Congratulations to my guest, Sally Trueman Dicken, as she launches her debut novel The Memory Tin.
I met Sally at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. Sally has come along to ‘Patricia’s Pen’ to chat about her writing so without further ado…
My Writing Journey
Sally Trueman Dicken
I was brought up in a world of books. Both parents were avid readers, passing down the joy of diving into another world. I can remember imagining myself in The Secret Garden or sailing off to Treasure Island. I progressed to Mary Stewart’s romantic mysteries and thence onto crime and romance in the adult world. Funnily enough I never considering writing stories myself. I think it was the attraction of escaping from reality that lured me in.
What got me going as a writer was studying for a degree in history as a mature student at Bath Spa University. All the work that seemed bothersome whilst at school was now a pleasure as I wrote essays and spent hours researching. I revelled in the exciting life of being a full-time student and having long discussions with other students. I made so many friends and reading their essays showed me how many different ways there was to tackle a subject which was very helpful when I came to writing fiction.
When I gained my degree, I was going to train as a teacher but a sudden up surge in family life did not allow the time required and so I studied part-time for an MA in Irish history. Putting pen to paper became a habit I could not give up. I started writing down ideas on any notebook to hand. I would study my shopping list in the supermarket and find it was on the back of an idea for a tale with a twist.
After attending various writing groups, I discovered the world of writers’ weeks with marvellous speakers explaining how they wrote their novels. It was here I heard about Lulu self-publishing and thought I’m going to publish my own book. Ten years ago, I wrote my very first chapter and synopsis for my novel, inspired by a ‘what-if moment’ in my family chronicles set against the background of my home-town which is steeped in history going back to the Domesday Book. The novel was a time-slip story, and I had no idea about how complicated this would be. I battled on and changed chapters, tried various systems of constructing the novel, with cards, time sheets, on the computer, writing it by hand and listening to it on Kindle’s text to speech. I have put it away in despair and pulled it out many times over the years, whilst I wrote short stories for The Peoples Friend and dealt with an expanding family.
It was Covid that nearly made me give up and Covid that gave me the time to pull myself together to complete the process of self-publishing, aided by a helpful mentor for the technology bits which nearly defeated me. What else was I going to do with the self-isolation and endless time on my hands. And so, at the age of 72, I will be proud to present my very first novel. I have great plans for several more books in the pipeline.
About Sally Trueman Dicken
Sally Trueman Dicken lives with her husband in Somerset, surrounded by grandchildren of various ages and dogs. When not restricted by Covid, she enjoys walking in the countryside and by the sea. She is an insatiable reader both on Kindle and in books. She is interested in history of all sorts and wildlife. She enjoys being a matriarch of a large tribe and solving problems. If she won the Lottery, she would found a home for discarded animals and people.
If an overloaded lorry carrying debris from a demolished workhouse threw a battered old tin at your feet, would you pick it up and carry it home to discover the contents? Grieving widow, Lizzy did just that and her mad impulse turned her world upside down.
When Lizzy carried the old tin home in a doggy bag, she did not expect it to contain anything of value despite the initials scratched on the front. Once opened, the surprizing contents, hidden one hundred years ago, start her on a quest to discover more about the owner of this tin full of memories. The journey to trace the history of the tin and the valiant young woman nursing in WW1 and her Canadian soldier suitor, forces Lizzy to emerge from her lethargy and to make new friends whilst she re-evaluates her own life and decides to make changes. A chance encounter with a woman with a tale to tell sends Lizzy in the right direction when all other research has failed. A roller-coaster of emotions follows all her discoveries until at last the past is laid to rest.
As the decades passed, the little tin lost its shine. All sorts of debris gathered under the floorboards of the ancient building. The blue enamel grew dingy and rusty spots appeared. Eventually only fragments of the white lilies-of-the-valley and bright blue forget-me-knots remained. Dents and scratches occurred as various furry creatures crept over the tin scrabbling with their tiny paws. Severe flooding one winter turned the basement into a swirling pool of mud that encased the tin when the waters seeped away. Luckily the tiny tin was watertight and guarded its secret well.
Inside the contents were intact – the memories of a wartime romance were preserved for posterity, protected from the world outside. A moment in time rested in this shell waiting to see daylight again.
Decades passed. Technology took over. Changes were made. Old buildings were pulled down and one day the little tin saw daylight again. It was destined for the council tip until it was rescued and opened. The secrets of the wartime lovers were about to be exposed.
Would this small tin get its chance to reveal hidden history?