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Selected Works

Our members are authors, screenwriters, podcasters, public speakers, and more. View a selection of work by members of The Writers Grotto.

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Collective
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Podcast
Collective
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Podcast
Episode 132: Rachel Levin Wants You To Eat Something!
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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Collective
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Podcast
Collective
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Podcast
Episode 131: A.H. Kim’s ‘A Good Family’
Today on the GrottoPod we’re kicking off our summer reading series, bringing you readings from Writers Grotto members. Today we’re featuring Ann Kim, who reads from her brand-new novel, A Good Family, available now. Ann Kim (writing as A.H. Kim) was born in South Korea and immigrated to Ohio as a toddler. She went to Harvard College and Berkeley Law School and is a practicing attorney. She is the proud mother of two sons, cancer survivor, community volunteer, and member of the Writers Grotto. She lives in San Francisco with her husband. A Good Family is her first published novel.
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Collective
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Podcast
Collective
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Podcast
Episode 130: Kevin Smokler’s ‘Vinyl Nation’
Kevin Smokler is an author, documentary filmmaker and event host based in San Francisco. Today on the GrottoPod, he discusses his documentary, Vinyl Nation: A Deep Dig into the Record Resurgence, which debuted digitally on what would have been Record Store Day 2020 (April 19) in partnership with 200 independent record stores across the United States. Smokler is also the author of Practical Classics: 50 Reasons to Reread 50 Books You Haven’t Touched Since High School and Brat Pack America: A Love Letter to ’80s Teen Movies. For more info on how to see the film, go to the “Vinyl Nation” website: https://vinylnationfilm.com.
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Collective
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Collective
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Podcast
Episode 129: Taneum Bambrick’s Bold Poetry
Taneum Bambrick’s book, Vantage, is a fictionalized account of the poet’s time spent working as the only woman on a garbage crew. Using unforgettable images, Bambrick tackles issues such as class, gender, and environmental degradation without sentimentality. Sharon Olds called the book “a work of art which also functions as a call, as if from under the ground, a cry from water and air.” Join a chat with Bambrick about the complexities of writing about gender and class and the craft of depicting violence, and hear the poet read several of the poems from her award-winning collection.
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Collective
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Podcast
Collective
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Podcast
Episode 128: Historian Yan Slobodkin on the Current Moment
Yan Slobodkin is a historian of modern Europe, with a focus on French colonial and transnational history. He stops by the GrottoPod this week to discuss his current book project—a history of famine in 19th- and 20th-century North Africa, West Africa, and Southeast Asia, and its relationship to changing ideas of scientific control, political obligation, and humanitarian ethics—and its relevance to the current coronavirus pandemic. (You can find his recent Slate op-ed, “Famine Is a Choice,” here.)Yan received his Ph.D. in history from Stanford University and is currently a postdoctoral fellow at The Stevanovich Institute on the Formation of the Knowledge at The University of Chicago.
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Collective
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Podcast
Collective
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Podcast
Episode 127: Beth Lisick and ‘Edie on the Green Screen’
Beth Lisick’s debut novel, Edie on the Green Screen, is about a Bay Area Gen-X rebel, an “It Girl” in the late ’90s who faces her own obsolescence in 2010s San Francisco. It is fundamentally about how we manage change, and the change our world has experienced since this story’s inception only makes Edie and her travails more relevant to the moment. Join a chat about Lisick’s self-described “crabby bartender,” her myopia and troubled awakening, and the challenges of maintaining sanity as the pillars of your ego crumble. Lisick, co-founder of the Porchlight Storytelling Series, a wickedly entertaining live event that’s lit up SF and other cities for 18 years, breathes new life into some of the city’s best lost niches, characters, and scenes.
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Collective
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Collective
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Podcast
Episode 126: International Literature
What can international literature teach us about our collective past, present and future in these chaotic times? In the latest GrottoPod Gabfest, producer and Grotto fellow Rita Chang-Eppig talks to Jesus Francisco Sierra, Mathangi Subramanian and Olga Zilberbourg about the appeal of international literature, its necessity in our increasingly connected world, and our favorite authors and books, including Akram Aylisli’s Farewell, Aylis! (translated by Katherine E. Young), Perumal Murugan’s One Part Woman, Wendy Guerra’s Revolution Sunday (translated by Achy Obejas), and Yoko Ogawa’s Revenge (translated by Stephen Snyder). Over the course of the conversation, our guests briefly touched on a number of other books, including:Look at Him by Anna Starobinets, translated by Katherine E. YoungA Life at Noon by Talasbek Asemkulov, translated by Shelley Fairweather-Vega The Gypsy Goddess, When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife, and Exquisite Cadavers, all by Meena Kandasamy.Ghachar Ghochar, by Vivek ShanbhagMy Life in Trans Activism and The Truth About Me: A Hijra Life Story by A. RevathiWomen Without Men by Sharhnush ParsipurLeonardo Padura: The Man Who Loved Dogs, Heretics, Havana Gold, Havana Black, Havana Blue, Havana RedGuillermo Cabrera Infante: Infante’s Inferno, Three Trapped TigersRoberto Bolano: By Night In Chile, The Third Reich, Amulet, The Skating RinkCelebrate International Day of the Book (April 23) by dipping into some of these titles!
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Collective
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Collective
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Podcast
Episode 125: Telling the Stories of Stuff
For the better part of a decade, Lisa Hix, Hunter Oatman-Stanford, and GrottoPod co-host Ben Marks have been writing about antiques, vintage items, and collectibles at CollectorsWeekly.com. As a rule, these writers have tended to shy away from articles about the prices of objects or the celebrities who collect them, tried-and-true angles for journalists working the collecting beat. Instead, they’ve used antiques and collectibles as windows into our culture, each with its own surprising story to tell. In response, publications as varied as The New York Times, The Old Farmer’s Almanac, and Elle have linked to articles at Collectors Weekly. In today’s episode of GrottoPod, Marks interviews his colleagues to discuss just a few of these stories—you can read hundreds more at Collectors Weekly.
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Collective
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Collective
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Podcast
Episode 124: Bonnie Tsui and ‘Why We Swim’
Take the plunge into an episode on all things aquatic with Bonnie Tsui, whose new book, Why We Swim, dives into swimming history while offering poetic contemplation on the nature of this physical pursuit. The incredible characters in this book—including an Icelandic fisherman who defied death in the ice-cold sea, a Bay Area-based open water marathoner Kim Chambers, Olympic sprinting phenom Dara Torres, and practitioners of the Japanese nihon eiho tradition—provide the jumping off points for this discursive chat between Tsui and co-host Susie Gerhard.
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Collective
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Collective
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Podcast
Episode 123: Roberto Lovato on Dignidad Literaria
Dignidad Literaria is a grassroots campaign for greater Latinx inclusion in the United States publishing industry that has grabbed the attention of activists and publishing executives alike. In this episode, Grotto fellow Rita Chang-Eppig talks to author and activist Roberto Lovato, one of the founders and driving forces behind Dignidad Literaria, about the spirit of the campaign, its goals, and its future. Lovato’s new book, Unforgetting: A Memoir of Revolution and Redemption, comes out this fall.
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Collective
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Collective
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Podcast
Episode 122: Writing Memoir, Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Want to learn how to shape experience—or explore whole new worlds? Fact and fiction commingle and collide in today’s episode, the third of our special podcasts about a new series of books from the Writers Grotto called Lit Starts. Each book is filled with prompts to help writers practice their craft. The first four covered character, dialogue, action, and humor; the two newest take on memoir and science fiction/fantasy. Each book also features a foreword by a Grotto writer. Today’s podcast is devoted to a conversation between two of those writers. Julie Lythcott-Haims, who wrote the foreword to Writing Memoir, and Dorothy Hearst, who wrote the foreword to Writing Sci-Fi & Fantasy. Lythcott-Haims is the author of two books, including the critically-acclaimed and award-winning prose poetry memoir Real American, which illustrates her experience with racism and her journey toward self-acceptance. Hearst is the author of The Wolf Chronicles trilogy as well as other novels.
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Collective
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Collective
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Podcast
Episode 121: Dystopian Visions
Gender wars, pandemics, and, of course, workaday clones: is it the daily news, or our shared future? In the latest GrottoPod Gabfest, co-producers Susan Gerhard, Daniel Pearce and Beth Winegarner plus special guest Andrew Braithwaite take on dark visions, with four of our favorite dystopian novels under discussion: Meg Elison’s The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, Naomi Alderman’s The Power, and Ling Ma’s Severance.
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Collective
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Collective
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Podcast
Episode 120: Cornelius Eady On Poetry and Jazz
Cornelius Eady has published seven books of poetry, including Victims of the Latest Dance Craze, which won the 1985 Lamont Prize from the Academy of American Poets, and Brutal Imagination, a finalist for the 2001 National Book Award in poetry. Running Man, a music-theatre piece Eady coauthored with jazz musician Diedre Murray, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in drama in 1999 and received Obie awards for best musical score and lead actor in a musical. Eady is also the co-founder of Cave Canem, an organization dedicated to the advancement of young African-American poets. In this episode of the GrottoPod, Cornelius talks with Cave Canem fellow and poet George Higgins in a wide-ranging conversation about improvisation, Cornelius’s new music project, the poet Sterling A. Brown, Jim Crow, recording in Elvis’s Memphis studio, Cave Canem, Rooted and Written and a photo shoot by the New York Times of the 32 black male writers of our time.
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Collective
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Collective
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Podcast
Episode 119: The Making of ‘Rooted & Written’
This week we go inside Rooted & Written, a new Writers Grotto initiative by and for writers of color. Featured in this one-hour show: live poetry and prose readings from the first Rooted & Written workshop series in September, 2019, as well as discussions and reactions from the event. Rooted and Written’s Melissa Pandika leads us on this behind-the-scenes tour, which also features an in-depth conversation between some of the members of the workshop’s founding team — Susan Ito, Aditi Malhotra, and Jesus Sierra — talking about the inception and making of this community-empowerment program.
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Collective
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Collective
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Podcast
Episode 118: Our Favorite Books of 2019
As the year races to a close, we revisit the adrenaline rush of five key books: one inspired in part by SCUM Manifesto scribe Valerie Solanas; another powered by a Great Dane; a play-by-play plus backstory on the epic James Baldwin-William F. Buckley debate of yore; a biographer attempting to reveal his secret sauce; and one book to help us detox from it all, on defusing women’s stress. Along with an introduction to 16 books published by Grotto writers in 2019, this rangy conversation involving Amelia and Emily Nagoski’s Burnout, Sigrid Nunez’s The Friend, Nicholas Buccola’s The Fire Is Upon Us, Andrea Long Chu’s Females, and Robert Caro’s Working has something for just about everyone.
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Collective
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Collective
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Episode 117: Michael Frank in conversation with Lindsey Crittenden
Michael Frank is the author of the memoir The Mighty Franks, a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection that was named one of the best books of 2017 by The Telegraph and The New Statesman and won the 2018 JQ Wingate Prize. In October, Farrar, Straus and Giroux published What Is Missing, his first novel. In this episode of the GrottoPod, Frank chats with author and Grotto instructor Lindsey Crittenden about What Is Missing, which The New Yorker has described as “a penetrating examination of how a life can be defined by contingency and surprise.” The two writers and friends also discuss the roles they have played as early and trusted readers of each other’s work.
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Collective
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Collective
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Episode 116: The Delights of Writing Historical Fiction
Writer Lucy Jane Bledsoe, whose new novel is Running Wild, interviews fellow authors Pam Berkman and Dorothy Hearst. Berkman and Hearst’s new children’s book is Filigree’s Midnight Ride, the first entry in a series about, as Berkman says, “turning points in history, particularly American history, from the point of view of a dog who was there.” Filigree’s Midnight Ride tells the story of Paul Revere’s ride, and of a Pomeranian, Filigree, who assumes that he can’t help Revere because of his small size.In this lively discussion, the writers discuss the differences between writing for children and writing for adults, the challenges and delights of writing historical fiction, and the dynamics of co-authorship and collaboration.
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Collective
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Collective
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Podcast
Episode 115: Mary Ladd’s “disrespectful cancer book”
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.
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Collective
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Collective
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Podcast
Episode 114: Spooky Reads for Halloween
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!
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Collective
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Collective
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Podcast
Episode 113: You and AI—David Ewing Duncan and our Robotic Futures
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.
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Collective
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Collective
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Podcast
Episode 112: Talking Books with The Stacks host Traci Thomas
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.
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Collective
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Collective
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Podcast
Episode 111: Writing Humor and Action
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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Collective
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Collective
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Podcast
Episode 110: Writing Dialogue and Character
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.
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Collective
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Collective
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Podcast
Episode 109: Joshua Furst on Writing the Counterculture
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.
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Collective
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Collective
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Podcast
Episode 108: Sara Schneider on the Language of Wine
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.
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