On the night of June 5th, a drizzling June evening, I ran from the T to the shelter of Coolidge Corner Theater. My nose was immediately comforted by the scent of buttery popcorn and my eyes brightened at the sight of vintage movie posters under yellowing lightbulbs.
After finding a seat inside the theater, my eyes gravitated toward a woman sitting off stage. She styled her hair in a big half-ponytail and she wore a glittering copper jumpsuit. A warm smile crept across her face as Christopher Castellani, Artistic Director of Grubstreet, took the stage to introduce her. With a laugh, he told us how this woman talks about the characters in her novels like they’re real. This one’s giving me a hard time today and that one won’t do what I’m asking her to. He told us about her dedication to the writing community. She’s taught fiction and nonfiction workshops at Grubstreet since 1998.
After Chris finished his introduction, the woman stepped onto the stage and gave him a hug. She was Jenna Blum, author of acclaimed books Those Who Save Us and The Stormchasers. She is one of Oprah Winfrey’s Thirty Women Writers and she worked for the Steven Spielberg Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, interviewing Holocaust survivors from 1993 through 1997. Jenna was here to kick off her book tour for her new novel The Lost Family, which was published on June 5, 2018 by Harper Collins.
She surprised us by saying, “I hate book readings that go on for super long, so I usually only read for ten to fifteen minutes.” I wondered what she would do for the rest of the event if she only planned to read for ten minutes, but my question was answered by spending most of the evening talking with Jenna, and asking her questions about her characters, her process, and her life as the wind and rain whipped around the Coolidge Corner Theater.
Jenna talked about the importance of building a writing community for yourself. She is still good friends with many of her Grubstreet students–who attended the event–and always has people she can turn to for edits on new chapters of her books. Jenna told us she has “accountabilibuddies,” a group of people she checks in with each day to name a writing goal they have for the day and follow up to see if it was accomplished. Though I was sincerely intrigued by Jenna’s reading of The Lost Family and look forward to buying my own copy, I was most floored by Jenna opening herself up to a room of rain-soaked strangers.
Jenna Blum showed herself to be a writer fully committed to the literary community. She has been to over 850 book clubs in Boston alone. She enjoys talking to readers, hearing our thoughts and answering our questions. As a writer and reader myself, I was honored to share the space with her.
-Colleen Risavy, Intern