My Name Isn't Nathaniel Hawthorne, It's Sydney Salter

So, yeah, I didn't write The Scarlett Letter. Or Crime And Punishment. Or any of the other old tomes that have been assigned long before I was a student and will be assigned long after my daughters graduate. No one complains about these books--except for the students!

Maybe in 150 years My Big Nose And Other Natural Disasters will be foisted on students so they can analyze our image-obsessed twenty-first century culture… 

But no one is currently using my YA novels in school. Teachers, however, do use me in the classroom--as an Author-In-Residence.  

Writing can feel absolutely frightening, especially to those students who are certain that they lack even a splinter of creativity. I've learned to play with my own writing without judgment, and I love sharing my fun, non-threatening, exercises and activities. I show every student that each piece of writing does have an element of promise--maybe a character with potential, a unique plot element, or even a few well-phrased words. Good writing comes with the building process of revision.

I love to read poorly-written passages from my diaries and show how I've turned those same words into polished fiction in My Big Nose And Other Natural Disasters, Swoon At Your Own Risk, or Jungle Crossing (middle-grade). I bring my notebooks packed with rejection letters to show how failure is more frequent than success. 

Mostly I try to emphasize that I'm an ordinary person living a normal life. Growing up, reading all those school-worthy books, I was pretty sure I lacked the mystique required to be a real writer. I loved The Great Gatsby, but I didn't really want to be an alcoholic like Fitzgerald. And I wasn't really in a position to go to war or lion-hunting like Hemingway. And he was an alcoholic, too!  

It took me years to realize that I could be a writer simply by writing and writing and writing. I hope that I've inspired a few students to go for their dream to write books. I know that I've proven writing can be fun. That's how I've ended up in classrooms, even though I'm not Nathaniel Hawthorne.


  1. I don't know what I love more--your take on how you're "in" classrooms, or that rejection notebook!

  2. That rejection notebook is awesome! And I think your school visits sound amazing. I wish I'd had someone like to you to talk to my classes when I was a teen!

  3. I want to give you a hug for that rejection notebook!

  4. I bet your visits make students see writing in a whole new light and that's terrific!!


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