The Story of the Story
In 2008, my partner Robyn and I had both run into a bit of a creative hiccup. We were still producing art, but we weren’t engaged by it as much as we wanted to be. Robyn proposed to me the idea of a creative exchange whereby we would each design criteria for a project for the other person to complete. My project proposal to her was to create a visual art project that portrays a bridge, a person and rain. She gave me an assignment to write a love story where an inanimate object had some sort of power. Robyn created two pieces for her project and I wrote the first draft of what would later become “The Memory of a Salt Shaker.” Of course, I finished that first draft close to midnight on a weeknight and, like any eager writer, I wanted her to read it immediately. Like a reasonable and sane person, she waited until the following day.
A week or so before the exchange we listened to a story on WHYY about people who survived an unexpected, violent death of a loved one from a tragic accident or murder. People interviewed for the program discussed the extreme difficulty coping with the swift and startling death of someone close. We were affected by the story. We had both experienced similar losses of friends or family members; it wasn’t hard to extend the same idea to losing one another. The conversation after the program led to the intro for the story. “The Memory of a Salt Shaker” is essentially a love story written for Robyn, reflecting my fear of one day losing her. “Memory” was also the inspiration for the rest of the collection.
We’ve lived with this narrative a long time. “The Memory of a Salt Shaker” has undergone many permutations. Sections have been redrafted, reordered, and re-imagined. It’s been through several workshops. The kind and generous people who have agreed to be my beta readers have read it multiple times. I could tinker with it forever, but as Heinlein’s rule states, “You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.” But even after editorial orders, a friend of mine found a typo in the copy last night. In 2011, I let go and sent it out to several journals, finally the good and kindly editors at Up the Staircase Quarterly agreed to publish it.
I wrote “The Memory of a Salt Shaker” because Robyn told me to, but, ultimately, I wrote it because it was a story I wanted to read. I chose to release this story first because it was the first story in this series. I chose to publish this story because Up the Staircase believed in it, but more importantly Robyn believed in it. I chose to share this story with you because it is a good story, and, hopefully, it is one you were looking to read as well.
There are more tales coming down the pike, stay tuned.