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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Episode 93: Thaisa Frank On Writing, Zen and Therapy

Thaisa Frank

Thaisa Frank

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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Episode 92: Alejandro Gallegos On The Librarian’s Life

Alejandro Gallegos

Alejandro Gallegos

What’s your dream library? San Francisco Public Library Community Engagement Manager Alejandro Gallegos joins us in the studio this week to regale BQ and Larry with tales of scolding signage, boffo library programs, community engagement ambitions and visions of his “dream library,” plus a tale of synchronicity that finally names the “unnamed family” shown in library archive photos. “Information can be threatening to many people. Here in the U.S., the library is a place where information is available to everyone.” 11:48: What libraries can mean to communities 20:00: SFPL’s “One City, One Book” — a citywide book club 24:12: How a librarian was made 30:03: How libraries have changed in the past 25 years 43:50: How SFPL has met issues of budgeting challenges and recent growth 50:35: What is the perfect library?

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Episode 91: Ethan Watters On Longform Journalism

Ethan Watters

Ethan Watters

Journalist Ethan Watters spent the past two years working on a single magazine article. This week, in what he calls “a high point for feeling completion,” he joins BQ and Larry in the GrottoPod to discuss the challenges, triumphs and eye-opening discoveries he experienced while working on “The Love Story that Upended the Texas Prison System” for Texas Monthly.

“I have 3,500 pages of material, and it’s good, but it’s like pulling down a puzzle from your grandmother’s attic and trying to decide what fits.”

09:14: How a magazine article became a two-year journey 17:33: Finding a life/work balance in the midst of a consuming project 35:18: Facing challenges and working through a low point 45:09: How a project of this size impacts and changes its writer, and opens up new areas of career interest 53:12: How to determine when major project is “complete.”

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Episode 90: Jaya Padmanabhan On Writing Displacement

Jaya Padmanabhan

Jaya Padmanabhan

Jaya Padmanabhan entered boarding school when she was four, and has been a sales rep, a software engineer and now a fiction writer, journalist and editor. This week the Examiner columnist and author of the short-story collection Transactions of Belonging joins Larry and guest co-host Laurie Ann Doyle to trace her path, talk about how readers respond to “ambiguous” endings, a lifelong interest in displacement and belonging, her novel-in-progress … and toddy tappers.

“Writing is a reflex action that comes out of reading, at least for me.”

7:12: Writing across a “broad spectrum” 13:12: “The epiphany,” and learning to write short stories 20:55: Her favorite stories, and how readers responded to “His Curls” 29:48: The roots of a lifelong interest in displacement and belonging 41:30: Entering the world of journalism 49:48: New projects, toddy tappers

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Episode 89: Kevin Smokler On Innovative Book Tours

Kevin Smokler

Kevin Smokler

We celebrate John Hughes and others this week with author Kevin Smokler, who joins Larry to talk about his book Brat Pack America: A Love Letter to ’80s Teen Movies. Join Larry and Kevin as they touch on innovative book-tour strategies, finding your audience, re-reading the classics and respecting pop culture while name-dropping Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Breakfast ClubValley Girl and many others. “If you’re sick of your book or your subject by the time it’s time to go talk about it, you’re in big trouble.” 8:03: Defining Kevin Smokler as a writer, marketer, speaker, and more. 10:12: Thinking outside the norm about promotions and touring. 20:28: Why it’s valuable to treat “mundane” art with respect. 27:36: Mis-reading Catcher in the Rye and asking how culture ages. 39:40: Generating and following ideas for new projects. 49:20: Pursuing new projects that may not be books.

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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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