Tell-All Boston on the Starlight Stage: Silence, Madness, Secrets, and Apologies

Tell-All Boston is a live memoir reading series we are pleased to have as part of Lit Crawl Boston 2021! Their session, “Silence, Madness, Secrets, and Apologies: A Night with Tell-All,” will feature four local authors (Sebastian Stuart, Michelle Bowdler, Molly Howes, E. Dolores Johnson) plus an MC, Alicia Googins on Lit Crawl’s main stage at Starlight Square. Group facilitator and co-founder Kristen Paulson-Nguyen offered some insights and introductions to the group. We’re sure you will find something to pique your interest as we near June 10!

Tell-All Boston’s Lineup

Tell-All Boston has lined up a few presenters for Lit Crawl Boston 2021. Kristen told us Sebastian Stuart is working on a psychological thriller set in Cambridge called Family Hold Back. Michelle Bowdler’s Is Rape a Crime?: A Memoir, an Investigation, and a Manifesto will be released in paperback on October 12. “I am really looking forward to doing in-person book signings,” said Michelle, “something I couldn’t do last July when my book was released.” She’s excited to be doing a public event with Anita Hill in late August for the Brandeis Feminist Ethics Project. Molly Howes, author of A Good Apology: Four Steps to Make Things Right, has been leading workshops based on her book. She’s spoken with all kinds of groups across the country, from teachers to clergy and congregations. Lastly, E. Dolores Johnson’s 2020 memoir on her parents’ interracial marriage, Say I’m Dead: A Family Memoir of Race, Secrets, and Love, is already in its second printing. Dolores is thrilled that Lit Crawl occurs so close to June 12, which is Loving Day, the day anti-race mixing laws were overturned, and June 19 or Juneteenth, when the last slaves were told they were free. “These historic American dates are the ideal time to talk about the themes of race and identity I’ve written about,” she says.

Tell-All’s History

For readers unfamiliar with Tell-All Boston, here is a brief history lesson. Kristen told us, “With the leadership of GrubStreet’s Memoir Incubator Instructor Alysia Abbott [who also happens to be on the Lit Crawl Boston committee!], several 2017 alumni met with Abbott in Central Square, Cambridge to talk about creating a nonfiction reading series. They brainstormed, and in 2018, with the support of GrubStreet, Tell-All Boston, the city’s only live on-stage literary reading series dedicated to the craft of memoir and personal essay, was born.

“Bestselling authors, award-winning writers, and emerging stars share the stage, mesmerizing with first-person stories that make meaning from lived experience,” she said. They are proud to have produced their latest — the eighth — Tell-All virtually on March 4, 2021 and feel incredibly honored to bring their show in person to Lit Crawl.

What Can Audiences Expect?

Tell-All Boston’s presenters hope attendees take away many experiences from their session. “I hope they will be delighted and inspired by the strength, diversity, and excitement of the Boston literary scene,” said Sebastian. 

“I hope that the trials and challenges of life,” said Dolores, “whether they be a crime, systemic racism, mental illness, or a travesty that should be atoned for, give us the opportunity to grow into our stronger selves.”

“I hope they enjoy the event and come away feeling moved. And I hope they get a sense of the vibrant nonfiction writers coming out of GrubStreet. It’s an incredible community,” said Michelle. Molly echoed a similar vision. “I hope they hear good stories and learn about GrubStreet’s Memoir Incubator and nonfiction writers.” 

Alicia Googins, the session’s MC and a writer and Memoir Incubator 2017 alum, as well as an actress, hopes attendees understand the Boston writing landscape. “I hope they get a sense of the close-knit, supportive, hard-working, and fun Boston creative nonfiction writing scene, a desire to write, and feel inspired to tell their own stories and share their unique voices to broaden and strengthen community and connection.”

Get Ready to Read

Lastly, like all writers, Tell-All’s presenters all had memoirs and personal essays to recommend to Lit Crawl Boston 2021 attendees. Kristen is excited to read Sebastian’s book, out July 15. She also loved “Walden” by Alicia Googins, an essay that appeared in the spring 2020 issue of Solstice Magazine. 

Sebastian loved Me, Elton John’s memoir, and Jesmyn Ward’s The Men We Reaped: A Memoir. “The sense of place was so intense, I could smell the thick Mississippi air,” he said. He also loved fashion legend André Leon Talley’s gossipy but ultimately moving The Chiffon Trenches and found Alysia Abbott’s Fairyland: A Memoir of My Father deeply moving.

Michelle recommends Abbott’s beautiful essay on the death of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and what his bookstore City Lights meant to Abbott and the city of San Francisco. She also suggests checking out Trần Vũ Thu-Hằng’s essay in Pangyrus about art and being a Vietnamese refugee, as well as 2018 Memoir Incubator alumna Rani Neutill’s poignant essay in The Lily. Molly is excited about 2014 alumna Judy Bolton-Fasman’s forthcoming memoir Asylum: A Memoir of Family Secrets (to be published September 5, 2021).

Dolores has several recommendations for narrative nonfiction, both classic and more recent:  Becoming by Michelle Obama, The Autobiography of Malcolm X  by Malcolm X and Alex Haley, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, and Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass. Finally, Dolores recommends Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Ann Jacobs.

Thank you to Tell-All Boston for participating in our questions and answers leading to Lit Crawl Boston 2021! More information on the presenters can be found on our website. And you can get your free tickets to Tell-All’s session by registering in advance here.


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