On Thursday, November 6, the writing workshop GrubStreet hosted its Lit Up party to bring together authors, poets and the aspiring to enjoy food, drink and to celebrate the winner of the inaugural Grubby Award to Michael Collier. GrubStreet’s founder, Eve Bridburg, is also up for BostInno’s 50 on Fire arts and entertainment award.
Bridburg and her GrubStreet constituents, along with help from the likes of Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, spearheaded what’s growing into the Literary Cultural District. The designated area, intended to celebrate Boston’s belletristic heritage and cultivate its budding scribes, is intended to promote the bookish renaissance Boston is experiencing.
To help you get to know what her and her organization are all about, we shot her a few quick questions about her literary background, Boston and the tireless debate over E-readers vs. books.
Boston, meet Eve.
Describe your background in writing. Also, are you from Boston?
My writing background involves an MFA from Boston University’s Creative Writing program where a highlight involved studying with Margot Livesey who remains a dear friend. I had the opportunity to teach creative writing while at BU, an experience which gave me the courage to start GrubStreet. Beyond studying writing, I also spent five years in publishing, working as a literary agent with the great people at the Zachary Shuster Harmsworth literary agency. I loved my time there developing, editing, and selling a wide variety of books to major publishers.
No, I’m not from Boston! I’m from suburban Connecticut. I grew up outside of Hartford. But I’ve now lived in Boston for almost twenty years, longer than I’ve lived anywhere else so it certainly feels like home. My driving is just as bad as everyone else’s.
How did the idea for Boston’s Literary Cultural District come about and do you think it will inspire other cities to create their own?
The idea for the Boston Literary District came from the incredible Anita Walker, the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Cultural Council. We were brainstorming ways to make the literary arts more visible in Boston. We wanted to put a spotlight on Boston’s rich literary history and the incredible vibrancy of the current literary scene.
If we succeed in making the district come alive – which we will! – I wouldn’t be surprised if other cities follow our lead. There’s been tremendous interest from all over the world in the project.
What literary era, genre, character, or book do you most identify with and why?
I’ll confess here to something that isn’t always considered very “literary.” I love nonfiction books with missions to change the world, expand minds, or give us a glimpse into academic worlds that are usually out of reach. When I was an agent, I loved working on books like “Growing Up Brave” by Dr. Donna Pincus. When I met Donna, she was doing NIH funded research at Boston University about childhood anxiety and she was discovering that you could prevent anxiety in kids with some simple parenting techniques. Of course, by the time I met her, it was largely too late for my own nervous kids, but I wanted to help her get the message out to the largest possible audience.
E-reader or actual book?
I actually love both traditional books and e-readers. To me, what matters is good story telling, good writing, and honesty.
What are you reading now?
I’m twenty pages into Together Tea by Marjan Kamali. I’ve been wanting to read it since Marjan joined GrubStreet’s pilot Launch Lab in 2012. Her book is about a young Iranian-American woman torn between two cultures and dealing with a mother who is endlessly trying to marry her off to the most eligible Iranian-American bachelors. The writing is smart and funny and the characters are incredibly endearing. I’m really excited to explore Tehran with Marjan’s characters.
What will you be reading next?
I will be reading Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You. Celeste is a GrubStreet instructor and a graduate of our 2013 Launch Lab. I’ve been hearing buzz around GrubStreet about this book since it launched over the summer, but just this month, Amazon editors put it right at the top of its best books of 2014 list. Here’s what they say:
The top pick, Everything I Never Told You, is kind of a ‘sleeper’ in that it got less attention initially than other novels, but Ng’s debut is a sad and moving story that we all fell in love with from the first line,” said Sara Nelson, Editorial Director of Books and Kindle at Amazon.com. “Deeply felt and searingly emotional, Everything I Never Told You is the kind of novel that people say doesn’t get published any more. We’re so happy it did.
For more information about the Literary Cultural District you can explore the website here. Happy reading, happy writing, Boston.