Sally Wiener Grotta Author, Photographer & Speaker

  • Walking the Starry Path
    by Sally Wiener Grotta on June 11, 2018 at 12:31 pm

    “‘It’s up there in the sky for us all to see, a prayer every night. A good story fill you up when you hungry, when you lonely. A good song take the hurting out your spirit. No harm believing in that.’ She gave him a wind-up music box. ‘Play this and think of the stars smiling on you.'” from From Redwood and Wildfire by Andrea Hairston When I was a young child, my mother had two sure fire ways to get me to go to bed. My favorite was when she would read me to sleep. As I drifted off, riding the rhythms of her voice, I would often continue to weave the tale in my dreams. My dreamtales became so real to me that I was sometimes surprised when she read the same stories to me again and they finished in a different way than I remembered. The other was to tune the radio to “fairie music.” (Looking back, I suppose it was the name I gave to classical orchestrations that purred rather than crashed.) Sometimes, Mother would be frustrated in trying to […]

  • The Stepford Wives & Barbie, Studies in Ideal Womenhood
    by Sally Wiener Grotta on June 4, 2018 at 6:35 am

    Reposting an essay that I wrote in 2015   Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the 1970’s classic thriller movie The Stepford Wives. Based on the novel with the same name by Ira Levin, the story is simple and nightmarish, a chilling distortion of the American Dream. The men of Stepford have decided that the only way they can attain an idealized Ozzie-and-Harriet-like suburban life is to replace their wives with “perfect women” in the form of mechanical dolls. These automatons are obedient, non-confrontational, devoid of opinion – and, of course, both great in bed and superb cooks. They’re also svelte, always impeccably groomed and white. I keep flashing on The Stepford Wives not because I particularly liked the movie, but because it has become a cultural icon of the social pressure to conform. It’s a distorted view of womanhood that feels particularly relevant in light of the groundswell reaction to my recent essays Is Obesity the New […]

  • Bringing the Voices in Our Heads to Life
    by Sally Wiener Grotta on May 28, 2018 at 12:47 am

    I often wonder if all writers are borderline schizophrenics who have simply learned to channel the voices in our heads into a creative outlet, thereby saving our sanity. Because, yes, we have people constantly talking to us, telling us stories, insisting that we devote our undivided attention to committing their tales to paper (or computer screen). I am curious how "normal" people go through their lives, day in and day out, all alone in their heads, with no one telling them stories and transporting them elsewhere. How boring that must be. I first started listening to these voices as a very young child though they initially spoke in my mother's particular storytelling timber and tone. A warm, mellifluous sound... […]

  • Slang: The Secret Handshake that Separates “Us” from “Them”
    by Sally Wiener Grotta on May 21, 2018 at 12:31 pm

    Okay, I admit it, I’m acrynomically challenged. It seems that new abbreviations appear daily on my tweeter feed, in emails, even in articles of magazines that I think of as mainstream. And I’m sent scurrying to Google to try to find the newest definitions for acronyms that didn’t exist or meant something entirely different the last time I looked. Language has always been the dividing line between “insiders” and “outsiders.” Is it getting worse with the digital age? […]

  • Too Soon
    by Sally Wiener Grotta on May 14, 2018 at 12:11 pm

    Too soon The sun rises Before the night-long dream resolves Before we can eek meaning out of the ether. No sunlight please To burn away the shadows Flatten the contrast between Yes/No Is/Is not. Too soon it is over Curtains close Against the day’s glare And the dream is lost. […]

  • Blessings
    by Sally Wiener Grotta on May 11, 2018 at 1:47 pm

    A portrait of family love and reflections about the generations spanning time before/after we exist, on the anniversary of my father's death. "...Generations created this moment, as I composed the image and pressed the shutter button. Generations I can know only from stories told by those who came before and are no more..." […]

  • Malleable Memory
    by Sally Wiener Grotta on May 7, 2018 at 2:28 am

    Memory is malleable. In my short story The Broken Bottle, I refer to Akira Kurosawa’s seminal movie Rashomon, in which each witness to a murder tells a different story of the crime – including the ghost of the victim. While Rashomon paints a scenario in which individuals may or may not be lying to us about their memory, I propose that our own memories lie to us. Often they tell us the stories we want to hear about ourselves. And what we want to hear changes as we move further and further away from the truth of the event. (Of course, “want” may be debatable. But I’ll leave that psychological discussion to another time.) Johanna, the protagonist of The Broken Bottle says, “It’s as though the young woman I was back on that wet July night stands in the middle of a polygonal mirrored room. Though she is surrounded by the facts of the moment, all she can see are the distorted reflections, refracting through time.” When I look back on my […]

  • Is Your Creativity Driven by Dissatisfaction?
    by Sally Wiener Grotta on May 1, 2018 at 2:54 pm

    Thoughts inspired by Martha Graham's advice to Anges de Mille about dissatisfaction driving art. What drives your creativity? […]

  • Choices
    by Sally Wiener Grotta on May 1, 2018 at 12:24 am

    Reprinted from my old blog which is now closed. A few years ago, I broke both my arms. One moment, I was happily strolling along with our young puppy galumphing at my side. The next, I was sprawled face down in the asphalt of a parking lot. More shocking than the thwack of pain was the blink-of-an-eye speed with which it all happened. I had tripped over a hidden metal rod in a supposedly landscaped island, and suddenly I had no control over my own body. Gravity took hold and threw me to the ground. Though only a few months old and still untrained, Watson was a good puppy and sat next to me until a stranger came by to help me get up. Can you imagine what it was like to have both my arms in slings for months, useless, unable to do the most basic things for myself? One of the more memorable moments was after a few weeks of frustrating (and boring) passivity, when I was standing by while Daniel made the bed. I told him to hand me the pillow that was in his way. Heck, I should be able to […]

  • Being Alien: An Essay in Progress
    by Sally Wiener Grotta on March 5, 2018 at 4:24 pm

    Years ago, I had a brief encounter with a previously uncontacted Amazon tribe that had just come out of the jungle. Uncontacted means that they have had no recorded interaction with the outside modern world. However, many such tribes (if not most) have been watching us for a long time. Ever since, I've been haunted about the nature of "alienness", which, for me, has nothing to do with bare breasts, unknown languages or strange environments. […]