Photo Credit:  Sydney Reichman

Photo Credit: Sydney Reichman

About Sally Schloss

I live in downtown Nashville

I live in downtown Nashville in The Ryman artist lofts, with an impressive backyard view of the newest Nashville skyline. I’ve lived here long enough to write a novel and a number of short stories set in this town. However, New York City is still home—my “true north.” No matter how many years I’ve lived here, when I open my mouth I’m immediately pegged; “You’re from New York!” This is often followed by the compliment, “You don’t act like a New Yorker!”

My parents, American-born Russian Jews, grew up in Brooklyn during the Great Depression. My father was a nuclear physicist; my mother was a local activist, painter, and gardener, as well as a fatalist, which conflicted with my father’s cockeyed optimism. They were Communists in the 1930s, which wasn’t unusual then for Jewish New York intellectuals—until Stalin disillusioned them. During WWII, my father worked on the atom bomb. He was assured it would never be used. When the bomb was dropped on Japan, my parents held each other and wept.

I was raised with a healthy skepticism toward all political ideologies and religious dogma, and a deep fear of “boys with their toys.” I was a child of the fifties when diving under your school desk for cover was supposed to protect you during nuclear attack. It was also a time when paranoid, or perhaps optimistic, men built fallout shelters in their back yards so that one day their families would be able to crawl out into the remnants of their future. 

i wrote my first short story

I wrote my first short story, in the fourth grade, as a joke, rebelling against the annual back-to-school assignment, “How I Spent My Summer Vacation.” My protagonist was the neighborhood bully who punched me in the stomach and generally threatened me. On the page, I was able to achieve my revenge: stalking, murdering, and leaving the remains of this piggy-eyed brute in the dumpster for his garbage-man father to collect on his morning route. The story ended with my discovering how much I liked to kill. My mother laughed when she read it—my first audience reaction. It was very gratifying.

After dropping out of high school—bored to tears by the public school system and its militant model of teaching—I eventually graduated summa cum laude from S.U.N.Y. at Buffalo with a B.A. in English. After a stint at Indiana University grad school in their M.A. program, where I felt stifled once more, I moved back to New York to become a famous writer. Except I had no idea how to do that.

I had to make a living.

I managed a graphic arts studio in Chelsea. I wined and dined executives at Estée Lauder while working for a printer that made the letterpress packaging and hand-tooled dies for labels on perfumes and make up. I wrote short stories. I sometimes took workshops with famous people and not-so-famous people. The New Yorker rejected one of my first short stories in a hand written note encouraging me to submit again. I was devastated.

Then I fell in love with a songwriter. We moved in together. The New York Times wrote an article touting Nashville as the last bastion of lyrics and melody, and the best place on earth for songwriters. So, we left. 

Here is why I write.

        “…if you pulled a book from a shelf you would hold something of heft in your hands...and the words would teach you things and give you deep pleasure and pain… You could take these squiggles, these energetic, emoting, muscular symbols that traveled from mind to mind, through time and distance, and they became you. ”*

It’s magic.

*Quote from the short story Witness, by Sally Schloss