The GrottoPod Podcast: Writers on Writing
What it is: Writers crammed into a tiny studio at the largest writers’ collective on the West Coast. At the Grotto, more than one hundred writers share office space, a mailing list and lunch conversations about all manner of subjects. On the podcast, we chat with big players and up-and-comers alike, talking craft, process, narrative stuff of all kinds, and also cereal and other vital aspects of the writing life. Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
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.
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.
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.
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!)
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.
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.).
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.
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.
Shanthi Sekaran, whose new novel, Lucky Boy, has been featured in People, InStyle, Publishers Weekly and on NPR, squeezes into the GrottoPod for Episode 1. She talks about her creative process, the unique challenges and responsibilities of writing about the immigrant experience, the “Berkeley experience” and motherhood.
Larry Rosen is a writer, editor, columnist and podcaster whose career path has more twists than Dunkin’ Donuts’ day-old case. He’s worked for a variety of alt-weeklies including Seattle’s The Stranger and a diverse roster of others, including ESPN.com, Washington Law & Politics, AOL and the San Francisco Examiner. Since 2014, Rosen has founded and continues to co-host a podcast called (Is it) Good for the Jews?; worked diligently on short stories, a memoir and a novel; joined the Writers Grotto and become a regular columnist for J., the Jewish news weekly of Northern California. He lives in San Francisco with his wife, son (during breaks from college) and a short, dense, weird dog.
Bridget Quinn has been a grateful denizen of the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto since 2011. Her book Broad Strokes: 15 Women Who Made Art and Made History (in That Order) from Chronicle Books examines the lives, legacies and artworks of fifteen significant – and too often overlooked – women artists. Broad Strokes was named a Top 10 Spring 2017 Book in Memoirs/Biographies by Publishers Weekly.
Raised on the high plains of Montana with two sisters, six brothers, a devout mother and a WWII Marine-turned-lawyer father, in a home surrounded by cows and nuclear missile silos, today Bridget lives in San Francisco with her husband, two children, two dogs and an absurd number of bikes.
Sugartown is a Berkeley-based acoustic folk trio, heavy on the harmonies, light on the saccharine (and with a hefty dose of southern moonshine thrown in for good measure). Grotto writer Zoe FitzGerald Carter writes the band’s original tunes, sings and plays guitar. Brian Bloom is on lead guitar and vocals, and local jazz great Dan Seamans plays bass. Info about Sugartown’s upcoming gigs can be found on their Facebook page: SugartownCalifornia.