Episode 101: Tara Conklin Live At Storyfort

Tara Conklin author

New York Times best-selling author Tara Conklin is our guest this week as she joins co-hosts emeritus Larry and BQ onstage at the Storyfort Festival in Boise, Idaho. Conklin talks craft, vision and work habits and shares tales of her mid-career switch from law to fiction writing. Her first novel, The House Girl, grew out of a short story, and her latest book, The Last Romantics, zoomed to the top of the Amazon.com fiction rankings when it was chosen by Jenna Bush Hager as her pick to kick off the TODAY Show Book Club.

Episode 100: John Markoff on Stewart Brand

John Markoff

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist John Markoff joins co-host Ben Marks of CollectorsWeekly.com on the GrottoPod this week to talk about his forthcoming biography of Stewart Brand. Markoff, who spent 28 years at the New York Times, is the author of one of Marks’ favorite books, What the Dormouse Said. Markoff says his Brand biography could be considered a sequel of sorts to Dormouse, but its larger mission is to capture what Markoff believes is a particularly northern California sensibility, embodied by Brand and his life’s work as the editor of the Whole Earth Catalog, co-founder of The WELL, and president of the Long Now Foundation.

Episode 99: Goodbye, Hello! Tom Barbash on ‘The Dakota Winters’

Tom Barbash & Laura Fraser
Tom Barbash (center) with Paul Harding and Laura Fraser.

“Where were you when you heard John Lennon was killed?” It’s a familiar question to people of a certain age, but Gen-Xers will not be the only ones fascinated by Tom Barbash’s early-’80s New York City flashback, The Dakota WintersWith veteran journalist and memoirist Laura Fraser as guest host, GrottoPod Episode 99 finds Barbash talking about his childhood in NYC’s Upper West Side and the process behind turning the biggest names of the late 19th century into his novel’s central players. “I wanted to say something new and true about John,” says Barbash. “I had to not just look at the glamour but look at … strengths and failings.” Note: Mature content.

Episode 98: Hello, Goodbye

Larry and BQ in the GrottoPod
Larry Rosen and BQ.

This week marks the final studio appearance for hosts Larry Rosen and Bridget Quinn, who usher in a new era of the GrottoPod by completing the cycle they began 98 episodes ago. In this hour, BQ interviews Larry about the ups and downs of his 27-year (and counting) writing career. They also chat about 2019 finances vs. 1990s finances, the secret code for freelancing and “finding out what you’re good at.” Say goodbye (for now) to your OG hosts, and check this space for some big news about what’s in store for the GrottoPod.

“You can’t wait for your ship to come in; you’ve got to swim out to it.” 

Episode 97: Rachel Howard’s Big ‘Risk’

Rachel Howard.
Rachel Howard.

Rachel Howard was a Clovis High School flag-team member when an essay contest changed her life, putting her on a path whose latest milepost is the publication of her first novel, The Risk of Us, which will be available everywhere April 9. This week, Rachel joins The GrottoPod to talk about the inspiration for her new book, her unlikely path into the arts, how she’s helped create a writing community in the Sierra foothills and why you’re likely to hear torch songs at her book-launch party.

“I still feel that devastation is always just around the corner for writers.”

Episode 96: Celeste Chan On Medium and Message

Celeste Chan.

For Celeste Chan — a writer, filmmaker, teacher, artist and activist — the medium is whatever fits the message. Raised by a pair of Berkeley-educated “halfway hippies” and home-schooled, Chan found her footing in a post-Riot Grrl Olympia, Washington, then shifted into high gear when she arrived in San Francisco in 2004. This week, the founder of Queer Rebels and teaching artist for the Queer Ancestors Project brings her story (and some pretty cool eyeglasses) to the GrottoPod to offer her thoughts on shining light on under-recognized artists and their work.

“It’s about amplifying marginalized and unheard voices, carving out space, and carving out space for my own voice within that.”

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

Thaisa Frank

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. 8.

“You know what I teach? That (writing) can’t be taught. And how to deconstruct all of those rules, and how to find a way to talk to yourself in writing.”

Episode 92: Alejandro Gallegos On The Librarian’s Life

Alejandro Gallegos

Alejandro Gallegos

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?