Monday, July 5, 2010

Grub Tales: Crystal King

Crystal King is a 15+ year public relations and marketing veteran who currently drives social media for CA, Inc., a $4.3B high-tech firm. She teaches graduate-level media communications at Boston University as well as social media classes for artists and writers at Mass College of Art and at Grub Street, respectively. Additionally, Crystal is a freelance writer and Pushcart-nominated poet who is currently working on her first novel. She holds an M.A. in Critical & Creative Thinking from UMass Boston where she centered her thesis on developing creative tools to help fiction writers in progress. Find her on Twitter at

RUN FOR GRUB: I know you're working on a novel about Rome in the first century, so tell me what's harder: being a gladiator or training for your first marathon?
Ha! This is such a great question. I think the training is equally arduous, but in the end, I would have to go with gladiator. Instead of dodging potholes they're trying to avoid the jaws of deathlions and bears most likely being the scariest of the jaws. Additionally, people threw money and flowers at them. Marathoners usually have to hit up everyone they know for money before the performance, but I'd like to believe that there are flowers handed to them afterward!

RUN FOR GRUB: You're kind of the Grub guru on social media sites, and I've tried to use Twitter and Facebook and Blogger to publicize the Run for Grub. My question is this: could I have made a BIGGER pest of myself?
Oh, you haven't been the slightest bit pesty! I enjoy helping people figure out what they need to do to help promote themselves. It is true though, that some people "get it" faster than others. The good thing is that you are the former vs. the latter! In my high tech PR job I spend a lot of time answering the same questions for the same people who just can't manage to wrap their heads around what social media is and how to use it.

RUN FOR GRUB: How did you learn about Grub Street?
CRYSTAL KING: This is a funny story actually. Four years ago I was at a "Getting Things Done" seminar on organizing my life, schedule, etc., and while I was there I ended up meeting a woman named Michelle Toth, who it turns out was on the board of Grub Street. I had heard of Grub but hadn't really pursued getting involved, thinking that it was just taking classes and not knowing the whole picture. I talked with Michelle for awhile and we agreed to touch base after the seminar was over. We put each other on our "get things done" list and did we do that? Nope. By then, however, I was intrigued enough to sign up for a day at the Muse & the Marketplace. During one of the lunches Michelle spoke briefly and when I went to approach her afterward, she remembered me immediately and we both talked about how we never managed to call each other. She introduced me to Christopher Castellani and after that I became very hookednot just on what Grub offers but by how special the people and the community are to me as a writer.

RUN FOR GRUB: What has Grub Street meant to you?
I like to think of my life as B.G.S. (Before Grub Street) and A.G.S. That may sound silly, but it's honestly true. It is 100% true when I say that Grub has changed my life. My outlook on my sense of self and as a writer is drastically different than before Grub Street waltzed in and declared itself part of my world. Before I was just someone who wanted to writedesperately wanted to write. Now I feel like a writer, my friends are writers, and I meet writers (NYT best-selling writers!! I'm still in awe of that) all the time. I worked in a vacuum B.G.S. Now I feel energized and excited about where my writing is going.

RUN FOR GRUB: Can you define your Grub community?
CRYSTAL KING: It's both small and large. I've taken several classes at Grub and they are all top-notch. I've taught classes on creativity and social media at Grub which is such a delight for me. And two years ago I pulled together three other Grub women I knew and we started meeting every two weeks and hashing over our novels. I also know a lot of writers both published and unpublished that I have met over the years at all the readings, the Muse conference, bi-annual parties, lock-downs, and other gatherings. It's a rich vibrant community that just plain makes me happy.

RUN FOR GRUB: What does Grub Street's magic feel like to you?
CRYSTAL KING: For being a writer I find that it's hard to put into words how I feel about the "magic" that is Grub Street. But it IS magical. I tell everyone I know about it. I feel proud to be a part of the larger tapestry that is Grub Street. I am so fortunate to live in Boston where a community like this exists. It's truly unique.

RUN FOR GRUB: What's your most magical Grub Street memory?
There are so many! Between all the writers I've met, the conferences, and classes it's hard to say. I think though, the way that I felt after I taught my first social media class at Grubthat would be hard to beat. I felt like I made a real difference for my studentswho are my fellow writers. They loved the class so much that they had my career half planned out on how I could help other authors afterward. I tear up thinking about it even now.

RUN FOR GRUB: Grub Street almost closed in 2001, butthank goodnessit reinvented itself as a nonprofit instead. What would you have lost if Grub had withered away eight years ago?
CRYSTAL KING: I'd still be working in a vacuum! I can't imagine going back to my life B.G.S.!!

RUN FOR GRUB: What was the best advice you ever received at a Grub Street event?

CRYSTAL KING: Again, there have been so many useful takeaways I've had from events. Chuck Palahniuk's keynote at this year's Muse & the Marketplace will always stick with me. It made me cry. It made me realize that the writer is, first and foremost, a storyteller. Anita Shreve also said something during her Muse session that will stick with me: "When something is stuck in real life you bang on it, you kick itthat's what you need to do with your writing."

RUN FOR GRUB: And now for the hard hitting journalism: I hear you have a new Grubbie to introduce to the world named Nerocan Run for Grub be the venue to introduce his stunning cuteness to the world? CRYSTAL KING: Yes! My new furry muse, a Ragdoll kitten, will be joining us in a couple of weeks. I'm hoping he'll sit on my desk and keep me company when the words just refuse to flow!

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