The GrottoPod Podcast: Writers on Writing
What it is: A lively weekly conversation with established and up-and-coming writers on the craft of writing.
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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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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. 8. “You know what I teach? That (writing) can’t be taught. And how to deconstruct all of those rules, and how to find a way to talk to yourself in writing.”
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The GrottoPod Team
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 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 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 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, 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 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.