Friday, March 10, 2017

My First Novel Started When I Was Six (Sydney Salter)

My first novel - the one I finally dared to write - can be traced back to this photo.

I grew up as the child of a biology professor. That meant that I often kept white lab mice as pets, one of my favorite toys was an anatomy model with removable organs (Mr. Body-Bod, to me), and I spent the summer of my 6th year traveling throughout Mexico while my dad and his grad students trapped and tagged bats.

My mom washed our clothes in the river with the local women, and I played with village children. The thing that really captured my imagination were the Mayan ruins we visited. The ancient culture fascinated me - and I continued to learn as much as possible about it.

In college I majored in English, wanting to be a writer, but too scared to fail, I didn't actually write anything besides mediocre analytical papers. I minored in biology (how could I not?). The first time I started to write a novel, I returned back to school and collected a history major. I didn't want to fail.

But then my husband and I decided to take our daughters to Mexico. Oh, I had to find a cool way for them to understand Mayan culture! I decided to write a story. The story turned into a middle-grade novel. I wrote without fear, only thinking of an audience of two, and the story flowed. I called it Jungle Crossing.

The manuscript wasn't ready for publication. But it gave me the courage to write another one and another and another. After writing each new manuscript, I looped back and applied the lessons I'd learned to Jungle Crossing.

The novel was published in 2009. But it really started back in 1973.


  1. So interesting how our childhood experiences contribute to who we become...

  2. Sometimes the first story that comes to us isn't the first story that's published. But when we're lucky, it has its day. :-)

  3. This is AWESOME. The best books simmer for long stretches of time.