Craft on Draft is a reading series created and managed by alumni of GrubStreet's Novel Incubator program and devoted to great fiction—and the mechanics behind it. Three authors read and discuss their work, plus that of one lucky audience member. So grab a drink, a page of your own writing, and come craft your own draft.


Previous Craft on Draft Events


Novelists are often advised to write what you know, but what happens when you want to write what you don’t know? Come hear how authors Jeffrey Colvin (Africaville), Daphne Kalotay (Blue Hours), and Rishi Reddi (Passage West) used research to craft authentic fiction that engages contemporary readers.


It’s been said there are two types of pleasure in art: the pleasure of being surprised and the pleasure of getting what you expect. But how can we surprise readers while maintaining those tried and true conventions that keep them turning pages? Join writers Mona Awad (Bunny), Jon Clinch (Marley), and Vanessa Lillie (Little Voices) as they discuss the art of subverting expectations in their novels.


Going big can be a challenge. Write too loud and your big moments become melodrama, not loud enough and they can lose their punch. Come hear how authors Rachel Barenbaum (A Bend in the Stars), Mark Guerin (You Can See More from up Here), and Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne (Holding on to Nothing) found the right volume for their novels’ biggest moments.

Rachel Barenbaum is the author of A Bend in the Stars, which has been named a New York Times Summer Reading Selection and a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection. It is also a Boston Globe Bestseller. Rachel’s second novel, The History of Time Travel, is forthcoming from Grand Central (2021).

Rachel is a prolific writer and reviewer for the LA Review of Books and Dead Darlings. She is a graduate of GrubStreet’s Novel Incubator. In a former life she was a hedge fund manager and a spin instructor. She has degrees from Harvard in Business, and Literature and Philosophy. She lives in Hanover, NH with her husband, three children, and dog named Zishe—after the folk hero who inspires many tales around their dinner table. Rachel is represented by Eve Attermann at WME.

Mark Guerin is the author of You Can See More from up Here. He is a 2014 graduate of GrubStreet’s Novel Incubator program. He also has an MFA from Brandeis University and is a winner of an Illinois Arts Council Grant and the Mimi Steinberg Award for Playwriting. A contributor to the novelist’s blog, Dead Darlings, he is also a playwright, copywriter and journalist. He lives in Harpswell, Maine with his wife, Carol, and two Brittany Spaniels. You Can See More From Up Here is his first published novel.

Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne is the author of Holding on to Nothing. She grew up reading, writing, and shooting in East Tennessee. After graduating from Amherst College, she worked at The Atlantic Monthly. Her nonfiction work has been published in The Atlantic Monthly, Boston Globe, and Globalpost, among others, and her short fiction has appeared in The Broad River Review and Barren Magazine. Her essay on how killing a deer made her a feminist was published in Click! When We Knew We Were Feminists, edited by Courtney E. Martin and J. Courtney Sullivan. She is a graduate of GrubStreet’s Novel Incubator. She lives outside Boston with her husband and four children.


Many writers start out strong but hit a wall in the middle – or they have a fabulous ending but aren’t sure how to get there. Join authors Susan Bernard (Winter Loon), Louise Miller (The Late Bloomer’s Club), and Whitney Scharer (The Age of Light) as they discuss how they waded through the murky middle to finish their novels.

Susan Bernhard is a Massachusetts Cultural Council fellowship recipient and a graduate of the GrubStreet Novel Incubator program. She was born and raised in the Bitterroot Valley of western Montana, is a graduate of the University of Maryland, and lives with her husband and two children near Boston. Winter Loon (Little A, December 2018) is her debut novel.

Louise Miller is a writer and pastry chef living in Boston, MA. Her debut novel, The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living, was selected as an Indie Next pick by the American Booksellers Association, a Library Reads pick by Librarians across the U.S., and was shortlisted by the America Library Association’s Reading List Council for best women’s fiction in 2017. Her 2nd novel, The Late Bloomers’ Club, will be published in July 2018. In addition to baking and writing, Louise is an art school dropout, an amateur flower gardener, an old-time banjo player, an obsessive moviegoer, and a champion of old dogs.

Whitney Scharer holds a BA in English Literature from Wesleyan University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Washington. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous journals including New Flash Fiction Review, Cimarron Review, and Bellevue Literary Review. Her first novel, The Age of Light, based on the life of pioneering photographer Lee Miller, was published by Little, Brown (US) and Picador (UK) in February, 2019, and is forthcoming from over a dozen other countries. She lives with her husband and daughter in Arlington, MA.


Voice. It’s what every agent and editor is looking for and what reels readers in. Join authors Belle Brett (Gina in the Floating World), Stephanie Gayle (Idyll Hands) and Brendan Mathews (The World of Tomorrow) discuss how they honed their characters’ voices as well as their own.

Belle Brett is a proud graduate of GrubStreet’s intensive Novel Incubator program. After a career in education as a teacher, career counselor, and evaluator of educational programs, she is now an artist and a writer, contributing to her own and others’ blogs and writing fiction that deals with coming of age across the life span. She holds a doctorate of education in human development and psychology from Harvard University. Her debut novel, Gina in the Floating World, was just published by She Writes Press. A lifelong traveler, in her twenties, after a six-month trip across Asia, Belle served as a bar hostess in a working-class Tokyo suburb, an experience that served as inspiration for her novel. She lives with her photographer husband in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Stephanie Gayle is the author of four novels including Idyll Threats, Idyll Fears, and Idyll Hands. Idyll Hands earned a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, which read, “This series keeps getting better with each book.” Stephanie’s short fiction has been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize. She lives in Arlington, MA and works at the MIT Media Lab doing financial work, which makes her a double-threat.

Brendan Mathews is the author of The World of Tomorrow (Little, Brown & Co.), named an Indie Next Pick and an Editors’ Choice by the New York Times Book Review. His stories have twice appeared in The Best American Short Stories, as well as in Virginia Quarterly Review, Glimmer Train, and other publications in the US and UK. He has received grants and scholarships from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Sustainable Arts Foundation, Sewanee Writers Conference, and the University of Virginia, where he received his MFA. A former Fulbright Scholar to Ireland, he teaches at Bard College at Simon’s Rock.


Writing about rage, fear, love, and longing is hard. Too little can leave the reader cold; too much can turn cliché. Join us as authors Jeanne Blasberg (Eden), Rachel Kadish (The Weight of Ink), and Mira T. Lee (Everything Here is Beautiful) discuss the delicate art of conveying emotion.

Jeanne Blasberg, author of the novel Eden, is firm believer that you are never too old to change course. She is a voracious observer of human nature and has kept a journal since childhood. After a career in finance, Jeanne enrolled at Grub Street, where she turned her attention to memoir and later fiction. Eden is her debut novel. Jeanne and her husband split their time between Boston and Westerly, RI. When not writing, she can be found playing squash, skiing, or taking in the sunset over Little Narragansett Bay.

Rachel Kadish is the author of the novels The Weight of Ink, From A Sealed Room, Tolstoy Lied: A Love Story, as well as the novella I Was Here. Her short fiction has been read on National Public Radio and has appeared in the Pushcart Prize Anthology, and her essays have appeared in The New York Times, Salon, and Tin House. She has been the Koret Writer-in-Residence at Stanford University and a fiction fellow of the National Endowment for the Arts, and has won the National Jewish Book Award, the Association of Jewish Libraries’ Fiction Award, and the John Gardner Fiction Award. She lives outside Boston and teaches in Lesley University’s MFA Program in Creative Writing.

Mira T. Lee has been published in numerous quarterlies and reviews, including The Missouri Review, The Southern Review, Harvard Review, and Triquarterly. She was awarded an Artist’s Fellowship by the Massachusetts Cultural Council in 2012, and has twice received special mention for the Pushcart Prize. She is a graduate of Stanford University, and currently lives with her husband and two children in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This is her debut novel.


“What happens next?” From genre to literary fiction, that’s the question that keeps readers turning pages. Come hear Kelly Ford (Cottonmouths), Stephanie Gayle (Idyll Fears), and Crystal King (Feast of Sorrow) discuss how they use suspense to hook their readers.

Kelly J. Ford is the author of Cottonmouths, which Lambda Literary calls “a tale of resentment, venomous betrayal, and the wounds hidden beneath familiar surfaces.” Kelly is an instructor for GrubStreet Writing Center, and her fiction has appeared in Black Heart Magazine, Fried Chicken and Coffee, and Knee-Jerk Magazine. She is Arkansas-bred and Boston-based.

Stephanie Gayle is the author of My Summer of Southern Discomfort, Idyll Threats, and the newly released Idyll Fears. Idyll Fears has been called “a gripping read, a ticking-clock thriller populated with nuanced characters and anchored in convincing police work.” Stephanie’s short fiction has been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize. She lives in Arlington, MA and works at the MIT Media Lab doing basic math for professors too smart to do basic math.

Crystal King is the author of Feast of Sorrow, which Epicurious calls “an upstairs/downstairs drama meets food porn meets historical fiction.” Her writing is fueled by a love of history and an obsession with the food, language, and culture of Italy. In between her social media/marketing day job, she has taught writing and social media at GrubStreet and several universities including Harvard Extension School and Boston University.


Everyone loves a great protagonist, but great novels also need strong secondary characters. Come hear authors Camille DeAngelis (Immaculate Heart), Sara Farizan (Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel), and Annie Weatherwax (All We Had) discuss how they create terrific supporting characters who bring out the best, and worst, in their protagonists.

Camille DeAngelis is the author of the novels Immaculate Heart, Petty Magic, Mary Modern, and the Alex Award-winning Bones & All. She’s also written a book of practical philosophy, Life Without Envy: Ego Management for Creative People, and a first-edition guidebook, Moon Ireland (revised edition coming April 2017).

Sara Farizan is the award-winning young adult author of If You Could Be Mine and Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel. She has been featured on Buzzfeed, Mother Jones, NPR, and has had the opportunity to tour as far away as Australia for her books.

Annie Weatherwax is the winner of the Robert Olen Butler Prize for Fiction. Her short stories have appeared in The Sun Magazine, The Southern Review, and elsewhere. Her debut novel, All We Had, now a major motion picture, was published by Scribner.


Easy Rawlins, private eye. Jane Eyre, governess. Atticus Finch, lawyer. Who would these characters be without their jobs? Come hear authors Louise Miller, Jennifer S. Brown, and Hank Phillippi Ryan discuss their characters’ careers, why they chose them, and how employment informs their narratives.

Jennifer S. Brown is the author of the historical novel Modern Girls (NAL/Penguin), and her writing has appeared in Fiction Southeast, The Best Women’s Travel Writing, The Southeast Review, The Sierra Nevada Review, Bellevue Literary Review, and elsewhere.

Louise Miller’s debut novel The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living was chosen by Bon Appetit Magazine as one of the “8 Food Novels You Need To Read This Summer.” She is a pastry chef who is also a graduate of GrubStreet’s Novel Incubator program, a yearlong workshop for novelists.

Hank Phillippi Ryan is the on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliateand the bestselling author of eight mysteries. Her newest book, What You See, is an Agatha and Anthony nominee and Library Journal Best of 2015.


Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. What would these novels be without the historical people and events they feature? Novelists Michelle Hoover, Emily Ross, and Dawn Tripp discussed how real life events influenced and shaped their novels.

Michelle Hoover is the Fannie Hurst Writer-in-Residence at Brandeis University and teaches at GrubStreet, where she leads the Novel Incubator program.

Emily Ross received a 2014 Massachusetts Cultural Council finalist award in fiction for her YA thriller Half in Love with Death.

Dawn Tripp‘s Georgia, a novel about the American artist Georgia O’Keeffe, is an ABA Indie Next Pick and has been described as a “tour de force” by Publishers Weekly.


Imagine Harry Potter without Hogwarts, Huck Finn on the Nile, or Beloved haunting Beijing. Settings animate the story. Novelists Patricia Park, Stephanie Gayle, and Anjali Mitter Duva discuss how they created the settings of their latest work.

Patricia Park , is the author of RE JANE: A Novel (PDB/Viking, Penguin). Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Guardian, Slice Magazine, and others.

Stephanie Gayle, released her second novel, Idyll Threats, published by Seventh Street Books, in September 2015.

Anjali Mitter Duva, is an Indian-American writer raised in France. Her novel, Faint Promise of Rain, was published by She Writes Press in October 2014.


Imagine J.D. Salinger deciding Holden Caulfield shouldn’t tell his own story, but handing the job to an omniscient narrator? Choosing the right point-of-view can make or break your novel. Hear Chris Castellani, Daphne Kalotay, and Celeste Ng discuss how they chose (and rejected) points of view, until they hit upon the right one for their novels.

Christopher Castellani is the artistic director of Grub Street and the author of three novels: All This Talk of Love (2013), a New York Times Editors’ Choice; The Saint of Lost Things (2005); and A Kiss From Maddalena (2003), winner of the Massachusetts Book Award.

Daphne Kalotay released her second novel, Idyll Threats, published by Seventh Street Books, in September 2015.

Celeste Ng is the author of the New York Times bestselling novel Everything I Never Told You (Penguin Press). Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, One Story, Five Chapters, Gulf Coast, The Millions, and elsewhere, and has been awarded the Pushcart Prize.

CREATING KICK-ASS CHARACTERS (Tuesday, October 7, 2014)

Holden Caulfield, Katniss Everdeen, Oscar Wao—fictional characters as unforgettable as our own family members. Join novelists E. B. Moore, Jennie Wood, and Kate Racculia for a reading and discussion of how they created their own unforgettable characters, trait by trait, from first draft to final. 

E.B. Moore, in her debut novel, An Unseemly Wife, gives stunning and palpable energy to a 19th-century Amish woman in her journey to find a new life.

Jennie Wood, graphic novelist, author of the Flutter series, brings into dazzling focus the maturation of young Peyton as he discovers his true self in her debut novel, A Boy Like Me.

Kate Racculia, in her second novel, Bellweather Rhapsody, casts the Bellweather Hotel in the Catskills as a central character inhabited by an ensemble of eccentrics-turned-sleuths as they search for clues to the fate of the missing flautist.

Our authors shared their novel openings, both their first drafts and the final results, how they started, where they ended up and why, and all the editing decisions in between.

Lisa Borders

Stephanie Gayle

Henriette Lazaridis Power