The Fifth Letter

Guest Post: How Did The Fifth Letter Evolve As A Vehicle For Change? by Dr. Vivian L. Carpenter

Books can be used to open the doorways of our minds. They can shape and redefine the consciousness of its readers.

Classic texts tend to be literary works that have the power to change society by exposing the reality of the current state of affairs with words that chisel away at accepted societal norms that are based on false assumptions of power and privilege.

Think of John Steinbeck’s novel, The Grapes of Wrath.  Years ago, Steinbeck showed the power of the corporation over individual rights.  It was in my reading of The Grapes of Wrath, while writing The Fifth Letter that I came to realize that We The People share a common struggle against the collective interests of corporations.  This issue is not really Black vs. White.  It is about all of us defining our inalienable rights as individuals.  Therefore, I would argue that The Grapes of Wrath has been a vehicle for change in America because it changed my thinking.

While writing The Fifth Letter, I embarked on a path to become a creative writer. I studied classic texts. I sent an intention into the universe to create a work of fiction that would have impact on the world. I prayed. I paid attention to coincidences. I researched.  I wrote. I prayed for guidance. I rewrote. Again and again. I cut. I learned to meditate.

At first, I wanted to do too much in one novel. I was urged to do less and focus.

I was challenged to find the legal issue that had the power to make a united whole of The Fifth Letter.  I discover it was a ripe constitutional issue that requires attention today: Who is a person with inalienable rights in America?

The message and purpose of The Fifth Letter emerged as I matured as a writer, valuing all constructive critical comments–even when given with strong words.  Some critical comments from friends, a lot from my editors and some came from complete strangers who offered words of wisdom and insight into the work I was creating.

I searched for a powerful message that would resonate to all. I searched for truth. I read many powerful words in classic texts that unlocked the way I viewed the world.  This experience, in turn, influenced my writing. The Fifth Letter became a vehicle for my personal development and transformation as an Individual. It changed me. Is it a vehicle for changing others?

It has motivated me to speak out now at what may be another critical point in our history.

Books can ignite courage to stand up for what’s right. Think of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense that inspired the Thirteen Colonies to fight for their independence.  I hope The Fifth Letter ignites the citizens in America to stand up for our individual rights and fight the socially constructed reality of Corporate Personhood.

With this legal fiction, we’re headed in the wrong direction. It’s time for change.This issue should have been dealt with in the U.S. Supreme Court case Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission.  But it wasn’t.

Now, We The People must take on the issue of Corporate Personhood to protect our freedoms from foreign interests who are posed to slay us in the economic arena. We The People do have the power to make things right in America.

I didn’t start out writing The Fifth Letter with the goal of making it a vehicle for change.  I simply wanted to explore the roots of my family history and complete a mission that my late uncle, Charles Lincoln Thomas had begun.  I started with a one-page summary of a pivotal event in the Thomas family history that I did not believe could be proven today.  So I decided to write a fictional story with that one-page of explosive family history as the inspiration for my initial research.

I decided to build The Fifth Letter on a solid platform of research. I visited the sites that were scenes of violence in Georgia that had occurred so many years ago, letting myself feel emotions that flowed from my research.  Taking in the energy of sites that I visited.  Letting my mind tell me stories about what might have happened during Jim Crow in the South. I had conversations with possible distant relatives who shared Thomas family history, discovering links to our collective family history.

I attended Writer’s conferences, meeting many who helped me learn the craft of creative writing, especially the now defunct Maui Writers Conferences. I had the good fortune to meet New York Times Best Selling Author William Martin during a writing conference in Fiji and hired him as my main editor. With the guiding editorial hand of William Martin, I searched for the legal issue that would run through the Fifth Letter, providing it with a spine.  It was late in the writing process when I discovered it was the  “Who Is A Person?” question that ran through The Fifth Letter.

The Fifth Letter is a story that has power that should resonate with everyone because it is a hero’s journey: the journey of Justice Katherine Helena Ross wresting against the corrupting forces in the world. She is an individual struggling against evil forces to create positive change in America.  It is a story of her personal transformation. During my writer’s journey to create The Fifth Letter, I discovered personal transformation is the only way to create change in our society.

Out of the many, one. E Pluribus Unum.

This is the motto on the Great Seal of The United States Of America. If The Fifth Letter is to become a vehicle for change, it must pass the test of time, like Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, transforming the thinking of one person at a time.  It must be widely read.  The people who read it and are influenced to do something to create change in the world must promote it.  That process is just beginning.  It is too early to judge. The jury is still out on The Fifth Letter. It must pass the test of time.

Like Common Sense.


About the Author:

Vivian L. Carpenter is a writer, motivational speaker, and teacher. She holds three degrees from the University of Michigan: a BSE in industrial engineering and operations research and MBA and a Ph.D. in business administration. As an academic, she has won several awards and grants for her scholarly work in institutional theory from the National Science Foundation, Governmental Accounting Standards Board, Kellogg Foundation and Ford Foundation. As a business professional, she served as a Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Michigan, was Director of Academic Programs at FAMU’s School of Business and Industry (SBI), and served as chairperson of the board of MotorCity Casino in Detroit, Michigan. She lives in Tallahassee, Florida and Birmingham, Michigan.