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.
Todd Oppenheimer was an actor, a mime and a successful journalist who published in all the major magazines and won a National Magazine Award for Public Interest Reporting. But it wasn’t until he started his own publication, Craftsmanship Quarterly, that he found his life’s work. This week, Todd joins us in the GrottoPod to talk about his magazine, the Craftsmanship Initiative, his passion for craft and “working with your hands,” and the challenges of doing mime in Central Park with a young, untamable Robin Williams.
Some writers take unorthodox paths to success; for Joe Loya, author of The Man Who Outgrew His Prison Cell, that path includes a childhood full of spiritual, sometimes violent and tragic, twists and turns, followed by a stint as a bank robber known as “The Beirut Bandit.” He spent seven years in federal prison, where a months-long stint in solitary confinement led to the epiphany that began his writing career. A born storyteller, Loya covers all of it — and sets a GrottoPod record for colorful language — on this week’s show.
What if the hand of God (in the form of Stephen Colbert) reached down and helped make your first published novel a New York Times best-seller? It happened to Edan Lepucki, whose post-apocalyptic novel California was the unwitting beneficiary of a Colbert vs. Amazon feud in 2014. Now, on the publication day of her new book, Woman No. 17, Lepucki joins us in the GrottoPod to explain how she went from hoping for “okay reviews” to signing 10,000 books in one weekend, how she feels about “difficult” protagonists, her preference for L.A. over Berkeley, and much more.
How are the stakes changed when a journalist pursues a personal story? This week, veteran tech writer Fred Vogelstein enters the GrottoPod to share his journey from Freshman remedial English to Wired, Fortune, U.S. News & World Report and his book Dogfight: How Apple and Google Went to War and Started a Revolution. He also addresses the challenges he faced when he chose to write about his family’s battle to secure a ground-breaking drug to treat his son’s epilepsy.
Matthew Zapruder, poetry editor for the New York Times Magazine and author of four award-winning poetry collections, enters the GrottoPod this week to discuss his latest work — a book of prose due out this summer called Why Poetry? — and the challenges and rewards of teaching poetry. Zapruder examines a life of poetry and muses on the role The Grotto has played in his life and career, the path that led him from a U.C. Berkeley PhD. program in Slavic languages and literature to a poetry M.F.A. He wraps up his visit by setting a tattoo date with Bridget.
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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.