laura Gross. When one agent hears a line that would prompt her to stop reading, she will raise her hand. The reader 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! Sponsored by GrubStreet.


Memoir: Journeys Home & Abroad


GrubStreet Instructor Alden Jones

Boston Common Hancock, 40 Trinity Place

The memoirists in this session speak of journeys abroad and journeys within. Alden Jones travelled around the world on a ship, and her memoir, The Blind Masseuse: A Traveler’s Memoir from Costa Rica to Cambodia, was named a Huffington Post Best Book of the Year. H. D. S. Greenway, in Foreign Correspondent, chronicles his experiences reporting on the major conflicts of our time, from the Vietnam War to Sadat in Jerusalem and civil war in the Balkans. Richard Hoffman, in Love and Fury, takes a journey through his own family history, looking for a deeper understanding of his relationship with his coal miner father while also offering a critique of post-WWII American culture and its values. Moderated by Sir Peter Stothard, editor of TLS and author of the memoir Alexandria: The Last Nights of Cleopatra.


Afternoon Events 

Twenty Questions with Steve Almond


GrubStreet Instructor Steve Almond

GrubStreet Instructor Henriette Lazardis 

Boston Common Hancock, 40 Trinity Place

Steve Almond is one of Boston’s most opinionated authors-about-town. He originated the Dear Sugar advice column on The Rumpus and still gives advice on WBUR’sCognoscenti blog. His latest work, Against Football, argues that it’s immoral for owners to profit from and viewers to be entertained by a sport that routinely causes life-altering brain damage to its players. Here’s your opportunity to grill Steve about … well, anything. Tweet us your questions ahead of time at #Almond20Q. Or just bring a question with you. Henriette Lazaridis, author of The Clover House and athlete extraordinaire, will moderate with a few questions of her own.


Reading Like a Writer: Suspense


GrubStreet Instructor James Scott

GrubStreet Muse & the Marketplace Presenter Dawn Tripp

Boston Common Carver, 40 Trinity Place

Have you ever wondered why an author chose a particular word or phrase, how he used details to build character, or how he tweaked the pacing to build tension and suspense? In this session, writers will open up about the nuts and bolts of their craft. The session will consist of three twenty-minute guided explorations of the work of suspense novelistsRory Flynn (Third Rail), James Scott (The Kept), and Peter Swanson (The Girl with a Clock for a Heart). Our host Dawn Tripp, author of Game of Secrets, will lead an audience discussion of a very short excerpt from each author’s work before bringing the author into the conversation to contextualize the excerpt, discuss his choices, and answer questions from the audience. A unique alternative to traditional readings, this session will appeal not only to aspiring writers but also to readers looking to enrich their reading experience. Sponsored by The Writer.


Readings: Relationships


GrubStreet Instructor Annie Weatherwax

GrubStreet Instructor Michelle Hoover – Host

Old South Mary Norton

Perhaps all literature tells the story of human connections; the three works of fiction presented here, however, offer particularly evocative explorations of a variety of relationships. In This Is the Water, Yannick Murphy dives deep into the relationships between parents and children, using the suburban swim club as her jumping-off point. In her debut novel, All We Had, Annie Weatherwax embraces the families we form for ourselves. And the stories in Hester Kaplan’s collection Unravished examine how intimacies and betrayals in relationships can have repercussions even decades later. Hosted by Michelle Hoover, author of The Quickening.


One City One Story


GrubStreet Lit Council Member Jennifer Haigh

Boston Common Hancock, 40 Trinity Place

Join us for an open conversation about this year’s One City One Story pick, “Sublimation” by Jennifer Haigh. This beautifully crafted story about family and its stability in the midst of surprising changes, unexpected outcomes, and acceptance, gave us a lot to think about. You haven’t read it yet? It’s not too late! Pick up a copy at the BBF info tent or download it from our website. Alicia Anstead, editor in chief of The Writer magazine and facilitator extraordinaire, will lead the town hall discussion. If you have a question/comment you would like to bring up for discussion, send Alicia a tweet:@1city1story. Author Jennifer Haigh will join the conversation with you, our readers. Sponsored by Dunkin’ Donuts.

Fiction: The Literary Thriller

GrubStreet Literary Council Member, Sue Miller. 
Emmanuel Music Room, 15 Newbury Street 

The thriller genre offers writers an ideal platform to explore human behavior and motives, as well as themes of betrayal, disillusionment, and revenge. The three authors in this session apply their considerable literary talents to the thriller. In The Arsonist,Sue Miller explores the rifts that divide a small New Hampshire town in the wake of a crime spree. With North of Boston, Elisabeth Elo launches a new mystery series—and introduces us to a complicated and memorable heroine. Finally, Edgard Telles Ribeirobrings both his literary skill and his foreign service experience to bear on His Own Man,a thriller set amid the machinations of Brazilian politics. Our host for this thrilling session is Helene Atwan, the director of Beacon Press. Sponsored by PEN New England.

My Memoir, My Quest


GrubStreet Instructor & Board Member Ethan Gilsdorf – Host

Church of the Covenant, 67 Newbury Street

Each of the panelists here writes of a quest for self-discovery, a search for a deeper understanding of a subject with lasting, lifelong impact, or both. In My Life in Middlemarch, Rebecca Mead unpacks the many ways that nineteenth-century novelist George Eliot influenced her own life and career. Max Tegmark, in in Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality, reveals his theory of how mathematics explains the cosmos while also sharing the triumphs and setbacks of his own life in science. Joanna Rakoff, in My Salinger Year, reflects on a defining year spent answering J. D. Salinger’s fan mail. Moderated by by Ethan Gilsdorf, author of the memoir/pop culture investigation Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks. Sponsored by May K. Houghton.


Readings: Pushing Boundaries


GrubStreet Muse & the Marketplace Presenter Dawn Tripp – Host

Old South Mary Norton

This session features authors reading works that are experimental in form, theme, style, or all three. Jay Cantor’s stories in Forgiving the Angel find their inspiration in the life and works of Franz Kafka. Tova Mirvis’s subject in Visible City is the mixture of intimacy and anonymity in a Manhattan neighborhood. Bradford Morrow’s The Forgers is an unusual literary thriller set in the world of rare book collecting, called a “sly puzzler” byPublishers Weekly. Warning: expectations may be subverted. Hosted by Dawn Tripp, author of Game of Secrets.


Reading Like a Writer: Historical Fiction


GrubStreet Instructor Ursula DeYoung

GrubStreet Novel Incubator Alum E.B. Moore

Boston Common Carver, 40 Trinity Place

Have you ever wondered why an author chose a particular word or phrase, how she cultivated a distinctive writing style, or how she incorporated historical facts into her fictional world? In this session, writers will open up about the nuts and bolts of their craft. The session will consist of three twenty-minute guided explorations of the work of authors whose novels take place in the recent or distant past: Susanna Kaysen (Cambridge), E. B. Moore (An Unseemly Wife), and Ursula DeYoung (Shorecliff). Our host Alicia Anstead, editor in chief of The Writer, will lead an audience discussion of a very short excerpt from each author’s work before bringing the author into the conversation to contextualize the excerpt, discuss her choices, and answer questions from the audience. A unique alternative to traditional readings, this session will appeal not only to aspiring writers but also to readers looking to enrich their reading experience. Sponsored by The Writer.


The Personal Is Political: Tackling the Issues of Our Time Through Story


GrubStreet Instructor Jennifer De Leon – Host

First Church Chapel, Berkeley & Marlborough Street

Why do stories matter? In a world where news headlines, blog posts, and video clips crowd our inboxes, the narratives of individual lives can be drowned out by the noise. As a result, issues such as war, poverty, education, and race are often distilled down to generalities, faceless mobs, and vague landscapes “over there.” Join four authors—Askold Melnyczuk (The House of Widows, Ambassador of the Dead), ZZ Packer(Drinking Coffee Elsewhere), Qais Akbar Omar (A Fort of Nine Towers), and Jennifer De Leon (Wise Latinas: Writers on Higher Education)—for a discussion on the crucial role of “story” in adding a human face to the issues of our time. How does the writer depict the histories and complexities of place and time while maintaining allegiance to the desires and complications of a single character? In what ways can storytelling help to create social change?


True Story


GrubStreet Launch Lab Participant Michael Blanding

Emmanuel Parish Hall, 15 Newbury Street

In our nonfiction variety show you will hear about a wide range of captivating, inspiring, and charming topics. Each author will dazzle you with a ten-minute presentation on the subject of his or her work. The lineup includes Michael Blanding, whose The Map Thief tells a tale of true crime. Jessica Lander, in Driving Backwards, illuminates stories of small-town life. Lawrence Lindner relates a heartwarming and heartrending story of rescuing horses from the track in Saving Baby. Robert C. Pozen, in Extreme Productivity, shares his secrets of becoming more effective personally and professionally, and Matthew Gilbert, in Off the Leash, describes his reluctant entry into the social world of the dog park. Jared Bowen, host of Open Studio on WGBH, will emcee. Come be informed and entertained.


Fiction: Another Country


GrubStreet Muse & the Marketplace Keynote Speaker James Wood

Boston Common Hancock, 40 Trinity Place

The authors in this session use the whole globe as a canvas for their recent fiction. Joseph O’Neill’s The Dog, longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, is set amid the singular landscape and complex social milieu of Dubai. In Euphoria, winner of the 2014 New England Book Award, Lily King charts a passionate love triangle among anthropologists working in 1930s New Guinea. And in SecrecyRupert Thomson explores issues of power, religion, and art while taking readers deep into Florence’s Medici court. Their engrossing discussion will be moderated by James Wood, book critic for the New Yorker. Sponsored by Other Press. 

Fiction: Love and Loss


GrubStreet Instructor Jessica Keener – Host

Old South Mary Norton

Love and loss are two of literature’s most enduring themes. The three novelists gathered here address both themes beautifully and powerfully in their recent work. Leah Hager Cohen, in No Book but the World, examines the boundaries of love and loyalty when a woman’s disabled brother is accused of a terrible crime. The loss of romantic love propels a lonely man into the realm of obsession and stalking in Vernon Downs by Jessica Keener, whose latest work is the collection Women in Bed. Sponsored by the Women’s National Book Association, Boston Chapter.


Evening Events 

Words and Music: A Literary Jam Session


GrubStreet Instructor Kate Racculia

Old South Sanctuary, 645 Boylston Street

In this one-of-a-kind session we’ll hear from three authors who’ve infused their recent novels with music, from classical to rock ‘n’ roll. The heroine of Stacey d’Erasmo’sWonderland is a middle-aged rocker embarking on what she hopes will be her comeback tour. The young characters in Kate Racculia’s Bellweather Rhapsody find more there’s more than just music to discover (hint: corpse) at an orchestra camp in upstate New York. Wonderkid by Wesley Stace tells the story of the tumultuous rise and fall of a rock band whose audience is still in diapers. Musical interludes will be provided by Stace (aka John Wesley Harding), the appropriately named indie ensemble-pop group The Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library, and by our host, Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Harding, who’s also no slouch at the drums. Dancing in the aisles is encouraged! Sponsored by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.


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