March news: new columns, new podcasts and more

Lisa and Faith in conversation at “Our Voices Our Stories” on March 18

Faith Adiele

Faith Adiele

Don’t miss the third installment of “Our Voices Our Stories” this Wednesday, March 18, at Mercury Café (201 Octavia Street) here in San Francisco. Join Lisa Gray as she interviews fellow Grottoite Faith Adiele, who also will read from her Shebook about grappling with fibroids. Writers Elaine Lee, Vanessa Lewis, and Jenny Irizary will also share excerpts from their work. This is the only Bay Area reading series focusing on women writers of color, so you can hear some of the best women writers of color anywhere get up close and personal with their work. You can read the book first (get it at and join the discussion that night. RSVP at

Basement Series on March 27: Molly Giles, Jason Bayani and Free Beer

This month’s edition of The Basement Series (curated by Grottoite Janis Cooke Newman) features literary legend Molly Giles, plus slam poet Jason Bayani reading on the theme of Betrayal. They’ll be joined by five emerging writers, plus a special secret musical guest (can you say Industrial Ragtime?) on Friday, March 27 at 7 pm at the Sports Basement, 1590 Bryant Street in San Francisco. Admission is $5 – $10 sliding scale with all proceeds split between Scholar Match (co-founded by Dave Eggers) and Lit Camp scholarships. And don’t forget the free beer! For more information visit

Faith leads a workshop in the Out of Binders Symposium, March 28

Grottoite Faith Adiele will be leading “Writing The (An) Other: A Workshop on Writing Other Genders, Races, Sexualities & Cultures.” Saturday, March 28, 2015, 11:15-12:30 pm at Bindercon: Out of the Binders Symposium, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA. Attendance is by registration only at

Check out David’s new tech column in the Daily Beast

David Ewing Duncan

David Ewing Duncan

Longtime Grottoite David Ewing Duncan has launched a new column in The Daily Beast, published every other Saturday, on the fusion of health, IT and biomedicine—–and on the implications of new technologies on policy, business, ethics, advocacy, the arts, and how we live. Check out the first column, “ISIS versus the future” at, and the most recent column, “How Humans Are Still Evolving” at More info at Let David know what you think at

February news: Gold rush at the Grotto

Oprah Winfrey to Star in Natalie’s “Queen Sugar”-inspired series

Natalie Baszile

Natalie Baszile

Here’s the amazing news from Deadline Hollywood about longtime Grottoite Natalie Baszile, whose novel Queen Sugar was ten years in the making:

“Selma co-star and producer Oprah Winfrey has teamed with the film’s director Ava DuVernay to create a new original drama for OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network. Inspired by the novel “Queen Sugar,” DuVernay is set to write, direct and executive produce the project in her TV series debut. Winfrey will executive produce and have a recurring role on the show, marking the first time Winfrey will act in a series for her network. Filming is scheduled to begin later this year.”

“Adapted from the first-time novel “Queen Sugar” by Natalie Baszile, the contemporary series will chronicle a spirited woman who leaves her upscale Los Angeles lifestyle behind to claim an inheritance from her recently departed father – an 800-acre sugar cane farm in the heart of Louisiana. Her world and identity are turned upside down as she and her teenage daughter attempt to navigate a new and very different environment while rebuilding their farm from scratch. She is met with curiosity and community, with resistance and romance. It isn’t long before a transformation begins and she realizes that she’s been living a lot farther from her Southern roots than mere miles.”

“’I loved this book and immediately saw it as a series for OWN,’ said Oprah Winfrey. “The story’s themes of reinventing your life, parenting alone, family connections and conflicts, and building new relationships are what I believe will connect our viewers to this show.”

Read more about the project at Indiewire. Congratulations to Natalie!

Shanthi Sells Her Novel

Last spring Grottoite Shanthi Sekaran sent out a call to her fellow Grottoites for help. Her novel, which involves “illegal immigration, adoption, and what happens when immigrants are detained and must give up their American-born children to the state foster system” wasn’t selling. Shanthi asked: “Why does no one want this? Are we pitching to the wrong types of editors? Is it the book itself? Is it my agent? Is it the industry that’s ‘just so tough right now’?” Well, now Shanthi can answer all those questions herself because SHE SOLD HER NOVEL! Lucky Boy will be published by Putnam/Penguin

January news: Anniversaries, awards and debuts

Now We Are 20: The Grotto Featured on the Chronicle’s Front Page

The extraordinary success and longevity of the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto–now 20 years old–was highlighted recently with two feature stories by Steve Winn of the San Francisco Chronicle. Check them out at the links below. S.F’s Writers’ Grotto Grows Up Inside the Grotto: A who’’s who of the writers club And to see how far we’ve come, go back in time when the Grotto celebrated its 10th, with Po Bronson, Ethan Watters, Mary Roach, and Noah Hawley (who’s garnered multiple awards for his “Fargo” televisions series)  

February 14: 20 Years of Grotto Love at the San Francisco Writers Conference

Connie Hale

Connie Hale

All writers need love, or at least valentines… As part of our 20th anniversary celebration, members Natalie Baszile, Constance Hale, Meghan Ward and Ethan Watters will share honest insights with attendees at the SF Writers Conference. The panel (at 3 p.m.) is called “WRITING FOR THE RIGHT REASONS: The Joys and Hazards of the Literary Life (With Reflections from Members of the SF Writers Grotto, Celebrating 20 Years as a Collective).” …and get the schedule here (page 9) at  

Noah Awarded a Golden Globe for Fargo

Huge congratulations to former Grotto dweller Noah Hawley, who was just awarded a Golden Globe for his “Fargo” series on FX. Series creator Noah beat out some serious competition, and had already garnered three Emmys last year. In his acceptance speech, he noted the award “was a tribute to “the heart of what Fargo is about–that you can change the world, not through grand acts of heroism, but just by being decent to people.”,,20881790_20890818,00.html Read a past interview with Noah about his progression from The Grotto to Hollywood here: Kudos to Noah!  

Gerry Launches His Newest Book This Month

Gerard Jones

Gerard Jones

Gerard Jones has a new book of literary parody out, The Beaver Papers 2, based on the question, “What if Nabokov, Fitzgerald, Plath, Updike, Ayn Rand and 20 other great authors wrote episodes of the iconic sitcom Leave It to Beaver?” One reviewer notes: “If you are overeducated, over-read, and have an overactive sense of the absurd, this book was written specifically for you.

Lit Camp 2015: Deadline’s approaching

Layout 5 Time’s running out: January 31 is the deadline for applications to Lit Camp. Now in its third year, the four day Lit Camp conference boasts its most impressive faculty for 2015. Pulitzer Prize winners Adam Johnson (The Orphan Master’s Son) and Paul Harding (Tinkers), New York agent Ellen Levine and Amy Williams, editor in chief at Riverhead Publishing Sarah McGrath, author Anthony Marra (A Constellation of Vital Phenomena), plus editors from McSweeney’s, The Rumpus, Zyzyzzva and more. mayacamas007 copyOnly forty writers of fiction, memoir, and narrative nonfiction will be accepted at this conference, co-sponsored by the Grotto. Held at beautiful Mayacamas Ranch in the rolling hills above Calistoga, California, Lit Camp combines daily morning workshops with afternoon panels — even a session of Yoga for Writers taught by Bay Area yoga legend Mark Morford. Also new for 2015, Lit Camp will be offering a limited number of scholarships. For more details, see  

December news: Year-end awards and new-year conferences

Julia’s A Thousand Lives Makes the Guardian’s “Top 10 Books About the 1970s”

Julia Scheeres

Julia Scheeres

Grottoite Julia Scheeres’ A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Jonestown, was recognized as one of The Guardian’s “Top 10 Books about the 1970s.” Check out all the top 1970s books here: Congratulations to Julia!

Caroline and Wendy’s Lost Cat Poster One of the Year’s Best American Infographics

lost-catGrottoite Caroline Paul and her partner, Grotto Friend Wendy McNaughton’s Lost Cat poster was selected as one of the Best American Infographics for 2014. Check it out, along with the other brilliant awardees, at Brain Pickings. Last year Lost Cat was also selected by Brain Pickings as the #1 best Book of the Year in Biographies, Memoirs, and History Books, by the way, beating out Susan Sontag and Maurice Sendak: Congratulations to Caroline and Wendy!

Don’t Miss Zahra’s Hijab and Hammerpants at Stage Werx Theater

Zahra Noorbakhsh

Zahra Noorbakhsh

Wednesday December 10th, at 7:30pm, Grottoite Zahra Noorbakhsh performs her full-length one-woman show “Hijab and Hammerpants” at Stage Werx Theater in SF (446 Valencia). This piece began as a short vignette about Zahra’s first (and only) time wearing hijab for 8 minutes at a Blockbuster in her hometown of Danville, CA. After performing it and her last full length show, “All Atheists Are Muslim,” a theater critic asked her why her work doesn’t answer for 9/11. So, now it does. She’s gonna answer for all of it.  Get tickets here (this show will sell out):

Vanessa Takes the Stage at the Writers With Drinks Series

Vanessa Hua

Vanessa Hua

Grotto dweller Vanessa Hua reads from her novel in progress at on December 13, as part of the Writers With Drinks spoken word variety show, hosted by Charlie Anders. The Make-out Room, 3225 22nd Street, San Francisco, 7:30-9:30 pm. More information at

Maw at Quiet Lightning’s Five-Year Anniversary Celebration

Maw Shein Win

Maw Shein Win

On Sunday December 14th, Grottoite Maw Shein Win performs with Benjamin Wachs, Melissa Stein, and Jason Jimenez for Quiet Lightning’s five-year anniversary celebration. There will be live music by Shenandoah Davis and

November news: Awards, adventures, anthologies & more

Vanessa Wins the James D. Phelan Literary Award

Vanessa Hua

Vanessa Hua

Grottoite Vanessa Hua received the San Francisco Foundation’s James D. Phelan literary award, joining the ranks of past winners who include Raymond Carver and Philip Levine. Tisa Bryant, one of the judges, praised her “thoughtful use of themes, such as scandal, transit and redemption, to expand and dramatize the connections between Asian diasporic characters as complex, mobile and at turns hilariously and painfully human.” Huge congratulations to Vanessa! She’ll read from her novel-in-progress on November 13, 6:30-8pm, at the San Francisco Foundation, One Embarcadero Center, Suite 1400. For more and to RSVP, go to

Chris Awarded the 2014 Lowell Thomas Award

Chris Colin

Chris Colin

Grottoite Chris Colin won a 2014 Lowell Thomas award for his feature on the odd world of private train fanatics, online at Kudos to Chris!

Maw Reading at Adobe Books on November 15

Grottoite Maw Shein Win will be hosting a reading on Saturday, November 15th at Adobe Books, located at 3130 24th Street, San Francisco, of Bay Area Burmese/Burmese-American/Anglo-Burmese writers, Audrey Esquivel, Su Su Maung, Khin Thiri Nandar Soe, and Kenneth Wong, who will read memoir, poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. This special event is free of charge and begins at 7 p.m. For more info:

Lavina Hosts a Travel Writing Workshop in Peru

Lavinia Spalding

Lavinia Spalding

Is Machu Picchu on your life list? A few spots are still available in author and The Best Women’s Travel Writing editor Lavinia Spalding‘s six-day writing workshop for women this November. Attendees will spend five nights at Apu Lodge (named the best posada in South America by the Guardian UK ), take a train ride through the jungle to explore Machu Picchu, and have a Peruvian concierge/guide/translator for the entire expedition. But sign up soon—–tickets to Machu Picchu are limited. Find out more about the workshop here:

It’s Not Too Late to Take a Fall Class

Several multi-week and weekend classes at the Grotto are still open for enrollment. Check out Experimental Writing, Writing Your Hero’’s Journey, Using Models to Craft Short Fiction, and two sessions on Writing an Effective Query Letter. Details at


The Grotto at Litquake, and go Molly!


Molly Antopol

Molly Antopol

Former Grottoite Molly Antopol’s first book, the short story collection The Unamericans, is one of this year’s nominees for the National Book Award. Congratulations, Molly!  


DLitcrawl San Francisco logoon’t miss the Grotto event during Litcrawl: Hosted by Faith Adiele and Meghan Ward, “Earth, Wind, Water, Fire: A Night With The Elements!” features Grottoites Natalie Baszile, Ali Eteraz, Marianna Cherry, Bonnie Tsui, David B. Feldman and Vanessa Hua, sharing harrowing tales of transformation and survival. October 18, from 7:15-8:15 at the Chapel, 777 Valencia in San Francisco’s Mission.  RSVP here: learn more at


Faith Adiele

Faith Adiele

And don’t miss the Best of Shebooks 2014: A Litquake@The Booksmith event, featuring Grottoites and Shebooks authors Faith Adiele, Lucy Bledsoe, Jame Ciabattari, Mona Gable, Susan Ito, Mary Jo McConahay, Micah Perks, Ethel Rohan, and Shebooks Editorial Director Laura Fraser. Shebooks publishes high-quality short ebooks by and for women, available at Tonight it presents several authors reading from their works, and celebrates the release of a special print memoir anthology, “Whatever Doesn’t Kill You.” Oct. 14, 7:30 p.m., The Booksmith, 1644 Haight St. More info at:


Where were you when the (semi) Big One hit? And can you believe it’s been 25 years already? Join Litquake and San Francisco magazine over cocktails at Alfred’s legendary steakhouse for storytelling by Grotto co-founders Ethan Watters and Josh Kornbluth, and fellow Grottoite JD Beltran along with other local authors and luminaries about that fateful moment when Bay Area business as usual shuddered to a halt, the Bay Bridge collapsed… and people came together in crisis. Friday, October 17, 2014 from 4:30 PM to 6:30 pm, Alfred’s Steakhouse, 659 Merchant St., San Francisco, CA 94111. Snag tickets and more info at: or


Grottoite Lisa Gray shows off her work in “Brown People Don’t Read?” which

Lit Camp 2015: Submissions now open

Layout 5 Now in its third year, the four day Lit Camp conference boasts its most impressive faculty for 2015. Pulitzer Prize winners Adam Johnson (The Orphan Master’s Son) and Paul Harding (Tinkers), New York agent Ellen Levine and Amy Williams, editor in chief at Riverhead Publishing Sarah McGrath, author Anthony Marra (A Constellation of Vital Phenomena), plus editors from McSweeney’s, The Rumpus, Zyzyzzva and more. mayacamas007 copyOnly forty writers of fiction, memoir, and narrative nonfiction will be accepted at this conference, co-sponsored by the Grotto. Held at beautiful Mayacamas Ranch in the rolling hills above Calistoga, California, Lit Camp combines daily morning workshops with afternoon panels — even a session of Yoga for Writers taught by Bay Area yoga legend Mark Morford. Also new for 2015, Lit Camp will be offering a limited number of scholarships. For more details, see  

Deliciously Bad Writing, Bridges, Buddhas and Fall Classes

  Here’s a roundup of goings-on at the Grotto for September 2014. Maw Shein Win has two 100-word poems published in The Fabulist: &

Lyzette Wanzer

Lyzette Wanzer

An excerpt from Lizette Wanzer’s essay, “Twisted,” appears in the current issue of Guernica: Bonnie Tsui profiles the Baghdad swim team, and finds out what it’s like to swim in Saddam’s palace pool under fire: Caroline Paul fostered a dog, and something strange happened to her steely heart: “Absorbedness” in writing frees Kathryn Ma from old regrets in the September issue of More magazine. (no link). Rachel Levin drinks her way around Southern Oregon’s rising wine country, and drags her kids with her: For the NYT, Diana Kapp goes to the first day of class with a gal who blew a free ride to college 20 years ago, and just last week finally got there:

Vanessa Hua

Vanessa Hua

For NBC News online, Vanessa Hua writes about three generations of Asian Americans living under one roof: Rachel Howard picks ten must-see fall dance events for KQED’s site: Connie Hale writes about cowboy love and a dying breed of Hawaiian: Sean Elder wrote about Robin Williams, Prince of the City: Lindsey Crittenden’s short story “Moles” appears in the current issue of Pisgah Review. (no link)

Zoe Fitzgerald Carter

Zoe FitzGerald Carter

For the Orlando Sentinel, Zoe FitzGerald Carter writes an op-ed about white people’s response to the Michael Brown shooting:,0,5616523.story


Drivel_Book-CoverBrace yourself. The first Grotto/Litquake book project, DRIVEL: Deliciously Bad Writing by Your Favorite Authors, came out September 2nd. Edited by Grottoite Julia Scott and based on the popular “Regreturature” benefit shows, this collection of illogical short stories, overwrought journal entries, and other insipid writing by America’s most beloved authors and artists features many current and former Grotto dwellers, as well as writers like Dave Eggers, Stephen Elliott, Gillian Flynn, Chuck Palahniuk, Mary Roach, and Amy Tan. Vanity Fair raves: “Drivel will pluck your heart strings…classic.” Order yours today,