Episode 11: Christopher Cook

Christopher Cook

Christopher Cook 2017

Journalist, memoirist, activist and lifelong Boston Red Sox fan Christopher Cook enters the GrottoPod this week to discuss a life lived in pursuit of doing good and doing well. An award-winning muckraker whose work has appeared in Harper’s, The Economist, Mother Jones, The Christian Science Monitor and Atlantic.com, Cook is the author of the 2004 book Diet for a Dead Planet: Big Business and the Coming Food Crisis. In recent months, Cook has turned his attention to journalism and analysis that’s aimed at fighting the Trump administration.

Episode 10: Zahra Noorbakhsh

Zahra Noorbakhsh. Photo by Harsh Mall.

Zahra Noorbakhsh

Feminist, Muslim, Iranian-American comedian Zahra Noorbakhsh joins us on the GrottoPod this week to talk about her love of performing onstage, politics, her relationship with her Iran-born parents — who appear frequently in her stand-up tales — and T-Rex erotica. Noorbakhsh’s shows include All Atheists are Muslim, On Behalf of All Muslims and Hijab and Hammerpants. She’s also the co-host of the #GoodMuslimBadMuslim podcast and has appeared on Fresh Air and in the anthology Love Inshallah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women.

Episode 9: Vanessa Hua

Vanessa Hua

Vanessa Hua

In this week’s episode, Vanessa Hua — journalist, columnist, fiction writer, and mother of 5-year-old twins — talks about how she juggles everything, stays on top of social media and manages to be such a generous colleague. (No, knitting is not the secret.) She shares time-management tips, thoughts on meaningful publicity, how running and swimming help her sort out ideas, and where she finds inspiration for short stories like those in Deceit and Other Possibilities, released in October 2016. The book recently received the Asian/Pacific American Award in Literature. Hua writes a weekly column for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Episode 8: Bridget Quinn

John Doe and Bridget Quinn

Bridget Quinn (right, with John Doe)

Bridget Quinn removes her co-host hat and gives us the backstory of her first book, Broad Strokes: 15 Women Who Made Art & Made History (in That Order). Born and raised in Montana, Quinn followed a nonlinear path to NYU’s Institute of the Arts, where she dropped the dream of a Ph.D in art history in favor of the dream of writing a Vasari-like Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects — but about women. Two decades later, Broad Strokes is earning accolades. Quinn’s essays have been published in Narrative Magazine as well as in anthologies; “At Swim, Two Girls” was included in Best American Sports Writing 2013. In addition to other upcoming events, she will be teaching creative nonfiction at the Mokulē‘ia Writers Retreat in Hawai’i in May.

Episode 7: Ethel Rohan

Ethel Rohan

Ethel Rohan

Ethel Rohan published two story collections (Goodnight Nobody and Cut Through the Bone), a chapbook (Hard to Say), and a short memoir (His Heartbeat in my Hand) before releasing her first novel, The Weight of Him, in February. In this week’s episode of the GrottoPod, she talks about her characters and her family (“what we don’t know about our own flesh-and-blood”), the unanswered questions about the effects of suicide on survivors, rewriting the Irish experience (“correcting the forgotten”) and how writing characters who are better than we are can amount to self-redemption.

Episode 6: Manjula Martin

Manjula Martin

Manjula Martin.

How do writers get by, financially? We put that impertinent question to our colleague Manjula Martin, author of Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living. In the book, she gathers intel from established and rising authors, but she has good insight herself, having created Who Pays Writers? — and having written for the Virginia Quarterly Review, Pacific Standard, Aeon magazine and many others. She has also worked for book publishers, magazines, nonprofits, arts organizations and is currently the managing editor of Zoetrope: All-Story. (Note: we mispronounced her name in the intro; it’s pronounced MON-jula!)

Episode 5: Joshua Mohr

Joshua Mohr

Joshua Mohr

Joshua Mohr is the author of five novels, including Damascus (2011), which The New York Times called “Beat-poet cool.” But he joins us in the GrottoPod to talk about why he just released a memoir, Sirens (2017). It’s a raw and stripped-down chronicle of drug and alcohol addiction, a literal hole in his heart and family compassion. He calls it a “relapse memoir,” something far removed from “a linear AA share.” Don’t miss him Saturday, March 4, at the Babylon Salon in San Francisco.

Episode 4: Louise Nayer

Louise Nayer

Louise Nayer

Poet, memoirist and longtime teacher Louise Nayer joins us to discuss the always-intriguing subject of memoir. In August 2016, Louise re-released Burned, the story of tragedy and rebirth in her family of origin. She also talks with us about the lighter but no-less-revealing personal story in her next book, Poised for Retirement: Moving from Anxiety to Zen. Consider this podcast a preview of Louise’s double readings of Burned on February 25 — at the Glen Park branch of the San Francisco Public Library (2 p.m.) and at Great Good Place for Books in Oakland (7 p.m.).


Episode 3: Po Bronson and Ethan Watters

Po Bronson and Ethan Watters.

Po Bronson and Ethan Watters.

Two of the three founders of the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto — Po Bronson and Ethan Watters — join us on the GrottoPod. They come not to discuss their stellar careers in journalism but to share how The Grotto came to be, what The Grotto means, and where The Grotto goes from here. From a humble Victorian flat 22 years ago, to a legendary stint at a decommissioned dog-and-cat hospital, to today’s labyrinthine South of Market digs, they’ve seen it all when it comes to this writers’ community. And they let us know that not all of The Grotto’s best stories are on the written page.

Episode 2: Constance Hale

Constance Hale

Constance Hale

Connie Hale, a Hawaiian-born author of groundbreaking books on language, enters the GrottoPod studio to discuss growing up in paradise, laying some island Pidgin English on one of her profs at Princeton and laboring in the publishing industry to write about the culture of her home state. She tells us how a chance exchange with her hula teacher led her to scrap traditional publishing for a new book on hula, The Natives are Restless, and also for a children’s book, ‘Iwalani’s Tree.