Grub Street is a terrific service organization for writers, offering classes, readings, galas, wit, panache, and many many other charming and edifying nouns. And Chris, an adept leader at Grub Street AND an award-winning novelist, is definitely over-qualified to be the subject of these miniaturized questions. But bless him, he answered a bunch of them anyway.
MCC: What’s new and exciting at Grub Street these days?
Chris: We reinvent ourselves every quarter with new classes, events, seminars and parties, so there’s always something exciting and a little bit risky going on. There’s no better way to keep the work interesting…
MCC: How do you balance your duties at Grub Street with your fiction writing career?
Chris: I treat them both like part-time jobs. Mornings I work on fiction, usually at the Diesel Caf in Davis Square. Afternoons 1-6 I’m at my desk at Grub Street. The hours are short enough that I leave both places wanting/needing more.
MCC: What are you working on these days, writing-wise?
Chris: I recently finished a draft of my third novel, which completes a trilogy. I’ve set it aside for a while and will go back to it for revision once I get some distance from it. In the meantime, I’m writing a personal essay for a forthcoming anthology called Mentors, Muses and Monsters.
MCC: What writer do you most admire but write nothing like?
Chris: In addition to their amazing work itself, I admire Whitman’s bravado, Grace Paley’s commitment to social justice, and George Herbert’s eloquent struggling.
MCC: What’s the most embarrassing sentence/line of poetry you’ve ever written?
Chris: My first stories were all set in contemporary, but they read like it was 1789 Calais. The very first line of my very first full-length story (in ninth grade) was “Victoria, clad in vestment ivory-white, set forth across a great distance to visit her dearest friend Mathilde.”
MCC: Were President-elect Barack Obama to create a cabinet post in the arts, whom should he appoint as Secretary?
Chris: He’s already begged me, but I told him I was too busy.
MCC: Who wins the poets vs. prose writers paintball war?
Chris: The poets, in a bloodbath. It’s that whole “carpe diem” mentality that makes them fight like they have nothing to lose.
MCC: Computer, longhand, or typewriter?
Chris: Computer. I only half-believe writers who tell me they write longhand.
MCC: Do you secretly dream of being a) a pop icon, b) an algebra teacher, and/or c) a crime-solver/writer a la Jessica Fletcher?
Chris: I want to be the first crime-solving algebra teacher to perform live with Beyonce.
MCC: How many revisions does your work typically go through?
Chris: Each sentence gets worked over dozens, if not hundreds, of times, and somehow they still come out creaky and malformed.
MCC: Do you ever revise your work on the spot during live readings?
Chris: Always. I wish I could rewrite everything I’ve ever published, including these responses.
MCC: Please revise the following sentence: “Though every muscle in his body urged him not to, Sanderson crept toward the tinted windows of the gray-green Caprice.”
Chris: “Muscled, all urge and body, Sanderson pressed Caprice up against the tinted windows.”
Chris and Grub Street host a reading with Kim Adrian, Ben Berman, Xujun Eberlein, Suzanne Matson, Monica Raymond, and JD Scrimgeour this Thursday, January 8, 2009, 7 PM at Grub Street, 160 Boylston Street, Boston MA. Read about all of the events in the Commonwealth Reading Series.
Christopher Castellani is the author of two novels, A Kiss From Maddalena, which won the Massachusetts Book Award for Fiction, and most recently, The Saint of Lost Things. A graduate of Swarthmore College with an M.F.A. from Boston University, he is the Artistic Director of Grub Street, a nonprofit creative writing center. He lives in Arlington, Massachusetts.