The Executive Partners for Boston’s Literary Cultural District consist of writers and writers’ groups, libraries, institutions of higher education with strong literary programs, and book promoters. While the Literary District is very much a grassroots initiative, overarching decisions that need to be made, as they do for any group, are made by liaisons for these organizations.
Emerson College focuses on communication and the arts in a liberal arts context. It boasts robust and vibrant Departments of Writing, Literature and Publishing; Journalism; and Communication Studies. It also houses the esteemed literary magazine Ploughshares in addition to owning a number of theaters in Boston’s Literary District. Alumni include Norman Lear, Max Mutchnik (Will & Grace), writer Eric Drysdale (The Colbert Report), Pulitzer prize finalist Brendan McCarthy, and writers Seth Grahame-Smith, Olen Steinhauer, and Laura van den Berg.
Emerson College liaison Robert Sabal serves as the interim dean of Emerson’s School of the Arts. A film and video producer whose works include narrative drama, documentary, abstract experimental, instructional, and commercials, he has won numerous awards, and his work has been funded through regional, state, and local grants. Rob’s movies have been screened at both national and international film festivals.
One of the nation’s leading creative writing centers, GrubStreet is driven by one mission: to be an innovative, rigorous, and welcoming community for writers who together create their best work, find audience, and elevate the literary arts for all. GrubStreet offers more than 600 classes and events a year for writers of all genres and ambitions, hosts the well-regarded Muse and Marketplace conference each May, and is committed to educating the next generation of writers through dynamic teen programming.
GrubStreet liaison Eve Bridburg is the organization’s founder and executive director and the managing executive partner of Boston’s Literary District. Eve founded Grub Street in 1997 with the goal of creating a supportive yet rigorous place to study writing beyond the halls of academia. The experiment was a success from the beginning, convincing Eve that there was a great desire in Boston for a literary arts center where emerging and established writers could inspire and teach students at all levels of development. Eve’s mission as Executive Director has been to expand GrubStreet’s offerings to better educate and equip writers to take full advantage of the new opportunities ushered in by the digital age. Under her leadership, GrubStreet has doubled in size, launched new, innovative programming, and expanded scholarship opportunities and outreach.
Named one of Boston’s 50 most powerful women by Boston Magazine, Eve frequently speaks and writes on the topics of publishing and the literary arts.
The Boston Public Library contains 8.9 million books and A/V (approximately 24 million items encompassing all formats), making it the second-largest public library in the United States behind only the Library of Congress (with nearly 35 million items). In 2013, the library held more than 10,000 programs, all free to the public, and lent 3.69 million materials in a variety of formats. Included in the BPL’s research collection are more than 1.7 million rare books and manuscripts. It possesses wide-ranging and important holdings, including medieval manuscripts and incunabula, early editions of William Shakespeare (among which are a number of Shakespeare quartos and the First Folio), the George Ticknor collection of Spanish literature, a major collection of Daniel Defoe, records of colonial Boston, the 3,800-volume personal library of John Adams, the mathematical and astronomical library of Nathaniel Bowditch, important manuscript archives on abolitionism, including the papers of William Lloyd Garrison, and a major collection of materials on the Sacco and Vanzetti case. Historian David McCullough has described the Boston Public Library as one of the five most important libraries in America, the others being the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, and the university libraries of Harvard and Yale.
Liaison Ben Hires is currently the Director of Strategic Partnerships at the Boston Public Library. In this role, Ben is responsible for maintaining and building strong, diversified relationships to advance the Library’s mission by ensuring the success of its philanthropic efforts and major organizational partnerships from sectors across the community. Ben has held positions at the Boston Children’s Chorus (BCC) and Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras where he learned the importance of social justice and music in young people’s lives. Prior to BCC, Hires served as the Executive Director of the New England String Ensemble. Hires serves on the Board of Urbanity Dance and the Advisory Committee of Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center’s Pao Arts Center. He formerly served on the Board of the Allston Brighton Community Development Corporation, Executive Committee of the Harvard Allston Public Realm Flexible Fund, president of the Boston University Arts Administration Alumni Association, community chair for the Boston Creates Arts and Culture planning process and has been a mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center. Hires earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy and Political Science, a Master of Theological Studies, and a Master of Science in Arts Administration all from Boston University.
Conceived by its founders as a “fountain, at which all, who choose, may gratify their thirst for knowledge,” the Boston Athenæum offers an oasis for study and reflection, a meeting place for discussion and inspiration, and a trove of resonant objects—from books to paintings, manuscripts to prints—that celebrate and reward intellectual curiosity in all of its forms. For more than two centuries, the Athenæum has served as a vital heart of Boston’s literary community. Countless writers and thinkers, including Emerson, Hawthorne, Thoreau, Whitman, Melville, and Alcott, have written within its storied walls and considered the Atheneum as a second home. Today, the Athenaeum contains more than half a million books and rare volumes, more than 100,000 art objects, including paintings by Gilbert Stuart and John Singer Sargent, and an active program of concerts, lectures, author talks, panel discussions, and more. All are welcome to visit the exhibition gallery and first-floor public spaces and to explore the benefits of membership, such as access to an eleven-story circulating and research library as well as invitations to an active program of public events, including book talks by the nation’s leading authors.
Athenaeum liaison Maria Daniels, director of communications and patron services, has worked for Boston-area nonprofits including a trailblazing digital library, the Perseus Project at Harvard and Tufts. In nine years as WGBH’s director of new media for American Experience, she created online libraries for 90 PBS history programs, including Eyes on the Prize and The Presidents. Trained as a historian (BA, Brown University) and photographer (MFA, Museum School), she has served as staff photographer on excavations at Sardis and Gordion, and taught at the Boston Architectural College.
With programs in communication and journalism, literature, creative writing, and theater, Suffolk University has a strong emphasis on the literary arts. It houses the Poetry Project, sponsoring readings, awarding prizes, conducting workshops, and serving as the permanent home of the Zieman Poetry Collection; the acclaimed literary magazine Salamander; the Clark Collection of African American Literature, with almost 6,000 volumes including the works of more than 2,700 African American authors with special focus on New England; and the renowned Ford Hall Forum, the nation’s oldest public speaker series, which brings in contemporary writers and other influencers for discussion and debate. Suffolk is also home to the Modern Theater.
Suffolk University liaison Wyatt Bonikowski is Associate Professor of English. He is the author of Shell Shock and the Modernist Imagination: The Death Drive in Post-World War I British Fiction, which examines the figure of the shell-shocked soldier in novels by Rebecca West, Ford Madox Ford, and Virginia Woolf. He has also published articles on modernist and modern Gothic literature in journals such as Modern Fiction Studies and Gothic Studies. His short fiction has been published in Atticus Review, Necessary Fiction, Fairy Tale Review, Yemassee, NANO Fiction, Wigleaf, Hobart, SmokeLong Quarterly, and others.
Founded in 1976, the year of America’s Bicentennial, Boston By Foot, Inc. is a non-profit educational organization with a mission to promote broad awareness and appreciation of Boston’s history and architecture through a wide variety of guided tours and programs. Boston By Foot tours are designed to be in-depth experiences that captivate, educate, and encourage walkers to explore and experience the city environment with a fresh perspective. Among Boston By Foot’s many offerings are tours that highlight Boston’s rich literary tradition. All Boston By Foot tours are delivered by a community of over 200 highly-trained volunteer tour guides, many of whom have served Boston By Foot for more than 10 to as many as 40 years. Though guides come from a wide range of backgrounds, they are united by their passion for Boston and telling its story.
Executive Director Samantha Nelson leads 200 talented volunteer tour guides who skillfully extract stories from Boston’s many remarkable structures and public spaces. These stories are designed to encourage tour participants to engage with the past, explore unfamiliar areas and connect with their own communities. By fostering volunteer passion and talents, Samantha has enhanced Boston By Foot’s programs to expand the organization’s reach across the City of Boston, and improved organizational effectiveness by streamlining operations and upgrading infrastructure.
Prior to her time at Boston By Foot, Samantha served as the Director of Education and Public Programs at the Old State House Museum, which is operated by the Bostonian Society. She is currently a Big Sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay and volunteers with Massachusetts Odyssey of the Mind, a creative problem-solving program for children. She holds a BA in history from Boston University, a Masters in history from the University of Glasgow, and an MBA with a concentration in nonprofit management from Simmons College.
Mass Poetry was founded in 2009, after Mass Humanities and the Mass Cultural Council backed an effort to investigate the “state of poetry” in Massachusetts. Mass Poetry’s founder, Michael Ansara, and former Congressman Chet Atkins felt that while the Commonwealth has as many talented poets as any state, there was little recognition or support for poets, and a huge disconnect between the larger public and the wealth of poetic talent. The goals of Mass Poetry have been to support poets and poetry in Massachusetts, to build new audiences for poetry, and to make poetry more accessible.
Our Liaison Daniel Johnson is the Executive Director of Mass Poetry as well a poet, educator, and veteran nonprofit leader who most recently served as the founding executive director of 826 Boston’s youth writing center in Roxbury for nearly a decade. At 826 Boston, Daniel helped deliver writing programming to more than 20,000 under-served Boston Public School students, published a number of award-winning collections of student writing, and helped grow 826 Boston into the city’s premier youth writing center. A Teach for America alumnus, he is a tireless proponent of delivering arts programming where it’s needed most and has taught in a variety of settings from urban schools to prisons, and county hospitals to residential programs.
Daniel is the author of How to Catch a Falling Knife, a book of poems published by Alice James Books. His writing has been featured in outlets such as NPR, PBS News Hour, Best American Poetry, Boston Review, and elsewhere. In 2016, Daniel was named a finalist for the Poet Laureate of Boston and has received numerous honors for his writing including awards from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the Chicago Poetry Center. In 2018, Daniel is serving as an Artist-in-Residence with the City of Boston. He is also a member of the Writers’ Room of Boston.
Founded in 1988, the Writers’ Room of Boston is a co-working space for writers committed to providing a quiet, affordable, and secure workspace for emerging and established writers. WROB is a membership-driven non-profit that also offers a Fellowship Program that gives four juried writers full access to the workspace for one year.
Liaison Alexander Danner is a writer, sound designer, and teacher who creates audio drama podcasts. He is co-creator of the ongoing slipstream audio drama “Greater Boston” (greaterbostonshow.com) and sound designer of the psychedelic noir audio drama What’s the Frequency? (WTFrequency.com), among additional freelance projects. He has also co-authored two textbooks on the craft and history of comics and graphic novels. He teaches at The Institute of Art and Design at New England College and at Emerson College.
The Boston Literary District’s founding coordinator, Larry Lindner, has penned two New York Times bestsellers along with seven other books that reached the top 100 rank on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and/or received critical acclaim in publications ranging from Publishers Weekly to USA Today. He also published a long-running, widely syndicated biweekly column in the Washington Post as well as a regular column in the Boston Globe. His writing has appeared, too, in magazines and newspapers ranging from Condé Nast Traveler to the International Herald-Tribune, the Los Angles Times, O, the Oprah Magazine, and many other venues. Currently, he holds the position of executive editor of Your Dog, a monthly publication put out by Tufts University for dedicated dog owners in the U.S. and abroad.