2022: The People and Moments I Choose to Remember

Shayna in Kitchen
Shayna, my sweet companion

Welcome to 2023! I hope you had a great New Year’s Eve. I did. I spent it, and the two weeks before it, at home in the Poconos, writing, with Shayna by my side. (See photo) Then again, that has become our default mode ever since March 2020.

Shayna and I spent the many months of the quarantine, right here, in this house, about two and a half hours from Philadelphia, and a world away. I’m not sure how long we remained isolated. Time became so amorphous that I’m still shocked that March 2020 is almost three years ago.

During our pandemic seclusion, I spent hours trying to imagine what the future might hold. I’m not sure what Shayna dreamed about, perhaps city squirrels teasing her from low branches just beyond her highest leap. On my part, I struggled to dream up feasible solutions for the increasingly dangerous world beyond our mailbox. That lead to me writing up a storm, channeling my dark reflections about the world “out there” into my new novel-in-progress. But when I tired of traveling down the twisting corridors of hate politics, racism, antisemitism, and such, I imagined what I’d want my personal life to be beyond the pandemic. That’s when I pictured hugging loved ones, long lunches and meandering conversations with friends, and tapping into a wider world of creative thinking and writing and being. (And that, too, was channeled into my novel.)

At some point in the portion of the time continuum that is behind us, I started to see some family and friends, even though I was worried that both Shayna and I might have become a bit feral during our long isolation. It may have been in early 2022, or a few months before that. Forget about traditional new years’ celebrations; I felt like I had awakened to a new world with such wondrous creatures in it. [Apologies to Huxley.]

Then, little by little, I started to reach for the creatively energizing life I had imagined. One of my first “outside” excursions was to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. With its high ceilings and large rooms, I felt as safe as I would in one of the empty fields in Fairmont Park. I basked in the warm auras of old friends (like Van Gogh and Rembrandt and Brancusi) all of whom had new things to tell me. How I’d missed our intimate friendship and the stream of feelings and ideas that they inspire in me.

Going further afield, I braved participating in Worldcon, ICFA, and Philcon this year, and what a joy it was to once again share the fellowship of such creative communities. On a smaller, more intimate scale, I participated once again in events at The Rosenbach, Philadelphia’s famed rare book library, and one of my favorite gathering places in the city. (After all, how could I not enjoy being with people who love books as much as I do?) This summer, I attended a “Behind the Bookcase” tour during which Judy Guston, the Rosenbach’s curator and senior director of collections, showed participants (and allowed us to touch!) some of the library’s incunabula (books printed within 50 years of the introduction of the Guttenberg printing press). My essay about that evening, Judaic Incunabula: An Evening’s Encounter With Survivors From My Distant Past, is HERE, on the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent’s website.

Maggie & Shayna - "cousin dogs"
“Cousin dogs” Maggie & Shayna

Two other Rosenbach highlights of my year were when they asked me to be the “interlocutor” for a couple of “In Conversation” programs with authors Samuel R. Delany and Stephanie Feldman. Talk about creative stimulation! As a result, Galactic Philadelphia (the author reading series Lawrence Schoen and I curate) will have its first salon since the pandemic started, and I’m delighted that it will be at The Rosenbach on January 18th.

But when I look back on 2022, it’s the people who shine in my memory. Just being with my sister Amy, talking about everything and anything over a long lunch. Laughing with Lee (my sister by marriage) over Shayna and Maggie’s antics. (See photo). Getting together with a group of Philadelphia writers at Little Pete’s “diner,” talking about writing and concerts and people we’ve known. Visiting my niece Elizabeth and her family, learning so much from my young great-nephews Nate and Evan, and then having Evan come visit me for a weekend in Philly, where Shayna won out over all the animals in the Zoo in his estimation.

No, I still haven’t had my fill of hugs. And I fear that I may have to keep my distance once again if the current spike in infections continues. In the meantime, just being near the people I love has made me realize how much I depend on a physical presence that no digital screen will ever be able to replicate, and not even Shayna can replace. I believe that human connection, that awareness of each other even when we can’t touch, is one ingredient we’ll need if we’re ever going to come up with feasible solutions to the dangers that threaten our country and our world.

Your Help Please: Seeking a former Jehovah’s Witness to Interview

Free Clipart of a candle book and pen from https://free.clipartof.com/

For my work-in-progress novel Daughters of a New Moon, I need to talk to a former Jehovah’s Witness to better flesh out one of my characters: Dorothy.

Dorothy is a former Jehovah’s Witness whose love of Jesus is unshaken. In her desire to better understand her Jewish husband and support him (as he supports her Christianity), she joins a small Torah study group from his synagogue. Her story is one of faith tested by disillusion, and the joy of her new found personal freedom at odds with her longing for the close-knit community in which she was raised. Of course, there’s more to her than that. Dorothy is a wonderfully complex woman who deserves all the flesh-and-blood authenticity I can give her.

To be sure Dorothy’s voice and spirit ring true, I’m seeking a former Jehovah’s Witness who is willing be interviewed. I’d like to learn about their memories and experiences, both with the Witnesses and afterwards. If they wish, I will maintain their anonymity, or acknowledge them as one of my sources – their choice.

I’d appreciate your help in connecting with someone who might be willing to talk with me. And please share this post with anyone you think might be able to help me make this connection. Thank you.

Publishing News: Two Books in 2023, Another in the Works

NobleFusion Press logo

A few weeks ago, I came to an agreement with Noble Fusion Press. They will be publishing a small collection of my short stories this year. Stay tuned for more information.

Bayit logo

That’s in addition to Bayit’s 2023 publication of Daughters of Eve, a workbook of 12 essays and relevant questions, designed to facilitate discussions about how the stories of the ancient female prototypes of the Hebrew Bible influence and reflect who we are today as 21st century women.

And, yes, I continue to work on my new novel Women of a New Moon. Incidentally, my research for Women of a New Moon is what lead to the Daughters of Eve essays. Here’s that story.

At the Cusp of Midnight: A New Year’s Poem

On December 31, 2022, I imagined myself teetering on the second hand of the clock, counting down to the next installment in our lives. In that last second, between years, what do we see or know of the past or the future? That was the seed of my new year’s poem for 2023.
I stand at the cusp of midnight.
To my left, yesterday, and all that’s gone.
To my right, tomorrow, the quantum future.
I stand in an empty space.
No now or here or where.
In this vacant moment, in this cusp,
Between what was and what could be,
I am an amalgam of everyone I’ve loved.
Filled to the brim with lives
Fully lived, fully lost.
I yearn toward the memories.
Smiles and walks and the weaving of tales.
A new us with every adventure, and arguments, too.
Yet always returning to our true north,
To our home, to us.
Midnight will come and disappear
When I must be more than a mirror of memories.
Here, in this moment of potentials,
Before the seconds break this silence,
I am a tabula rasa, a tale untold.
The seconds spill from this place.
Midnight turns, a year unfurls to my right.
I can’t know what it will bring, only what is gone.
In my core, a molten, enduring amalgam,
As I prepare to embrace what might be.
~Sally Wiener Grotta, December 31, 2022

Galactic Philadelphia Literary Salon at The Rosenbach Library

On January 18th, the Galactic Philadelphia Salon will return after a too long Covid hiatus at a new venue – The Rosenbach Museum and Library. If you’re in the Philadelphia area come join us on January 18th, 5:30 to 7:45 PM to hear award-winning authors C.S.E. Cooney & Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki read from recent works. Enjoy a wine and cheese reception, tours of Dr. Rosenbach’s private library, and wander an exhibit of The Rosenbach’s recent additions to its speculative fiction rare book collection. Authors’ books will be available for sale, and you’ll have time to have them autographed. Continue the conversations afterwards at a local pub.

Information & tickets HERE 

Read More

Sally reads an excerpt of a new short story

This past weekend, I joined fellow authors Sarah Kozloff, Stephanie Ann Smith, and Robert V. S. Redick, as we read excerpts from our recent works of fiction for the autumn virtual ICFA (International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts). 

The VICFA was on Zoom, so naturally, when I read from my my new short story “Anywhere But Here,” Shayna and her cousin dog Maggie made an appearance, too. Well, Maggie’s tail did, and they were both in good voice, barking in the background. (Apparently, the neighbor’s cat was teasing them through the patio glass doors by walking on “their” property.)

I hope you enjoy the reading.

My Favorite Resources for Grants, Fellowships & Other Opportunities for Artists & Writers

Thank you for attending my presentation on Grants & Other Funding Opportunities for Writers & Artists. I hope it was helpful. I’d love to hear about your experiences — and hopefully, your successes — as you navigate these waters. 

As promised here are my favorite resources that I check periodically for creative opportunities. I will update this page when I discover new lists or programs that impress me. So please check back regularly. By the way, this is a “hidden” page, in that it isn’t referenced within this website’s menu or structure. I share it only with clients and workshop attendees. So please be sure to save (bookmark) the page address in your browser.

I also post interesting opportunities for artists and writers on Facebook (Sally Wiener Grotta) and Twitter (@SallyWGrotta). Many of those that I post on social media won’t appear on this page, because they’re individual programs that may or may not be repeated annually. 

Don’t forget to check your state, county and local arts councils for grants and other opportunities.

Lists of Grants, Residencies, etc.

A Couple of Noteworthy Organizations

  • Speculative Literature Foundation has several grants for science fiction, fantasy, and horror writers speclit.org
  • Creative Capital – Highly competitive fellowship program. creative-capital.org/about-the-creative-capital-award/ Even if you don’t apply (or don’t win a fellowship) get on their emailing list for monthly listings of other organizations’ grants, fellowships, and residencies.

Note

I usually avoid those programs that require paying an entry fee. The few times I have broken that rule is when the organization will provide something of value to me (such as a subscription to a respected literary magazine), regardless of whether or not my application is successful. One other rare exception is when I feel strongly about the organization’s mission and achievements, and want to support it, whether or not they decide to support me.

 

My Chicon/Worldcon Speaking Schedule

In a few weeks, I’ll be attending one of my favorite conferences — World Science Fiction Convention, or Worldcon — in one of my favorite cities — Chicago. (This iteration of Worldcon is also known as Chicon 8.) The Worldcon annual gathering of science fiction writers, fans, artists, publishers, editors, filmmakers, and costumers is a smorgasbord of intellectual stimulation, great storytelling, fascinating folk, and great fun.

I’m honored to once again be speaking on various Worldcon panels, doing a reading of my fiction, and giving a presentation. But the one big change from my traditional subjects is that I’ll be conducting a workshop called “Mining Our Matriarchs.” The workshop will be my first public appearance connected to the new direction I’m headed in both my writing and my speaking career —  specifically, exploring the relevance of the stories of the women in the Hebrew Bible to our lives today.

Here’s my schedule for Chicon 8 (barring last minute changes):

  • Ask a Cover Artist, a panel that I’m moderating: “What are the elements of a great book or magazine cover? What color trends or styles are related to historical illustration, and how do you make something futuristic? For artists and enthusiasts alike, this is your chance to learn more about the art of cover-making. Which images are iconic from the past, groundbreaking in the present, and will capture our imaginations in the future? Let’s find out together.” Panelists: Alyssa Winans, Dex Greenbright, Eric Wilkerson and Ruth Sanderson. Thursday, September 1, 2022, 4:00 PM CDT.
  • Work/Life Balance for Artists, a panel on a topic that I struggle with (as I expect every artist does): “It’s easy for artists to overwork themselves when the world constantly reminds them that their work is other people’s leisure. Defining and enforcing boundaries to allow for rest and recuperation are vital for avoiding burnout. It is impossible to get a one-size-fits-all solution to this struggle though. Our panelists will discuss their own practices and others they’ve come across in exploration of the wide-span of ways to address these tensions in order to provide a wide array of practices.” Fellow panelists: Tabitha Lord (moderator), Alyssa Winans, Gideon Marcus, and Lorelei Esther. Friday, September 2, 2022, 10:00 AM CDT.
  • Grants & Residencies, a presentation based on my experience with applying for and winning a number of grants (I haven’t pursued residencies until recently): “Trying to find the right grants and residencies welcoming your kind of art and writing, and providing room for your desired growth, is a dense and tedious task full of details and red tape. Attend this presentation offered by Sally Wiener Grotta, who will provide you with some expectations and guidance in this complicated landscape.” Friday, September 2, 2022, 1:00 PM CDT.
  • Mining Our Biblical Matriarchs, a workshop based on my research for my two current works-in-progress: “The women of the Bible (Eve, Esther, Miriam, etc.) have been the West’s most enduring female archetypes. As lush and varied as any mythology, their stories have been reinterpreted by every generation’s artists, clerics, and political leaders, according to how they expected women to be. However, these archetypes have been largely overlooked by modern spec fic authors. In this workshop, we’ll have fun challenging and toppling common preconceptions about various women of the Bible, as we mine this rich mother lode for fresh SF&F story ideas.” Friday, September 2, 2022, 4:00 PM CDT.
  • Judging the Cover, a panel that I’m moderating: “The saying goes ‘you can’t judge a book by its cover,’ but what if you can? As a reader, what can you tell about the story inside from the cover? How are covers reflective of artistic and marketing trends? Join us as we explore everything that goes into cover art, and how to use cover art to successfully pick your next favorite read.” Panelists: A.L.DeLeon, Maurizio Manzieri, and Pat Robinson. Saturday, September 3, 2022, 1:00 PM CDT.
  • Readings. I’m sharing the hour with fellow authors LP Kindred and Michael Haynes. I haven’t yet decided what I’ll be reading. Saturday, September 3, 2022, 2:30 PM CDT.

 

Video: Samuel Delany Chats with Sally Wiener Grotta About Why He Says “Black” with a Capital “B” is Racist

A few weeks ago, when Samuel Delany (“please call me ‘Chip'”) and I were at a gathering of friends at Michael Swanwick‘s and Marianne Porter“s home, he explained why he feels that spelling “black” with a capital “B” is racist. As is always true, Chip’s discourse was fascinating, keeping us spellbound. There and then, I knew I would want to record him on the subject.

So, here he is, helping me launch my new video interview series which shares its name with this blog: “What If? Why Not? How?” 

Of course, the conversation went much further that the original, delving into the history of how the word “black” replaced “Negro” and “colored.” Chip also wandered his memories, telling me stories about W.E.B DuBois, the Delany sisters (Chip’s renowned activist aunts), Ursula K. Leguin, and others. And he commented on the public censure and ostracization of Mercedes Lackey when she described Chip as “colored” while on a panel at a SFWA conference. As always, Chip’s perspective is illuminating and his anecdotes fascinating.

About Samuel Delany: Chip is an influential social critic and teacher, as well as an award-winning author, whose books, stories, and articles cover the gamut from science fiction to essays. His website is SamuelDelany.com and you can follow him on Facebook.

About “What If? Why Not? How? The Video Series”: In this new video interview series, Sally Wiener Grotta dives into topics that matter with people whose ideas are intriguing and whose style of inquiry includes seeking open-ended discussions. These will include authors, of course, but also philosophers, scientists, rabbis and ministers, teachers and librarians, and so forth.

 

The Stranger in a Wheelchair at the Intersection of Fairmont and Pennsylvania

What would you have done?

The other morning, Shayna and I went for our usual first walk of the day. The air was soft and light, with a slight breeze that was caressing rather than chill. A couple of neighbors said hello, with a smile for Shayna, as they passed us on their way to their day ahead. I was pleased that Shayna is learning to be much calmer around strangers, though sometimes her fears erupt, memories, I suppose, of having been an abused puppy.

Up until the moment that I turned the corner toward Pennsylvania Avenue, I was feeling wide open, ready to embrace the blue-sky day and all that it might offer. But as I reached the intersection of Fairmont and Pennsylvania Avenues, I saw on the opposite corner a person ensconced in a red hoodie, sitting motionless in a wheelchair. His (?) her (?) their (?) head had dropped to his chest. Her arms dangled on either side of the steel wheels.

That intersection is almost always alive with activity. It’s where Philadelphia’s beautifully landscaped Benjamin Franklin Parkway meets Fairmont Park. At the nexus between the parkway and the park is the Acropolis-like Philadelphia Museum of Art, with the Azalea Garden and Boat House Row stretching behind it. Joggers and bikers, busloads of tourists posing with the Rocky Balboa statue at the bottom of the museum steps, parents with baby carriages, children running and playing, lovers of all ages strolling hand-in-hand or arguing, and people like me walking their dogs were mixed in with the usual city morning commuters of adults rushing to work and kids headed for school.

All those people walked past the stranger in the wheelchair. I did too.

Like any city, we have our share of homeless people, and this area’s greenery, park benches, woods, and even a railroad tunnel that provides some shelter from the elements is a magnet for them. It’s wrong that we’ve become accustomed to seeing them in our lives, but I don’t know what I can do to help them that they would want from me. So, I walked past the stranger, hoping he was sleeping and not sick or overdosed or dead.

But when I looked back at her, he had slumped over, head hanging over knees. Read More