GrottoPod: Writers on Writing
What it is: A lively conversation with established and up-and-coming writers on the craft of writing.
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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.
What does the publishing industry still have to offer writers who are breaking in? In this episode, George Higgins and Susie Gerhard take to the field to check out the Litquake panel “Tried and True: What’s so great about traditional publishing?” On a windy Sunday morning in front of Z Below in San Francisco’s Mission District, they speculate about what the title means before heading inside to interview audience members and hear from moderator Natalie Baszile, author of the novel Queen Sugar, and her publishing pro panelists Trisha Low of Small Press Distribution, indie-publishing consultant Pamela Feinsilber, and literary agents Anna Ghosh and Ted Weinstein. Tune in to get their takes on publishing in multiple genres.
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 Chinatown, talks 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.
Journalist Diana Kapp is published widely, from San Francisco magazine to the New York Times, ESPN, and O, the Oprah Magazine. She’s taken a circuitous path to many of her stories, which have included an investigation of teen suicide clusters in Palo Alto and an exploration into the education of girls in Afghanistan. But the trail she took to her latest story—an NYT essay on her 84-year-old father’s new crush—was direct; as in, straight from the heart. It brought about a reckoning of sorts, however, when she shared it pre-publication with her subjects. She chats with Grottopod’s Susie Gerhard about the process and the poetry of newspaper and magazine writing. Kapp’s new book, Girls Who Run The World: 31 CEOs Who Mean Business, comes out in October.
Senior editor/reporter at Public Radio International’s “The World,” Monica Campbell focuses on immigration and immigrant life in the United States. She’s reported internationally for years, including from Afghanistan and, most extensively, from Mexico and Latin America. In Mexico,she was the Committee to Protect Journalists representative (2006-2009). In this week’s episode, she talks with Laura Fraser about immigration politics in the Trump era, the bravery of local journalists in the face of drug cartels, and what she misses most about her reporting time south of the border: the rhythm of life, the storied sobremesa hours, or the time spent with friends at the table after a meal is over. “Those are the best moments, when you’re having conversation with your best friends and no one is looking at their watch.”
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The GrottoPod Team
Ben Marks is a co-host of the GrottoPod and is the general manager of CollectorsWeekly.com, an online resource and magazine for collectors and antiquers. In his spare time, he volunteers to produce exhibitions and events as a member of The Rock Poster Society, an organization based in Northern California that celebrates the long-standing relationship between music and graphic art.
Susan Gerhard is a GrottoPod features producer and a longtime writer and editor. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including Salon, McSweeney’s, and Cinema Scope. She co-created digital film magazine SF360.org with Indiewire and SFFILM and has lately been teaching at UC Santa Cruz and University of San Francisco. She’s been a member of the Writers Grotto since 2003.
George Higgins is a GrottoPod producer and a poet, improviser and former public defender. His work has appeared in Best American Poetry, Pleiades, and Fugue, among others. He is the author of There, There, a book of poems published by White Violet Press. He has finished writing a second book of poems, and is currently writing a verse novel. He is a Cave Canem Fellow.
Daniel Pearce is a GrottoPod producer and fiction writer, critic, and musician living in San Francisco. His writing has appeared in print or online in the LA Review of Books, Bookforum and The Rumpus. He has taught writing, rhetoric, and humanities at Columbia University, University of San Francisco, University of California at Santa Cruz and San Quentin State Prison.
Hannah Albaraziis a GrottoPod producer and a journalist who especially enjoys writing about environmental issues, business and law. She has written for CBS, Salon and MIT Technology Review, among other news outlets. She currently covers San Francisco federal courts for Law360.
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, most recently, Tenacity: Heavy Metal in the Middle East and Africa.
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.
Co-Hosts Emeritus (Episodes 1-98)
GrottoPod co-host emeritus Bridget Quinn is 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). She is at work on a new book about the suffragists.
GrottoPod co-host emeritus Larry Rosen is 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.