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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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.
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!
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.
Rummaging through piles of books has never been more fun than with books podcaster Traci Thomas, whose ebullient personality and searing smarts have grown her show, The Stacks, into a true indie media phenomenon. Whether she’s in a page-by-page read of Toni Morrison’s Beloved, revisiting Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, or getting honest over Iain Reid, Thomas and guests dig up treasures, poring over the best nuggets and helping us understand why we need to discard the worst. Thomas stopped by the Writers Grotto for lunch and visited the GrottoPod for a chat with Susie Gerhard that (spoiler alert!) includes lists of Traci’s favorite fiction and nonfiction titles.
Write funnier — and livelier! Today’s episode is the second of two special podcasts about a new series of books from the Writers Grotto called Lit Starts, which are available on 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, Bonnie Tsui, who wrote the foreword to Writing Action, and Chris Colin, who wrote the foreword to Writing Humor. Tsui is the author of American Chinatown, which won the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature and was a San Francisco Chronicle bestseller. Colin, whose most recent book is What to Talk About, is a contributing writer for California Sunday and Afar magazines.
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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.