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"Grotto Nights" Celebrate the Writing Life

Main Library & Literary Workspace Team Up

The writing life is a notoriously solitary one. With pen, crayon or mouse in hand, most writers spend countless hours avoiding other people as they ply their trades. But like it or not, human contact is essential. Having a place to find community and share ideas is critical to writers who want to keep their social sanity.

To celebrate that notion, the San Francisco Writers' Grotto has joined up with the Friends & Foundation of the San Francisco Public Library (F&F) to offer a series of "Grotto Nights," funded by Napa Valley's Stags' Leap Winery and supported by Craig's List.

Hosted by the Main Library's Koret Auditorium, these free multimedia events showcase the talents of local writers, filmmakers, musicians, producers, editors and photographers. Each Grotto night is based around a theme, such as the recent "Identity"-themed event, which featured readings, film, photography and music centering around the concept of identity and what it means to the individual.

After the main event, the whole crowd jaunts around the block to the Grotto, a writing workspace founded in 1994 by authors Po Bronson, Ethan Canin and Ethan Watters. Currently residing in an old veterinary hospital on Fell Street, Grotto members have turned former examination rooms into individual writing spaces, and the building's roof into a spacious meeting place. Guests are treated to complimentary nibbles and wine, as they brush elbows with San Francisco's casual literati.

David Ewing Duncan, author, filmmaker, Grotto member and executive producer of Grotto Nights, says the response to the first two events has been phenomenal, with people being turned away at the door when the auditorium's 300-person capacity was reached. Duncan, who is also on the board of directors for F&F, says Grotto Nights came about as a way to reach out to people who weren't traditionally being reached by library events.

"Grotto Nights are part of the library's and the Writers' Grotto's effort to build community," says Duncan. "They are a great way to bring a younger crowd in, and the library has been so generous by providing us this space for no charge."

The upcoming third Grotto Night, with the theme of "Home," is scheduled for Tuesday, March 12, and will feature Mary Roach, magazine writer and author of the forthcoming book, Science and the Dead, and Caroline Paul, author of Fighting Fire. Other potential participants include a graffiti artist who performs to music and a Cambodian filmmaker who has made a movie about his refugee experience.

Plans are in the works to continue Grotto Nights every few months, as long as interest is high. If the event's past success is any indication, interest will only continue to grow. You've been warned: get there early.

Grotto Night III - "Home"
Tuesday, March 12, 6 pm - 7:30 pm
San Francisco Public Library, Koret Auditorium, 100 Larkin Street @ Grove
After party at the Grotto, 26 Fell Street (between Van Ness and Market)