Looking Back, Dreaming Forward

Sally Wiener Grotta's January 2020 newsletter

 

Here’s my first newsletter of the new decade which explores how creativity is fueled by venturing beyond our comfort zones. I wonder if all creativity requires that we throw away old templates and let ourselves be a bit unsure, unrooted. Is that the key to true creative thinking? What do you think?

Please click the image the the left to read the newsletter.

I’d be delighted to have you sign up to receive future newsletters. Of course, I will never share your contact information with anyone, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

The First Morning of the New Decade.

Seabird Sunset by Sally Wiener Grotta

 

Words and charts and calendars delineate today as special, different. But my instincts are more in sync with nature’s ongoing cycles than man-made points of reference. My body and my heart see this dawn as nothing more or less than another day, another adventure. Who knows where it will lead us? As with every other day, I hope I’ll live up to the challenges, and perhaps will create something that is different from anything I created before. The same hope as yesterday and tomorrow and tomorrow.

And just like any other morning, I wish a good, creative, hope-filled day ahead for you.

Living the Creative Life: Embracing Reciprocity Failure

On the razor-edged border between the possible and the impossible, creativity flourishes.

When I was a young photographer, I enjoyed experimenting with reciprocity failure.

While it may sound like a philosophical or psychological concept, reciprocity failure relates to the chemical limitations of film. Back in the 20th century, photographers quickly learned that each type of color film (known as the its emulsion) was rated for certain light parameters. Push an emulsion beyond its rating by using a longer than acceptable shutter speed (to capture a picture in low light situations), and you’d end up with false colors. Those were the barriers inherent in the technology that pro photographers just didn’t overstep.

But… well… I never did color within the lines.

When I toyed with reciprocity failure, I purposely pushed beyond what was “correct” to seek new creative visions. I remember one moonless night Read More

Reading at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Sally Wiener Grotta reading her award-winning short story "One Widow's Healing" at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Click to view the flyer

What a thrill and an honor it was to be invited to read one of my science fiction short stories at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Sunday, December 22nd. The event was hosted by Lawrence M. Schoen, and also featured a reading by David Walton. And it was in conjunction with the museum’s fascinating Designs for Different Futures exhibit which combines art, sculpture, science and futurism. 

 

“Sally and David read two very thought-filled stories about an all-too-believable woman who’d won the Nobel-prize in medicine (Sally Wiener Grotta) and the problems inherent in a new type of ‘drive-by’ accident (David Walton)”
~ Samuel R. Delany

 

David read the first chapter of his novel Three Laws Lethal, which is a thriller about how self-driving cars and AI are rewriting our futures. It’s been getting all kinds of raves, including being listed first on “The Wall Street Journal’s” Best Science Fiction of 2019.

I read an excerpt my story One Widow’s Healing, a Health Odyssey award winner which explores the personal and ethical issues of technology-driven health care.

And Lawrence provided an interesting intro regarding science fiction predictive “what if” nature, and how mass media has taken over part of that role. 

The art museum’s staff made us feel very welcome, and what a great audience! I’m still riding high on the entire experience. Thank you everyone.

photos by Carol Gyzander and Sally Wiener Grotta

Awards Eligibility Post

2019 has been a busy year for me, mostly because I decided to live outside my comfort zone creatively. (See my essay The Creative Life: Embracing Reciprocity Failure on the subject.) In other words, I pushed myself to try new perspectives, styles, genres, etc. to see where they would take me. It’s been quite an adventure, flexing my muscles to write works unlike anything I’ve written before. And it resulted in a number of publications. I’m rather pleased with three: two short stories and a novelette. One was in a relatively new Hope Punk magazine, and the other two are in anthologies that you may not have noticed. That’s why I’ve collected them here in this post to share with you. 

This whole process of putting out the word about my award eligible work is, in itself, also outside my comfort zone. In fact, in many ways, it’s more difficult than the decision to push myself forward into new kinds of work. (It’s the difference between challenging myself privately and sticking my neck out publicly.) But I’ve been encouraged (read “prodded”) by friends and fellow authors. So here they areRead More

Please come. I’ll be reading at the Philadelphia Museum of Art!

I’m thrilled that I’ve been invited to read some of my science fiction at the Philadelphia Museum Art on December 22nd. David Walton will also be reading. Below are the details from the flyer: (Or if you prefer, here’s a flyer that you can share, in PDF or JPEG.)

Lawrence M. Schoen
presents a special Galactic Philadelphia event

GLANCES INTO OUR POSSIBLE FUTURE

Science fiction readings by authors David Walton & Sally Wiener Grotta
in conjunction with the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s
Designs for Different Futures Exhibit

David Walton, author
David Walton
Sally Wiener Grotta, author & speaker
Sally Wiener Grotta

Sunday, December 22nd, 2:00 to 3:00 PM

(in the exhibit’s Future Therapy Lab, free with museum admission)

 

DAVID WALTON‘s latest book is Three Laws Lethal, a thriller about how self-driving cars and AI are rewriting our futures. He is the recipient of the Philip K. Dick Award for distinguished science fiction and the John W. Campbell Award for best science fiction novel. The Wall Street Journal wrote that David Walton “has brought hard sci-fi roaring back to life.” He lives a double life as an aerospace engineer with Lockheed Martin by day and mild-mannered father of eight children by night. 

SALLY WIENER GROTTA will read from her short story “One Widow’s Healing” (a Health Odyssey award winner), which explores the personal and ethical issues of future technology-driven health care. Her books include The Winter Boy (a Locus Magazine’s 2015 Recommended Read) and Jo Joe (a Jewish Book Council Network selected book). Her far-ranging experiences as a journalist covering all corners of the world flavor her tales with a sense of wonder, otherliness and common sense. A popular speaker, Sally has a reputation for stimulating meaningful discussions and workshops on creativity, storytelling, and on crossing our tribal divides. 

Lawrence M. Schoen, author
Lawrence M. Schoen

LAWRENCE M. SCHOEN holds a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology, is a past Campbell, Hugo, and Nebula, nominee, and twice won the Cóyotl award for best novel. His science fiction includes many light and humorous adventures of a space-faring stage hypnotist and his alien animal companion. Other works take a very different tone, exploring aspects of determinism and free will, generally redefining the continua between life and death. Sometimes he blurs the funny and the serious.

John, Paul, Ringo & George as we never knew them

Across the Universe: Tales of Alternate Beatles

edited by Michael A. Ventrella & Randee Dawn

 

"Across the Universe" alternative Beatles Anthology cover

"Across the Universe" back cover

Across the Universe is the Beatles tour you never thought you’d get a front row seat for, with speculative fiction stories examining other galaxies, worlds, professions and existences John, Paul, George and Ringo might have experienced
… or maybe they did ….

 

Join us for the book launch party & readings December 3rd in Brooklyn
(details below)

 

Coming out next month from Fantastic Books, this short story anthology reprints two classic alternate takes on the Fab Four: Spider Robinson’s “Rubber Soul” and Gregory Benford’s “Doing Lennon.” Plus it features new stories by Matthew F. Amati, Eric Avedissian, Patrick Barb, Charles Barouch, Pat Cadigan, Brenda W. Clough, Keith R. A. DeCandido, Gregory Frost, David Gerrold, Alan Goldsher, Carol Gyzander, Gordon Linzner, Gail Z. Martin, R. Jean Mathieu, Jody Lynn Nye, Beth W. Patterson, Cat Rambo, Kenneth Schneyer, Christian H. Smith, Allen M. Steele, Bev Vincent, Lawrence Watt-Evans… and me!

My story “The Truth Within” explores the unexpected repercussions when George Harrison  follows through on his plan for World Peace that involves teaching transcendental meditation to Richard Nixon. 

The anthology got raves from both Library Journal and Publishers Weekly (See the attached back cover.) The PW  review included a mention of my “The Truth Within.”

 

Preorder the Book

You can preorder the trade paperback or the hardcover from Amazon or Barnes & Noble! (Links aren’t up yet for the eBook editions, nor are any links up yet on Indie Bound or Kobo.)

 

Party with Us & Enjoy the Readings

On December 3rd. Doors open at 6:30 PM. Readings start at 7:00 PM

New York Review of Science Fiction Readings, Brooklyn Commons Cafe, 388 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11217

I’ll be joining several other contributors in reading portions of our stories. You’ll also meet Randee Dawn, one of our editors, and Ian Randal Strock, our publisher. Randee has been hinting that we may have cake. A group of us got together for pre-launch readings to a packed-room audience at Philcon a few weeks ago; it was a blast. (See the picture below.) This one promises to be at least as much fun, if not more so.

"Across the Universe" authors at Philcon 2019

“The Winter Boy” Honored: One of 12 Unique Works of Fantasy That Are Hard To Put Down

"The Winter Boy" by Sally Wiener Grotta

I received an email tonight, suggesting that I take a look at a website. To my surprise, it contains a video that features my novel The Winter Boy, as one of the “12 Unique Works of Fantasy That Are Hard to Put Down.”

As the webpage states, “Not all fantasy novels are hero’s journeys set in medieval times. Some creative authors put their own spin on the genre and produce unique works that revitalize old tropes. Whether they have a fascinating new type of lore or make unusual decisions in terms of structure, the books listed here all tackle this beloved genre in a different way.”

While the video shows Rishana as a skinny 20-something rather than a curvaceous middle-aged woman, it’s a delight to receive this honor out of the blue.

 

Our Memories as Personal Mythology

My sister and I must have had different parents. I have come to that dubious conclusion not based on genealogy or DNA, but on anecdotal experience. Of course, it isn’t true. Heck, look at our pictures, listen to our identical laughs. Unquestionably, my mother and father were Amy’s parents, too. But when I hear her stories about growing up in the same house as I did, with the same neighbors and the same influences, I often don’t recognize the people, places or events that are so vivid in her memory. And when I tell her my recollections, she helps me out by correcting my errors. After all, she’s the older sister, and knows the truth of our past.

This isn’t a rant on my sister, whom I admire and love. Instead, it’s my acceptance of something I came to realize when I was a young journalist interviewing various subjects. Everybody’s memories are personal mythologies, our creation stories about how we came to be who we are today. So, naturally Amy and I would remember our lives together quite differently. Perhaps if we combined our memories, we would be able to create a mosaic that might come a bit closer to understanding who we are in relationship to each other. And, yes, if we could talk to the dead, to our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and to others who once shared our lives, we could probably paint a more complete picture of our past. But I don’t believe we can ever know with absolute certainty the fine details – the facts – of what happened on a certain day, whether it was 25 years ago or just last month.

That’s why I question shelving memoirs into the non-fiction section of a library or book store. Apparently, David Black, the author of An Impossible Life, agrees with me. Why else would he have given that piece of magical realism the subtitle a bobeh myseh, which is a Yiddish phrase that translates as an old wives’ tale, an untrue story or something of little consequence?

"An Impossible LIfe" by David BlackAn Impossible Life is a brilliant pastiche of Black’s family history, based on his memories, relatives’ oft repeated tales, Jewish heritage and folklore, a touch of Kabbalah, and references to the Torah, with the holes filled in by his imagination. The most prominent figment is his dead father, with whom Black has an ongoing conversation throughout the book. The novel weaves these various threads into a colorful tapestry that extends from modern times back through the Holocaust, to the shtetl, all the way to the biblical Patriarch and Matriarch, Abraham and Sarah (and Hagar). But it’s Black’s hard-nosed, sometimes angry, other times grudgingly tender perspectives that cut through it all, making his fictional accounts closer to truth – or at least, his personal truth – than most fact-anchored non-fiction could.

I understand that Black is currently developing a theatrical play based on An Impossible Life. Given his track record as an author and scriptwriter, whose career has been peppered with accolades, including Emmy and Pultizer Prize nominations, he certainly has the chops for it. And I look forward to seeing the story made flesh on the stage. However, a part of me would rather this fascinating cast of characters remained sequestered in my mind, where they might gestate and grow, until they and their impossible lives become part of my personal mythology.

 

[Note: My short story The Broken Bottle explores how personal mythology (especially related to a traumatic experience) can change over time.]