Christopher Castellani and Stephen McCauley in conversation with Jenna Blum.
Offsite event in partnership with Betsy's Book Talks.
Copies of Christopher's, Stephen's and Jenna's books can be ordered online and picked up in the book shop anytime prior to September 19 or will be available for pick up at the event.
Christopher Castellani is the son of Italian immigrants and a native of Wilmington, Delaware. He currently lives in Boston, where he is the artistic director of Grub Street, the country’s largest and leading independent creative writing center. He is the author of three critically-acclaimed novels, A Kiss from Maddalena (Algonquin Books, 2003)—winner of the Massachusetts Book Award in 2004— The Saint of Lost Things (Algonquin, 2005), a BookSense (IndieBound) Notable Book; and All This Talk of Love (Algonquin, 2013), a New York Times Editors’ Choice and finalist for the Ferro-Grumley Literary Award. The Art of Perspective: Who Tells the Story, a collection of essays on point of view in fiction, was published in 2016 by Graywolf Press. He has recently completed a new novel, Leading Men, for which he received Fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Leading Men will be published in February 2019 by Viking Penguin.
In addition to his work with Grub Street, Christopher is on the faculty and academic board of the Warren Wilson MFA program and the Bread Loaf Writers Conference. Christopher was educated at Swarthmore College, received his Masters in English Literature from Tufts University, and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Boston University.
For more about Christopher visit christophercastellani.com or follow him on
Stephen McCauley: I grew up outside of Boston and was more or less educated in public schools. I went to the University of Vermont as an undergraduate and studied for a year in France at the University of Nice.
Upon graduation, I worked at hotels, kindergartens (see The Object of My Affection), ice cream stands, and health food stores. I taught yoga in a church basement and set up a house cleaning service. For many years, I worked as a travel agent (see The Easy Way Out) and was able to travel somewhat extensively and inexpensively.
In the 1980s, I moved to Brooklyn. After taking a few writing courses at adult learning centers, I enrolled in the MFA writing program at Columbia University. I’d had a desire to write for a long time, but rarely talked about it, mostly because it seemed like an audacious ambition. Being in graduate school gave me the structure and excuse I needed to begin writing more seriously.
At the suggestion of a teacher, the writer Stephen Koch (who recently published a comprehensive, intelligent, and helpful book on writing: The Modern Library Writers’ Workshop) I began working on my first novel. (“Just drop your bucket over the side,” he advised, “and see what comes up.” As for plot, he said: “Not so complicated. Look at Farewell to Arms. Boy meets girl, girl gets pregnant, girl dies, boy walks home in the rain. The end.”) The first draft of The Object of My Affection was submitted as my thesis for graduation from Columbia. Stephen Koch offered to send it to an agent, and shortly thereafter, it was accepted by Simon and Schuster. I was working at a travel agency when it was published. About six months later, 20th Century Fox bought an option for the film rights, and I left that line of work.
Since 1987, I have taught at UMass, Wellesley College, Harvard University, and, most frequently, at Brandeis University. Currently, I co-direct the creative writing program there with poet Elizabeth Bradfield.
I’m a pretty slow and self-conscious sort of writer, and despite my best efforts, there’s been a gap of four or five years between each book. The Easy Way Out (1992), The Man of the House (1996), True Enough (2001), Alternatives to Sex (2006), and Insignificant Others (2010). The isolation and self-discipline writing demands doesn’t come easily to me, and so teaching has been a welcome (though time-consuming) part of my work life.
For more about Stephen visit stephenmccauley.com or follow him on
Jenna Blum is the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of novels Those Who Save Us, The Stormchasers and The Lost Family.
Jenna has been writing since she was 4 and professionally since she was 16, when she won Seventeen Magazine's National Fiction Contest with her short story "The Legacy of Frank Finklestein." Jenna is a graduate of Kenyon College and Boston University. She taught creative writing and journalism for Boston University for five years, was editor of AGNI literary magazine, and has taught fiction for 20 years for Boston's Grub Street Writers, where she currently teaches master novel workshops. Dividing her time between Boston and the Midwest, Jenna has written the screenplay for Those Who Save Us and is currently at work on her fourth novel.