Sunday, July 11, 2010

Grub Tales: Lynne Griffin

Lynne Griffin is the author of the novels Sea Escape (Simon & Schuster, July 2010) and Life Without Summer (St. Martin’s Press, 2009), and the nonfiction parenting title, Negotiation Generation (Penguin, 2007). Lynne teaches family studies at the graduate level and writing at Grub Street Writers in Boston. She appears regularly on Boston’s Fox Morning News talking about family life issues, and she writes for the blog, Family Life Stories.

RUN FOR GRUB: How did you learn about Grub Street?
LYNNE GRIFFIN: After my mother passed away in 2000, I found love letters written to her by my father. Reading them, I went so far as to imagine excerpts of my father’s beautiful writing shining within a novel I might someday write. In those musings, Sea Escape was born. Still I told myself, you've never written fiction. You don’t know the first thing about taking on such an ambitious project, weaving his words into your story. No matter how much I dismissed it, the idea nagged me. For years it wouldn't leave me alone. Characters were named. Plot lines fleshed out. Twenty or so pages written--pages that would eventually become the last chapter of the novel.

The minute I began writing Sea Escape, I knew two things. The first was that I was in love with writing fiction. The second was that I had a lot to learn. So I joined a writers’ group, and at every meeting heard something about Grub Street. Amy MacKinnon, author of Tethered encouraged me to take classes, go to readings, join social events. She said it was where we would find our people, that it was the place to meet talented writers at all stages of the journey. I’d heard about independent writing centers, but had no experience taking classes at one. I took the plunge by signing up for a weekend workshop on aspects of the novel taught by Stace Budzko. To this day, I still use techniques Stace shared in that session.

RUN FOR GRUB: What has Grub Street meant to you?
Learning about craft and navigating the marketplace—living a literary life—is a solitary pursuit, and always a challenging feat. Grub Street is a physical space where I can go to connect with writers aiming for the same goals, contending with the same obstacles to success. Whether it’s commiserating over the struggle to write the perfect sentence or mulling over the ins and outs of the publishing industry, Grub Street is a like-minded community of people I can connect with in person, at classes, and increasingly online. Grub Street has become for me a state of mind. An honest, thoughtful, inspiring, and encouraging place.

RUN FOR GRUB: What's your most magical Grub Street memory?
LYNNE GRIFFIN: Oh, there are so many! I could share sights and sounds and insights from my first Muse and the Marketplace conference or my first manuscript mart, when an editor asked for a full [manuscript]. Or the first craft class I taught. But the most magical moment for me came when I was a student in a class on revision. I’d just finished a first draft of my novel Life Without Summer, and I knew I needed direction in taking on a full scale edit. Hallie Ephron, author of Never Tell a Lie, and a wonderful nonfiction guide to writing, offered a session on revision. At the end of the class, she asked students to share work for critique. Reluctantly—nervously—I agreed to read. When I finished, Hallie said, “Thank you. That quite captured me.” With that one line, she provided enough encouragement to see me through my grueling revision. She made me believe that I had something worth sharing, however small that may be. One line from her had the power to spur me on. I told myself that no matter how much reworking, reimagining, or re-visioning I needed to do, I’d gotten at least that one bit right. Thank you, Hallie. And thanks to Grub Street for hosting guest authors who positively and enthusiastically encourage emerging writers.

Editor's Note: Catch Lynne reading from Sea Escape at Cornerstone Books in Salem on Thursday, July 15 at 7 p.m. or at Newtonville Books on Sunday, July 25 at 2 p.m.

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