A Memorial To Past Experiences (Sydney Salter)

Each of my novels contains at least one small memorial to my past experiences. Sometimes I'd like to atone for something I've done, like wrecking the delivery van and the wedding cake in My Big Nose And Other Natural Disasters. In high school I worked for about three days at the Cake and Flower Shoppe in Reno, NV. At the beginning of my shift, I crumpled the sliding van door against a metal post. We had to crawl through the back of the van to load a wedding cake. Wanting to be helpful, when we arrived at the wedding, I placed one of the tiers on the little columns. That crashed, too. I got fired. Ironically, I had to ride my bike home because my mom had taken away my car for some reason that neither of us can remember. 

Sometimes the truth is worse than fiction can be, but I love how writing about difficult experiences can feel like a bit of repentance. After My Big Nose was published, I visited the Cake and Flower Shoppe, and they still remembered my brief employment. It felt good to give them a paperback copy of my apology.

Swoon At Your Own Risk pays homage to the few months that my psychologist mother moved in with my family. I had fun with that one. The story served as a memorial to a busy happy time of career building, raising kids in an extended family.

Now my mom lives with me again, retired, nutty, ailing and in need of lots of doctor's appointments that always get a little too weird. My kids are adults living far away. I know that I'll put this time into fiction, someday. But maybe not all at once. Like the wrecked van, the truth might be a bit too much for fiction. 

Writing helps me process my life. Just this morning my mom came upstairs, and we talked about the lingering stresses of the pandemic, and as she took her pills, one at a time, with all the melodrama of a mediocre soap opera actress, she said, "I know you'll be okay, though. Because you are writing."

She's right. 



  1. There are plenty of memory stills tucked away in our heads. Most people are too busy, or wrapped up in 'stuff' to be able to retrieve them. Those of us who have learned to mine our past, are far more fortunate.

  2. I LOVE that you brought a copy of your book to the cake shop. And I love what your mom said.


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