Small Rituals

It is the small rituals that hold our lives together — those little gestures and repeated shared practices, the trinkets we collect and endow with meaningfulness, and our uncomplicated bits of knowledge which we cherish as endearing truths – these are what contain us and calm us and prevent us from exploding our lives.


I have a fascination for how memory works. As a small child, I began a lifelong ritual of putting myself to sleep each night by remembering small details of the day. During long bus rides, I can spend hours contemplating a single memory, turning it this way and that way. Twisting. Focusing on old feelings with new perspectives; with time and attention, memories will grow like wildflowers budding with differently coloured words left unspoken in the past and yet somehow echoing far into the future. What was once an innocent pause lingering lightly and momentarily in the air can come crashing down with a silent thud.

Small Rituals is a collection of short stories based on memories and imagination, some of the stories are populated with people I never met and sometimes they are set in a time before I was born. To write this collection, I twisted memoir into fiction and a first-person story into a ‘fly on the wall narrative’ and then, like a kitten chasing her tail, I revised it all back again. But still, I sat at my keyboard surprised as new characters emerged in the writing, self-invented and imagined they came to life and settled nicely in between my memories. I’ve turned things inside out, shaken out the now stale crumbs of loves and betrayals, discovered many small thefts of dignity, mine, and others, and I have honed the edges of hard truths to a shine – all in a wild and wonderful chase to discover meaningfulness in a life lived. I don’t know how much truth I have found in this collection. True stories are difficult, and at times you need an imaginary friend to help you find the truth. Meaningfulness is different from truth; meaningfulness is downright deceptive.

The BEST rejection letter yet

I began submitting short stories, both fiction and creative non-fiction, to journals and magazines since January this year (22) with a promise to myself to get serious about getting published. I just received the most encouraging rejection letter — yet. This is the first time I have been invited to skip the waiting period and resubmit. I have about 6 good short stories, and non-fiction shorts, that I will keep submitting for this year. I am going to begin drafting Part Two of my memoir, I don’t have a title yet — but it will mostly take place on the Camino, which I plan on walking again next May. According to my research on how to find a good publisher for the manuscript, the task is easier if I begin by publishing short pieces in recognized literary journals and prestigious magazines like the New Yorker and The Atlantic.
CRAFT: A Timeless Dance
Tuesday, June 28, 2022 5:31 AM
To:Paterson, Erika

[CAUTION: Non-UBC Email]

Dear Erika Paterson,

Thank you for sending us “A Timeless Dance” to consider for CRAFT.
Your essay stood out and we enjoyed the read, but we can accept so few pieces, we do have to decline good work. We’re sorry this isn’t a fit for us right now.

We appreciate your interest in contributing to CRAFT, and hope you will send us work again.

You’re welcome to bypass the three-month waiting period and submit creative nonfiction again soon.

The Editors CRAFT

Submission ID: 27280836Sent by Submittable.
111 Higgins Ave #300, Missoula, MT 59802

Submission to Anansi

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Submission to Anansi Publishers

February 1, 2022,


Thank you for the opportunity to submit my manuscript, ‘Small Rituals”.  I fall inside your category of “debuting after forty, and without an M.F.A.”

Small Rituals is a 53 thousand word memoir with 31 chapters. Small Rituals is a travel adventure memoir with unexpected twists and turns and unusual encounters. The book begins with a small misfortune prompting an unexpected journey. A denied work permit leads to a missed connecting flight in Chicago that begins my adventures through the Americas. At a time before the skies were filled with satellites and travelling required paper maps, in essence, during the last days of authentic travel I got lost on a journey to nowhere.

I am a semi-retired professor teaching for the English Language and Literature Department at the University of British Columbia (UBC). Before my teaching career, I worked in Fringe theatre writing, directing and touring Fringe plays across the country. I have published in The Canadian Theatre Review and the Canadian Encyclopedia as well as authoring two online courses for UBC (Professional Writing & Oh Canada, Our home ON Native Land).

Again, thank you for this opportunity, I am including a brief synopsis of Small Rituals and a pdf file of the manuscript. I hope you enjoy your read.

Sincerely, Erika Paterson


A Brief Synopsis of Small Rituals

(53000 word, 30 chapters)

Small Rituals is a story about a remarkable and transformative journey across continents and through a landscape of memories. My story begins on a plane on my way home. Home was an old weather-beaten wooden sloop tied up in a lagoon on Grand Cayman Island — that I shared with Rock, who was equally old. And weather beaten. I had a two-hour layover at the Chicago airport, so I went outside for a smoke, missed my connection, and without thinking about it, I jumped on a shuttle to the Grey Hound bus station and began a long journey with no destination and little cash. Traveling by bus, I crossed the Mexican border and high in the mountains of Oaxaca I was invited to join a magic mushroom ritual, in the highlands of Guatemala I lost my ATM card and lived for months with no cash, on the Rio Dulce, deep in the jungle, I worked in a bar that raised money for a home and school for Mayan children, and in Honduras I stopped to help to open a small university. In the end, Rock sailed our ‘home’ from Cayman Island and joined me in Honduras, but I was a different person.

Traveling alone is a special kind of journey, and more so when you have no destination. When you travel like this, time changes. In a strange way, time becomes meaningless and disappears, and when time disappears the border between memory and imagination melts away. Whatever happened in a long ago past, is so easily reimagined in a timeless present. I was so often left alone to reflect. On those long bus rides, vivid dreams from the past filled my waking hours with memories. I wrote those memories down and crafted them into stories. Playing with my stories, fitting the past into my present like pieces of a colourful abstract puzzle, a larger story took shape, a story about memory and destinies.

My book is called Small Rituals, because in the writing I realized that, for some of us, it is the small rituals that hold our lives together: those little gestures and repeated practices, the small trinkets we collect and endow with meaningfulness, and our uncomplicated bits of knowledge which we cherish as endearing truths. These are what contain us and prevent us from asking the unanswerable questions.  

Small Rituals: Prologue


I love the way a memory can pop up at the most unexpected time. Sometimes as clear as day and sharp as an omen. I have a fascination with memory. I read academic books and articles about neuroscience and how memory works. I will spend hours contemplating a single memory, turning it this way and that way, focusing on long ago feelings from fresh new angles. Some memories grow with time and attention, the details become richer as words left unspoken echo far into the future. What was once a momentary pause can linger on and on. When I reminisce with honesty, I discover all sorts of hidden nooks and crannies filled to the brim with the good and the bad, with the smells and tastes and textures that trigger a myriad of feelings eager to be revived.

 It is truly a marvel to me how memories can grow and accumulate through a lifetime, yet our heads remain the same size.

I’ve been searching for the border between memory and imagination. It has been a futile search. There is no real border to discover, neither metaphorical nor literal. Musing over the past can only ever be an act of lacing together memories with imagination. Inevitably, while remembering I begin to imagine why someone else did what they did, I can’t help but to imagine how another person might have felt, or what might have been said that I didn’t hear. Turning memories into stories leads to re-enacting conversations word for word, as if they are happening in the moment and not a long ago past. With each new telling, details become richer and sometimes new characters emerge. Characters who are compilations of people I’ve met on my travels or known for a lifetime. I’ve learned that sometimes to find the truth inside a story – you need an imaginary friend. A friend who helps you to reveal the feelings and thoughts that would otherwise remain buried beneath a lifetime of finely crafted lies to ourselves and others.

Submission for Soft Skull Press

July 20, 2021

A memoir of the imagination in three parts.

Part Two:

Small Rituals

Soft Skull press is a beautifully visceral name, it makes me think of penetrating the impenetrable, softly. Wouldn’t I love to text my ex and say, “Hey, guess what? Soft Skull press is publishing my memoir!”  But they’d go on about how it’s not really a memoir because, according to them, it’s not a true story.  

Sometimes it takes an imaginary friend to help you reveal the truth.

Taking advantage of Soft Skull’s once a year offer to consider manuscripts is a beginning step, and I am appreciative of the chance, thank you.

The last time I asked for support via my social media, 13.7 K hits registered on my one-minute video on vimeo. I am waiting for immunity for the world so I can take another long walk across Northern Spain and have created a new wordpress: to prepare. I will walk for 66 days exploring my memories, backwards. Part three of my memoir takes place on that walk, it is about the first time I made my way on the El Camino de Santiago.

Born in the 50’s, liberated in the 70’s, radicalized in the 80’s, educated in the 90’s – and now we are so diversified beyond these generalization that many of us no longer care to gender ourselves. So, I’ll just say people like me who enjoy reading memoirs and travel adventures, who have an open-ended sense of humour, a fascination for how memory works, an interest in migration, ethnography, adventure and an enduring penchant for transcendence and transformation – these are my readers.

A note on narrative style and how my work fits with Soft Skull Press. In non-linear systems “the change of the output is not proportional to the change of the input” (in mathematical terms that is). This seems like a fitting way to describe my narrative style — and perhaps a fitting metaphor for my life: sometimes over-productive and sometimes counter intuitive, unpredictable while remaining beautifully balanced on the edge of contradictions and coincidences. I think Soft Skull’s audience will appreciate the refuge of such a fine balance and enjoy this alternative vision of lived experience.

Please enjoy the synopsis and short bio also attached with this letter of Intent.  

Again, thank you.

 Erika Paterson.

I walked across the border into Tijuana this morning

Yikes – back in Mexico, walked back into the land of my mythical dreams. Sitting in the court-yard of the only Youth Hostels  in Ensenada  — I am …

And now, it is ten years later and I am back in La Paz with my true friend Ramiro and we are going to visit the “beach beyond the beach again.” ….. follow the link to read about my first visit, ten years ago.

I walked across the border into Tijuana this morning