By Jeff Salter
I doubt any of my earliest scratchings still exist but I do have — transcribed by my Mom — some of my very first rhymes and couplets. These date to April 1959, when I was in 3rd grade. I also have a typed page of my childish poetic efforts which my Dad compiled and submitted to Saturday Evening Post (unfortunately unpublished, however) from about 5th grade.
During 6th grade, I wrote my first COMPLETE poem … about a real-life experience with a neighbor. In 7th grade, I won a school essay contest on the topic, “What living in America means to me.”
But I didn’t show any of my creative writing to anyone outside the family until I shared some of my verse with my 8th grade English teacher, Mrs. Fleming. She took a real interest and gave me a lot of (general) encouragement. For Christmas that year, she suggested I write a Christmas Poem. It was my first experience composing on ‘contract’ and the result was pretty awful even by my own juvenile standards.
At some point in those junior high years, I also wrote a few (very short) short stories.
Don’t recall much in particular about creative writing in 9th grade, but when I transferred from Louisiana to an Iowa school for 10th grade, my writing really took off. The short stories were much more mature and complete and my verse practically exploded. I shared some of those efforts with my English teacher, Miss Rosalie Sherman, who provided specific feedback and very supportive encouragement. She even selected one of my stories to be included in the school’s literary anthology. It was Miss Sherman who nudged me into experimenting with free verse and blank verse … forms which had totally baffled me theretofore. I also started, but never finished, what I thought might become a novel.
I continued with poems and stories during 11th grade, when I was back in the same Louisiana school I’d left the year before.
By my senior year, I was co-founder, co-editor, co-producer, and co-writer of The Shadow, an underground ‘newspaper’ (though most of its 6-7 issues had only 4 pages each). [Note to any youngsters reading this: in the late 1960s, underground papers were quite rebellious and anti-establishment.] I also continued writing poems. One poem won a First Place (and cash award) in the Deep South Writers Conference and was published on the front page of our local city newspaper. Yep, my first published poem!
In my freshman year at a university in Georgia, I was Feature Editor of the student newspaper, the Mercer Cluster. Later I founded / produced / edited / wrote another underground paper, Pedestal. Also continued with my poetry.
By the summer after my freshman year, I was on staff at the Hammond [LA] Daily Star, where I worked in a variety of capacities (full-time and part-time) for over a year. That work — as reporter, photographer, feature writer, sports editor, and ad salesman — was for PAY … so I’d finally lost my amateur status.
After that, I was Assistant Editor of a weekly ‘shopper’ called the St. Tammany News — which was actually produced across Lake Ponchartrain, in downtown New Orleans.
I collaborated with my brother on a screenplay, which was never produced, and later on a short story which we submitted (unsuccessfully) to a few national magazines.
With a low draft lottery number, I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. After basic training, I was given a direct duty assignment — no tech school — to the first of three jobs with the newspapers at Cannon AFB NM, Thule AB Greenland, and McClellan AFB CA. Each position included photo-journalism and editing.
For a few years I continued to write short stories, but my main interest was poetry. I no longer have an exact count, but I estimate I’ve written at least 1000 complete poems (plus innumerable fragments). About 120 have been published; I’ve won some 30 poetry contest awards (many with cash prizes), including at least three from National Writer’s Club.
While still a professional librarian, I published several articles and book reviews in professional journals. Also, I co-authored (with my brother) two monographs on aspects of librarianship; these were released by Libraries Unlimited, which (at the time) was one of the top three publishers of library-related resources and reference tools. We also co-authored a signed chapter in a book published by the American Library Association, and a signed article (about homelessness) in a specialty 2-volume encyclopedia published by Sage Reference.
After I took an early retirement and moved from LA to KY, I naturally assumed I’d continue writing poetry and book reviews. Imagine my surprise to learn there were novels inside of me! In my first five years of retirement, I completed seven full-length novels, two of which have been published by Astraea Press.
I have concepts, notes, scenes, or (in some cases) thousands of words … on nearly six dozen OTHER novels.
My novels are available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, as well as the publisher’s site:
I can be seen presently at two blogs: