Sala Wyman’s Review of “Jo Joe”

TSally Wiener Grotta, author of  the novel "Jo Joe"hank you Sala Wyman for another very nice review of my novel Jo Joe and a fun interview session….

“Set in a fictional village in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, Sally Wiener Grotta takes on the inner shards of racism with her novel Jo Joe, a Black Bear, Pennsylvania Story.

“There are always a couple of ways to deal with the topic of racism and its effects on the victims. One is to just document the facts about oppressors and victims. Another is to take a higher road: the healing of victims, families, and communities. Ms. Grotta beautifully and skillfully takes the high road.Read More

Trees for Daniel and Dad

Along our Stream by Sally Wiener Grotta

Next weekend is Daniel’s and my wedding anniversary, so I’ve decided to mark it by planting Daniel’s and Dad’s ashes.

We’ll be placing Dad’s ashes with Mother’s in the garden we had created for her, under a Japanese maple. Dad liked to sit on the porch to be with her, and I know that’s what he would want.

We’ll be creating another garden for Daniel, and next Saturday will be only the beginning. Daniel always wanted to do something about the erosion of our stream bank on our field. So over the next few years, I will be creating a mostly native plant garden along the bank. The one non-native plant I’ll be using is a weeping willow which was one of his favorite trees, and that’s what we’ll be planting next week with his ashes.

I’m hoping this will help me deal with our first anniversary alone, by honoring my two men with beauty and sharing it with my friends and family.

They Called Us “Team Grotta”

Daniel Grotta & Sally Wiener Grotta

They called us Team Grotta.

I’m not sure which editor first gave Daniel and me that nickname. When we were long-time Contributing Editors at PC Magazine, I remember being pleasantly surprised when various people started referring to us as Team Grotta. It came so naturally to their lips that we felt that they had been using the term for a while. Perhaps it had developed organically, put forward in staff meetings and in office discussions. “Why don’t we put Team Grotta on that project?” or “Ask Team Grotta, they’ll figure it out.”

Not that it was exclusively a PC Magazine thing. Other editors and clients took it up, as did conference and workshop organizers and, eventually, readers.

When I look back, I sometimes feel that Daniel and I were the last to hear the sobriquet. But we were delighted when we realized what a nice compliment it was to who we were professionally and personally, how well we worked together and how others had learned to depend on us.

Team Grotta. I’ll never know if it spread out virally from one person’s dubbing of the two of us as a single well-tuned entity. Or was it an outgrowth of the nature of our relationship which was evident to anyone who saw us together? Heck, a number of years ago, a young couple with whom we used to square dance told us that their toddler son thought that “DanielSally” was one name. Read More

Carving a Sacred Place

Nate Favors from The American Hands Project by Sally Wiener GrottaToday, I will write.

Because it is time.

I’m not sure when I last wrote. At least a year. No, it was more like a year and a half, except maybe for a couple of essays and one or two very short poems. I’m not talking about the reviews and features that currently represent the bulk of my livelihood, but my core writing. The novels, stories, poems and essays that reach through my throat into my gut and haul out my voice through my heart.

I write because pouring myself out onto the keyboard is how I have always tried to make sense of a senseless world. I don’t understand the pain we cause each other, the hate, the distortion of love. War and tribalism. Walls between individuals, between tribes and nations, that are built up brick by brick over years of preconceptions and propaganda. So I create stories to try to help me find the right questions to ask that might yet explain the inexplicable. Perhaps, I can also use it to try to navigate my way through the morass of this new world that now envelops me.

I write because through words, through Story, I have long discovered myself. So I shall write with the hope of rediscovery, not of the woman I am or have been, but this new woman I am now forced to become. Without my compass, without the living breathing other soul who lived within me, by my side, facing each morning as a new adventure to be shared.

Where do I start? At the end? That’s one simple sentence. Three words. Daniel is dead. In my novel The Winter Boy, I wrote, “How people die shapes our world.” Read More

Porous Memory

The shape and taste on my lips, a poem by Sally Wiener GrottaI sit at a blank screen, knowing it’s time to write. That’s what Daniel would tell me to do with the jumble of emotion, pain, emptiness that has consumed me.

Some years ago, I saw a man attack another with a broken bottle. We were in Philadelphia’s Chinatown, a normally high decibel neighborhood, with sidewalk traffic as dense as the streets. Families with scampering children and couples arguing or holding hands and business folk, tourists, conventioneers, and yes, the always present hungry homeless folded in on themselves. Crowds of people walking too fast, or strolling and reading window menus, or juggling large grocery packages festooned with pictographic Chinese words. And somewhere behind the neon signs and fatty aromas, a verve of hidden life, mysterious, almost alien, yet so very familiar.

However, that wasn’t the Chinatown we saw that night. The hour was so late that the tiny corner restaurant we chose was an island of unresolved energies on a nearly darkened street. (Or at least as dark as any street in Chinatown gets.) I saw no pedestrians through the large plate glass windows during our entire meal. Just the incessant rain and the puddling reflections of a sleeping city. While we waited for our check, Daniel went into the men’s room. That’s when it happened. A sudden, vicious eruption of fists and blood, of glass gouging and slashing, unintelligible screams and flung furniture. Read More

Daniel Grotta, 1944-201

 

Daniel Grotta by Sally Wiener Grotta

The bare facts:

Daniel Grotta, my dearest friend, lover, partner, husband, joy of my life, passed away two nights ago – December 13th, 2015 at 10:29 PM.

I’m told that I’m supposed to write more about him, to create an obituary to mark his passing, his existence. But words fail me right now. Words, ideas are what we share… shared… the fabric of our love that binds us soul to soul, mind to mind. I’ll write more later about him, about us. Not now.

Added:
In response to various questions: instead of flowers, if you want to give something in Daniel Grotta’s memory, please consider sending donations to these:

B’nai Harim, P.O. Box 757, Pocono Pines, PA 18350- our small, close-knit synagogue in the Poconos where Daniel so enjoyed being part of a warm, intelligent community

Newfoundland Area Ambulance Association, 441 Crestmont Dr, Newfoundland , PA – 18445 — where Daniel volunteered as an emergency responder and ambulance driver for quite a few years, saving lives and caring for our neighbors.

Inside the Mind of a Writer

Sally Wiener Grotta by Daniel GrottaDuring the blog tour for The Winter Boy, Sally appeared on numerous websites, answering questions about her writing, her characters, what inspires her, and so forth. For each interview, she gave fresh, new responses that provide interesting insights into how she works and thinks.

In addition to posting links to some of the many fabulous reviews her novels have been receiving, periodically I will post some of these interviews.

Here’s an excerpt from her interview on the Book Goodies website:

“What inspires you to write?”

“I write to try to understand, to attempt to make some sense of our human condition. I weave tales that put characters I learn to love into difficult, if not impossible situations, and then I try to tease out answers, or — at least hope to instigate ideas that might lead to – if not solutions, then maybe some better understanding of the problems.

“I often picture a hospital newborn nursery, filled with tiny bundles of unshaped humanity. Which one will be the philanthropist or artist or teacher? Which one the corrupt politician or drug dealer? What is it that can take an infant — so full of hope and potential — and make him or her hate? Read More

Uncommon Courtesy: Why Do Some People Fear Being Generous?

Philadelphia Flower Show by Sally Wiener GrottaA couple of weeks ago, Daniel and I were at the Philadelphia Flower Show, an annual indoor spectacle of flowers, fantasy gardens and all things green. The oldest horticultural show in the world (since 1829), it’s a wondrous showcase and educational forum for serious gardeners, topiary artists, flower aficionados, kitchen gardeners and even jewelry makers who work with plants. The last time Daniel and I had attended the Flower Show, we had been newlyweds. Every year since, we kept missing it: off on an assignment somewhere else in the world, on book or article deadlines, or simply too involved in our lives to think of scheduling a visit. Last week, we happened to be in the city at the right time so Daniel could have some minor surgery. Since he was just out of the hospital and still recuperating, we borrowed my dad’s motorized scooter. That allowed him to enjoy all 33 acres of the show, despite his post-surgical weariness.

The crowds were beyond dense, and most people thought nothing about darting in front of the moving scooter, much as they would if they were jockeying for one more car length during rush hour on the Schuylkill Expressway. It was some of the trickiest driving Daniel had done since India. Still the displays were stunning. Daniel particularly enjoyed seeing the show from the viewpoint of the many children who stood about the same height as his seated position. Their sense of wonder and exuberance was contagious; everything was new and exciting… from the fairyland-like scenes to the profusion of exotic, sometimes bizarrely shaped plants. Even the scooter was a source of merriment and “I want” syndrome. What’s more, unlike the thousands of adults that crowded about us, the children made eye contact with Daniel.

After a couple of hours at the show, the scooter started beeping a low battery warning. Daniel had wisely brought the charging cord which we plugged into an electrical outlet in a dark corner down a small hallway. Daniel wasn’t dependent on the scooter, except for endurance. So we could have continued walking around the show for about a half hour while the battery got a top-up charge. The problem was that we were concerned about leaving Dad’s scooter unattended.

I went to the scooter rental table in the concourse just outside the show door. Behind it was a curtained off area that was empty, but had several electrical outlets that weren’t being used. I suppose it was where they charged their scooters, when they were returned. I told the woman who stood behind the table our problem and asked, “May I plug the scooter in back there? That way, my husband will be able to continue enjoying the show.”

She smiled and said, “If it were up to me, sure.” Then she turned to a second woman who had just arrived. “But my shift if over, you’ll have to ask her.”

The other woman initially ignored me, even though I am certain that she had heard my exchange with her associate.

I repeated my request to her. “My husband has just had surgery, and we’re using a scooter so he can be here, but the battery is about to die. May we plug it into one of the outlets back there for about a half hour?”

She stared at me, clearly uncomfortable if not aghast at being asked something she wasn’t primed to deal with. “No, I can’t,” she said emphatically. Then, she returned to ignoring me.

I was flabbergasted. Why would anyone flatly refuse such a reasonable request to help another, especially when it would cost her nothing?

That trivial 60 second interaction has haunted me ever since then. I’ve been trying to understand why she reacted that way. Sometimes, I dismiss it as a sad example of how courtesy and decency are alien or an annoying imposition to some people. But there must be more to it than that.Read More

A Lovely Review of “The Winter Boy”


The Winter Boy by Sally Wiener GrottaSally has been receiving so many great reviews for her novel The Winter Boy that I’ve convinced her to let me periodically post links to them here.

“What a wonderfully woven story. Tragic, touching and thoughtful… [The Winter Boy] deals with love, loss, war, personal growth, forgiveness and strength in ways you’ve likely never seen within the pages of one book. I am a fan of Sally Wiener Grotta to be sure. She is a fantastic writer and the two books I have read and reviewed so far are night and day from each other, in topic only. The writing and storytelling in each was absolutely wonderful: she is an author on the rise, so keep an eye out for her.” To read the full review by Melody Weathers on FollowBooks.com, please click here.

Is Obesity the New Obscenity?

 

Leonard Nimoy and Raphael
Leonard Nimoy’s photo and the Raphael inspiration

 

Facebook has decided that I post offensive material, and I have been warned to desist.

On Saturday morning, I logged into Facebook, expecting to spend a few minutes checking what my friends were up to, reposting some of their more interesting comments, pictures and links, and responding to messages. I also had links that I wanted to post about art, writing, grants and creativity – plus the usual humorous, heartwarming or meaningful pictures or videos I thought folks would enjoy. In other words, I planned a routine social visit on Facebook, before logging off to work on my current novel in progress.

But Facebook had other plans for me.

Instead of taking me directly to my FB page, a rather intimidating message popped up. It stated in no uncertain terms that I had posted an offensive nude photograph, which Facebook had excised from my page and feed (i.e. censored). Then I was shown my online albums, was commanded to remove any other pictures of naked people, and I had to confirm by checkmark that I had no such pictures left on Facebook. I didn’t think they were referring to the various Renoirs, Matisses, Goyas, Picassos and such that I’ve posted over the years. So I clicked the Agree button, and I was allowed to enter Facebook’s supposedly squeaky clean domain.

Of course, I knew immediately which photograph Facebook had found so offensive, and I’m convinced it wasn’t because it was of nude women, but because it was of obese nude women.

In fact, it was a picture from The Full Body Project, a book of photographs by Leonard Nimoy, which is Amazon’s number one best seller in Women’s Studies. What’s more, my posting wasn’t just of the photograph, but a link to a lovely tribute to Mr. Nimoy in the New York Observer My Friend Leonard Nimoy was a Fervent Feminist by Abby Ellin.

SO MUCH MORE THAN SPOCK

Like many millions of others, my fascination with Leonard Nimoy began with a young girl’s crush on Mr. Spock. But it was only as I learned more about the man behind the actor, that I began to admire him – as a thinker, author, artist and philanthropist. And then there was the phone call.Read More