Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Ghosts of Salem

It’s funny how when I actually began writing everything just started unfolding in my head, then traveled down from my mind to my hands, then to the keyboard and so on, until I had a draft. The concept was good enough to win over a literary agent, but after reading my manuscript she said something was missing. When she read the descriptions of Salem she felt like I was lacking a personal connection to Salem. So I kicked around her comments, reading every webpage I could find on historic Salem, and still I felt like maybe she was right. If I wanted to bring the world around Lyla to life then I needed a personal connection to the pictures and stories I’d seen online. So I went to Salem.
A year and a half ago I went to Salem with my sister Sarah and roamed through the cobblestone streets of the small town. We walked past all of the historical homes and buildings that I thought I had visited. The cool air wrapped around us and pushed us through the town, slowing when we approached the old cemetery, and stopping altogether when we found the memorial to the fallen “witches”.
Rough cut cold grey stones lined a cobblestoned rectangle, displaying the names of all of the people who were said to be witches and died at the hands of paranoia and fear. History says a young girl pointed the finger at an Irish wash woman rumored to have powers and so began the hangings of the witches of Salem. Their names are etched on the old stone slabs and still linger in the town, whispering their stories on the coastal wind.
She was right, the agent, after I went to Salem my work changed. I could feel the chill in the air when I wrote about the eerie dark streets of Salem after that visit. Lyla’s world had become part of my own.


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