Bringing the Voices in Our Heads to Life

Chinese paintingI often wonder if all writers are borderline schizophrenics who have simply learned to channel the voices in our heads into a creative outlet, thereby saving our sanity. Because, yes, we have people constantly talking to us, telling us stories, insisting that we devote our undivided attention to committing their tales to paper (or computer screen). I am curious how “normal” people go through their lives, day in and day out, all alone in their heads, with no one telling them stories and transporting them elsewhere. How boring that must be.

I first started listening to these voices as a very young child though they initially spoke in my mother’s particular storytelling timber and tone. A warm, mellifluous sound that I would ride into dreams, as she would read me to sleep. I’d inevitably continue the story in that dark, fluid world I created as I slumbered. And I would be surprised when Mom would later read to me the author’s version which hardly ever gelled with the ending my subconscious had invented.

I don’t remember when that multitude of voices escaped into the real world of daylight hours and day-to-day responsibilities. Perhaps, it was a Read More

What a Bitch!

Bitch meme by Sally Wiener GrottaThe other day, a woman described another woman to me as a bitch. Bitch is one of those words that can convey a world of ideas. But what does it really mean? And, more to the point for any fiction writer working to create flesh and blood characters, what are the undercurrents and coloration of using such a “power” word in our prose?

As powerful as the word bitch is, it could pull us into a political, feminist discussion about how it has been used to delineate and limit women. But, for now, I’m more interested in the process of creating fictional women who resonate with readers’ imagination, becoming believable, real.

The storyteller in me wants to pose the so-called bitch and her describer into a wide range of scenes, to see how they change.

Does the description change in meaning for us when the woman saying it is a daughter talking about her mother? What if the mother is Read More

Staring into the Mirror

Reflections, a self-portrait by Sally Wiener Grotta

(Essay by Sally Wiener Grotta, republished from Anisfield Wolf website)

In Karen R. Long’s essay What Biases Are You Carrying?,  which was posted on the Anisfield Wolf blog, Attorney Louise P. Dempsey was described as having used the following riddle as part of a lunch talk.

A man and his son were in a car accident. The critically injured man had to be helicoptered to the hospital. His son was rushed by ambulance to the same hospital. When the boy was wheeled into emergency surgery, the surgeon looked at him and said, “I can’t operate. This is my son.” The blog then asked the question, “How is this possible?”

If you haven’t heard that anecdotal test before, consider your answer for a few moments before continuing to read.Read More

Yom Kippur: Before the Closing of the Gates

Such a lovely honor. Yesterday, just before the Yom Kippur afternoon service, Rabbi Peg Kershenbaum handed me a copy of this poem which I had given her some time before, and she asked me to read it near the end of the concluding service. Her request surprised me, because I never thought of the poem as having any religious aspect. (Of course, I was pleased.) When I wrote it, I was thinking about the decisions we make daily about the life we choose to live. She felt it was appropriate for the concluding service of the day. How interesting and rewarding it is to have my work fed back to me, changed by a reader’s interpretation and perception (especially a reader I respect so highly), so that I see it anew. Thank you, Rabbi Peg.

Poem: Now Today by Sally Wiener Grotta

Burning Our Bridges. What is the Future of Our Libraries?

Books Burning by Sally Wiener GrottaDid you know that the Library of Alexandria wasn’t destroyed by fire in 40 CE, but by budget cuts?* That’s what I was recently reminded by an article on io9.com by Annalee Newitz (Editor-in-Chief of io9), which then led me to a fascinating essay about The Great Library by Heather Phillips (an Assistant Branch Librarian of the US Courts Library).

Yes, Julius Caesar set fire to the Library of Alexandria, but it continued to function as a library for centuries afterwards. (Not all fires completely destroy targets.) Yet, the loss of the Library of Alexandria, while not as dramatic as Hollywood would have us believe, was still a tragedy. That’s because it was unique in the ancient world as not only the greatest repository of knowledge, with hundreds of thousands of scrolls (books), but because it was a truly open (i.e. free) library. According to Phillips, “It served all literate people who could physically access the precincts of the library.” Read More

The Monster in the Mirror

 

Reposting my essay from March, 2015

The_Hermit_and_the_Sleeping_Angelica_by_Rubens
The Hermit and the Sleeping Angelica by Rubens

After all the hoopla over Leonard Nimoy’s stunning photo of nude fat women that I posted on Facebook, and the energized Internet response to my essay Is Obesity the New Obscenity? I’ve been thinking a lot about personal body image and how society feels empowered to comment and judge on a woman’s physical appearance.

Women’s Bodies As Markers of Social Standing

In past ages, a full rounded figure was a sign of wealth, of having enough to eat. Society would point at a man who could afford to keep his wife fleshy and recognize him as a man of substance. He was far above the riff raff who lived hand to mouth with no excess in their homes or on their bodies. Only aristocrats or very successful merchants had what we now call obese wives and children.

Today, as tabloids, TV and the Internet constantly remind us, the truly rich tend to marry the truly thin.

But in all the discussions I’ve seen about the various feminine ideals through the ages, most ignore the central issue. Women’s bodies have long been commodities and status symbols. The “trophy wife” might be a 20th century phrase, but it’s an age-old concept.Read More

Technology versus Art

A few years ago, Daniel and I were writing profiles of prominent professional photographers for Lexar Media’s Website SayCheese.com (which has since been discontinued). They were feature stories about the photographers’ philosophy, style and adventures, with some tips and tricks thrown in. The pieces were a delight to do because of the people we got to spend time with and watch at work.

At the time, I was at a trade show party (I think it was PhotoPlus in New York City), when someone said, “You absolutely must profile… [name withheld to avoid his embarrassment]” for SayChesse. I didn’t know the photographer being recommended, but he happened to be present at the party, just on the other side of the room. So I went over to him, introduced myself, and asked him what he shoots. His reply was an energized discourse about his camera equipment. When he finally took a breath, I smiled, told him how nice it was to meet him and walked away. Daniel and I never wrote a profile on him for SayCheese or any other publication.

What that photographer had lost sight of is that photography isn’t about the camera, it’s Read More

eBooks: The Neverending Edit

“The one who tells the stories rules the world.”
~ Hopi proverb


American Hands exhibit at Danville (PA) LibraryThe above quote comes from The Book by M. Clifford. In that dystopian novel, all “dead-tree” books have been outlawed (in a supposed environmental protection measure), and the powers-that-be (called The Editors) are constantly “updating” all books electronically. In other words, no book is a fixed point. Instead, they are altered frequently and nephariously to shape how the public thinks, feels and acts.

The hero of “The Book” discovers this truth through serendipity, when he happens upon “recycled” sheets from an old printed copy of “The Catcher in the Rye” being used as wallpaper in a men’s room of a bar. He compares his eBook version to the remnants of the printed version, which leads to him into rebellion and a thriller plot designed to intrigue any book lover.

The technology to support the dystopia described by Clifford’s novel exists today and has been in place for a number of years. Any book published digitally can be edited at any time, with little or no cost to the editor or publisher (or censor) other than time and effort. So, what is to keep us from having all facts, stories, histories, etc. altered beyond recognition? Will future Read More

A Day at Adobe

As you can imagine I have lots of friends and business associates in Silicon Valley, but I haven’t been there for some time. So, realizing that the Worldcon of Science Fiction would be in San Jose, California I arranged to arrive a couple of days early to see folks.* Last Wednesday (the day before Worldcon), I walked the single block from my hotel to Adobe’s headquarters, where I had a series of interesting, enjoyable meetings and lunch with four different development teams.

I have been following, teaching, using, writing and consulting about Adobe products since Photoshop 1.0. It’s been fun watching how the whole category of software has blossomed and expanded, and how the culture has changed.  The advantages of longevity as a journalist and artist is that I know more about the evolution of Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Typekit and other related programs than many of Adobe’s own employees. Of course, I spin them into stories that they apparently enjoy hearing.

For this visit, I had meetings with product managers and PR reps for Adobe Lightroom, Typekit, Iilustrator, Spark, and XD. Here are a few of the highlights. Read More

Good Juicy Gossip: The Root of Storytelling?

When my niece was in kindergarten, her teacher explained to the class that gossip wasn’t nice. Elizabeth asked – quite perceptively – “What will we talk about, then?”

Gardner Dozois, one of the more brilliant editors of our time, once said, “Soap opera has been the literature of the past fifty years.” Another very perceptive comment. After all, think about the novels, movies, even “news” stories that have been most popular. As different as they have been from each other, the one abiding commonality Read More