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By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Staff
It is a wide known fact that most writers do not begin their career life as writers, nor do they intend it. There are many steps in between. J.K. Rowling studied Classics and French in college and worked as a secretary for Amnesty International. Steven King intended on being a teacher.
Steven Manchester has followed a similar path, beginning his professional life as a prison guard. On Thursday, May 16, Manchester came to the Medfield Public Library to discuss his careers and what eventually led him to write some best-selling books. His presentation was the second installment of Medfield Library’s Spring Author Series.
Manchester knew the value of a good story from his grandfather, who everyone called Swamp Yankee. “To me there’s nothing better than a good story,” his grandfather said, and Manchester knew it, too.
Manchester’s career began before he even graduated high school. As he grew up in Westport, Massachusetts, Manchester was inspired to become a police officer. He signed up and trained for the National Guard while he was still in high school. He then worked as a reserve police officer in his town, before starting work at a Massachusetts Correctional Facility, where he was part of the bakery unit, an area of the prison named after its former function. During his presentation, he noted one incident he had while working in the unit.
“I had a battery whipped at my head,” he said. Though the battery did not hit him, the event summed up the chaotic experience Manchester went through while working at the prison. Manchester noted how he grew up a sensitive guy and that his work in prison upset him immensely. “The better I became at my job, the more it upset me,” he said.
That’s how Manchester’s life went every day. Then, on Christmas Eve, 1991, Manchester received word that he was being deployed to join Operation Desert Storm.
“There were two inches of ice on the ground and we were training for desert warfare,” he joked.
Once he reached the desert, Manchester, along with his fellow platoon members, witnessed things they never thought they would see. To say the experience was traumatic for Manchester and his fellow veterans was an understatement.
But it also gave Manchester a lot of time to think about what he was going to do when he got home. “To me, it was one of the most spiritual experiences I had,” he said. Despite knowing the rejection rate, Manchester made a promise that he was going to become a published author.
Manchester arrived home and was shocked by the lack of care he and his fellow veterans received. To join the military, Manchester had been required to undergo several exams, a physical, and take other steps. “They give you a clipboard. That’s it,” he explained. Shortly after arriving home, Manchester decided to finish his college degree and started taking classes again. In one class, he raised his hand to ask why they were not being taught about other topics, like probation and parole.
The professor smiled and replied, “If you’re so smart you should write it!”
Since then, Manchester has written four best-selling books and he enjoys his job every day. He has gone through every experience in the publishing world - from being an unknown self-published author to being an Amazon best-selling author. Inspired by his own life, he has written books about veterans, family dynamics, PTSD, and coming-of-age stories.
“I couldn’t control how my life went,” he noted, “but I can control my books,” he added with a smile.
Today, the sensitivity Manchester once had has been renewed through his emotional novels. “I go back to a time when I’m 9 or ten,” he remarked on his writing process. “And I believe.”