Monday, May 24, 2010

Grub Tales: Jenna Blum

JENNA BLUM is the New York Times bestselling author of
THOSE WHO SAVE US and THE STORMCHASERS (out May 27, 2010, wherever books are sold!). Jenna has taught at Grub Street Writers since its inception in 1997 and writes the Writers' Advice Column for the Grub Street Free Press. Follow Jenna on her book & storm tour for THE STORMCHASERS on her website,, or on Facebook.

RUN FOR GRUB: How did you learn about Grub Street?
JENNA BLUM: I’ve known about Grub since the olden days, its inception in 1997. I was graduating from B.U.’s creative writing workshop and Eve Bridburg, who’d graduated the year before me, kindly took a chance on me as a fiction workshop teacher and, for a short and terrifying time, administrative assistant. This meant I sat on the second floor of Eve’s house in Somerville, where the Grub offices were located then, and looked confusedly at paperwork, then went out on the back porch to smoke. Ah, all the things that are gone with the wind. Luckily for writers everywhere, Grub is not one of them. I’m so proud to have watched this community grow from the days when Eve and I drove around handing out pamphlets for Grub’s two writing classes (fiction and poetry) to the fantastic, dynamic, thousandfold writer-life-support community it is now.

RUN FOR GRUB: What has Grub Street meant to you?
JENNA BLUM: I would no longer live in Boston if it weren’t for Grub. I have lived in other cities (New York City, London, Minneapolis) and they had their charms, but they don’t have Grub. Nowhere have I encountered a writing community so strong and supportive, with such warm, funny, talented, caring writers who know each other’s characters as well as they know each other. Almost all of my dearest friends are from my Grub classes. All of my students are phenomenal. And I’m happy to say that my novelists’ books are starting to come out on the shelves (Randy Susan Meyers’ THE MURDERER’S DAUGHTERS, Iris Gomez’s TRY TO REMEMBER). So watch out, world. Grub Street Writers are taking over.

RUN FOR GRUB: What's your most magical Grub Street memory?
JENNA BLUM: Once, in one of my novel workshops, one of the participants began to cry (and it wasn’t the writer being workshopped!). She held up the portion of the novel we were discussing—it happened to be the book’s ending—and said, “This is what good writing is supposed to do. I’m just so—so—moved!”

I also love the moments at the Muse & the Marketplace when I’m standing in the Manuscript Mart and looking at all the writers, agents, and editors. You can just see them all as kids, the smartest in all of their respective third grade classes.

RUN FOR GRUB: How did your time at Grub Street prepare you for the rigors of storm chasing?
JENNA BLUM: I know this isn’t exactly answering the question you asked, but I’m going to pull a Sarah Palin and talk about what I want to talk about instead. It’s sorta related: without Grub, I wouldn’t have been able to write my second novel, THE STORMCHASERS, which features, surprise, stormchasing. I had terrible writer’s block between my first and second novels, in part because I had rather stupidly given up smoking. I didn’t want to give up smoking. I loved smoking. It was like Styron’s experience quitting drinking, which he describes in his memoir about depression, DARKNESS VISIBLE: his body decided for him that he was no longer able to drink. Because I was getting migraines from smoking, I gave it up—and then, because I had been writing and smoking for over 20 years, I also gave up writing fiction. I just didn’t know how to do it anymore.

Grub Street, and Ron MacLean in particular, led me back to the fold. I write the Writers’ Advice column for the Grub Street Free Press, and Ron gentled me through my first days back at the writing desk by soliciting these nonfiction pieces. Then he cleverly suggested I write about stormchasing for the Freep. Because I found I was able to write nonfiction about things I loved—stormchasing and writing—I was able to segue back into fiction. If it weren’t for Grub and Ron letting me write about chasing for the Freep, instead of finishing THE STORMCHASERS (out May 27!) I would still be sitting staring sadly at the big ol’ empty red ashtray.

RUN FOR GRUB: How did your time at Grub Street give you the strength to run toward a tornado instead of the hell away from it?
JENNA BLUM: I had to. I had to finish the danged Freep articles, didn’t I?

RUN FOR GRUB: Any advice for me should a tornado hit while I’m running my marathon around the lake?
JENNA BLUM: Run like hell in the opposite direction.

Editor's Note: Jenna Blum's book launch for The Stormchasers is at the Coolidge Corner Theatre this Thursday (May 27) at 6p.m. Tickets are $5 and must be purchased in advance through the Brookline Booksmith.


  1. These photos make me want to go on a chase...

  2. Chris CastellaniMay 26, 2010 at 2:54 PM

    Jenna, this is such a lovely and generous tribute to Grub Street. Thank you! We are so lucky to have you with us.