Episode 139: Roberto Lovato Reads from “Unforgetting”

Roberto Lovato with megaphone

Journalist and author Roberto Lovato returns to the GrottoPod this week to read from his debut book, Unforgetting: A Memoir of Family, Migration, Gangs and Revolution in the Americas. A recipient of a reporting grant from the Pulitzer Center, Lovato has reported on war, violence, terrorism in Mexico, Venezuela, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Paris and the United States. Until 2015, Lovato was a fellow at U.C. Berkeley’s Latinx Research Center and recently finished a teaching stint at UCLA. Lovato is also a Co-Founder of #DignidadLiteraria, the movement advocating for equity and literary justice for the more than 60 million Latinx persons left off of bookshelves of the United States and out of the national dialogue.

Episode 82: “Writer’s Writer” Fenton Johnson

Fenton Johnson

Fenton Johnson

“Writer’s writer” Fenton Johnson joins the GrottoPod this week for a far-ranging conversation that touches on some of the recurring themes in his work: place, solitude, faith and belonging. Johnson has written six books, including three novels and the memoir Geography of the Heart.

“I believe in writing as rhetoric. The challenge is to do the triple backwards somersault flip where whatever you’re writing is teaching you to convey that to the reader in a way where the reader is engaged and is participating in the process.”

8:36: How searching for “place” and finding one’s way became a theme in Johnson’s work.
17:12: Growing up gay in rural Kentucky, and how a unique background helps form a writer.
26:18: The twisting road of faith and how Catholicism (and the local Trappist monks) can inform an artistic worldview.
33:20: Carrying the weight of growing up in the South into the modern world.
40:08: Leaving Kentucky, heading to California and starting out as a writer.
50:02: “Solitaries,” the Harper’s article and the new book.

Episode 27: Laura Fraser On Turning Travel Into Books

Laura Fraser

Laura Fraser

Laura Fraser is, among other things, a best-selling memoirist; an instinctive muckraking journalist; a celebrated travel writer; the founder of Shebooks, a publishing imprint dedicated to women authors; and a Grotto O.G. (Original Gangsta). This week she joins the GrottoPod to discuss her travels and travails, mentors and mentoring, and the halcyon early days of the San Francisco Writers Grotto.

Episode 21: Michael Frank On Capturing Family in Memoir

Michael Frank

Michael Frank

Michael Frank, author of the acclaimed new memoir The Mighty Franks, grew up in an unusual, “intertwined” family. He was swept up into the world of his childless aunt and uncle, a pair of prominent Hollywood screenwriters who helped create such films as Norma Rae and The Long, Hot Summer. They taught him about art, literature and culture — and that “fitting in is death.” Things got complicated, though, when he tried to establish some boundaries as a teenager. What were the costs of his coming-of-age? Find out this week on the GrottoPod.

Episode 4: Louise Nayer

Louise Nayer

Louise Nayer

Poet, memoirist and longtime teacher Louise Nayer joins us to discuss the always-intriguing subject of memoir. In August 2016, Louise re-released Burned, the story of tragedy and rebirth in her family of origin. She also talks with us about the lighter but no-less-revealing personal story in her next book, Poised for Retirement: Moving from Anxiety to Zen. Consider this podcast a preview of Louise’s double readings of Burned on February 25 — at the Glen Park branch of the San Francisco Public Library (2 p.m.) and at Great Good Place for Books in Oakland (7 p.m.).

 

Work In Progress Workshop (with Lindsey Crittenden)

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Lindsey Crittenden

Lindsey Crittenden

 

 

 

SATURDAYS, APRIL 30–MAY 21  |  Craving a creative community? Looking for support and accountability?  If you want to write more but find it hard to make the time and find the place – let alone some like-minded colleagues with whom to share feedback and an instructor to keep you going – set aside four Saturday afternoons at the Grotto this spring. Whether starting from scratch, getting beyond the first 10 pages, or wrestling with revision, this workshop will help you reach the next level.

We’ll work to set goals, frame a workable practice that makes sense for you, and hold each other accountable – without blame. Each session will start with a check-in and a writing prompt suitable for generating new material or deepening existing work. We’ll share what we’ve worked on in the intervening week, as applicable, and spend time writing. Not checking Facebook, not catching up on email, not texting. This will be social-media-free zone. I won’t police you, but I’ll do my best to create a safe space that facilitates you meeting your writing goals. We’ll allow time for covering specific craft issues as they come up. I will be available each week for meeting one-on-one. We’ll share work in pairs, small groups, and (as time allows) with the whole class.

The class is designed for writers of all levels.  The only requirement is a desire to work on (or start) a piece of narrative prose – fiction, memoir, personal essay, narrative nonfiction, or some combination thereof, even if you don’t know yet what it is.  If you’re ready to commit to your work in a way that will foster creativity and discipline and take you the next step, this is the place for you.

Lindsey Crittenden is the author of an award-winning short-fiction collection, The View From Below, and a memoir, The Water Will Hold You (“exquisitely written,” Publishers’ Weekly starred review). Her short stories and essays have appeared in the New York Times, Glimmer Train, Arroyo Literary Review, Best American Spiritual Writing, Pisgah Review, Quarterly West, and other publications.  An Honored Instructor at UC Berkeley Extension, she has taught and helped develop creative writing curriculum for 14 years.

Contact: lindsey@lindseycrittenden.com

Number of sessions: 4

Time: 3:00 pm – 5:30 pm

Dates: Saturdays, April 30; May 7, 14, 21

Course fee: $200 Early Bird rate (before April 15; $220 (after April 15)

The Art of Memoir: Drawing Readers Into Your World (with Louise Nayer)

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Louise Nayer

Louise Nayer

 

 

 

SATURDAYS, APRIL 9-16  |  How do you draw readers into the world of your memoir—whether traveling on a BART train in San Francisco or hiking along the banks of the Merced River in Yosemite? In this six-hour intensive class, we’ll go over the basic elements of great memoir writing. Exercises will help you heighten language through sensory detail, learn the difference between scene and summary, and deal with time shifts by using flashback and slow-motion techniques. We will also review the more challenging aspects of point of view, so you can find the right voice and fully engage your readers. What makes certain voices sing off the page?

In the second session of the class you’ll learn about how to go deeper into scenes, how to structure a memoir, and narrative arc. Excerpts from Judith Barrington’s Memoir Writing and from great memoir writers will be used for inspiration and to help with structure. We will also discuss emotional blocks and ethical concerns about memoir writing. There will be plenty of time for questions. You’ll leave with a body of writing, many handouts, and the inspiration and determination to keep up a writing schedule. In the second session, there will be a supportive critique session where students bring in work to share. Coffee, tea, and snacks provided!

Louise Nayer, M.F.A., winner of six California Arts Council grants, has taught creative writing for over 30 years. She has published four books. Her most recent book Burned: A Memoir was listed in O: the Oprah Magazine, was a finalist for the USA Book News Award, and won the Wisconsin Library Association Award. She has given readings of her work all over the country and has been interviewed on NPR. www.louisenayer.com

Contact: louisenayer@gmail.com

Number of sessions: 2

Meeting time: 10:00 am – 1:00 pm

Dates: Saturdays, April 9 & 16

Course fee: $150

 

Memoir in a Nutshell (with Julia Scheeres)

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Julia Scheeres

Julia Scheeres

Contact: juliascheeres@gmail.com 

Number of sessions: 1

Time: 9:00 am – 12:00 noon

Date: Sunday, January 24

Course fee: $85

This seminar could also be called Everything You Wanted to Know About Memoir But Were Afraid to Ask. We will discuss the elements that go into a successful memoir, including dramatic storytelling, tension, vivid characters, and clear sense of direction.

We will review the basic building blocks of storytelling – scene, summary and musing, and how to navigate the places where memory fails you. We discuss issues that arise from writing about living people. We will also address the publishing business, including how to increase your chances of finding an agent and getting published. This seminar is a good fit for anyone thinking of writing a memoir or in the process of crafting one. There will be plenty of time for questions.

Free coffee and pastries included!

Julia Scheeres‘ memoir, Jesus Land, was a New York Times and London Times bestseller. She is also the author of the award-winning A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Jonestown. She contributes to the New York Times Book Review and teaches at creative writing for many venues, including Stanford University.

The Story of You: An Introduction to Memoir (with Julia Scheeres)

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Julia Scheeres

Julia Scheeres

Contact: juliascheeres@gmail.com

Number of sessions: 6

Time: 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Date: Thursdays, February 4, 11, 18, 25; March 3 & 10

Course fee: $395

How do we take the messy stuff of life and shape it into literature? That’s the focus of this class. Unlike autobiography—which covers the author’s entire life—memoir zooms in on a specific time period that is both meaningful and dramatic.

This class will study noted works by authors ranging from Sonali Deraniyagala to Tobias Wolff to examine what makes a successful memoir work. Students will learn the components of storytelling: vivid characters, evocative descriptions, crisp dialogue, conflict, subtext, and mood. In a supportive environment, they will synthesize their own material and receive constructive feedback from their peers.

This class is a good fit for writers of any level.

Julia Scheeres is author of the memoir Jesus Land, which was a New York Times and London Times bestseller. She reviews fiction and nonfiction for the New York Times Book Review and has taught writing through many venues, including Stanford University. To learn more: www.juliascheeres.com

Said and Unsaid: The Intersection of Character and Dialogue in Fiction and Memoir (with Laurie Ann Doyle)

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Laurie Ann Doyle

Laurie Ann Doyle

Contact: doyle.l@berkeley.edu

Number of sessions: 1

Time: 10:00 am – 3:00 pm

Date: Sunday, March 13

Course fee: $95

Is dialogue meant to reveal or conceal? In this one-day hands-on intensive, you will learn how dialogue in fiction and memoir actually accomplishes both, revealing your characters by what is said and not said. We’ll read work by masters of dialogue, examining how artfully crafted speech, gesture, and silence help you not only develop character, but generate tension and subtext, and move the plot forward. You’ll learn how to take full advantage of your characters’ expressive tics, favorite phrases, and utter withdrawal to build an immersive world for the reader. You’ll have the chance to free-write dialogue yourself, trying on different personas of talkative, quiet, and completely uncommunicative characters, with the opportunity to share what you’ve created in a supportive atmosphere. There will also be plenty of time to address your questions and concerns. My goals for this class are for you to come away with concrete strategies for creating a variety of kinds of dialogue, and to experience for yourself what most writers like to keep secret: dialogue can be a whole lot of fun.

Laurie Ann Doyle is the winner of Alligator Juniper’s National Fiction Award, as well as nominations for Best New American Voices and the Pushcart Prize. Her stories, personal essays and poems have appeared in Jabberwock Review, Arroyo Literary Review, Dogwood Journal, Under the Sun, and many other literary journals. World Gone Missing, her new book of short stories, is short-listed for Livingston Press’ fiction award, and a story from the collection appears in their Fall 2015 anthology. She earned an M.F.A. at University of San Francisco and has had the pleasure of teaching writing at UC Berkeley since 2007. www.laurieanndoyle.com