The Creative Magic of a Darkened Theater

"Girl from the North Country" at the Belasco Theater, New YO
Girl from the North Country at the Belasco Theater, New York City

Is it un-American of me to admit that spectator sports leave me cold? Sure, I can get a contact high from my young nephews’ excitement when one of their heroes sinks a perfect 3 point shot into the basket. And I used to enjoy sitting with my father while he watched an intense rally between tennis champions. But that has more to do with being with the people I love when they’re happy. 

Intellectually, I can appreciate athletic virtuoso performances. It’s impressive how a well-trained mind can control every muscle, every fractional movement, how those powerful (and beautiful) bodies can do things I couldn’t even dream of achieving. However, for me, passively sitting on my duff, watching baseball, basketball, football or any similar game can be as boring as watching the minute hand on an analog clock ticking away the hours. I’d much rather be doing something… well, almost anything else. That applies not only to watching sports on TV, but also attending sporting events in person.

And yet, sports fans would probably be just as bored by one of my favorite pastimes: sitting quietly in a darkened concert hall or theater. The difference is that nothing within me is engaged by sports. On the other hand, a great play or fine piece of music fills my mind, awakens all my senses and sends my thoughts and emotions on unexpected journeys. In that darkness, fed by the creativity of others, ideas and words percolate out of me, often Read More

Thank you Toni Morrison… and Trapeta B. Mayson

Trapeta B. Mayson, Philadelphia's Poet Laureate, speaking about Toni Morrison at The Rosenbach
Trapeta B. Mayson

This past Tuesday, I attended my first Rosenbach lunchtime talk. The Rosenbach museum and library is one of Pennsylvania’s hidden treasures, though it is open to the public and is now affiliated with the Free Library of Philadelphia. The elegant Delancey Street double townhouse contains a remarkable collection of rare books and documents originally assembled by the Rosenbach brothers, famous dealers in books, manuscripts and art. It’s also the site of frequent public discussions, readings and lectures that fill the intimate rooms with interested and interesting people from near and far – such as the monthly lunchtime talks.

I didn’t know what to expect, except that the topic was one of my favorite authors – Toni Morrison – and the speaker would be Philadelphia’s Poet Laureate Trapeta B. Mayson. I was sure that it would be a hour well spent. Besides, I needed to get away from my writing for a bit. I’d been struggling with the first draft of my new novel’s second chapter, and the more I fought the words – the more I wrote, edited and deleted – the more frustrated (and, yes, self-doubting) I was becoming. Perhaps, I had finally bitten off more than I could chew with this ambitious project.

"I never asked Tolstoy to write for me." Toni Morrison

Throughout the hour, Trapeta interspersed Morrison quotes and her own poems, a weave of words and ideas that illuminated the ideas she shared, until they shimmered with energy and life that could not be denied. She spokeRead More

Book Review: “The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit” by Lucette Lagnado

"The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit" by Lucette Lagnado

Some time ago — certainly more than a year — a good friend suggested I read The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit by Lucette Lagnado. My friend Tom has impeccable taste in books, music and… well just about anything. So, I immediately bought the book and put it on one of my shelves among the many other to-be-read books in my library.

Let’s face it; one of the facts of a bibliophile’s life is that her library contains an inordinate number of books she is looking forward to reading. (And, of course, she has a library rather than a home, where every spare wall is covered with bookshelves, and scores of overflow books are piled next to her bed, on her kitchen table, in her bathroom and just about everywhere else.)

I’m delighted to say I finally got around to reading Lagnado’s memoir this week. Tom was right; it’s an elegant and eloquent work that absorbed me with its personal poignancy and fascinating universality. 

Depending on where the mutable borders were drawn at the time of various births, Read More

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