Savoring the Tale

I have always been a devourer of books. My earliest memories are punctuated with books ever by my side, seeking any opportunity to dive back in and swallow the stories whole. So many tales have swum about in my mind and soul, taking root, becoming part of me, that I can no longer remember most of them as individuals with lives and plots of their own.

But recently, I haven’t had the time to devote to reading that I have in the past. Do I miss my old world-devouring method of reading? No, because I am living books and ideas these days. My life has become what I call “creative chaos.” And I love all that I am doing, even though there really aren’t enough hours in the day to Read More

How Lucky Can You Get?

Glass Half Full or Half Empty by Sally Wiener GrottaThe other evening, we were driving home from a photo workshop I had just given at the McBride Library (Berwick, PA). I was in the back seat. Daniel was driving, and my Dad was in the front passenger seat. My two best friends. The two loves of my life. Whenever they can, they attend all my seminars, lectures, book signings, and exhibit receptions. Always there for me in good times and bad. I don’t know what I would do without them.

Suddenly, a thump and a slight swerve. We had hit a deer, a young, not insubstantial buck. I saw it fly off our front grill, onto the hood, headed for the windshield and straight for Daniel and Dad.

In the blink of an eye, everything could have changed. Read More

Opening Myself to What Might Come

My Faith by Sally Wiener GrottaI don’t know what I believe about a God. I find it difficult to accept an all-powerful being who is, at the same time, able to dwell in/be the entire universe and, yet, anthropomorphically dabbles in the second-to-second trivia of 5 billion individual human lives on a flyspeck of a planet, when that planet is just one among billions upon billions, in our one insignificant galaxy.

My faith is rooted in the connection we can make when we meet another person, when we hold a child or fully experience a mountain vista.

Yet, I am now part of my temple’s woman’s Torah study group. Not only part of it, but the facilitator for our first session, and our rabbi – Peg Kershenbaum — asked me to write a prayer to start our first meeting. As Rabbi Peg wrote to me, “The traditional prayer begins in the standard way (Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the universe Who sanctified us by commandments and commanded us) and ends ‘to engage with the words/matters of Torah.’ La’asok b’divrei Torah. The word engage is the same word as that used for earning a living or actively plunging into a project or transaction. We roll up our sleeves, flex our muscles and sharpen our intellect and dive into the fray!”

How was I to write a prayer that would be true to who I am, if I don’t really believe in the kind of God that is represented in the Torah? After many hours of conflict and contemplation, this is what I came up with:Read More

Nancy Christie Interviews Sally about Writing

I’m often asked about my inspirations and processes in my writing (and my photography). I was recently interviewed by Nancy Christie for her blog One-On-One: Insights into the Writer’s Life. She’s just posted Part I, and will be posting Part II next week.

Part of my answer to Nancy was:

“I don’t remember when I wasn’t a storyteller. When my mother used to read me to sleep, I would continue the stories in my dreams, making up my own endings. All children ask “why?” But it became a driving force that has never let go of me, pushing me to try to understand what perplexes or intrigues me.

“Similarly, I played the ‘what if’ game, starting from a very young age and continuing through to this very morning. What if the sky were green, or I lived in a different time or place, or my best friend suddenly acted as though he hated me?

“Naturally, as I matured, the questions that haunt me have changed, becoming increasingly unanswerable. Why do we hate? Is peace an impossible dream? What is the source of anger, of prejudice? Can we ever truly know each other? I create scenarios and stories to explore these questions, until my mind is filled with other realities and people who demand that I give them voice and form.

“As different narratives lay claim to my imagination, and new characters are born in my mind, the adventure begins yet again. While I may ….”

To read the rest of Part I of this interview, please go to Nancy Christie interviews Sally Wiener Grotta

Indy 500: Accelerating at the Speed of Tech

 

Sally at the Indy500 by Harvey Biggs
Sally Wiener Grotta in the HP pit at the Indy 500 (Photo by Harvey Briggs)

Mention Memorial Day weekend, and the vast majority of Americans will think of beaches, family trips to the mountains and backyard barbecues. But for a large segment of the population, the Sunday of Memorial Day is nothing less than Race Day! In fact, the Indy 500 draws more fans – hundreds of thousands of them – to the Indianapolis Raceway than to any other sporting event in the United States. It transforms the city and suburbs, with families renting out their homes and others selling camping and/or parking spaces on their lawns. Hotels and charter buses are sold out for months in advance. The traffic begins clogging the surrounding roads in the dark early hours of Race Day.

This past Memorial Day, I was invited to the Indy 500 by Hewlett Packard*. As one of their privileged invited guests, I was transported in style to the track, in one of three large HP buses, which avoided the traffic jam by arranging for a police escort. (Numerous corporate groups and some well-heeled private individuals pay for the police to blaze a trail through the gridlock traffic.) And, for most of the race, Sally viewed it from one of two HP private and well-catered suites.

But I wasn’t at Indy to sit still and just watch the race. My reason for being there was to learn about the tech that has transformed racing. And, since HP was my host, naturally the interviews and behind the scenes Read More

This Is Me, Asking.

Sally Wiener Grotta, author of "Jo Joe"On June 4th, I appeared at the Jewish Book Council annual conference, to speak about my novel Jo Joe to an audience of book club leaders from around the country. (I’ll be uploading a video soon). It was an exciting opportunity, one that I prepared for over several months, writing and rewriting my short speech. Joyce Lit of the Jewish Book Council, who mentored me through the process, was a big help. But I balked when she suggested that I end my talk with “I’ve discovered over the years, that I write with a photographer’s eye and photograph narratively, seeking the details of a moment, the visual impact of a gesture, the humanity that captures our hearts and confounds our minds.”

“Isn’t that a turn-off?” I asked. “Ending my talk with an ‘I’ sentence?” Then, before she could answer, I added, “Is that a very ‘woman’ type question to ask?” She immediately understood the implied question: “Would a man hesitate Read More

Punching the Box

 

Man in a Box by Jan Stussy, 1977. Image courtesy of Calabri Gallery. Please click here to go to their site and see more more work by Jan Stussy.

All we know for certain of life are the beginning and the end. It’s very similar to the genesis of my stories. First comes a person, usually born in my mind with a name and little else. At that moment of birth, I typically know how the story begins and how it will end. Everything in between is a mystery to me, an adventure I embark on, until, usually years later, I can look back and see it all as a whole creation, a life lived on papers and screen, ready to share with others.

This parallel came to mind this morning, when I heard of yet another mother finding her son’s body after he had shot himself. What it is that can lead a young man to put a gun to his head and pull the trigger? He had Read More

Fear of Color

Butterfly by Sally Wiener GrottaLast week, Daniel and I went shopping for carpet. Our home and studio is an old Oddfellows Hall, and our stairs are industrial metal. For years, we’ve been promising ourselves that we would someday carpet them. Not because they are ugly – I think they’re interesting and fun – but because carpeted stairs would be gentler to our feet and a bit of cushioning should help to protect anyone who might slip and fall.

Last week, we thougt that “someday” might be approaching. So, we went shopping for just the right carpet.

Given that we have oriental rugs at the top and bottom of the stairs, I had in mind a deep burgundy, with variations in the dye that would be visually appealing, as well as hopefully camouflage the inevitable dust and dog/cat hairs.

What we found at the carpet store were scores of beige, tan, brown samples, with some scattering of greys. Of theRead More

Inviting My Fictional Characters to Tea

Self-portrait: Sally Wiener Grotta, storyteller“Welcome home, my dear friends. Please sit. Let’s catch up on what’s happened since you were last with me. Rishana and Judith , I’m sure you have a lot to share with each other, but please, not behind my back. Johanna , I suggest that you have a chat with Savah, she might be able to help you. Ryl and Joe, you know where the scones are; please bring them from the kitchen, while we await the others. Now, where were we?”

About a week ago, I was sitting in the glow of the Lag B’Omer bonfire, when Rabbi Peg Kershenbaum asked me what I was doing these days. A loaded question, to be sure, what with Read More

What Will Life Be Like 50 Years From Now?

 

The future Dr. Noel J. Wiener in 1924
The future Dr. Noel J. Wiener in 1924

 

My father is 97 years old. I often think about what he has seen as the world has changed around him. When he was a boy, running around Philadelphia in short pants and riding streetcars to family picnics in Fairmont Park, pushcart vendors provided daily necessities. Entertainment consisted of books, tossing a ball with your buddies, teasing the girls and lots of conversations. Dad now has an iPhone, Kindle, two computers and all the typical high tech devices you would expect in any early 21st century home. He texts and emails us several times a day, reads international newspapers online, devours books by the megabytes, and makes some great meals with the help of a microwave oven (and a more “traditional” electric stove).

I can only imagine what Dad’s parents or grandparents might think of the world we live in today.

If I am lucky (or unlucky, depending on your perspective), I could very possibly live another 50 years. Given how the pace of change continues to accelerate, will our world even be recognizable to me in 2063?

All this came to mind, as I Read More