Go Back

Kirsti Manninen

Kirsti Marjatta Manninen (née Aukia)
Born October 22, 1952, Seinäjoki

Master of Arts 1978, Licentiate 1978, PhD 1987 (Finnish Literature), University of Helsinki
Docent in Finnish literature 1988–, University of Helsinki

Freelance writer and scriptwriter 1983–
Writer of the History of the parish of Mänsälä 1978–82
Part-time history teacher 1974–78, Järvenpää Comprehensive School

Publications, awards and special achievements:
Non-fiction, novels, books for children and young people, scripts
Maaseutumitali 1994 (Pro Agria)
Tirkistys tulevaisuuteen prize 2000 (Family Federation of Finland)
Cross of Merit of the Disabled War Veterans Association of Finland 2001
Tietopöllö Prize for junior non-fiction 2006, for the team responsible for Suomen lasten historia (‘Finnish history for children’) (Manninen, Kuisma, Kaakinen)
Plättä Prize (for Suden arvoitus ‘Mystery of the Wolf’)
Kaarina Helakisa Prize (literature for children and adolescents) 2009
Golden Venla Award for best scriptwriter of the year 2014 (together with Antti Pesonen for the drama series Kansan mies ‘Man of the people)

Photo: Jouni Harala / Otava archive
Written by Kirsti Manninen, Tomas Sjöblom (ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

Log Cabin and an Ice Stadium

Over the past 30 years, my work has clearly been divided in two: as an author I have worked on texts for over a hundred different books both under my own name and under the pseudonym Enni Mustonen. As a scriptwriter and playwright I have been involved in various writing teams that have produced hundreds of hours of plays and television drama. Although both types of writing require dedication to the computer screen, a book and a script are completely different projects.

The words in a book only come alive once the reader picks up the book and breathes life into them through his or her imagination. That is why every time someone reads something it is different and unique. I have used a log cabin analogy to illustrate the relationship between a book and a reader. The writer has chosen the location of the cabin, lain the foundation, felled and chopped the trees, carved the logs so they fit together, acquired windows and a door, built a bench, a table and a bed, woven rugs and embroidered aphorisms on the wall. Every reader enters the cabin alone. Some of them, however, will not even bother to make it as far as the front stairs when they notice the owner is, for example, Enni Mustonen. Some of those who enter the cabin might turn on their heels if the décor is not to their liking. Others return to the cabin time after time and sit quietly on the bed, savouring the atmosphere.

As a scriptwriter, I am part of a team of architects that usually drafts blueprints for a grand and expensive public building being planned for a certain plot of land, in other words a television timeslot. It is important to agree with the client and the producer right from the start what kind of building they hope to construct and what the budget is for the project. It is pointless to plan marble columns for an air dome if they will simply be rejected when construction begins. To me, teamwork is the most fascinating aspect of scriptwriting. When dialogue is used to carry the story, it is both useful and fun if the team has as much variety as possible and represents different generations, backgrounds and life experiences.

The script, however, is only the blueprint. It only becomes three and four dimensional when the director, producer, actors, set and costume designers, make-up artists, musicians and special effects technicians and above all editors unite their efforts. A good script that has been written in collaboration with the director inspires everyone to do their best on the project. Then the resulting building will be more magnificent than we scriptwriters could have imagined in front of our computers. If the crew is unable to understand, accept or realise the script, the result will be a disappointment to everybody. The older I get, the more important it is to me that right from the start the entire production team works with the same direction and goal in mind.

Both the log cabin and ambitious blueprints require plenty of research and background work. An academic research education has provided excellent tools for that purpose. You have to be ready for both field work and solitary labour in an archive. Facts are always building blocks in fiction, even in fairy tales and science fiction. The most joyous aspect of writing historical fiction is developing the story from facts and then telling it within that framework. When a writer or team gets into the flow, work does not feel like work at all. Then you are in the cradle of the Gods. Everything is possible.

From 1979 onwards, I have written dozens of plays for the Barn Theatre of my hometown Jokelanseutu. This backstage selfie was taken in August of 2015 with Maija and Pekka Halonen, when we were putting on a performance of MAIJA, the second part of the Tuusulanjärven muusat trilogy (‘The Muses of Tuusulanjärvi’). In the summer of 2016 we will tackle the story of Tilly.


Go Back