Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Grub Tales: Grace Talusan

Grace Talusan’s writing has been published in Creative Nonfiction, Brevity, Best American Medical Writing 2009, Solstice, The Drum, and other publications. She contributes book reviews to The Rumpus. Sometimes she blogs and she twitters even less. She teaches writing at Grub Street and Tufts University. Someday, she will publish a book or two. PHOTO BY ALONSO NICHOLS.

RUN FOR GRUB: How did you learn about Grub Street?
GRACE TALUSAN: About five years ago, my friend Ricco Siasoco connected me to Chris Castellani, Artistic Director of Grub Street. Chris was looking for more teachers. I almost declined because I thought I wouldn’t have time for another teaching gig, but Chris was sincere about wanting to support underrepresented writers, especially those in Grub Street’s neighborhood. I’d just returned from the Voices of Our Nation Arts Foundation (VONA) summer writing workshop, and I was hoping to work with writers of color. While this isn’t Grub Street’s main mission, I know that Grub cares deeply about the community in which it operates. Both The Young Adult Writing Project, especially the summer fellowship they give to teens to study writing, and The Memoir Project, convinced me that Grub was an organization I wanted to participate in.

RUN FOR GRUB: What has Grub Street meant to you?
GRACE TALUSAN: When I was in graduate school, my teacher Wilton Barnhardt was emphatic that writers should have writer friends. At the time, I didn’t understand why. I thought having writer friends was limiting, but in hindsight, I realize that my discomfort had more to do with the jealousy I’d sometimes feel when my writer friends published or won awards or otherwise succeeded in areas where I wasn’t. Once I started teaching at Grub, I started making more writer friends. Pretty quickly, I realized how helpful it was to have people around me who believed that writing and reading are worthwhile, meaningful, and productive ways to spend time. My writer friends make so many happy things in my life possible.

RUN FOR GRUB: What is the best thing about Grub Street?
GRACE TALUSAN: Grub Street is more than just a place for classes—it’s a community, a network. There’s a place at Grub Street for bestselling authors and literary agents and recent MFA graduates and students taking their first writing class ever. While most of my students range in ages between twenty and fifty, I’ve taught high school students and several students over seventy. I love finding out what people do outside of writing—one student was a zookeeper, another a trapeze artist, several were stay at home mothers and fathers, some were between jobs, while others were accomplished leaders in their fields. Recently, on the first day of class, a student confessed, “I’m kind of famous on the internet,” a line which still makes me laugh when I think of it. Grub Street is a community of writers who are generous and supportive to other writers, while at the same time, committed to improving their work.

RUN FOR GRUB: What's your most magical Grub Street memory?
GRACE TALUSAN: About a year and a half ago, I participated in a Grub Street group reading at Newtonville Books. The room was full of my favorite Grub Street friends as well as people I’d never met before. Chris Castellani introduced me. I remember he kept using the word “beloved” to describe me. He said that whenever he mentioned my name, people’s faces would light up. Hearing this made me want to weep with joy. Once I stood behind the podium and faced the packed room, I couldn’t even look at Chris, much less thank him properly, because I was afraid I’d cry and wouldn’t be able to read from a memoir about my mastectomy. What a gift to hear those words. Whenever I’m feeling bereft or despairing, I remember what he said: You are beloved.

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