Thursday, April 22, 2010

Grub Tale: Becky Tuch

Becky Tuch’s first novel, Cindy, Wendy and DANGER: A Novel of Mystery and Excitement!!! was completed in the fourth grade. Since then, she has been writing fiction and practicing using fewer exclamation points. Her stories have won awards from Briar Cliff Review, Byline Magazine, The Tennessee Writers Alliance, and received Honorable Mentions from the Pushcart Prize and Writers' Journal. Other stories, poetry and reviews have been published in Folio, Eclipse, Blueline, Artsmedia, The Women's Review of Books and elsewhere. Additionally, she is the founding editor of The Review Review, a website that reviews literary magazines.

RUN FOR GRUB: How did you learn about Grub Street?
I learned about Grub from a poet I dated when I first moved to Boston. He was looking for teaching jobs and so took me to a Grub Street party so he could network. I remembered there was this giant sink in the hallway and I thought, "this place is cool!" He ended up teaching at a university, but oddly enough, now it's five years later and I'm the one who teaches at Grub Streetnovel and short story workshops to adults and teenagers.

Also, I'd like to add that at the time, I was taking fiction workshops at the Cambridge Center for Adult Ed. I'd taken about two years worth of classes, and then I got to a point where I knew I wanted to take my writing to a more serious level, but I did not want to pay MFA prices. Grub Street was heard of at that time, but not everyone had caught on to how amazing it was just yet. One night, in class, I told everyone that I wasn't going to come back for the next term.

"Why not?" they asked. This group and I had been in a short story workshop together for over a year by then.

"I'm going to take a class at Grub Street," I said.

There was an audible hush.

Evidently, I had made a statement.

Telling your peers in an adult ed class that you're going to start taking classes at Grub was, I learned, like telling a bunch of body-builders that you're done with working out in the basement with your grandpa's old barbells. You are actually going to join a gym, maybe even get a personal trainer.

"My writing," I was saying. "Is important."

I took my first Grub class the following term and have been taking classes there ever since.The really great thing is that since that time, almost all the people I knew in those Adult Ed classes have reunited with me in Grub workshops or seminars or conferences. We just wink at each other's biceps.

RUN FOR GRUB: What has Grub Street meant to you?
So, yesterday, at around noon, I got a phone call from one of my favorite Grub Street instructors. "I just wanted to call and check in with you about your novel. You mentioned you were having trouble with the ending?"

She is an instructor in this master novel class I'm taking, so it's not like she just read about my ranting on Facebook and decided to call and check in. We'd actually scheduled this time to chat. But still. No one is forcing her to do these phone conferences. She just decided that it would make the class better if she called us.

Who does that? Where in the world
apart from academiado people make those kinds of phone calls?

She and I talked for an hour, about art and literature and our mothers and, of course, our novels. Interestingly, the most helpful thing about the call was not that she told me how to end the book, or how to tweak my characters, but that she made the call at all. She had it on her list of things to do, probably right up there with buying food, cleaning her apartment, going to the bank, organizing her tax forms. Right in the midst of all this mundane life work that we all have to struggle to finish on a daily basis, she had the item
"Call Becky re: novel," or something like that. And that's what Grub Street has given me over the past five or so years. It's given me the incredible sense that writing a novel or short stories or poetry, and teaching writing, discussing writing, reading booksall these activities can and should have the same primacy in a person's life as, say, going to the dentist. Writing is real. It matters.

RUN FOR GRUB: Can you define your Grub community?
My Grub community ranges from the people that I hang with on Saturday night (I've made some of the best friends of my life at Grub Street), and my students who I teach on weekdays, as well as the teens I work with one Saturday a month. The community are the people I bump into at cafes in Somerville and with whom I stop to chat about agents and first drafts and revising. There are also the wonderful people with whom I have a communal blog, Beyond the Margins, all people I met through a Grub novel class.

Also, I am not only a teacher but continue to be a student at Grub, so my community includes the people in my workshops who inspire me (like you, Cathy!) and my teachers. One of my other favorite Grub instructors has me over every Christmas and Easter and how can I put words to that? To the generosity and warmth and kindness that permeates the classes and pours out into all of our daily lives?

Well, before I get all sentimental, this would be a good place to mention that I'm also the captain of the Grub Street softball team. This means that my Sundays during the summer are pretty much spent shouting at novelists and memoirists and filmmakers to stay on the freaking base! Run it in! SLIDE!!! Those are happy days indeed.

RUN FOR GRUB: What does Grub Street's magic feel like to you?
It feels like the kind of laughter that brings tears to your eyes. And maybe that's because so many of the workshops I'm in, they just end up being so funny. The stuff people reveal about themselves, and the way we all press in close to one another and jump off a cliff into the big nothingness of This Thing Called Writing, together, in a class, learning from each other, it seems to me the whole thing makes people positively giddy. So the magic feels to me like joy.

1 comment:

  1. What a nice post to read before going to sleep! : - )