How He Hustles: Vito Grippi

During my four years at York College, I've had numerous great teachers, but I can honestly say that Vito Grippi, adjunct writing professor at YCP, is one of the best--and not just because he's now my boss and could fire me if I said otherwise. Taking Intro to Creative Writing with Vito two years ago made me actually like creative writing despite the fact I normally feel more at home in the academic sphere. Not only did I have a great experience in Vito's class, but my younger brother was also influenced by Vito's teaching in freshman comp, going from an incomprehensible understanding of essay writing to effectively piecing together decent rhetorical analyses.

Of course,Vito's resume is much more extensive than just teaching adjunct at York. Presently, he's the digital editor of Story, a freelancer, and soon-to-be entrepreneur, but even these accolades don't do justice to his wide array of experience. His education reads like a cacophony of words that don't seem to belong together: table tennis aficionado, restaurateur, accountant, music engineer wannabe, small performance car part business owner, and finally, writer.

Photo Credit: Vito Grippi
Vito's became serious about writing when a professor encouraged him to pursue writing as a career as opposed to accounting, which was the original reason Vito came to get his undergrad degree at YCP. "I jumped ship almost immediately. I changed my major to writing and finally felt like I had joined my people. I started out thinking I would be a music journalist. So within weeks I had started contacting small, local entertainment magazines. Nightlife Monthly, which is no longer in business, was the first to give me a writing gig.  That led to others," said Vito.

After making connections in the writing world and pursuing a MFA, Vito and fellow writer, Wayne Cresser, started Shaking Like A Mountain while Vito worked as features editor for an entertainment weekly. Despite loving his work, Vito searched for a job that would lead to more financial stability. "I figured I could actually work part time while earning the MFA. That’s sort of how I stumbled into teaching. I had tutored as an undergrad and I came back to see if I could tutor while in grad school. I set up a meeting with the writing program director and I think I actually caught him while he was trying to fill an intro composition course because he almost immediately offered me the course," said Vito.

Despite all of these accomplishments, Vito is hesitant to describe himself as successful, "Success implies you’ve reached something and that would probably make me stop reaching. Maybe I’ll know when I get there."

Advice from Vito

  • Don’t be afraid to try stuff. A lot of what I’ve learned has happened because I told people I could do it before actually knowing how. Someone needed a website and I offered to do it. Then I spent the next few weeks figuring out. A big-time logo designer asked me if I did copywriting on a freelance basis and I immediately said yes, no hesitation. I’m not even sure I knew what a freelance copywriter was. He asked me how much I charged and I said “whatever you think is fair.” He said, “I’d feel terrible giving you anything less than $50 an hour.” So that became my starting fee. I think you should try to learn everything. My dad wouldn’t let me run the family restaurant until I learned how to prep, clean, work as a line cook. I try to apply this to everything I do. 
  • You have to put in the time. My father came to the United States and has become really successful because he put in the time. He had no idea how to run a restaurant, or how to cook even. So I take that approach, just try to jump into new things. I also don’t say no to much work that comes my way, which is great for building up a client base and paying the bills, but can really wear you down. I’m trying to get better at turning things down. The downside of all of this is that if you’re constantly busy doing work for others, your projects, the ones you really care about, always get put on the backburner. At the same time, I’m at my best when I’m busy. If I have multiple projects going at once, and if I feel anxious about it, that’s a good thing. 
  • Take education seriously. I had an English teacher in 7th grade who would make us memorize and recite poetry. We would have to stand at the front of the class and recite the poems. This caused me so much dread. I hated that guy. One time I forgot to bring my textbook to class and he taped a book to my right hand and made me stand at the front of the room for the entire class. He was the worst, and yet, now looking back I wish I had paid closer attention to him. I think I would have learned a lot from him. I wish someone had told me to take my classes in high school more seriously too. I really limited my opportunities early on because I just assumed I would eventually work in the restaurant business. Education didn’t really play into that. It took me a long time to really appreciate learning and books. But part of me also wishes I would have tried to make a go of it on the table tennis circuit. I could have been something. 

Sarah Walsh