Monday, May 3, 2010

Grub Tales: Eve Bridburg

Eve Bridburg worked in nonprofits in San Francisco, farmed in Oregon and managed an international Bookstore in the Czech Republic before moving to Boston to attend Boston University’s Creative Writing program on a teaching fellowship. She founded Grub Street in the spring of 1997 in order to create a supportive yet rigorous place to study writing beyond the halls of academia. In order to expand Grub’s reach and mission, she directed the transformation of Grub Street into a nonprofit arts organization in 2001. Once Grub Street had its new legs, Eve joined The Zachary Shuster Harmsworth Literary Agency where she has developed, edited, and sold a wide variety of books including memoirs, literary and commercial fiction, and expert-driven nonfiction titles and continues to work with select clients. Now back at Grub Street as Executive Director, Eve is excited to oversee Grub Street’s next phase of growth with an eye toward advocating for all writers and exploring new opportunities for writers and readers in the digital age.

I started Grub Street back in the spring of 1997 by tacking
flyers on trees up and down Beacon Street in Brookline. Fresh out of the boot camp atmosphere of Boston University's MA in creative writing program, I set out to do two things: create workshops that didn't involve tears or humiliation and avoid real work at any cost.

My first workshop had five participants, one of them a friend who graciously agreed to sit in and pretend that she was interested in writing. She became my mole, helping me determine what was and wasn't working over wine on my porch after class. I learned a lot that first term. I learned that Grub Street would be the kind of place that welcomed writers of all genres and ambitions, that classes would be about craft and not identity, and that we would not tolerate posturing or snobbery. I also learned to get tuition money up front and that Brookline residents don't much like tacks in their trees.

Working as I did back then from a small room in my then boyfriend's (now long suffering husband's) small apartment, I never imagined that ten years down the road, Grub Street would be a thriving literary arts center with digs overlooking the Boston Common. Nor could I have imagined that we would host a national literary conference and book prize every year with some of the country's most beloved and popular authors. I never would have thought that Mayor Menino would host a Grub Street event or that we'd partner with the City of Boston to collect memoirs from seniors in neighborhoods all over Boston. That we'd have a volunteer-run program working with teens free of charge of that we'd offer fellowships to writers striving to revise their novels and books of poetry. It fills me with great pride and excitement to see how far this baby has come.

A few years after that first class, a student approached me and told me that Grub Street had changed her life. I smiled politely, resisting the urge to slip my shrink's business card into her coat pocket. She explained that she felt alive again and was suddenly spending her evenings writing until the wee hours. It was the people that she had met, both the teachers and the other students, who were responsible for her awakening. I've heard many versions of this story from countless others over the years. These stories are what have kept me engaged and dedicated and fully convinced of the necessity of an organization like ours.

What Grub does is quite simple. We bring people who love stories and words together. That we've managed to do this well for fourteen years is directly attributable to the people who have shown up for the party. Through generosity of spirit, hard work, imagination, and talent we've not only produced fine work, but have built a lasting community.

1 comment:

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