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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Episode 136: Bonnie Tsui and ‘Why We Swim’

Bonnie Tsui

Bonnie Tsui joins us on the GrottoPod this week to read an excerpt from her latest book, “Why We Swim.” The book, published in April, offers cultural and scientific exploration of our human relationship with water and swimming. Tsui is a journalist, a longtime contributor to the New York Times, and the author of “American Chinatown,” the winner of the Asia/Pacific American Award for Literature and a San Francisco Chronicle bestseller. She lives, swims, and surfs in the San Francisco Bay Area. “Why We Swim” was an Editor’s Choice/Staff pick in The New York Times Book Review, which called it “an enthusiastic and thoughtful work mixing history, journalism, and elements of memoir.”

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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.

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Episode 134: Vanessa Hua, “VIP Tutoring”

Vanessa Hua

Award-winning writer Vanessa Hua joins the GrottoPod summer reading series today to share a taste of her short story “VIP Tutoring” from her newly reissued collection, Deceit and Other Possibilities. Hua is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle and the author of A River of Stars. A National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellow, she has also received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, and a Steinbeck Fellowship in Creative Writing, among others. She has filed stories from China, Burma, South Korea, Panama, and Ecuador, and her work appeared in the New York Times, Washington PostThe Atlantic, and elsewhere.

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Episode 133: Raina León, “Solstice in Solidified Sugar”

Raina Leon

Writer Raina León joins the GrottoPod this week as part of our summer reading series to share her piece “Solstice in Solidified Sugar.” León is a full professor of education at Saint Mary’s College of California, only the third Black person (all women) and the first Afro-Latina to achieve that rank there. She is a member of the Carolina African American Writers Collective, Cave Canem, CantoMundo, and Macondo. She is the author of three collections of poetry: Canticle of Idols, Boogeyman Dawn and sombra: dis(locate), and the chapbooks profeta without refuge and Areyto to Atabey: Essays on the Mother(ing) Self.

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Episode 132: Rachel Levin Wants You To Eat Something!

Rachel Levin

Food writer Rachel Levin continues our GrottoPod reading series in a special Shabbat episode. Listen in as she reads from EAT SOMETHING: A Wise Sons Cookbook for Jews Who Like Food and Food Lovers Who Like Jews, co-written with Evan Bloom, co-founder of Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen in San Francisco. Levin, a Writers Grotto member, is also the author of Look Big: And Other Tips for Surviving Animal Encounters of All Kinds, and is a contributor to the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Wall Street Journal.

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The GrottoPod Team

Susan GerhardSusan 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 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 HigginsGeorge 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. 

Rita Chang-Eppig received her MFA from NYU. Her stories have appeared or are forthcoming in McSweeney’s Quarterly ConcernKenyon Review OnlineClarkesworldSanta Monica ReviewConjunctions, and Virginia Quarterly Review. She has received fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center and the Writers Grotto, and she will be a 2020-2021 Steinbeck Fellow at the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies at San Jose State University.

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, most recently, Tenacity: Heavy Metal in the Middle East and Africa.

Daniel PearceDaniel Pearce is a GrottoPod producer and fiction writer, critic, and musician living in San Francisco. He has taught at Columbia University, University of San Francisco, UC Santa Cruz, and San Quentin State Prison. He is a 2020-2021 Steinbeck Fellow.


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.

Co-Hosts Emeritus 

Ben Marks

Ben Marks is a co-host of the GrottoPod and is the general manager of, 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.

Bridget Quinn

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.

Larry Rosen
Larry Rosen

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.

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