Episode 82: “Writer’s Writer” Fenton Johnson

“Writer’s writer” Fenton Johnson joins the GrottoPod this week for a far-ranging conversation that touches on some of the recurring themes in his work: place, solitude, faith and belonging. Johnson has written six books, including three novels and the memoir Geography of the Heart.

“I believe in writing as rhetoric. The challenge is to do the triple backwards somersault flip where whatever you’re writing is teaching you to convey that to the reader in a way where the reader is engaged and is participating in the process.”

8:36: How searching for “place” and finding one’s way became a theme in Johnson’s work.→ READ MORE

Episode 81: Dawn Raffel On Navigating And Writing Shadowy History

Dawn Raffel, author of The Strange Case of Dr. Couney: How a Mysterious European Showman Saved Thousands of American Babies, joins us in the GrottoPod this week to talk about the sometimes-painful process of writing the book. Raffel is also a novelist, short fiction writer and memoirist whose previous books include the best-selling The Secret Life of Objects.

“I felt a responsibility to Couney himself, to get it straight. To tell it well. Sometimes I wonder what he’d think of this book.”

7:36: Raffel shares why her path from idea to book was sometimes “torture”
23:06: Navigating the twists and turns of researching a somewhat shadowy historic figure
32:08: How the book touches on important themes in American history
42:30: Gathering the surviving “incubator babies” together for a reunion
44:20: The responsibilities Raffel felt in telling the story of an overlooked (and perhaps misunderstood) historic American figure

Episode 80: Lydia Kiesling On First Novels

The Millions editor Lydia Kiesling joins Larry and co-producer Laurie Ann Doyle in the studio this week to chat about Kiesling’s new book, The Golden State — a tale of motherhood, immigration and California, out September 4.

“You have things you want to say. Do you have the correct container to put them in? When I wrote book reviews, I could fit them into essay-shaped things. When I became a parent, I had stuff, but I didn’t have the shape to put it in. A novel was the only shape I could fit it.”

9:50: Discussion of of pre-publication essays and Lydia’s work as editor of The Millions
19:55: “Writing while mothering,” and balancing story with thematic issues
30:42: Structural choices and narrative distance
39:40: Drawing dramatic themes from your own life
45:02: Lydia’s development as a writer

Episode 79: What’s New In Your Writing Life?

Beat the dog days of summer by stepping into the GrottoPod, where BQ and Larry await. This week, your hosts sit down for a wide-ranging discussion about the writing life that touches on everything from process to payment, 1,000 words a day, BQ’s looming book deadline and Larry’s now-defunct magazine column. Guest- and filter-free, this GrottoPod episode takes a deep dive into the minds of two working writers who happen to double as podcast hosts. 

Episode 78: Matthew Zapruder’s Favorite Book (Might Surprise You)

What’s poet Matthew Zapruder’s favorite book? Find out this week, as the author of Why Poetry and former New York Times poetry editor joins BQ and Larry for a live podcast at the San Francisco Public Library, where he lays out the case for the impact W.S. Merwin’s The Lice has had on his development as a poet and a person. He also talks about the function of poetry, word choice, Merwin’s unconventional use of punctuation, and much more in this lively conversation.

Episode 77: Victoria Piontek On Writing for Young Adults

Victoria Piontek’s literary journey has taken her all over the U.S., but when it came time for this author and literary associate to publish her first book, she chose to return to the verdant lushness of her Florida birthplace. This week, Piontek joins the GrottoPod to talk about the Southern Gothic overtones of her haunting middle-grade story The Spirit of Cattail County. She also discusses the challenges of juggling writing, working a day job and raising a family, and helps Larry and BQ define “Y.A.” and “library chic.”

Episode 76: Nick Mamatas On Writing A Book A Year

This week, BQ and Larry enter the extended Nick Mamatas universe to learn about horror novels, manga, writing term papers for profit and much more. Join them as the author of the upcoming short story collection The People’s Republic Of Everything shares his unique and compelling tales and talks about how he manages to produce a new book every year. Mamatas also authored the San Francisco zombie novel The Last Weekend, the Lovecraftian murder mystery I Am Providence, and the forthcoming Hexen Sabbath.

Episode 75: Virgie Tovar on Activist Writing

Don’t miss this one! For the first time, BQ goes solo as host — and she’s talking with influential author and body-image activist Virgie Tovar, who is dropping the truth bombs. Tovar talks 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 edited the ground-breaking anthology Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion. Whew. Listen in, then check out her forthcoming book, You Have the Right to Remain Fat, now available for pre-order.→ READ MORE

Episode 74: Beth Winegarner On Self-Publishing

This week, BQ and Larry are joined by high-quality, low-maintenance, independent writer and editor (and GrottoPod producer) Beth Winegarner for a podcast that tracks Beth’s career as a writer, reporter, editor and student. In our conversation, we touch on themes of self-publishing, marketing, sexism and racism in heavy metal, community journalism, and chronicling the lives of underrepresented populations. We also learn why metal singers sometimes look like they are clutching invisible oranges. Check out her new book, Tenacity: Heavy Metal in the Middle East and Africa, and don’t miss her at Writers With Drinks this Saturday, July 14, in San Francisco.READ MORE

Episode 73: Katherine Reynolds Lewis On Writing That Changes Minds

Listen up! This week we’re joined in the ‘Pod by fresh-off-the-plane-from-the-East-Coast author and widely sought speaker Katherine Reynolds Lewis. Her new book about contemporary childhood and its discontents, The Good News About Bad Behavior, is taking the parenting and education worlds by storm. Find out how Lewis went from Harvard physics grad to longtime journo, how her 2015 story for Mother Jones magazine about school discipline went viral — becoming the site’s most-ever viewed piece — and how she went from that magazine story to an influential book.