My mom used to read to me every night before I went to sleep from the time I can remember until I turned seven. She stopped when I learned to read on my own. I remember she used to read me a variety of books, sometimes Dr. Seuss, sometimes fairy tales, other times bible stories.
This nurtured in me, from very early on, a love of story-telling, and more specifically, a love for the values of story-telling; the lessons we can learn through it, and how it can transform our soul and change our outlook on life. All on the basis of feeling inspired, of discovering perhaps new emotions, new thoughts, new settings and people and behaviors and outcomes.
Of living more, in a way.
I still feel this way about fiction, and about its powers for the mind and soul. That’s why I love good books, shows, and movies.
I discovered my passion for creating stories in the sixth grade, when I was 11. Our literature teacher made us write stories instead of taking tests and graded us based on their quality. I loved it from the get-go. My first story was 5 pages long, and it was about a group of tomb raiders in Egypt who set a curse upon themselves by trespassing a newly discovered ancient pharaonic tomb. No one made it out alive. You might think it’s pretty dark–but I thought it was cool. And so did the teacher. She gave me a 5/5.
I remember one time she congratulated me for concluding an 8-page story about a camping trip pretty well. The kids all jumped off the cliff and fell into the refreshing pond’s deep waters–feel good emotions, etc. etc. And I also remember she was tough that one time when she wrote me a note saying I clearly copied my story about a 12 and 11 year old brother and sister who were actually spies off the movie Spy Kids. I didn’t admit it at the time–Johnny and Roberta were totally different! I thought…–but she was right.
I also remember those stories that perhaps only meant something to me. The story about a 10 year old lonely kid and his relationship to the ghost of another 10 year old kid living in his new house’s attic.
Or that time a group of time traveling eighth-graders went back in time to stop the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and then went back to the future and discovered their whole world changed. They had to go back in time and fix it, but their machine broke and accidentally took them back to the time of the dinosaurs… and I don’t really remember how that story ended, but I remember it was one of my favorites.
That class… I loved it. And aced it, I must say.
And after I graduated primary and moved on to seventh grade, and started reading literature and analyzing and writing papers (books that shaped my sensibilities during this period: The Lord of the Flies, The Lord of the Rings, 1984, Animal Farm, Harry Potter, Flowers for Algernon, the Grapes of Wrath).Then, when I turned thirteen, I started writing my first novel.
It was about a poor homeless warrior girl on a quest to save her city from war and doom by waking the ancient dragons of the east, who will guard their city. Most people from her world believed they were just a myth, but not Keely Sternhell.
Then, from tenth grade onward, I dug deeper into the world of novels. I read Phillip Pullman’s His Dark materials, Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, Steven Pressfield’s Gates of Fire, Jane Austen ( ❤ ), Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, and a whole bunch of classics such as Milton and Blake and Shakespeare. I also read Plato and Plutarch and other ancient philosophers.
These are all the books that spring to mind when I think about my literary education, but there was much more; I read constantly.
By the time I turned sixteen, I had finished my first novel. Looking back on it, it’s obvious this was my practice novel, but I felt proud of it nonetheless. I started a story and ended it. It felt like an accomplishment.
By the time I turned seventeen, I started my second novel.
In my late-teens / early twenties I read all of Orson Scott Card’s series that starts with the Ender’s Game, and also Bean’s series. I read a-lot of philosophy from different backgrounds and traditions, I started studying all types of religions, from christianity to hinduism to buddhism to zen, and also read a bunch of popular commercial books, and really weird cool anarchical books like Chuck Pahlaniuk’s Fight Club, and really got into John Grisham’s lawyer fiction since I was studying law.
Now I’m a lawyer, and I like it all right. But I am also an artist, and not deep down, but first and foremost. Story is the love of my life in a way no other profession could ever be.
That feeling I get when I create, that passion for mastering literary finesse, for a good story, for a gripping plot, for real characters, for the craft… that’s all in me.
The danger really lies in not letting it be buried beneath all the paperwork, so to speak. Beneath everything that is more urgent, but maybe not as important for me, for my perceived destiny in this world, as is writing and publishing those stories that are living beneath the surface of my reality, somewhere in my mind.
That is why I will be pursuing publication for my work. I have one completed manuscript, and I’m actually also halfway through the first draft of another novel right now, an epic fantasy about a 19-year old female lone forest archer called Shri who is thrown into the northern world of warrior aristocracy, and who there discovers her true destiny.
And I keep having ideas about a fourth novel, a 17-year old boy called Zack who can speak to angels–as in the same vein as the christian tradition–who is receiving guidance from a spiritual master whom he has learned to communicate with through some very specific exercises that led to him being able to access, in some measure, the spiritual world. Within that spiritual world, Zack can see and ponder the Akashic Records, a great web of information–called The Hollogram in psychonautic circles–that contains within it every memory and every impression of every event, word, action, thought, and emotion that has ever transpired through humanity over the face of the earth.
But I’m rambling.
The point is, I’m ready to embrace my writer-hood. I’m ready to give it a shot.
I believe in my stories, and I’m disciplined with my craft. For a long time I wasn’t ready. But now I am.
I’m ready to show my art to the world.
Manifesto–August 23, 2015