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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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.
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.
Joshua Furst is an aficionado of American counterculture. His 2008 novel, The Sabotage Cafe, was a story of then-and-now punks defining themselves in opposition to the mainstream: dumpster-divers living in the shadow of American consumerism. His new novel, Revolutionaries, out now from Knopf, explores the life, legacy, and activism of an Abbie Hoffman-like figure, Lenny Snyder, as told by his disillusioned son, Freedom. Revolutionaries is populated with recognizable figures, both imagined and real. Lenny’s allies include folk singer and icon Phil Ochs and famed radical attorney William Kunstler. And yet at the core of Furst’s books is a fascination with family, dependency, and mental illness, subjects that he explores with great complexity and intimacy. Furst joined us in the GrottoPod on August 13 to discuss his new book, his teaching, and what messages the political upheavals of the sixties might have for us today.
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.
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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.