A host of indie and traditionally published writers are exhorting authors to share a manifesto with their followers. The dictionary defines manifesto as a statement of values, beliefs and goals. As applied to our profession, it is designed to remind us why we’re writers and to get us back on track when we’ve gone astray.
This sounds like good practice, so I developed my own manifesto by asking myself some pertinent questions:
What do I value?
I value the sheer beauty of story, the fictive impulse that kindles a spark and lights up the world, revealing the splendor of human nature and uncovering its abjectness. That’s what I value, but that’s not why I write.
I value the transformative power of literature, its power to shape the attitudes of readers and get them to question their assumptions. That’s what I value, but that’s not why I write.
I value the craft involved in assembling words in patterns most effective for expressing the writer’s vision. That’s what I value, but that’s not why I write.
What do I believe?
I believe that writing creates art out of the stuff of life; that it’s a magic act conjuring up worlds and people where none existed before. That’s what I believe; but that’s not why I write.
I believe storytelling is inherent in human nature, a bond that ties the writer to past and future generations. That’s what I believe; but that’s not why I write.
I believe that fiction offers a powerful vehicle of self-expression, thematically channeling the writer’s values and ideals. That’s what I believe; but that’s not why I write.
Why do I write?
I write because I am a lover of the written word as transmuted into fiction.
I write because my mind and heart are bursting with stories searching for expression.
I write to impart the utter elation I experienced upon reading my first novel. Writer that I am, I am compelled to illuminate that thunderbolt of an experience in . . . what else? . . . a story.
On Reading My First Novel: A Story
“Here’s a friend to keep you company,” my aunt said to me, a flu-felled seven-year-old, as she handed me a copy of Louisa May Alcott’s Eight Cousins. But I did not make friends easily, and I read only the comics, my literature degrees not yet imagined.
All the same, I was tortured by tedium and desperate for diversion, and there you were Eight Cousins, in my aunt’s outstretched hand, your gray metallic cover shining like a knight in armor, ready to rescue a runny-nosed damsel in distress.
So I touched your spine and you opened your arms and drew me into the mahogany-paneled great hall of the Boston estate, where seven boys of various sizes stood ready to greet their orphan cousin, Rose of the black ringlets and hooped skirt. “Rose looked wildly about her as if ready to fly,” you related in your quaint tongue, so different from the dese and dose of my childhood vernacular. I realized years later that ready-to-fly Rose was not about to spread wings but rather to turn tail and run. The words worked their spell nonetheless. Transported to a strange land, I found myself coming home.
Eight Cousins, I love you still! You were the best friend of a lonely child. I would make friends with other novels; some of these friends I would know intimately, others cursorily. I sought blissful solace everywhere, becoming shamelessly promiscuous, hungering always for another and yet another to taste, swallow, chew and digest.
But for sheer delight, Eight Cousins, you had no peer. You were my first love, never to be forgotten, the source of the passion for story that still burns in my breast.