Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Author aims to make ‘human connections’

June 26. 2013 11:10AM

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Sally Wiener Grotta is a storyteller.

She is also an author, photographer, digital artist, speaker and journalist.

“Storytelling is my life. I use stories to explore what I ache to understand and to make human connections (both with my characters and my readers),” said Grotta, author of “Jo Joe: a Black Bear, Pennsylvania story,” a mystery of the heart about Judith Ormond, a young mixed- race Jewish woman.

“Jo Joe” is set in the fictional Pocono Mountains village of Black Bear, Pa., and consists of eight chapters, one for each day from Monday to the following Monday.

Black Bear takes the reader through “a journey of twisted memories, distorted love and hate that threatens violence.”

What came alive for Grotta as a driving force that compelled her to write this novel were several “unanswerable questions (threads) that constantly haunt me: Why do we hate? What are the roots of prejudice, of bigotry and cruelty?”

Her aim is twofold: To give readers a story they will enjoy losing themselves in, characters they will care about deeply and an unfolding that will keep them turning the pages. To get readers thinking and talking about prejudice, cruelty, memory, family misunderstandings and such.

Grotta said that while none of the characters “are me or my loved ones,” they are all me, all aspects and products of who I am, my concerns, experience and empathy.”

“I am not a mixed-race Jewish woman who was raised by her Christian white grandparents. But I know what it is like to feel like an outsider. More than that, as her mother -for what else is an author?- I feel Judith’s pain and confusion very deeply. I understand her anger, even when I feel it would be better for her to let go of it and not let it consume her,” she said.

The stories main character, Judith has been shaped by her childhood memories of betrayal and prejudice. Joe is the bumbling, big guy whom everyone likes, except Judith, which is part of the mystery for the reader. Gramma is a feisty, caring, manipulative woman, who readers will love, then hate, then love/hate.

“My characters live in me and through me,” said Grotta.

On her favorite part, chapter, excerpt in this work:

She said, “I have no favorite part. It’s like asking a mother if she prefers her child’s laugh or her smile. Pulling back, I’m pleased with the structure of “Jo Joe.” It has a classic unity of time and place, with everything concentrated in one week, and each day a separate chapter. I’m also very satisfied with the tone, its highly -visual impact and the language. I chose to write it in the first person present, so it sounds and feels more immediate.”

Jo Joe was published only a few weeks ago by Pixel Hall Press and the book tours are beginning for Grotta, who said she is honored the Jewish Book Council has designated her JBC Network Author.

“That means that they will be sponsoring my visits to JBC-affiliated book festivals and other book events around the country over the next year.”

Grotta is available to talk with book discussion groups and at other events. To arrange an appearance, contact Cynthia Dadson,

Meanwhile, her next novel, “The Winter Boy,” is in the works and will be published in late 2013.

Her articles, photographs, columns, reviews and features have appeared in major publications, including “Parade,” “Lear’s Magazine,” “PC Magazine,” “Popular Science,” “The Robb Report,” “Islands” and other publications and she has co-authored eight non-fiction books with Daniel Grotta, including “PC Magazine Digital SLR Photography Solutions,” published by John Wiley.

Those who would like a glimpse of “Jo Joe” can find a free downloadable excerpt at, or the book is available through all online or bricks-and-mortar bookstores, including Amazon and Barnes and Noble

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