Mark Wisniewski

When I was a kid, the best stories came through my ears, usually during meals—often on “happy” holidays like the Fourth of July. There were certain old relatives who excelled at holding court as it were. I was curious and shy, so I’d listen demurely.

Then came school, where reading and writing happened and it struck me to try to “keep up” with the best storytellers I knew by writing stories of my own. By writing I could also make permanent some family lore. I thus became kind of a cipher for the Wisniewski family, which was an expansive clan by any measure.

Like many back then, I then found myself more and more often living away from home—for the sake of education, employment, and adventure. Writing then changed from a pastime inspired by family to work in which I’d fictionalize and thus report some of the more curious experiences I’d had out in the world. At some point readers told me they were making a distinction between my “funny stories” and my “sad stories”; in any case, the better stories were published as short stories in print magazines and, finally, as novels.

That’s it. That’s more or less how I got hooked. Add to this the reading of work by experienced novelists who’ve honed their craft impressively, and you can find yourself doing it every day, sometimes while a meal sits beside you silently, waiting for you to finish.