Episode 111: Writing Humor and Action

Bonnie Tsui, Chris Colin

Write funnier — and livelier! Today’s episode is the second of two special podcasts about a new series of books from the Writers Grotto called Lit Starts, which are available on September 10, 2019. Each book is filled with prompts to help writers practice the craft of writing character, dialogue, action, and humor. Each book also features a foreword by a Grotto writer. Today’s podcast is devoted to a conversation between two of those writers, Bonnie Tsui, who wrote the foreword to Writing Action, and Chris Colin, who wrote the foreword to Writing Humor. Tsui is the author of American Chinatown, which won the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature and was a San Francisco Chronicle bestseller. Colin, whose most recent book is What to Talk About, is a contributing writer for California Sunday and Afar magazines.

Episode 110: Writing Dialogue and Character

Shanthi Sekaran, Connie Hale

Want to take your writing to the next level? Today’s episode is the first of two special podcasts about a new series of books from the Writers Grotto called Lit Starts, available starting September 10, 2019. Each book is filled with prompts to help writers practice the craft of writing character, dialogue, action, and humor. Each book also features a foreword by a Grotto writer. Today’s podcast is devoted to a conversation between two of those writers, Shanthi Sekaran, who wrote the foreword to Writing Dialogue, and Constance Hale, who wrote the foreword to Writing Character. Sekaran’s most recent novel, Lucky Boy, was named an IndieNext Great Read and an NPR Best Book of 2017. Hale is the author of four cheeky writing manuals, a book for adults on hula, and a picture book for children set in Hawai’i.

Episode 109: Joshua Furst on Writing the Counterculture

Joshua Furst

Joshua Furst is an aficionado of American counterculture. His 2008 novel, The Sabotage Cafe, was a story of then-and-now punks defining themselves in opposition to the mainstream: dumpster-divers living in the shadow of American consumerism. His new novel, Revolutionaries, out now from Knopf, explores the life, legacy, and activism of an Abbie Hoffman-like figure, Lenny Snyder, as told by his disillusioned son, Freedom. Revolutionaries is populated with recognizable figures, both imagined and real. Lenny’s allies include folk singer and icon Phil Ochs and famed radical attorney William Kunstler. And yet at the core of Furst’s books is a fascination with family, dependency, and mental illness, subjects that he explores with great complexity and intimacy. Furst joined us in the GrottoPod on August 13 to discuss his new book, his teaching, and what messages the political upheavals of the sixties might have for us today.

Episode 108: Sara Schneider on the Language of Wine

Sara Schneider

Sara Schneider has been a wine, food, and general lifestyle editor and writer for 25 years, most recently as Consulting Wine and Spirits Editor for Robb Report. Before that, Schneider was Sunset magazine’s Wine Editor, which is where she met GrottoPod co-host Ben Marks of CollectorsWeekly.com back in the 1990s. In this conversation, recorded on June 14, 2019, Schneider and Marks discuss the sometimes peculiar jargon employed by wine writers, defining many colorful wine-writing terms along the way. It also sounds like they drank a fair amount of wine.

Episode 107: Traditional Publishing and the Winds of Change

Litquake panel

What does the publishing industry still have to offer writers who are breaking in? In this episode, George Higgins and Susie Gerhard take to the field to check out the Litquake panel “Tried and True: What’s so great about traditional publishing?” On a windy Sunday morning in front of Z Below in San Francisco’s Mission District, they speculate about what the title means before heading inside to interview audience members and hear from moderator Natalie Baszile, author of the novel Queen Sugar, and her publishing pro panelists Trisha Low of Small Press Distribution, indie-publishing consultant Pamela Feinsilber, and literary agents Anna Ghosh and Ted Weinstein. Tune in to get their takes on publishing in multiple genres.

Episode 106: Julia Flynn Siler and The White Devil’s Daughters

Bonnie Tsui and Julia Flynn Siler

New York Times best-selling author Julia Flynn Siler takes us deep into the story of the women who fought slavery in San Francisco’s Chinatown with her new book, The White Devil’s Daughters. The Writers Grotto’s Bonnie Tsui, author of the award-winning American Chinatowntalks to her about the meticulous research and care required to pull together revelations about the trafficking of young Asian girls that flourished in San Francisco during the first hundred years of Chinese immigration (1848-1943), and the “safe house” that became a refuge for those seeking their freedom.

Episode 105: Diana Kapp on Subjects Near and Far

Diana Kapp

Journalist Diana Kapp is published widely, from San Francisco magazine to the New York Times, ESPN, and O, the Oprah Magazine. She’s taken a circuitous path to many of her stories, which have included an investigation of teen suicide clusters in Palo Alto and an exploration into the education of girls in Afghanistan. But the trail she took to her latest story—an NYT essay on her 84-year-old father’s new crush—was direct; as in, straight from the heart. It brought about a reckoning of sorts, however, when she shared it pre-publication with her subjects. She chats with Grottopod’s Susie Gerhard about the process and the poetry of newspaper and magazine writing. Kapp’s new book, Girls Who Run The World: 31 CEOs Who Mean Business, comes out in October.

Episode 104: Monica Campbell on Borders, Bright Spots, and PRI’s The World

Monica Campbell

Senior editor/reporter at Public Radio International’s “The World,” Monica Campbell focuses on immigration and immigrant life in the United States. She’s reported internationally for years, including from Afghanistan and, most extensively, from Mexico and Latin America. In Mexico,she was the Committee to Protect Journalists representative (2006-2009). In this week’s episode, she talks with Laura Fraser about immigration politics in the Trump era, the bravery of local journalists in the face of drug cartels, and what she misses most about her reporting time south of the border: the rhythm of life, the storied sobremesa hours, or the time spent with friends at the table after a meal is over. “Those are the best moments, when you’re having conversation with your best friends and no one is looking at their watch.”

Episode 103: Virgie Tovar reinvents “fat camp”

Virgie Tovar

We revisit our July 2018 interview with influential author and body-image activist Virgie Tovar, who was recently interviewed for the Pacific Standard by Writers Grotto member Beth Winegarner. Tovar is hosting a new summer camp, Camp Thunder Thighs, at the end of June in Northern California. When we spoke to her last summer, she dropped truth bombs about writing honestly and writing to empower, fat discrimination and celebration, and how to leverage social media for good. Tovar started the viral hashtag campaign #LoseHateNotWeight, pens the weekly column Take the Cake, and authored You Have the Right to Remain Fat.

Episode 102: Jamie Ford on the Value of MFAs

Award-winning author Jamie Ford joins co-hosts emeritus Larry and BQ for the second of two live podcasts recorded at the 2019 Storyfort Festival in Boise, Idaho. Their conversation with the Montana writer touches on the Ford family’s experiences in the American West, Ford’s journey from comic book-reading “artsy kid” to best-selling author, the value of an MFA versus life experience, and the extensive research and writing that produced his recent novel, Love and Other Consolation Prizes, as well as his award-winning debut, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.