On Tuesday, Nov. 13, members of the Beacon Hill Women’s Forum (BHWF) gathered at the Hampshire House to hear from Eve Bridburg, founder of local literary powerhouse organization GrubStreet.
The evening opened with remarks from Neighborhood Narrative speaker Katherine Hudson of KM Hudson on Charles Street. Hudson spoke convincingly of the importance of well-fitting undergarments, both for comfort and to improve the fit of clothing. Her small and intimate shop specializes in personalized fittings, since she believes that no two women are alike, and that feeling comfortable is paramount.
The keynote speaker of the evening was Eve Bridburg, founder and executive director of GrubStreet. Bridburg gave an eloquent account of how feeling like an outsider as a young person made her interested in telling stories and bringing people together. In her view, books expand our perspective and allow us to walk in someone else’s shoes. They bridge the space between others and us, and can make us feel less alone, no matter our circumstances.
Bridburg grew up outside Hartford, Conn., and was born to Irish immigrant parents. Her parents were Jewish and Catholic, and obtained a papal dispensation to be able to marry in a Catholic church, but growing up between cultures and religions led her to feel like an outsider, and throughout her young adulthood she struggled with identity. This quest to know herself led Bridburg to the study of religion and philosophy and to travel, all while writing stories and poems.
Eventually she enrolled in graduate school for creative writing, but found that the rigid and intensely critical atmosphere was not helpful for her. However, Bridburg did discover a love of teaching through her work with undergraduates, and after finishing started teaching writing courses along with a friend, calling themselves “GrubStreet.”
The first course of eight students bonded over their writing and formed strong friendships, illustrating for Eve that it is “pretty remarkable what happens when strangers get together to share their stories,” and that criticism given with love can help many students more than the withering critiques she had endured in school. Growing enrollment proved that this resonated with people, and the burgeoning community began to call themselves “Grubbies.”
Busy caring for two young children along with her career, Bridburg looked for volunteers to help make GrubStreet a non-profit literary community, and then eventually shifted to publishing, where she worked for five years, before coming back to GrubStreet as executive director. Now, GrubStreet has blossomed into the largest literary arts center in the country, offering a wide spectrum of courses from how to write a first poem to an intensive workshop on finishing a novel, in attempts to be “radically inclusive.”
In the next few years, GrubStreet will move from their current space on Boylston Street to a large space in the Seaport, after winning a bid through the City of Boston. This new location will allow them to have a bookshop and café, and more classroom space, as well as a community space for writers and readers. GrubStreet promises to become an even greater resource for Bostonians in the future, and the catalyst for many more friendships and launched writing careers.
For more information about the plethora of events offered during the BHWF’s 2018-2019 season and to purchase membership, visit www.beaconhillwomensforum.org.