2022 Presenters

Shalene Gupta


An Chinese-Indian woman in her early 30s wearing black glasses with shoulder length black hair




Shalene Gupta has a BA in writing seminars and psychology from Johns Hopkins and an MS from Columbia Journalism School. In the past Shalene was a reporter for Fortune where she wrote about the intersection of diversity and tech in Silicon Valley. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, Harvard Business Review, ESPN, and Kirkus Reviews. Internationally it has appeared in The New Straits Times, The Jakarta Post, and Mint. Before working as a reporter, she taught English in Malaysia on a Fulbright scholarship and wrote a book documenting the history of the Malaysian Fulbright program. She's a graduate of GrubStreet's Novel Incubator program, where she was a Pauline Scheer fellow. She's the co-author of The Power of Trust: How Companies Build It, Lose It, Regain It with Harvard Business School professor Sandra Sucher (Public Affairs, 2021). She's currently working on a YA novel and a nonfiction book on women's health.


SESSION: How Interviews Can Fuel Your Book Project

Interviews are a powerful tool that can fuel both nonfiction and fiction. They can prove especially transformative when—as in the case of Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko and Rebecca Makkai’s The Great Believers—the authors extensively interviewed a variety of people for novels set in times and places outside of their own direct experience. In this session, former Fortune reporter Shalene Gupta will walk through how to effectively interview people, from figuring out who to talk to, to preparing for the interview, to getting the most out of the discussion, and finally organizing your notes to set yourself up for writing success.


Posted by GrubStreet in Author

Hank Phillippi Ryan


A white woman in her 60s with streaked straight blond hair in a shoulder length pageboy,  wearing red lipstick and a black suit and pearls, sitting in an upholstered armchair with a bouquet of orange and yellow flowers behind her.





Hank Phillippi Ryan is the USA Today bestselling author of 13 psychological thrillers, winning the most prestigious awards in the genre: five Agathas, four Anthonys, and the coveted Mary Higgins Clark Award. She is also on-air investigative reporter for Boston's WHDH-TV, with 37 EMMYs and dozens more journalism honors. Book critics call her “a master of suspense,” “a superb and gifted storyteller”; she’s the only author to have won the Agatha in four categories: Best First, Best Novel, Best Short Story, and Best Non-Fiction. Hank’s 2020 novel is The First to Lie, nominated for both the prestigious Anthony Award for Best Novel and Mary Higgins Clark Award. Her newest book is Her Perfect Life, a chilling psychological standalone about fame, family, and revenge which received starred reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, which called it "a superlative thriller,” and Mystery Scene Magazine called it “a powerhouse of a thriller.”



SESSION: Great Beginnings: Perfecting Page One

You know the great opening lines: Manderley, ships at a distance, the last camel, an invisible man. Why do these work? And how can you create one for your own novel? Then, what about that crucial first paragraph? And a first page that will entice editors and enchant readers? How can you set the proper expectations for the story to come—and make every word work? If a reader doesn’t love the first line, they'll never get to the second one. How do you avoid info dumps, dreaded exposition, and book-killing backstory in your first page? In this class, suitable for any genre, we will dissect and analyze acclaimed first lines and opening paragraphs, and reveal the writing secrets these brilliant examples offer. If you are brave enough, please bring your own first line! Hank and the class will offer advice and guidance to set you and your book off in the right direction.


Posted by GrubStreet in Author

Henriette Lazaridis


Henriette Lazaridis




Henriette Lazaridis' novel Terra Nova will be published in Fall 2022. She is the author of the best-selling novel The Clover House. Her short work has appeared or is forthcoming in publications including ELLE, Forge, Narrative Magazine, Salamander, New England Review, The Millions, The New York Times, and Pangyrus, and has won her a Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Grant. Having taught English at Harvard, she now teaches at GrubStreet in Boston. In the summer, she runs the Krouna Writing Workshop in northern Greece.


SESSION: The Motivated Writer

If you’re the rare writer who hasn’t ever wrestled with motivation, confidence, and time-management skills, then stop reading right now. But if you’ve had trouble sitting down at the desk, or staying there, or concentrating on your own words, or if you’ve been struck by a bad case of the impostor complex, then this class is for you. You’ll spend the session learning about motivation-boosting techniques every writer can borrow from a seemingly unlikely source: sports! No matter what your experience with exercise, you’ll learn how to use an athlete’s tools, like interval training, periodization, and the concept of training zones, to help you embark on and complete your writing project. No need for sweats and a water bottle. We’ll spend the time in a combination of informal lecture and discussion, and you’ll leave the session with a plan for how to accomplish your short-term and long-term goals.


SESSION: Writing While Multilingual: How to Leverage Your Languages for Strong Fiction

The circumstances of our growing up, colonization, immigration, and belonging versus otherness all influence how we feel about and use our languages. We will explore how our relationships with our languages influence what and how we write, and address the challenges of incorporating elements of foreign languages and cultures in fiction for audiences who are not familiar with them. Using excerpts by writers such as Aleksandar Hemon, Oscar Casares, Edwige Danticat, and Amitav Ghosh, we will identify some practical techniques for when and how to use different languages to craft the strongest, truest fiction.

CO-PRESENTER: Anjali Mitter Duva

Posted by GrubStreet in Author

Paloma Valenzuela


Paloma seated at a chair. She wears a neon green turtleneck and a grey plaid blazer. She smiles slightly. she wears glasses and has curly brown hair.




Paloma Valenzuela is a Dominican-American writer, director, actress, and educator originally from the city of Boston. She is the creative director of the production company La Palomita Productions, LLC. She is the writer/producer/creator of the comedic web series "The Pineapple Diaries." The show was featured in the Latina Magazine's "5 Web Series Every Latinx Needs to Watch Right Now." She is a 2018-2019 Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Neighborhood Salon Luminary and between 2020 and 2021 directed an eight-episode video series for the museum called the "Luminary Lens Series." She is a 2019 City of Boston Artist Fellow. In 2019 she won Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy at the Iris Dominicana Movie Awards for her role as Lolita in the Dominican film "Un 4to de Josué," which can be found on HBO. Her writing was recently published in the anthology book Ni De Aquí Ni de Allá, a compilation of stories and works by Dominican-American writers created by the Dominican Writers Association. She works as a teaching artist in Boston and teaches screenwriting at Brandeis University. She has recently joined the ICATeens film school faculty at the Institute of Contemporary Art as the teaching artist for their Fast Forward Film Program.


SESSION: Place as Character: Bringing the World to Life on the Page

The places where we were born, where we die, where we love, the homes we inherit and adopt, the library, the corner store, the basketball court, the city block, and the small town meeting hall—these locations are where we set our lives, and as a result, they have a strong hold on our imaginations. When a piece of writing doesn't seem to be happening anywhere, we sense something’s amiss, and when it takes full advantage of place, we find ourselves settling into the story’s narrative, ready to be transported there.

In this directed writing session, attendees will explore strategies for fully fleshing out the “where” of the matter. In a series of short exercises, attendees will thoroughly imagine and map out their piece’s setting so that the characters they create will have a proper place to live, whether that's the treehouse in the banyan or the city in the sky.


Posted by GrubStreet in Writer, Director, Actress, & Educator

Crystal King


A white woman with long blonde hair and blue eyes, wearing a blue denim jacket.




Crystal King is the author of The Chef’s Secret and Feast of Sorrow, which was longlisted for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize and was a Must Read for the MassBook Awards. She is an author, culinary enthusiast, and marketing expert. Her writing is fueled by a love of history and a passion for the food, language, and culture of Italy. She has taught classes in writing, creativity, and social media at GrubStreet and several universities, including Harvard Extension School and Boston University. A Pushcart Prize–nominated poet and former co-editor of the online literary arts journal Plum Ruby Review, Crystal received her MA in critical and creative thinking from UMass Boston, where she developed a series of exercises and writing prompts to help fiction writers in medias res. She resides in Boston. You can find her at crystalking.com.

SESSION: Food Writing Across Genres

We live in a world of “foodie” culture, where culinary adventurers are looking for interesting new journeys for their taste buds. You can take advantage of this trend in your own writing, bringing food onto the page in compelling, descriptive ways that can evoke strong emotions in your readers, whether or not food is a central theme in your writing. Food is an important part of our lives—in our families, our friendships, our relationships, our religions, and even our politics. In this workshop you’ll see how the masters write about food and try your hand at developing your own delicious (or disgusting!) scenes. This session is appropriate for writers of all genres and explores work by Günter Grass, Charles M. Blow, Min Jin Lee, Ramin Ganeshram, Marjan Kamali, Jenna Blum, Charlie Holmberg, and others.

Posted by GrubStreet in Author

John Farrell


White cis man, in his mid 50s, with dark hair in an open collar shirt and jacket.


John W. Farrell is the author of The Day Without Yesterday: Lemaître, Einstein and the Birth of Modern Cosmology from Basic Books, and The Clock and the Camshaft: And Other Medieval Inventions We Still Can’t Live Without, just out from Prometheus Books.

A graduate of Harvard College with a B.A. in English and American Literature, Farrell has written for Commonweal, Aeon, Skeptic, Cosmos Magazine, New Scientist, The Wall Street Journal, The GuardianThe Boston Globe, Salon, Forbes, and The Tablet of London. His fiction has appeared in Dappled Things, his poetry in Penwood Review and First Things, and he is a longstanding member of Boston’s creative writing community at Grub Street.


SESSION: When Science Is Your Main Character

In an increasingly science-suspicious world, many writers want to incorporate scientific material into their fiction. But doing so presents some unique challenges.

In this session, we'll discuss approaches to writing fiction about science. How—in a fictional world—might we adhere to scientific fact? How can we make science central to our novels' conditions and conflict? How can we make the science work in the plot without it seeming like dull exposition? We'll examine excerpts from writers like Delia Owens, Andrea Barrett, Ted Chiang, and N.K. Jemisin to discover the choices they've made in diction, exposition, and science-as-plot-point. Considering the nation’s recent experience, we'll discuss the widespread resistance to vaccination as well as the resistance of some in the dominant culture to the experience of LGBTQ+ people in light of what science reveals about human sexuality. We will explore how these might be developed as a challenge or obstacle to be considered in narrative. Climate change is also a greater factor in the everyday lives of people and cannot be ignored without consequence. This session will be especially useful for anyone writing about characters who are scientists or researchers—or characters fighting resistance to facts that pose a threat to their lives or those of their loved ones.

CO-PRESENTER: Rebecca Bratten Weiss

Posted by GrubStreet in Author

Katie Bannon


A white woman in her early 30s, with a buzz cut, hoop earrings, and a black top.




Katie Bannon is a writer, developmental editor, and educator. She holds an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Emerson College and is a graduate of GrubStreet's Memoir Incubator. Her memoir manuscript, which chronicles her experience as a compulsive hair puller, was a finalist for the Permafrost Nonfiction Book Prize. Her personal essays have been featured in NPR, Narratively, Salon, and Cognoscenti, among others. She lives in Central Massachusetts with her husband and two cats. You can follow her on Twitter @katiedbannon or find her at her website www.katiebannon.com.

SESSION: Writing about Mental Health

Mental health is often branded "taboo" and, for writers of memoir and personal essay, can represent some of the most vulnerable and challenging material to write about. But there’s a reason these types of narratives are so sought after: at their best, they speak to our darkest truths and teach us what it means to be human.

In this session, we'll dive headfirst into these treacherous waters and discuss strategies for crafting compelling, emotionally resonant personal narratives about mental health. We'll study works by Roxane Gay, Esmé Weijun Wang, and others to uncover ways to write beautifully crafted, "un-put-down-able" memoirs and personal essays that center on mental health. We'll also discuss strategies for self-care and "productive procrastination" so you can stay well during the writing process. You’ll leave the session with take-home writing prompts and a toolbox of ways to write powerfully about even your most difficult stories.

Posted by GrubStreet in Writer, Editor, & Educator

Paige Curtis


Brown-skinned woman, wearing a striped dress with leaves in the background

Paige Curtis (she/her) is a writer working at the intersection of environmentalism, Blackness, and pop culture. She’s worked at mission-driven organizations and is currently in a communications role at the Boston Ujima Project. An Atlanta native, daydreamer, and rabble-rouser, she believes a more equitable future is possible. Formally trained in Environmental Management from the Yale School of Environment, she’s most excited by community-based solutions to the climate crisis. When she’s not writing or biking around Boston, she’s reminding folks that pineapple pizza is not only good, but oh so necessary.


SESSION: Black to the Future: Afrofuturism and the New World

From Marvel’s Black Panther to HBO’s critically acclaimed series Lovecraft Country and Beyoncé's world-stopping Black is King visual album, Afrofuturist stories are having a moment. Afrofuturism’s influence on modern visual arts, music, and literature remains undeniable, and given its longevity, it’s no surprise that it spawned some of the most timeless cultural products in the last century. A genre unto itself, Afrofuturism offers a counter-proposal to the erasure, subjugation, and exclusion of Black people and Black characters. In an Afrofuturist future, Black people are the main protagonists, building a world that is liberatory, innovative, experimental, radical, and decidedly Black. What solutions can Afrofuturist texts offer for the problems facing Black folx today? We’ll explore topics including "What distinguishes Afrofuturism from general sci-fi?" and "The Political Possibilities of Afrofuturist Writing." This session will consider texts from Octavia Butler, N.K. Jemisin, Samuel Delany, and others. While we'll be discussing the work of several writers, the ultimate goal of this session is to demystify Afrofuturism as a genre and give participants strategies to successfully write Black counter-futures.

Posted by GrubStreet in Writer