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 88: BQ and Larry On Motivation’s Fickle Fortunes

BQ and Larry

BQ and Larry

Larry and BQ dig deep this week in an episode that checks in on both of their writing projects, probes the fickle fortunes of motivation, explores the ups and downs of networking with other writers and much more. 

“The process from book deal to book is the opposite of Dante’s Divine Comedy. You start out in parades, and you end up in Hell.”

1:40: Larry has an idea for a new podcast. 6:48: Are you comfortable telling someone, “this is the best book (movie, TV show, etc.) ever?” 11:54: What’s happening with BQ’s new book. 20:00: Larry’s latest attempt at a new book. 26:44: How do you get motivated? 41:42: BQ talks about the perils of networking. 53:20: Keeping Larry accountable while he’s in Switzerland.

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Episode 87: Yang Huang On Writing On Your Own Terms

Yang Huang

Yang Huang

Yang Huang, author of the Juniper Prize-winning book of short stories, My Old Faithful, joins the GrottoPod this week to discuss a fascinating journey that includes her immigration to the United States as a teen, a career in engineering, an MA and an MFA, raising a family and, along the way, learning English and starting to write fiction. She also delivers, according to guest co-host Lee Kravetz (sitting in for Larry this week), “at least 15 sayings that should be tattoos.” Huang is also the author of a novel, Living Treasures. “I always thought I would write, on my own terms. Not necessarily something perfect or commercial, but something that was raw and honest. I wanted to tell my stories.”

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Episode 86: Kristin Kaye On Writing Mystical Experiences

Kristin Kaye

Kristin Kaye

Kristin Kaye didn’t set out to write a YA book, much less an award-winning YA book, but that’s exactly what happened. This week, the writer of Tree Dreams, one of Buzzfeed’s “5 Books to Read to Prep for Earth Day,” joins the GrottoPod to trace her unlikely path from avant-garde theater impresario to environmental activist and author, stopping off along the way to touch on eco-warriors, breaking our addiction to consumption, jobs that offer health benefits and the multi-dimensional world of women’s body-building. 

“The big question was: how do I write an internal conversation with a tree that sounds like a two-way conversation? How do you give language to a mostly mystical experience?”

9:24: How Tree Dreams became a YA book, and then a curriculum. 14:28: Where the idea to write Tree Dreams came from. 28:18: Kristin’s life before she began writing fiction. 43:48: Having an “environmental awakening.” 58:48: Dividing your time between activism and writing.

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Episode 85: Mary Jo McConahay On Writing War

Mary Jo McConahay

Mary Jo McConahay

The Tango War author Mary Jo McConahay joins us in the studio one day after the release of this new book, which explores Latin America’s “hidden” role in World War II. The journalist, war correspondent, memoirist, sometime boat-dweller and confirmed world traveler chats about her rich and colorful life, her motivations and the challenges of tackling a book of historic nonfiction. “Of course, danger is part of the job. There are so many people in so much more danger. The people from the countries where the wars are taking place are much bigger targets.” 11:21: How she started out in journalism and met the challenges and triumphs of an international career; the dangers of being a war correspondent. 27:18: Transforming an idea into The Tango War. 36:12: Researching events that happened almost a century ago. 41:20: Becoming an “accidental filmmaker.” 45:30: Feeling overwhelmed while writing The Tango War

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Episode 84: Lillian Li On Finding Your Process

Lillian Li

Lillian Li. Photo by Margarita Corporan.

Number One Chinese Restaurant author Lillian Li joins Larry and Lee (subbing again for BQ) in the GrottoPod this week to discuss the many roads that led to her debut novel. She shares her brief-but-intense experience as a waitress, what it’s like writing a beach novel at Panera, and how family, life experience and tradition shaped her writing voice. “In some ways (my book) is and isn’t inspired by working in a restaurant. I was just trying to get through the day without crying in the walk-in refrigerator at least once.” 10:02: How a panoply of inspirations led to Number One Chinese Restaurant 20:11: Getting into the mind of a male protagonist 24:05: Questions of plot; finding your writing process 33:55: How Li came to see writing as a career instead of a hobby 47:26: Number One Chinese Restaurant’s journey from manuscript to book

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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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