Sunday, September 27, 2009


By Doug Holder

It is one thing to tell The Somerville News what a wonderful thing the Somerville News Writers Festival is, it is quite another to put your money where your mouth is. Every year Grub St., along with Porter Square Books and others sponsor the festival founded by Tim Gager and yours truly in 2003.

I recently met with Grub St. head Christopher Castellani at the Diesel Café in Davis Square, Somerville. Castellani frequents the café along with a slew of other writers. One the day of our interview Castellani pointed out Boston Herald sports reporter Steve Buckley. Never at a loss to press the flesh I introduced myself to Buckley and he told me he has a long Somerville lineage as well as a new book out: “Wicked Good Year: How the Red Sox, Patriots, and Celtics Turned the Hub of the Universe into the Capital of Sports.” Castellani told me Buckley was regular at this bustling hub of java and laptops.

Castellani is not only the director of Grub Street, but he is an accomplished author himself. He has published two novels, most recently: “The Saint of Lost Things.” He has long sunned himself in the light of the Academy—earning a M.A. at Tufts and an MFA at Boston University. After Boston University, Castellani, a tall, balding man in his late 30’s, told me he taught at the much lauded Grub St. (now located in Boston) after graduating from B.U.

Grub St. was founded in Brookline, Mass. by Eve Bridburg in 1997. It had a stint in Somerville. It was originally in Bridburg’s home in the “Ville (I remember interviewing her amidst the din of her crying newborn), and later moved to a storefront in Union Square, Somerville. Castellani said: “Somerville was a great place for Grub. You can’t throw a rock without hitting a writer.”

Castellani told me that the philosophy of the school is to be supportive of the writer but provide him or her with rigorous instruction. There are classes for the dabbler with no critical feedback, but he tells his students to be prepared for critical comments in the workshops. The workshops are on “university level” according to the website, and are full of constructive criticism by the students and teachers.

Grub St. is not only valuable for its teaching, but also for its outlets for networking. They hold many literary events and conferences, where the nascent writer can make important contacts. Castellani, is no stranger to giving recommendations to worthy students so they can enter graduate writing programs.

I asked Castellani why he is a supporter of The Somerville News Writers Festival. He said: “It is a great way to connect with other writers and readers. In fact many of the readers over the last seven years like former Somerville resident Steve Almond have taught at Grub St. Grub St will have a table at the Book Fair that will take place at the Arts Armory on Highland Ave, Somerville from 11:30AM to 4PM before the main event at 7PM. All happenings will take place on Nov. 14, 2009.

After our interview Castellani and I shared our table for awhile, he on his laptop, me, with a pen and a schoolboy’s notebook, doing what we like best…writing.

For more information about Grub St. go to
For more information about the Somerville News Writers Festival go to:

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