The Writers Grotto Turns 25

The Writers Grotto Celebrates 25 Years in San Francisco and Announces New Initiatives for the Next 25

In a city that once stood for art and literature and subversive expression, where it’s become freakishly difficult for all artists to survive, the Writers Grotto remains a champion of words and wordsmiths. In our 25th year in San Francisco, we are redoubling our efforts. We’ve got a new name, a renewed mission, a new book series, a revamped podcast, an ever-growing palette of programs and classes, and we’re about to have a big bash. Please come to the party to learn more about us and help tell our story.

The creation. Co-working was not yet in the lexicon when writers Po Bronson, Ethan Watters, and Ethan Canin rented a six-room flat in a rundown Victorian to use as a work space. This was 1994, and this was a unique proposition: a shared office for the creative and self-employed. The three soon realized that many writers were eager to give up their kitchen tables and corner cafés for a workspace that also offered community. Three other spaces and scores of writers followed.

The evolution. With more than one hundred professional writer—including journalists and memoirists and novelists, podcasters and poets, comedians and filmmakers, playwrights and publishers—we’ve won Emmys, Pushcarts, and Pulitzers. But we are equally proud of our raucous lunch-table discussions and zany parties. We share a suite of offices South of Market, nurture a community of narrative artists, and strive to create beautiful work. Our mission? To “connect in physical and virtual space, pooling our talents to support each other, mentor and teach others, and engage the wider world.”

The Writers Grotto today and tomorrow. Here’s what our stubborn band of storytellers has accomplished this fall, and what we plan to achieve in our 26th year:

  • Received fiscal sponsorship, and are applying for our own 501(c)(3) status as a nonprofit;
  • Launched Lit Starts, a series of books featuring Writing Action, Writing Character, Writing Dialogue, and Writing Humor, and, pubbing in 2020, Writing Memoir and Writing Sci-Fi & Fantasy;
  • Launched Rooted & Written, workshops for and by writers of color, to share resources widely;
  • Refreshed the Grottoletter, a monthly e-missive ready to expand beyond its 5,000 subscribers;
  • Revamped the GrottoPod, a 45-minute podcast that airs biweekly and will continue to innovate;
  • Continued our renowned roster of writing classes, with web-based instruction starting in 2020;
  • Supported our eighth annual group of Fellows, emerging writers who join us for six months;
  • Conceptualized Friends of the Grotto to soon give Grotto supporters and the wider literary community special access to write-ins, craft talks, and mixers.

The Writers Grotto Index:

  • Current members in the Bay Area and beyond (fall 2019): 147
  • Current members who aspired to be poets during middle school: 147
  • Members who actually became published poets: 12
  • Total published books written at the Grotto: more than 100
  • Books by Writers Grotto members that have made the NYT bestseller list: 20
  • Bay Area bookstores where members have given readings: all of them
  • Members whose books have appeared on a banned-book list: at least 1
  • Pulitzer Prizes won by members: 3
  • National Book Awards won by members: 2
  • Languages spoken by members: 15
  • Words invented by members while working in restaurants in college (waitron): 1
  • Members named to “World’s Most Beautiful People” by People magazine: 2
  • Writing classes offered each year at the Writers Grotto: 100+
  • 5-star reviews on Yelp for Writers Grotto writing classes: 122
  • Members who’ve received death threats because of their writing: 4
  • Guggenheims awarded to Writers Grotto members: 4
  • Startups founded by members: 8
  • Number of members convicted of bank robbery: 1
  • Members whose films have been shown at Sundance or Cannes: 7
  • Films on Netflix screen-written by members: 6
  • Emmys won by Writers Grotto members: 6
  • Members with books chosen by Laura Bush for the White House library: 1
  • Members who are first- or second-generation immigrants: 18
  • Number of members who are trained hula dancers: 1
  • Writers Grotto members who’ve run reading series or writers retreats: 15
  • Members who are authors with specific marijuana-culture expertise: 2
  • Members with general marijuana-culture expertise: plenty
  • Number of books in the Writers Grotto’s 642 Things to Write About series: 7
  • Days it took to write the first book: 1
  • Number of books in the series sold so far: more than 890,000 copies

Press on the Writers Grotto:

“A shared work complex that offers the monk-like quiet and privacy that writers need and the mutually reinforcing sense of community they crave.” —SFGate

“One of the few solid American literary communities outside the media centers of New York and L.A.” —Entertainment Weekly

“The longest-running writing workshop in the Bay …” —Berkeleyside

“For nearly 25 years, the Grotto has been home to the forefront of Bay Area writers.” —San Francisco Chronicle

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