Episode 81: Dawn Raffel On Navigating And Writing Shadowy History

Dawn Raffel

Dawn Raffel

Dawn Raffel, author of The Strange Case of Dr. Couney: How a Mysterious European Showman Saved Thousands of American Babies, joins us in the GrottoPod this week to talk about the sometimes-painful process of writing the book. Raffel is also a novelist, short fiction writer and memoirist whose previous books include the best-selling The Secret Life of Objects.

“I felt a responsibility to Couney himself, to get it straight. To tell it well. Sometimes I wonder what he’d think of this book.”

7:36: Raffel shares why her path from idea to book was sometimes “torture”
23:06: Navigating the twists and turns of researching a somewhat shadowy historic figure
32:08: How the book touches on important themes in American history
42:30: Gathering the surviving “incubator babies” together for a reunion
44:20: The responsibilities Raffel felt in telling the story of an overlooked (and perhaps misunderstood) historic American figure

Episode 80: Lydia Kiesling On First Novels

Lydia Kiesling

Lydia Kiesling

The Millions editor Lydia Kiesling joins Larry and co-producer Laurie Ann Doyle in the studio this week to chat about Kiesling’s new book, The Golden State — a tale of motherhood, immigration and California, out September 4.

“You have things you want to say. Do you have the correct container to put them in? When I wrote book reviews, I could fit them into essay-shaped things. When I became a parent, I had stuff, but I didn’t have the shape to put it in. A novel was the only shape I could fit it.”

9:50: Discussion of of pre-publication essays and Lydia’s work as editor of The Millions
19:55: “Writing while mothering,” and balancing story with thematic issues
30:42: Structural choices and narrative distance
39:40: Drawing dramatic themes from your own life
45:02: Lydia’s development as a writer

Personal Essay: The Monster and the Miracle (with Laura Fraser)

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Laura Fraser

Laura Fraser

 

 

 

SUNDAY, AUGUST 13  |  Michel de Montaigne, perhaps the father of the personal essay, wrote, “I have never seen no greater monster nor miracle than myself.” The personal essay has to identify the monster within us, and accomplish the miracle of transformation, through understanding and enlightenment. You have to track down the monster inside you, and worse, reveal it to the reader, and then describe how you set out to slay it. The transformation from monster to miracle is what makes your life interesting. A personal essay, above all, is not about you—it is about the story.

Join us for a day-long workshop where we will identify that monster within you and attempt to slay it on paper. You will read some great examples of personal essays, do some exercises that help you get at the story you will tell in your essay, learn the structure of a personal essay, and come away with an outline and a start to writing your essay.

Laura Fraser is a long-time Grotto member and New York Times bestselling author whose essays have appeared in the New York Times‘ Modern Love column, Marie Claire, O: the Oprah Magazine; and numerous other venues.

Contact: laura@laurafraser.com 

Number of sessions: 1

Time: 10:00 am – 3:00 pm

Date: Sunday, August 13

Course fee: $125

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)

Personal Essay: The Monster and the Miracle (with Laura Fraser)

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Laura Fraser

Laura Fraser

 

 

 

SUNDAY, APRIL 24  |  Michel de Montaigne, perhaps the father of the personal essay, wrote, “I have never seen no greater monster nor miracle than myself.” A successful personal essay has to identify the monster within you, and accomplish the miracle of transformation, through understanding and enlightenment. A personal essay isn’t really about you—it’s about that transformation, that story.

This one-day course will teach you how to craft a personal essay. How do you take your personal experiences, ideas, blogs, or journal scraps and turn them into an essay? What is the difference between an essay that editors are excited about and one that never gets a return email? What are the three biggest sins of personal essay and how can you avoid them? By the end of the day, you will have an idea and a framework for a personal essay. Bring your lunch.

Course usually sells out, so register soon!

Laura Fraser is an award-winning essayist and journalist whose personal essays have been published in Modern Love in the New York TimesO: the Oprah Magazine, Marie Claire, and numerous other venues. She’s also the New York Times-bestselling author of the memoirs An Italian Affair and All Over the Map.

Contact: laura@laurafraser.com 

Number of sessions: 1

Time: 10:00 am – 2:00 pm

Date: Sunday, April 24

Course fee: $125

Writing for Social Change (with Jessica Pishko)

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Jessica Pishko

Jessica Pishko

 

 

 

SATURDAY, APRIL 16  |  In this class we’ll discuss writing about social issues, with an eye towards advocacy. We’ll survey reporting techniques and research, as well as how to select appropriate publications to pitch. Then we’ll move on to structuring your piece to appeal to a mass audience, as well as how to maintain objectivity in the face of reporting.

Jessica Pishko graduated with a J.D. from Harvard Law School and received an M.F.A. from Columbia University. She practiced corporate law, specializing in securities fraud, and represented death penalty clients and victims of domestic abuse pro bono. She writes frequently about incarceration and social justice issues and lives in San Francisco with her family.  Her work has appeared in The New Republic, Vice, Pacific Standard, and The Atlantic, among others.

Contact: jesspish@gmail.com

Number of sessions: 1

Time: 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm

Dates: Saturday, April 16

Course fee: $75

Writing the Travel Essay: From Inspiration to Publication (with Lavinia Spalding)

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Lavinia Spalding

Lavinia Spalding

 

 

 

WEDNESDAYS, APRIL 13—MAY 18  |  Some of our greatest moments and breakthroughs—or at least our best bar stories—come from our travels. Do you have a travel tale you’re ready to unleash? Here’s your chance.

In this six-session workshop, you’ll write and revise a personal travel essay, from vague idea to final draft, and then take steps to get it published. Along the way, you’ll learn the essentials of narrative travel writing, including structure, setting, dialogue, characterization, and story arc. You’ll develop and strengthen your writing voice, awaken your senses, and come to recognize your juiciest, most compelling material. In addition to writing and revising your own story, you’ll have the opportunity to study published pieces and discuss what made these essays shine. You’ll learn not only what an editor looks for in a story submission, but also the invaluable skill of viewing your own writing with an editor’s eye in order to make difficult but essential revisions. We’ll discuss the business of travel writing and go over tips for submitting writing and working with editors, and you’ll come away with a list of print and online publication outlets, plus plenty of ideas and inspiration for future projects.

If you’ve ever aspired to being a published travel writer, consider this your passport. Essays written in prior sessions of this course have been chosen for the anthologies The Best Travel WritingThe Best Women’s Travel Writing, and Lonely Planet’s An Innocent Abroad.

Lavinia Spalding is series editor of The Best Women’s Travel Writing and author of Writing Away: A Creative Guide to Awakening the Journal-Writing Traveler, named one of the best travel books of 2009 by the L.A. Times, and With a Measure of Grace, the Story and Recipes of a Small Town Restaurant. She introduced the reissued e-book edition of Edith Wharton’s classic travelogue A Motor-Flight Through France, and her work has appeared in many print and online publications, including Sunset, Yoga Journal, San Francisco magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian UK, Tin HouseEvery Day with Rachael Ray, two volumes of The Best Travel Writing. She’s co-founder of San Francisco’s monthly travel reading series, Weekday Wanderlust. www.laviniaspalding.com

Contact: lavinia@laviniaspalding.com

Number of sessions: 6

Time:  6:30 pm-9:00 pm

Dates: Wednesdays, April 13, 20, 27; May 4, 11, 18

Course fee: $395

Narrative Journalism (with Jessica Pishko)

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Jessica Pishko

Jessica Pishko

 

 

 

SATURDAY, MARCH 26  |  This class centers on the use of narrative in nonfiction writing. How do you transform reported information and data into a “Story”? We’ll focus on structure, scene-building, and other techniques of reporting with an eye to story.

Jessica Pishko graduated with a J.D. from Harvard Law School and received an M.F.A. from Columbia University. She practiced corporate law, specializing in securities fraud, and represented death penalty clients and victims of domestic abuse pro bono. She writes frequently about incarceration and social justice issues and lives in San Francisco with her family. Her work has appeared in Rolling Stone, San Francisco Magazine, The New Republic, Vice, Pacific Standard, and The Atlantic, among others.

 

Contact: jesspish@gmail.com

Number of sessions: 1

Time: 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm

Date: Saturday, March 26

Course fee: $75

The Monster and the Miracle: Personal Essay Workshop (with Laura Fraser)

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Laura Fraser

Laura Fraser

Contact: laura@laurafraser.com 

Number of sessions: 3

Time: 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm

Dates: Thursdays, March 3, 10, and 24  (no class on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17)

Course fee: $295

This is personal essay workshop is a perfect follow-up to Laura’s “The Monster and the Miracle” one-day class, but open to anyone who wants to write a personal essay. We will workshop the essays for structure, clarity, humor, and other aspects of craft. Laura will help you polish your essay and figure out venues where you can publish it.

Laura Fraser is an award-winning essayist and journalist whose personal essays have been published in Modern Love in the New York TimesO: the Oprah Magazine, Marie Claire, and numerous other venues. She’s also the New York Times-bestselling author of the memoirs An Italian Affair and All Over the Map.

Personal Essay: The Monster and the Miracle (with Laura Fraser)

We're sorry, but all tickets sales have ended because the event is expired.
Laura Fraser

Laura Fraser

Contact: laura@laurafraser.com

Number of sessions: 1

Time: 10:00 am – 2:00 pm

Date: Sunday, January 31

Course fee: $125

NOTE: This class is sold out.

Michel de Montaigne, perhaps the father of the personal essay, wrote, “I have never seen no greater monster nor miracle than myself.” A successful personal essay has to identify the monster within you, and accomplish the miracle of transformation, through understanding and enlightenment. A personal essay isn’t really about you—it’s about that transformation, that story.

This one-day course will teach you how to craft a personal essay. How do you take your personal experiences, ideas, blogs, or journal scraps and turn them into an essay? What is the difference between an essay that editors are excited about and one that never gets a return email? What are the three biggest sins of personal essay and how can you avoid them? By the end of the day, you will have an idea and a framework for a personal essay. Bring your lunch.

Laura Fraser is an award-winning essayist and journalist whose personal essays have been published in Modern Love in the New York Times, O: the Oprah Magazine, Marie Claire, and numerous other venues. She’s also the New York Times-bestselling author of the memoirs An Italian Affair and All Over the Map.