New stories from the Grotto
OK, you may think a grotto is “a small picturesque cave,” possibly near the sea or a lake, and probably sprouting ferns or fountains. Maybe you’ve seen a grotto in a fancy garden, like the Grotta Azzurra at Capri or Le Nôtre’s at Versailles, and associate it with Old World intrigue or even religious shrines. But did you know that “grotto” can also mean an indoor structure resembling a cave? That explains the name of the downtown warren of offices known as the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto. That’s where I work, along with about 100 other journalists, novelists, poets, playwrights, screenwriters and random other wordsmiths. (Not all of us are physically there every day; in fact, many of us only know each other from the virtual watercooler.) We’ve had a lot of action recently at The Grotto, with a slew of books coming out in fall 2015 and winter 2016. The latest batch includes two novels: Lucky Boy, by Shanthi Sekaran, and The Weight of Him by Ethel Rohan. I took the books on a recent self-imposed silent retreat and can attest that there is no pleasure greater than escaping into the world of a really good novel. I still haven’t read the third in that batch, which is nonfiction: Broad Strokes: 15 Women Who Made Art and Made History (in That Order) by Bridget Quinn. It comes out on International Women’s Day (March 7) and examines the lives, legacies and artworks of fifteen significant—and too often overlooked—women. As befits a book about artists, this one is super visual, with whimsical illustrations as well as reproductions of the work Quinn discusses. (Bridget, BTW, will be one of the instructors at my next writers retreat in Hawaii‘i. Not only is she a terrific writer, but she has years of experience as a teacher.) If you’re curious to hear writers like these talk about their work, check out the brand-new podcast, GrottoPod. Bridget Quinn herself is the host, along with Larry Rosen. The two engage other Grotto members about their new books, their old stories, and their peculiar insights on all aspects of the writing life. I was one of the first guests, but I’m not telling you about the podcast to toot my own horn! What distinguishes this podcast from others out there is that offers much more than book-tour-talk. Think of it as a conversation among literate cronies—one where you get to be the fly on the wall. Or maybe like a live version of a Paris Review interviews—but on the air, in San Francisco, and with people you might actually have a chance of meeting. Have a listen to GrottoPod. If you like it, rate it, tell us, tell the world. If you don't, tell us why. We have just launched the podcast and hope that it becomes a must-listen for writers. In the meantime, don't stop writing. All of these resources I've mentioned are intended, first and foremost, as inspiration.