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Alumni Achievements & Testimonials

Below are some examples of what previous students have acheived through the program and what they've had to say about their experience. Novel Incubator students and instructors have also been blogging about their Incubator and Post-Incubator experiences on the Grub Daily and their own blog, Dead Darlings. To find out more about the books coming out of the Incubator, check out Our Diploma is Your Published Novel: The Books of the Novel Incubator on the blog.

Susan Donovan Bernhard

Susan is a Montana native and writer, as well as a 2014 Massachusetts Cultural Council fellowship recipient. Her work has appeared in Solstice Lit Mag, Little Bird Stories, Volume III and has been recognized by the NYC Midnight Flash and Short Story competitions. She is a recent graduate of the Grub Street Novel Incubator and is often hard at work finishing revisions on her first novel, Winter Loon. She lives with her husband and two children near Boston.

Lisa Birk

Formerly a teacher of writing at Boston University, Lisa Birk is a 2013 graduate of GrubStreet’s Novel Incubator, where novelists Lisa Borders and Michelle Hoover workshopped Birk’s debut novel, Last Night at the Pit. Previously, Birk was the project manager of Harvard University’s Narrative Journalism Program at the Nieman Foundation. Annually, she co-recruited 35 top nonfiction writers ranging from Ira Glass to Adam Hochschild to Susan Orleans to teach at Nieman’s Conference on Narrative Journalism. While working at Harvard, Birk studied under South African novelist Rose Moss and narrative journalist Mark Kramer. Her work has appeared in the Harvard Review, The Boston Phoenix, Orion Magazine, and other periodicals. Her nonfiction has also been anthologized in several books including W.W. Norton’s Abnormal Psychology.

Belle Brett

Belle Brett is a proud graduate of GrubStreet’s Novel Incubator program (2012). As a child, she produced what would now be called graphic novels, but alas, only the drawings remain as the words were strictly in the oral tradition. Now, several degrees and careers later, she writes mostly novel-length fiction with a cinematic flavor about coming of age across the life span. She is currently seeking a home for her first novel, How to Write a Best Seller, about two middle-aged friends who decide, as a solution to their respective problems, to pen a best seller about a woman with a perfect life. Her second novel, Gina in the Floating World, is the tale of a young American, whose stint as a bar hostess in Tokyo leads her down a darker path. Her story, “Heartbreak Hotel,” about the same protagonist, was published inDel Sol Review. Previously, she has authored or co-authored a number of publications on women’s career development. In addition to writing, she enjoys traveling, art and theater, and dancing with her husband and aging contemporaries to live music in the dive bars of Somerville and Cambridge--all of it grist for her writing mill.

"With two novels in various states of revision, I felt stalled. Grub Street’s unique, year-long Novel Incubator program was just what I needed. With constructive feedback on an entire draft from a diverse group of talented writers, insights from critiquing other students’ work, advanced craft discussions, numerous hour-long individual consultations with our stellar instructor, and deadlines to propel me along, I am finally back on track. All this is taking place in one of the most supportive writing environments I have ever experienced."

Marc Foster

"The Novel Incubator combines 'top-down' and 'bottom-up' instruction in an unprecedented way. Combining scene/chapter with whole-manuscript analysis is a core component of the Incubator experience, and it offers incredible power in terms of making good choices locally while keeping the global effect in mind. Coupling this instructional approach with a super-motivated group of fellow participants was life-changing for me. I expect my Incubator experience will pay dividends for decades to come."

Kelly Ford

Kelly Ford hails from an Old West outpost in Arkansas, spends the majority of her free time with people who only exist in her novel and plans to eat her way across the world. She completed GrubStreet’s Novel Incubator program and received a Literature Fellowship Grant from the Somerville Arts Council. Her fiction appears in Knee-Jerk Magazine, Black Heart Magazine and Fried Chicken and Coffee. She can be found at www.kellyjford.com and twitter.com/Kelly_J_Ford

"This class is perfect for anyone who struggles with the dreadful question 'now what?' as they settle down to revise the first (or fifth) draft of their novel. Aside from the high level of input and support that comes from amazing classmates, there's the benefit Michelle's instruction.The most important lesson for me has been: What do your characters want? After six years of fits and starts, I can finally answer that question."

Lissa Franz

Lissa Franz's short fiction has appeared in The Missouri Review, The Crescent Review and Fogged Clarity. She has an MA in creative writing from Boston University and is a past recipient of a Massachusetts Cultural Council artist grant. She lives with her husband and three children in Concord, MA. She is currently revising a novel.

Stephanie Gayle

Stephanie Gayle's new novel, Idyll Threats, will be published in Fall 2015 by Seventh Street Books. Her first novel, My Summer of Summer Discomfort, was a Top Ten Summer Read, as selected by Redbook. Her short fiction and non-fiction has appeared in Potomac Review, Minnetonka Review, and Punchnel's. She graduated the Novel Incubator Program in May 2013.

“In no other writing program will you have 10 dedicated novelists read your complete manuscript (twice!) and work with you to make it the best book possible. And the benefits of the Novel Incubator program extend past graduation. You will be part of a writing cohort that will support you in querying, editing, and marketing your work. This program isn't just a game changer; it's a life changer. And I'm so happy and grateful I am part of it.”

Mark Guerin

Mark Guerin is a graduate of the 2013-2014 Novel Incubator Program. Mark’s initial interest in writing was as a poet and playwright. One of the first members of the Chicago Dramatists Workshop, Mark is the recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Grant for Playwriting and the Mimi Steinberg Award for Playwriting from Brandeis University. Mark has an MA in English from Northern Illinois University and an MFA in Playwriting from Brandeis. He is currently revising his second novel.

“I know of no other writing program that allows students to have their novels read and critiqued in their entirety by ten other writers while providing such useful and focused advice on the craft and business of novel writing. Yes, it is a great deal of work. I had to read and critique everyone else’s books, too, but in doing so, I feel like I honed my ability to think critically about my own craft, as much so while critiquing as I did when receiving comments on my own book. More than anything else, I enjoyed the motivating atmosphere and sense of purpose the members of my program shared.”

Carol Gray

Carol Gray is a writer and a psychologist. She graduated from the 2013 Novel Incubator Program and is currently revising her first novel, Beastly.

Cynthia Johnson

Cynthia Johnson’s career in television, radio and film lasted over 35 years. Her production experience ranged from public service campaigns, documentaries, docu-dramas and live studio productions. Ms. Johnson worked for PBS, NBC and CBS affiliates and has won 9-New England EMMY Awards, 2-Gold World Medal from the International Film and Television Festival of New York, CEBA Award from the National Association of Black Journalists and the 2003 Massachusetts Psychological Award for her contributions in broadcast and media.Ms. Johnson has written several dramatic scripts for television including the docu-drama, Journey of Courage, a historical look at 350 years of black presence in New England and WGBH’s Ellington’s Sentimental Mood. In 2000, Ms. Johnson wrote a dramatic piece for Gore Place Museum in Waltham entitled, The Trunk, a biography of Robert Roberts, the domestic of Massachusetts Federalist Governor, Christopher Gore. The Trunk has been performed for over 5K students through out New England. Currently, Ms. Johnson is working on her first novel with Grub Street’s Novel Incubator.

“Before I was accepted into Grub Street's Novel Incubator, I'd been writing without any direction for over 10 years. It was a bit like finding my way in the dark. I had inspiring moments, glimpses of workable passages, but I was pretty much on my own. A friend suggested I apply to the Incubator, and I did so because I promised her I would. No one was more surprised than I was to be accepted. My desire was to figure out what wasn't working in my novel; to learn the essential tools I lacked in order to craft a better story. After a year, my desires were met, but more than that I'd found my tribe. If you're lucky there will be several people who'll support your work. You're blessed if you've found a friend or two who understands the process and is able to offer concrete suggestions that will help you, but to have nine individuals who are willing to tackle your story to the ground, to provide you with the truth about structure, form, characterization, grammar and story, is like being granted a miracle. What I didn't expect was to discover gifted writers who were willing to share both their work and time with me. ... It can't be said enough, The Novel Incubator is invested in your success, not the famous NYT Book Review kind, but the success that comes from becoming the best writer you are capable of becoming."

Louise Miller

Louise Miller is a writer and pastry chef living in Boston, MA. She received a scholarship to attend GrubStreet’s Novel Incubator program, where she revised her first novel. Her debut THE CITY BAKER’S GUIDE TO COUNTRY LIVING is forthcoming from Pamela Dorman Books (Viking/Penguin Random House) in summer 2016. She is an art school dropout, an amateur flower gardener, an old-time banjo player, an obsessive movie goer, and a champion of old dogs.

“I received everything I hoped for from my year participating in the Novel Incubator. I had the chance to dig deep into studying the craft of the novel. I received generous, thoughtful feedback from my teacher, 2nd reader and fellow incubees. I made life-long friends and critique partners. I became a part of the amazing alumni community, who are incredibly supportive, inspiring and fun. I discovered how hard I can work. And I can honestly say that the final draft of my novel is much stronger because of all of this. But the most valuable thing that happened for me is that somewhere in between reading and critiquing and revising I stopped thinking about myself as a baker who happened to write a book, and started seeing myself as a writer. It’s a powerful thing to give yourself a year to devote to your creative self. For novelists, Novel Incubator is an amazing way to do just that.”

E.B. Moore

E. B. Moore had the great good fortune to be part of the first Novel Incubator class (2012) and found the agent Alice Tasman at the Muse’s Manuscript Mart. A year later her novel, An Unseemly Wife, was taken by NAL/Penguin as part of a two-book deal. Publicity included interviews and a blog tour. After the launch on 11/14, she gave a presentation at the Boston Book Festival discussing historical novels with two other authors. At the same time Moore’s second novel, Stones In The Road, came due, the projected launch— early 2016.

"The Novel Incubator has been the most intense educational experience of my life, pushing me to a productivity I didn’t think possible. Each member of our group, along with our instructors, gives insightful and supportive critiques while never flinching from the hard truth of what a manuscript needs. It’s a birthing process with all the pain and pleasure that involves. I value each of our group as a writer, an educator, a co-parent, and friend."

Michael Nolan

Michael Nolan has written numerous essays, print and online, in venues such as Dissident Voice, Antiwar.com, Freedom Daily,Common Dreams and the Vermont Guardian. The first chapter of Winter Kept Us Warm, his incubator novel, appeared in The Charles River Review(print). He spent a significant portion of his life as a systems analyst until, interest having flagged, he retired. He married recently.

“Before the incubator, I had a bunch of disjointed scenes with a kinda, sorta ending. When I finished, I had a first draft with a unified narrative arc and a much improved knowledge of craft. Michelle always offers criticism and suggestions in a supportive, empathetic way. Same goes for my fellow incubees. No snarky stuff, just honest support from each class member.”

Patricia Park

Patricia Park graduated from Swarthmore College and received her MFA in fiction from Boston University. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Guardian, Slice Magazine, and others. Her first novel RE JANE will be published with Penguin/Viking/Pamela Dorman Books in May 2015. She has received fellowships with Fulbright, The Center for Fiction, and the American Association of University Women. She lives in New York City.

"The Novel Incubator was a rigorous year well-spent. The program takes a holistic approach to the novel-writing process, targeting big- and little-picture issues. Michelle and Lisa were generous, knowledgeable instructors deeply invested in their students. My manuscript was tighter and richer as a result of the Novel Incubator.”

Kelly Robertson

Kelly Robertson is a member of the Incubator’s third class. She is working on her first novel, Family Harmony, a title she has been advised to change. Her flash fiction can be heard at The Drum, a Literary Magazine for Your Ears, and she is regular contributor to deaddarlings.com. She is a recovering CPA and lives with her husband and “the farm” (two cats and two dogs). When not writing, she can be found walking her whippets through the streets of Cambridge.

Emily Ross

Emily Ross worked on her YA mystery, Half in Love with Death, in Grub Street's Novel Incubator program. Following graduation and several more revisions she found an agent and is delighted that Half in Love with Death will be published by Merit Press. She currently serves on the Novel Incubator Alumni board and is a contributor/editor at Dead Darlings. Her short fiction won second prize in The Smoking Poet’s annual fiction contest. You can find more of her work in Menda City Review. She received a 2014 MCC Artist Fellowship finalist award for fiction. When not writing she works as a web developer, and is the mother of two millennials.

"I am so glad to be part of GrubStreet’s Novel Incubator class. Before I took this class writing my novel was like driving in the dark. At best I could see a chapter ahead and had no sense of where I was going. The feedback I got on my entire novel from the wonderful instructor and my fellow ‘incubees’ has proven invaluable. Going through the revision journey with this same group of passionate writers has enabled me to take that feedback and make it work. I now have a clear vision of where I am going and the tools to get there. I can’t begin to say how grateful I am for that!"

Mandy Syers

Mandy Syers is a graduate of the 2013 Novel Incubator. Her company, Heirloom Books, preserves people’s family histories for future generations in archival, hand-bound volumes. She lives in Providence, RI, where she is revising her novel and working on a children’s picture book.

R.J. Taylor

RJ Taylor received her MFA in creative writing from Emerson College and was part of the pilot year of the Grub Street's Novel Incubator program. Her shorter works have appeared in Quarter After Eight, been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize, and received honorable mention in the Glimmertrain Short Story contest. She's lived in Michigan, South Australia, California and currently resides with her cat, her boyfriend, and a whole lot of books in Somerville, MA, where she splits her time between writing and working as a librarian.

"I always wanted to find something that was a kind of 'writer's bootcamp,' but it wasn't until I joined the Incubator that I finally found it. The program is unlike anything else out there in terms of the die-hard dedication and absolute focus of both the students and teachers. I can say without exaggeration that joining the incubator program was the best thing I ever did for my writing."

Rob Wilstein

Rob Wilstein is a writer and artist, sometimes in that order, who lives and works in Arlington, MA. He is a 2012 graduate of Grub Street's Novel Incubator program and currently serves on the board of the Novel Incubator Alumni. A frequent contributor to Dead Darlings, a forum for posts about everything novel, Rob's column, Go Figure, offers his own skewed take on the world of writing.

After completing his novel about the struggles of a young Jewish immigrant negotiating his way through New York's Lower East Side in the 1930's, entitled Big Shot, Rob is currently working on a second novel, as yet untitled, a somewhat more lighthearted exploration of the meaning of success.

Born in Brooklyn and bred in Queens, NY, Rob has called the Boston area home since 1969. He earned an MFA in painting from Goddard College and has taught art, founded A Street Frames, and sold ice cream from a Hoodsie truck, not necessarily in that order. He lives in Arlington with his wife, Lorri, and his Portuguese Water Dog, Rio.

"Having just finished the first draft of my first attempt at a novel the timing of Grub Street's pilot program 'Novel Incubator' was fortuitous for me. It has helped me to turn a novice attempt at a form I had little experience with (beyond being an avid reader, as many of us are) and develop it into what with a lot more work, a little luck, and continued guidance from the two masterful teachers in the program may become a publishable novel. Through a solid year of classes, individual sessions, assigned readings, and fabulous feedback...I am confident that I will have an accomplished draft ready to present to agents and/or editors at Grub's Muse and the Marketplace 2012. In addition to nurturing our novels every step of the way, the instructor is committed to assistance in matching writers with editors and agents at Muse and the Marketplace. The experience of working with nine other serious writers to complete our, for many of us, first novels has been invaluable, as is the camaraderie established through such close work. It was a brilliant stroke for Grub to develop a year-long novel program that would not suffer from the limitations of shorter novel workshops. In this format both the instructor and nine other writer/students have become immersed in my draft and are able to fully grasp the intentions and level of execution of ideas. A great program for the serious novelist in many of us."

Jennie Wood

Jennie Wood is the creator and writer of Flutter, a graphic novel series. Flutter, Volume One: Hell Can Wait, the first graphic novel in the series, is available on 215 Ink. The Advocate calls Flutter one of the best LGBT graphic novels of 2013 and Bleeding Cool calls it a must read. She is also the author of the YA novel, A Boy Like Me, published in 2014. Foreword Reviews calls A Boy Like Me "delightful and heartwarming in all the right places. Wood perfectly captures the intensity and immediacy of adolescent ups and downs." Jennie is an ongoing contributor to the award-winning, New York Times best-selling FUBAR comic anthologies. She writes non-fiction features for infoplease.com and teaches at GrubStreet. Flutter, Volume Two: Don't Let Me Die Nervous will be released in 2015 Learn more about Jennie’s work at jenniewood.com.

"The Novel Incubator class experience reminds me of my favorite quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson: "Our chief want in life is somebody who shall make us do what we can." In this case, that "somebody" is the Novel Incubator class. You go through the experience with nine fellow students, all deeply committed to providing endless feedback and support in the demanding, overwhelming process of revision. And you are guided by the highest level of hands on instruction, pushing you, daring you to write the kind of novel you are meant to write."