GrubStreet’s annual gala Lit Up is going virtual this year on Wednesday, October 7th from 7:30pm – 8:15pm. Join best-selling author and Grubby Award Winner Celeste Ng and comedian Bethany Van Delft to help amplify the stories and voices of Black writers and writers of color in Boston. Tickets for this year’s online literary fundraiser will be on a “pay what you will” basis and are available here.
When I was a literary agent, it was unusual to meet editors who didn’t fit into all of the following categories: white, straight, middle or upper-middle class, ivy league-educated, and raised on either the left or right coast. In the ten years since I left publishing and returned to GrubStreet, there have been countless panel conversations, articles, discussions, and initiatives about the lack of diversity in publishing, but little has changed industry-wide.
In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, the subsequent civil unrest and push for justice, and a pandemic that is disproportionately affecting the health of Black people, there’s renewed energy and urgency to tackle issues of racial injustice and inequity across every sector of American life. On the publishing front, writers and people who work across the industry are sharing stories on social media and pushing for change. The #publishingpaidme campaign revealed staggering differences in advances between white writers and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) writers among other inequities.
In recent months, Dana Canedy and Lisa Lucas have been hired to take the helm as publishers at major New York publishing houses, pointing to fundamental change. And MFA programs and literary organizations that train and educate writers and provide professional networks and connections to the publishing industry are issuing statements of solidarity and promising that self-reflection will be coupled with concrete action and financial investment.
While there is hope in the air, there is also a lot of worry that this moment will pass without real transformation.
Like many of us, I read Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist this summer. In addition to his wonderful storytelling and clarity, I found myself drawn to his insistence that we judge our policies and funding decisions by their outcomes. At GrubStreet, this includes asking ourselves whether our BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) writers have equal access to our classrooms, equitable teaching opportunities, and whether they benefit equally from the professional publishing networks we cultivate.
Though we’ve made significant strides over the last five years, the answer to these questions remains “no.” That’s why, at this critical moment, we are committing to ambitiously deepen our work.
And we need your help.
At Lit Up this year, we are raising funds to expand current programs, establish new initiatives to tackle inequity in writing and publishing, and amplify the work of talented Black writers and writers of color, including:
In just two years, GrubStreet’s Boston Writers of Color (BWoC) Group has grown to support nearly 2,000 members. There is a need for increased staffing for capacity building and increased resources (literary events, networking, writing retreats, submission support, and mentorship). In addition to expanding programming, we plan to further bridge the BWoC community to other opportunities at GrubStreet, including increasing opportunities for participation in writing classes and the Muse and the Marketplace conference.
GrubStreet currently provides financial aid for writing classes and participation in the Muse and the Marketplace conference, with a priority for writers from communities historically underrepresented in publishing (BIPOC writers, low-income writers, writers with disabilities, trans writers, and queer writers). In addition to raising funds to continue this financial aid and these fellowships, we will increase no-cost opportunities for Black teen and adult writers to take a wide range of classes at GrubStreet, participate in the Muse and the Marketplace conference, and obtain customized mentorship.
As a new initiative, we will establish a Teaching Fellowship at GrubStreet for Black writers and instructors. The Teaching Fellowship will offer financial support, professional development, and artistic mentorship. The Fellows will teach classes and work with our instructors and staff to deepen our curriculum. While we hope to launch with two fellows, we’d like to grow the program to a cohort of three over time.
By making a donation today and joining us at Lit Up, you’ll be helping us build a community fully reflective of the talent, imagination, and promise of Boston’s diverse writing community and beyond. And you’ll be amplifying the voices and stories of Black writers and writers of color, voices crucial to a full understanding of our world and to finding our way to a more joyful, imaginative and just one.