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, or contact us at

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Episode 53: Julie Lythcott-Haims On Late-Career Blockbuster Success

Julie Lythcott-Haims

Julie Lythcott-Haims

Many authors come to writing later in life, but few make the kind of splash Julie Lythcott-Haims did. She was a Dean at Stanford (and, before that, an attorney) when she quit to pursue an MFA in her 40s. Flash forward, and she is now the author of two successful books: the anti-helicopter parenting manifesto How to Raise an Adult, and her new memoir on race, Real American. Lythcott-Haims joins us on the GrottoPod this week to discuss her journey, her strategies as a writer, her family and her feelings about overparenting. Don’t miss her at Babylon Salon in San Francisco on Saturday, March 3.

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Episode 52: Ben Marks On Bringing History to Life

Ben Marks

Ben Marks

Ben Marks, the general manager of Collectors Weekly, brings his colorful backstory to the GrottoPod on this week’s episode. Join us as we trace his wanderings from a childhood in San Rafael to a career that has included working on a lobster boat in Maine, co-owning a restaurant in Seattle, making it as a writer in Los Angeles, landing a cushy job at Sunset magazine, and finally coming to the Grotto, where he and two colleagues produce an online magazine dedicated to deep dives into backstories as colorful as his own.

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Episode 51: Dennis McNally, Scribe to the Grateful Dead

Dennis McNally

Dennis McNally

Some people want to meet their heroes; writer/historian Dennis McNally made a career out of meeting his. Already the author of the definitive Beat biography, Desolate Angel: Jack Kerouac, the Beat Generation and America, his life changed when he met with Jerry Garcia in 1980. He became the Grateful Dead’s biographer, and then a few years later the band’s publicist, a role he held for more than a decade. He came away from the experience with another book, A Long, Strange Trip: The Inside Story of the Grateful Dead, and too many stories to for a one-hour podcast. Join us this week as McNally shares some of his adventures in rock and roll and academia and recounts his own long, strange trip from military brat to chronicler of American Bohemia.

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Episode 50: Mary Ladd On How Cancer Changed Her Writing

Mary Ladd

Mary Ladd

Writer Mary Ladd was carving out a niche for herself as a San Francisco food and nightlife scribe when she ran headlong into a diagnosis of breast cancer. Looking ahead to a long road of treatment, illness, fear and a concerned husband and small child, she chose to tackle the crisis with humor. This week, on the eve of her “nipple launch” party, Ladd joins BQ and Larry to discuss how cancer changed her writing and her approach to freelancing, and how facing the worst sometimes brings out the best. She’s currently shopping her book The Wig Report, illustrated by Don Asmussen, based on her blog of the same name. Keep an eye out for it.  

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Episode 49: Maw Shein Win, Poet Laureate of El Cerrito

Maw Shein Win

Maw Shein Win

Maw Shein Win is the place where punk and poetry meet. Win is a prolific poet — and the poet laureate for the Bay Area city of El Cerrito. She’s also the former percussionist, along with Mark Dutcher, for Los Angeles post-punk band Pearls Before Swine. She joins us on the GrottoPod this week for a wide-ranging conversation that touches on the many shades of her colorful life, including her long career as an educator, her ongoing collaborations with artists and musicians, her new collection of poems and her experiments with New Wave hairdos during the 1980s. Check out her most recent chapbook, Score and Bone, on Nomadic Press, and her upcoming full-length collection, Invisible Gifts: Poems, on Manic D Press in April. Her launch will be at City Lights Books April 10.

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The GrottoPod Team

Larry Rosen

Larry Rosen is the co-host of the GrottoPod and a longtime freelance journalist, writer and former columnist for the San Francisco Examiner. He is also the host of another podcast, (Is it) Good for the Jews?, and is presently working on a novel and a memoir.

Bridget Quinn

Bridget Quinn is the co-host of the GrottoPod and the author of Broad Strokes: 15 Women Who Made Art and Made History (in That Order), which NPR’s Susan Stamberg calls “a terrific essay collection” with “spunky attitudinal, SMART writing,” marking the second time “attitudinal” has been used about her work (first: Kirkus, 1996).

Lee KravetzLee Daniel Kravetz, the GrottoPod’s executive producer, is the international best-selling author of Strange Contagion and Supersurvivors. His work has appeared in The New York Times, New York Magazine, Atlantic, and Psychology Today. He is is a founding board member of the Lit Camp Writers Conference.

Laurie Ann DoyleLaurie Ann Doyle is the GrottoPod’s producer and the award-winning author of the short-story collection World Gone Missing. She teaches writing at the San Francisco Writers Grotto and at the University of California at Berkeley. Her work has been published in The Los Angeles Review, University of Colorado’s Timber Journal, and Under the Sun.

Beth Winegarner

Beth Winegarner, the GrottoPod’s online producer, is a veteran journalist and editor whose work has appeared in the New Yorker, The Guardian, Mother Jones and Wired. She is also the author of several books, including The Columbine Effect: How Five Teen Pastimes Got Caught in the Crossfire and Why Teens Are Taking Them Back.


Sugartown, Zoe Fitzgerald Carter


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.


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