My short essay “Novelist as Poet or Philosopher; Meditation Inspired by Samuel Delany‘s The Atheist in the Attic” was recently published on the SFWA blog (Science Fiction & Fantasy Authors of America).
The Atheist in the Attic is a “fictive reconstruction” of a meeting between the philosophers Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and Baruch de Spinoza, told from Leibniz’s point of view. An intriguing read, it sent my mind in a variety of different direction. At one point, I took a discussion of the differences between a poet and a philosopher and considered how it might apply to different kinds of novelists. I’ve decided that I’m essentially a philosopher; no surprise there. As I wrote in the essay, “I write to understand. My characters and plots are formed in a subconscious that churns with confusion or concern about how the world functions (or fails to function). As I write the story my characters tell me, I find myself posing questions that [as Delany wrote in The Atheist in the Attic] “reflect and even explain the differences and forces that relate them all… hold them together… or tear them apart.”
Please read the essay here, and let me know what you think. What kinds of authors do you prefer to read — poets or philosophers, as defined by Delany’s book? And if you’re a writer, are you a poet or philosopher… or something else?
When Sally’s Locus Award-nominated novel The Winter Boy was honored by being selected for SWFA‘s first ever fantasy StoryBundle, fellow author Erika Satifka interviewed Sally to discuss writing processes, inspirations, and some of the inside stories behind the creation of The Winter Boy.
This interview is from last November, and the StoryBundle is no longer available. However, The Winter Boy is available from most bookstores in paperback, hardbound and all e-book formats, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple and an independent bookstore near you.
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
Memories and dreams
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
To beyond the now
Remembering the past
Stepping into the future
To whatever comes
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.
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
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 .
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
A bit over a month ago, I was just finishing up what I thought was the last edit of my novel Jo Joe. All my years of writing, rewriting, submitting for critiques, responding to muy editors’ edits/suggestions/critiques, followed by still more rewrites were finally coming to their logical conclusion. My baby would soon go off into the “real” world on her own, to sink or swim, depending on the currents: i.e. publishing vicissitudes and reader responses. The next step would be bound galleys (and ePub galleys) for reviewers. Yes, I would have a chance to make changes after that, but only small, critical ones.
In other words, it was nearly that time when I would have to let go. Parents who send their children off to college probably experience the same mix of dread and elation that an author has when sending their novel off to be published. While I found find it difficult to no longer eat, drink, sleep and dream Jo Joe, I was looking forward to closing the book (literally) and moving on. I have other projects waiting in the wings – another novel plus my ongoing American Hands narrative portrait project. And after all the wonderful feedback we’ve gotten from my editor and Beta Readers, I was very much looking forward to finding out how reviewers and readers would react to Jo Joe. (Hope springs eternal in an author’s breast.)
On the morning of the day that I fully believed I would be saying “so long,” to Jo Joe, not expecting to see her again until I receive my copies of the printed bound galley, Daniel made an apparent off-the-cuff comment over the breakfast table. “I wonder what it would be like if Jo Joe were in present tense.”Read More
When I was fresh out of college, the only thing I wanted to do was sing. I knew that eventually I would want to write my stories, but first I ached to sing them. After several years of struggling in the New York scene, and singing only occasionally in various clubs, I came to realize that creating music meant that there had to be ears to hear it. Otherwise, my songs were nothing more than abstractions created in isolation, floating in the air with no place to land, to be made real.
I left New York, and in a round-about way (too complex to go into here), I finally ended up creating my stories in words and in pictures. But, like my music, my stories need Read More