Published by The Story Plant, January 2013 ***
If you’re looking for a sweet, inspirational story, then Manchester’s brand of writing is for you. You’re not going to get a literary masterpiece here, but this novel delivers a nice, thoroughly saccharine message. Family matriarch Mama has her own brand of faith, and when her infant grandson becomes severely disabled due to a nutritional deficiency, she uses her strong faith and gumption to make sure Brian overcomes his disabilities. Told by doctors that he will never walk/talk/function normally, Brian thrives under Mama’s guidance. Mama’s mantra is that “can’t” is a dirty word, and she spouts a variety of clichés to bolster Brian’s confidence and develop his abilities. Beware, the inspirational jargon borders on being overtly Christian, and Mama’s a devout Catholic, but she also abhors prejudices that can accompany dogma.
Manchester’s narrative is very simple and straightforward – This happens; She said this; She sobs; That happens; He cries with joy. Though the story is laced with emotional occurrences, the simplicity is almost emotionless, like when one day, “…Brian contracted meningitis.” Holy crap, that’s a big deal, but mentioned so offhandedly, I was a little perplexed at the lack of alarm. There were some inconsistencies in the story, but many readers would enjoy the hopefulness and positive message that Mama and Brian share.
I received a complimentary copy of this book via Providence Book Promotions.
Steven Manchester is the author of the #1 bestseller TWELVE MONTHS and PRESSED PENNIES, THE UNEXPECTED STORM: The Gulf War Legacy, and JACOB EVANS, as well as several books under the pseudonym, Steven Herberts. His work has appeared on NBC’s Today Show, CBS’s The Early Show, CNN’s American Morning and BET’s Nightly N ews. Recently, three of Steven’s short stories were selected “101 Best” for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. When not spending time with his beautiful wife, Paula, or his four children, this Massachusetts author is promoting his works or writing.
Here’s my conversation with Steven:
Julz: Considering your background in the military and corrections, you really seem to have found your creative outlet. What inspires you?
Steven: I served in Operation Desert Storm and it was a brutal experience. I promised myself that if I made it home alive, I would pursue my dream of being a published author. I began writing in 1991—upon my safe return—and have been writing ever since.
Since then—and today—the thing that inspires me most is my children. I’ve always taught them that they should chase their dreams because dreams come true. However, we don’t get what we wish for; we get what we work for. Every time I put pen to paper and pursue my lifelong dream, I’m inspired to teach them to reach for the stars.
Julz: Did you ever incorporate literacy in your dealings with inmates?
Steven: Unfortunately, when I worked within an adult correctional facility, I was there as an investigator. Within that capacity, there was no room to incorporate literacy. I am proud to say, however, that when I left that profession I spent several years volunteering my time within a youth detention center—where we discussed literacy and the benefits of writing.
Julz: If you could take three books with you on a desert island, what would they be?
Steven: 1) The Bible; 2) My journal—which includes writings for my children; 3) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (to me, this was literary perfection).
Julz : Can you describe for me your writing space? What particular items do you like to have nearby?
Steven: This has changed through the years, though there are several constants. I write on a laptop in the family dining room. It is the one place in the house where I’m guaranteed the fewest distractions—and it’s also close to the coffee pot. I have a stereo nearby, as I play the same CD over-and-over; this works as white noise to block out the rest of the world.
Julz: In your publishing/writing workshops, what is the one golden piece of advice you offer?
Steven: The one golden piece of advice is to exercise PERSEVERANCE! Now that I have nearly two decades of writing and getting published under my belt, I enjoy trying to help new writers break in. My advice is always the same:
- Be true to yourself, always.
- Write constantly.
- Keep the faith!!!
- And NEVER, EVER, EVER quit. Most people in this industry would agree that more than talent or skill or even luck, perseverance is the one trait that will always get the job done.
- Knock on every door you can, and keep knocking. I promise that eventually someone will open and the warmth you feel on your face will more than validate every hour spent alone in the darkness.