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Stuart W. Mirsky is a former municipal bureaucrat who left government service in 2002 to write full time. After traveling in his youth (Europe, Africa, the Middle East) and securing a black belt in the oriental martial art of karate, Mirsky, who studied philosophy in his college days, settled down to raise a family and keep them housed and fed. But the "call of the writer" drew him back once more to the wild and windswept shores of fiction with his first novel, The King of Vinland's Saga, about Vikings and Indians in eleventh century North America.
The novel, which was initially begun and written in the early 1980's, lay forgotten for a decade in a desk drawer until a colleague approached him in 1994 in search of a story that "might make a good movie." A former filmmaker, the colleague was interested in getting back in the business but, on re-reading the original manuscript, after nearly a decade, Mirsky decided the sensibility was too juvenile and determined to write it all again -- nearly from scratch.
Two years later he delivered the new manuscript to that colleague and a screenwriter collaborator. As they sat over a late lunch in a midtown Manhattan eatery, Mirsky listened with a growing sense of dread as the screenwriter painstakingly described all the problems he saw with the novel. Rising from the table, Mirsky finally thanked them and excused himself, saying he had to get back to the office. "I'm sorry you didn't like it," he added as he turned to leave.
The screenwriter stared in surprise. "Sit down," he said. "Who said I didn't like it? I was just saying how hard this is going to be to film." Returning to the table, Mirsky found the food tasted a great deal better than before. Still, when all was said and done, neither his colleague nor the screenwriter could raise the cash to make the film.
Mirsky finally called the screenwriter a few months later and said, "What do I do now?"
"Get it published," was the reply. But that proved easier to say than do.
After two more years of queries to various publishing houses, Mirsky was ready to shove the new manuscript in the drawer with the older one when he discovered that modern digital storage and printing technology, combined with Internet distribution and sales, had made self-publishing an economically viable alternative and decided to publish the novel himself. Despite its "amateur" provenance, the book, which came out at the end of 1998, won surprisingly good reviews from readers in many venues including on Amazon.com and Mirsky began to think that maybe he'd been wasting his time in the bureaucracy after all.
"It actually took me only 108 days to write though it was two years in the making since I was working full time then," Mirsky notes.
The book, as it now exists, was written nearly without revision (except for one troublesome scene and some light editorial clean-up prior to publication). "It virtually poured out of me," Mirsky adds, "as if it were writing itself. Unfortunately I've never had that experience again as everything on this scale I've tried since has been an agonizing struggle to get right, suggesting that I may have become too self-conscious in my craft -- such as it is."
Since writing the viking novel, Mirsky has coordinated a viking ship extravaganza in 2000 in New York Harbor and, after retiring, he developed and managed two literary arts festivals, bringing writers and readers together in a series of panel discussions and workshops combining musical entertainment and poetry readings with book signings and other networking opportunities for writers and readers.
In 2004, he published a compendium of short pieces, written for a number of local newspapers over the preceding decade about local cultural and political issues (Irregularities: Tidal Flows and Politics Along the Rockaway Shore). He also ran for local political office in a campaign aimed at restoring fiscal responsibility and making state government more accountable to its citizens while eschewing all efforts at formal fund raising. He lost with less than 25% of the vote in a two-candidate race!
In 2005 he edited the Holocaust memoir Bitter Freedom by Jafa Wallach and wrote the foreword for it (Hermitage Publishing, 2006) and in 2006 he completed A Raft on the River, the true story of a fifteen year old girl's remarkable journey of survival as she dodged the Nazis in Eastern Poland during the Second World War for nearly two years and lived for a time under the unsuspecting nose of the local gestapo commandant (Paul Mould Publisher, UK, 2006).
Mirsky reports that he is now at work on another, rather different sort of novel, this one an off-the-beaten-track American Western, set mainly in pre-Civil War Oklahoma and Texas. It's the true story of a forgotten group of people whose long struggle to redeem a broken promise given in the midst of a shabby and bloody conflict produced a legend fit to stand with the greatest sagas of the old West, he says.