Thursday, June 24, 2010

Grub Tales: Jane Roper

Jane Roper is the author of Baby Squared, a narrative blog on about her adventures and misadventures in parenting twins. She also writes fiction, nonfiction, and a whole lotta advertising and marketing copy. Her debut novel, Eden Lake, will be published in 2011 by Last Light Studio. Her memoir, Baby Squared, about the highs, lows and in-betweens of her first three years as a mother of twins will be published by St. Martin's Press in 2012.

RUN FOR GRUB: How did you learn about Grub Street?
JANE ROPER: The first time I became aware of Grub must have been in around 1998, when I saw a photocopied, handwritten flyer up on a bulletin board at a coffee shop in Somerville. At that point, though I was secretly yearning to try my hand at writing fiction, I was too chicken even to think about taking a writing workshop.

Over the next couple of years, I started to dip my toe into the writing waters. I got my hands on copies of Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones” and Brenda Euland’s “If you Want to Write,” and started schooling myself in some of the fundamentals. That is, I just started writing – free writing in notebooks – almost every day. I also read short fiction hungrily and made a few embarrassing early attempts at it.

Meanwhile, Grub’s presence had grown — they now had plastic newspaper box things around town with their schedules in them. In early 2000, I grabbed a schedule and registered for my first workshop. It was Fiction 1, with Chris Castellani – and it was the first Grub class he’d ever taught. I’ve always felt a special bond with Chris over that. I'm not sure he feels the same way, but he always nods politely when I say it.

RUN FOR GRUB: What has Grub Street meant to you?

JANE ROPER: So much. I credit Grub with giving me the confidence and inspiration I needed to go from a timidly aspiring writer to a passionately aspiring one to a sort-of-kind-of-professional one.

I’ve taken Grub classes, taught them, been part of the team that helped transition Grub from a for-profit into a non-profit (I came up with the name "The Muse and The Marketplace" – one of my proudest Grub achievements), and have made wonderful friendships–close and otherwise–through Grub. It is, quite simply, the heart of my writing community. Love it to death.

RUN FOR GRUB: You’ve been in workshops at Grub Street and Iowa. Discuss.
JANE ROPER: I got a lot out of my workshops at Iowa. The other students were talented and supportive, and I learned a great deal about craft. But the level of energy, passion and support from my Iowa profs didn't even come close to what I got from Chris Castellani or Steve Almond, the two Grub instructors I studied with.

Iowa also had a generally competitive vibe, which I didn’t like. Financial aid for the second year was determined on the basis of your writing during the first year, which is absolutely antithetical to experimenting, exploring and taking risks in your writing. And isn’t a workshop the ideal place to do that?

I love that the Grub community doesn’t go in for competitive, elitist b.s. The publishing world is vicious enough. There’s no need for writers to be anything but supportive of one another. When I came back to Boston after Iowa and started teaching Grub workshops, I really felt like I was coming back to my writing home.

RUN FOR GRUB: What’s tougher—writing or raising twins?
JANE ROPER: I'd have to say the latter. As difficult and soul-wrenching as writing can be, it almost never requires wiping butts, withstanding double tantrums or having to referee knock-down-drag-out fights over who gets to use the red marker first. At least, not in my experience. But every writer has his or her own methods.

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