This Saturday afternoon was an event that I have been looking forward to for a long time, and it was years in the making: a Zoom reading of David Zarko’s play based on Daniel Grotta’s novella Honor.
I wasn’t the only audience member with tears in my eyes throughout the performance, and that wasn’t unexpected. Readers of Daniel’s small book have long reported how soulful and emotional the story is. Hardened, street-wise individuals have written me (and when he was alive, Daniel) that Honor made them openly cry, even in public.
Honor is the story of Jeff Smith who, as his bully of a brother-in-law Gene Engelhardt is fond of retelling, is “what the cat dragged in.” He’s a scruffy, bearded hippie who Gene’s sister Bonnie fell in love with decades ago, after meeting at a Washington peace rally against the Vietnam War. Even shaved and doing whatever the Engelhardts wanted, his in-laws never accepted or approved of Jeff. Now, Jeff is saddled with a family, a dead-end job, and, after Bonnie died of cancer, a mountain of debt. Read More
Thank 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
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.
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
Today, 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
I 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
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.
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.
During 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
Sally 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.
What a year 2014 was, filled with adventures, new books, and some very nice honors, including for our Dad. If you’d like to read a bit about what we’ve been up to over the past year, please click here to view our annual New Year’s Lookback Letter. Best wishes, Daniel & Sally