Bill Gates & the Digital Lady (Me)

Sally Wiener Grotta, photographer, by Lori RyanWay back in the day, when most people had never heard of or seen a digital camera, I was on assignment at Comdex (the big daddy of computer trade shows) in Atlanta. And, there, walking through the halls, surrounded by his entourage was Bill Gates. So, I went up to him and asked if I could take his picture without film.

He smiled and said, “That’s okay, I’ll wait until you load.”

Paul Allen who was with Bill leaned over to him and explained what I was holding in my hands (one of the very first Kodak DCS cameras — a 200). They both laughed, and I took my pictures of him. For the rest of the week, whenever Bill saw me, he called me “the Digital Lady.”

Sometime between then and now, he has obviously gotten more skittish about cameras. Here’s a story from our friend Dan Rosenbaum:

“Bill Gates was awarded a patent recently for a device that detects cameras near you and keeps them from taking a clear picture of you. Used to be that only The Shadow has the power to cloud men’s minds.” Please click to read Dan’s piece.

What Authors Do You Read?

In an interview for “Book Reader Magazine,” Sally was asked, “Who are your favorite authors to read? What is your favorite genre to read. Who inspires you in your writings?”

Here is her answer:

“My favorite authors span such a wide range: Jorge Luis Borges, Michael Swanwick, Margaret Atwood, William Shakespeare, Daniel Grotta, Viktor Frankl, William Faulkner, Ursula K. LeGuin, Samuel Delany, Gabriel Garcí a Márquez, Charles Kuralt, Jean-Paul Sartre, Tennessee Williams — so many others.

“Regardless of the genre, I love being swept upRead More

Memories & Dreams: Looking Back, Stepping into the Future

Janus by Sally Wiener GrottaMemories and dreams
Life intangible
Life imagined
What we hold
In our minds
In our hearts
As we stand Janus-like
At the cusp of the year.

Life lived back to back
Supportive, protective
Opening ourselves
To beyond the now
Remembering the past
Stepping into the future
To whatever comes
Together.

Poem (c) by Sally Wiener Grotta


How appropriate that the symbol of the new year is Janus, the Roman god of beginnings, transitions and endings, of time past and to come. We imagine that he will stand at once more at the stroke of midnight as 2013 ends and 2014 begins, with one face gazing into what has come before, while the other focuses, dreamy eyed, onto the future.

Looking back on the past twelve months of our lives, the view is so very different from what it was as we experienced it. Sally likes to say that the defining aspect of our personal and professional world is creative chaos. She has that right. Every morning we’re awaken by Watson, our Golden Retriever, to a new adventure, never knowing what will happen that day, or how much of our ever-growing ToDo list will get done. At night, as we fall into our bed, we are certain that we got very little done.

Yet, as we gaze Janus-like at 2013, we are surprised at all that has happened in the long run, as we simply did our best to live each day fully. Here are some of the highlights of 2013 in the Wiener Grotta household.

OUR HERO

One of our proudest moments of the year was when our Dad, Noel J. Wiener, was honored for his service in WWII, as the last remaining officer of SHAEFheadquarters. That was General Eisenhower’s headquarters in Europe.Read More

Writers Don’t Really Need to Be Paid

Last week, the head of our village library called, to inform us that they were putting together a display of local authors’ work and would love to include Daniel and me as part of it. Of course, I was very pleased. Then came the kicker; although she didn’t come right out and say it, for the privilege of participating, they expected us to donate a number of our books to the library.

Now, don’t get me wrong. We fully support our small local library, and have donated (and will continue to do so) time, money and other goods to them through the years. But I have been told by a board member that the Friends of the Library had recently raised a nice chunk of change to acquire new books. However, it appears that they had also decided that local authors should donate their books rather than having the library buy them. After all, we’re only *local* authors. (At least, that’s what I heard in my mind, when she said she would like us to donate copies of all our books for their display.)

I offered toRead More

The Story Behind the Story of Black Bear, Pennsylvania

Black Bear, Pennsylvania fiction This week, I was invited by Chrissy at Every Free Chance to recount how Daniel and I create and work in our shared fantasy world of Black Bear, Pennsylvania, where we both are setting novels and stories.

“Welcome to Black Bear, Pennsylvania. Similar to so many small towns you’ve known, driven through or possibly even lived in, Black Bear has a Main Street dotted with local businesses (active and defunct). Marge at Good Taste whips up the best hot fudge sundae you’ll ever have. Buck’s has been spruced up and modernized in recent years, and is now a franchised supermarket (though not as super as those you’d find in big city or suburban shopping centers). Grampa Schmoyer’s drugstore was driven out of business by the Rite-Aid that opened up in nearby Hamlin, about fifteen years ago. It’s now a charity consignment shop, run by the two local churches and the tiny new synagogue. And the old elementary school, where “everyone’s” grandparents went, is a boarded up derelict building where kids are warned not to venture. Schoolchildren are now bussed out of town….”

To read the rest of this essay about Daniel’s and my creative relationship and our personal writing processes, click here: The Grottas’ Literary Folie aux Deux .

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