Episode 95: Cheryl A. Ossola On Writing Motherhood

Cheryl A. Ossola
Cheryl A. Ossola

Writer Cheryl A. Ossola waited a long time to realize her dream. It finally came true in 2018, when the one-time theater electrician, photographer, neonatal nurse and dance-magazine editor landed in Italy to put the finishing touches on her first novel, The Wild Impossibility, out May 9. This week, the GrottoPod is lucky enough to corral Ossola during a visit to the U.S. to discuss how a lifetime of experience can produce a lush, heart-breaking novel that author Katie Crouch calls “a breathtaking novel about what it means to be a mother.”

“I would just like somebody to say this book mattered.”

Episode 94: Irving Ruan On Writing Funny

Irving Ruan
Irving Ruan

Humor writer Irving Ruan joins us on the GrottoPod this week after Larry and BQ’s holiday sabbatical. Ruan explains how Conan O’Brien inspired a piano-playing only child and “enthusiastic engineer” to become an equally enthusiastic humorist and comedian … who landed two pieces in the New Yorker in 2018.

“I don’t care if I get published or whatever. I want to do this because it makes me feel happy and makes me feel alive.”

Episode 93: Thaisa Frank On Writing, Zen and Therapy

Thaisa Frank, author of the novel Heidegger’s Glasses, four books of short stories and Finding Your Writer’s Voice, joins the GrottoPod this week for a delightful trip through the life of a “writer’s writer,” former therapist, Zen practitioner, women’s rights activist and teacher of writing (who doesn’t believe writing can be taught). Join Thaisa, BQ and Larry for a topsy-turvy journey that eventually lands at the Grotto and in the GrottoPod, where the winner of two PEN awards completely charms your hosts. This is a can’t-miss episode. After this, we’re taking a holiday break — we’ll be back Jan.→ READ MORE

Episode 92: Alejandro Gallegos On The Librarian’s Life

What’s your dream library? San Francisco Public Library Community Engagement Manager Alejandro Gallegos joins us in the studio this week to regale BQ and Larry with tales of scolding signage, boffo library programs, community engagement ambitions and visions of his “dream library,” plus a tale of synchronicity that finally names the “unnamed family” shown in library archive photos.

“Information can be threatening to many people. Here in the U.S., the library is a place where information is available to everyone.”

11:48: What libraries can mean to communities
20:00: SFPL’s “One City, One Book” — a citywide book club
24:12: How a librarian was made
30:03: How libraries have changed in the past 25 years
43:50: How SFPL has met issues of budgeting challenges and recent growth
50:35: What is the perfect library?→ READ MORE

Episode 91: Ethan Watters On Longform Journalism

Journalist Ethan Watters spent the past two years working on a single magazine article. This week, in what he calls “a high point for feeling completion,” he joins BQ and Larry in the GrottoPod to discuss the challenges, triumphs and eye-opening discoveries he experienced while working on “The Love Story that Upended the Texas Prison System” for Texas Monthly.

“I have 3,500 pages of material, and it’s good, but it’s like pulling down a puzzle from your grandmother’s attic and trying to decide what fits.”

09:14: How a magazine article became a two-year journey
17:33: Finding a life/work balance in the midst of a consuming project
35:18: Facing challenges and working through a low point
45:09: How a project of this size impacts and changes its writer, and opens up new areas of career interest
53:12: How to determine when major project is “complete.”

Episode 90: Jaya Padmanabhan On Writing Displacement

Jaya Padmanabhan entered boarding school when she was four, and has been a sales rep, a software engineer and now a fiction writer, journalist and editor. This week the Examiner columnist and author of the short-story collection Transactions of Belonging joins Larry and guest co-host Laurie Ann Doyle to trace her path, talk about how readers respond to “ambiguous” endings, a lifelong interest in displacement and belonging, her novel-in-progress … and toddy tappers.

“Writing is a reflex action that comes out of reading, at least for me.”

7:12: Writing across a “broad spectrum”
13:12: “The epiphany,” and learning to write short stories
20:55: Her favorite stories, and how readers responded to “His Curls”
29:48: The roots of a lifelong interest in displacement and belonging
41:30: Entering the world of journalism
49:48: New projects, toddy tappers

Episode 89: Kevin Smokler On Innovative Book Tours

We celebrate John Hughes and others this week with author Kevin Smokler, who joins Larry to talk about his book Brat Pack America: A Love Letter to ’80s Teen Movies. Join Larry and Kevin as they touch on innovative book-tour strategies, finding your audience, re-reading the classics and respecting pop culture while name-dropping Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Breakfast ClubValley Girl and many others.

“If you’re sick of your book or your subject by the time it’s time to go talk about it, you’re in big trouble.”
8:03: Defining Kevin Smokler as a writer, marketer, speaker, and more.→ READ MORE

Episode 88: BQ and Larry On Motivation’s Fickle Fortunes

Larry and BQ dig deep this week in an episode that checks in on both of their writing projects, probes the fickle fortunes of motivation, explores the ups and downs of networking with other writers and much more. 

“The process from book deal to book is the opposite of Dante’s Divine Comedy. You start out in parades, and you end up in Hell.”

1:40: Larry has an idea for a new podcast.
6:48: Are you comfortable telling someone, “this is the best book (movie, TV show, etc.) ever?”
11:54: What’s happening with BQ’s new book.
20:00: Larry’s latest attempt at a new book.READ MORE

Episode 87: Yang Huang On Writing On Your Own Terms

Yang Huang, author of the Juniper Prize-winning book of short stories, My Old Faithful, joins the GrottoPod this week to discuss a fascinating journey that includes her immigration to the United States as a teen, a career in engineering, an MA and an MFA, raising a family and, along the way, learning English and starting to write fiction. She also delivers, according to guest co-host Lee Kravetz (sitting in for Larry this week), “at least 15 sayings that should be tattoos.” Huang is also the author of a novel, Living Treasures.

“I always thought I would write, on my own terms.→ READ MORE

Episode 86: Kristin Kaye On Writing Mystical Experiences

Kristin Kaye didn’t set out to write a YA book, much less an award-winning YA book, but that’s exactly what happened. This week, the writer of Tree Dreams, one of Buzzfeed’s “5 Books to Read to Prep for Earth Day,” joins the GrottoPod to trace her unlikely path from avant-garde theater impresario to environmental activist and author, stopping off along the way to touch on eco-warriors, breaking our addiction to consumption, jobs that offer health benefits and the multi-dimensional world of women’s body-building. 

“The big question was: how do I write an internal conversation with a tree that sounds like a two-way conversation?