Episode 137: Roberto Lovato on ‘Unforgetting’

Roberto Lovato

Roberto Lovato is an educator, journalist and writer based at The Writers Grotto and the author of “Unforgetting: A Memoir of Family, Migration, Gangs and Revolution in the Americas” (Harper Collins). He joins fellow writer Jesus Sierra in this week’s episode to talk about the book. 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. 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. His essays and reports from across the United States and around the world have appeared in numerous publications, including Guernica Magazine, the Boston Globe, Foreign Policy magazine, the Guardian, the Los Angeles Times, Der Spiegel, La Opinion, and other national and international publications.

Episode 135: Adam Smyer’s Anti-Racist Translation Guide

Adam Smyer. Photo by Ed Newman.

Adam Smyer joins us on the GrottoPod this week to talk about his new book, You Can Keep That To Yourself: A Comprehensive List of What Not to Say to Black People, for Well-Intentioned People of Pallor. It’s a pocket-sized translation guide designed to keep white folks out of trouble, and it couldn’t be more timely. Smyer is also the author of the novel Knucklehead, which was the sole title shortlisted for the 2018 Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. He’s an attorney, martial artist, and self-described “mediocre bass player” who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and cats. You Can Keep That To Yourself is out now.

Episode 124: Bonnie Tsui and ‘Why We Swim’

Bonnie Tsui

Take the plunge into an episode on all things aquatic with Bonnie Tsui, whose new book, Why We Swim, dives into swimming history while offering poetic contemplation on the nature of this physical pursuit. The incredible characters in this book—including an Icelandic fisherman who defied death in the ice-cold sea, a Bay Area-based open water marathoner Kim Chambers, Olympic sprinting phenom Dara Torres, and practitioners of the Japanese nihon eiho tradition—provide the jumping off points for this discursive chat between Tsui and co-host Susie Gerhard.

Episode 122: Writing Memoir, Sci-Fi & Fantasy

Want to learn how to shape experience—or explore whole new worlds? Fact and fiction commingle and collide in today’s episode, the third of our special podcasts about a new series of books from the Writers Grotto called Lit Starts. Each book is filled with prompts to help writers practice their craft. The first four covered character, dialogue, action, and humor; the two newest take on memoir and science fiction/fantasy. Each book also features a foreword by a Grotto writer. Today’s podcast is devoted to a conversation between two of those writers. Julie Lythcott-Haims, who wrote the foreword to Writing Memoirand Dorothy Hearst, who wrote the foreword to Writing Sci-Fi & FantasyLythcott-Haims is the author of two books, including the critically-acclaimed and award-winning prose poetry memoir Real American, which illustrates her experience with racism and her journey toward self-acceptance. Hearst is the author of The Wolf Chronicles trilogy as well as other novels.

Episode 115: Mary Ladd’s “disrespectful cancer book”

In this special episode of the GrottoPod, author and former GrottoPod co-host Bridget Quinn interviews writer Mary Ladd and San Francisco Chronicle “Bad Reporter” cartoonist Don Asmussen for the Betabrand podcast theater, recorded with a live studio audience at the apparel company’s San Francisco headquarters on October 17, 2019. This event celebrated Ladd’s publishing debut of her “disrespectful cancer book,” The Wig Diaries, illustrated by Asmussen. Ladd and Asmussen swap cancer stories, invariably finding the gallows humor in their circumstances — which is poignant, knowing Asmussen’s cancer returned last year and is now in his brain. Quinn’s irreverence adds to the medical mayhem, which makes this one of the funniest interviews about cancer you’ve probably ever heard.

Episode 114: Spooky Reads for Halloween

What’s scarier: an abusive father imposing the re-enactment of an iron-age human-sacrifice ritual on his teenage daughter, an idealistic young man imprisoned and brutalized for a crime he clearly did not commit, a cast of characters adrift in a genuinely haunted house, or the political history of the United States? This week’s GrottoPod takes a look at four books that touch on these skin-crawling topics. They are Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss, The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, and These Truths by Jill Lepore. GrottoPod hosts and producers Beth Winegarner, George Higgins, Daniel Pearce, and Ben Marks each present a book, and at the end the show, the group votes on their favorite. With apologies to the language of clickbait, the results may shock you!

Episode 113: You and AI—David Ewing Duncan and our Robotic Futures

Julia Scott and David Ewing Duncan

The future is already here—but there’s another one, two, or three futures right around the corner. David Ewing Duncan’s new book, Talking to Robots: Tales from our Human Robot Futures, speculates on the possibilities of what comes next in the AI-human interface, with help from theoretical physicist Brian Greene, futurist Kevin Kelly, and more. What could go right? What could go wrong? Duncan, whose previous books include Experimental Man and The Geneticist Who Played Hoops With my DNA, is interviewed by Writers Grotto print and radio journalist Julia Scott about his unique hybrid of storytelling and speculative nonfiction.

Episode 110: Writing Dialogue and Character

Shanthi Sekaran, Connie Hale

Want to take your writing to the next level? Today’s episode is the first of two special podcasts about a new series of books from the Writers Grotto called Lit Starts, available starting September 10, 2019. Each book is filled with prompts to help writers practice the craft of writing character, dialogue, action, and humor. Each book also features a foreword by a Grotto writer. Today’s podcast is devoted to a conversation between two of those writers, Shanthi Sekaran, who wrote the foreword to Writing Dialogue, and Constance Hale, who wrote the foreword to Writing Character. Sekaran’s most recent novel, Lucky Boy, was named an IndieNext Great Read and an NPR Best Book of 2017. Hale is the author of four cheeky writing manuals, a book for adults on hula, and a picture book for children set in Hawai’i.

Episode 108: Sara Schneider on the Language of Wine

Sara Schneider

Sara Schneider has been a wine, food, and general lifestyle editor and writer for 25 years, most recently as Consulting Wine and Spirits Editor for Robb Report. Before that, Schneider was Sunset magazine’s Wine Editor, which is where she met GrottoPod co-host Ben Marks of CollectorsWeekly.com back in the 1990s. In this conversation, recorded on June 14, 2019, Schneider and Marks discuss the sometimes peculiar jargon employed by wine writers, defining many colorful wine-writing terms along the way. It also sounds like they drank a fair amount of wine.

Episode 106: Julia Flynn Siler and The White Devil’s Daughters

Bonnie Tsui and Julia Flynn Siler

New York Times best-selling author Julia Flynn Siler takes us deep into the story of the women who fought slavery in San Francisco’s Chinatown with her new book, The White Devil’s Daughters. The Writers Grotto’s Bonnie Tsui, author of the award-winning American Chinatowntalks to her about the meticulous research and care required to pull together revelations about the trafficking of young Asian girls that flourished in San Francisco during the first hundred years of Chinese immigration (1848-1943), and the “safe house” that became a refuge for those seeking their freedom.