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, 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?
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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.
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