Nimrod author releases third book
In the woods south of Nimrod, the Crow Wing River wraps around Jerry Mevissen's 50-acre homestead, a tranquil base for penning tales about life in small town Minnesota.
"This place is so inspirational," the 81-year-old author said Friday afternoon, amid a crackling fire, as he gazed out his tall windows toward the river. "I'll never tire of that."
His dog, Princess Sofia, keeps him company, along with his many friends. His Haflinger horses, Mocha and Cino, and some Scottish Highland cattle, help keep him busy.
"I'm an outdoors guy," Mevissen said.
There's no television. Instead, he spends much of his time writing - at least a short story each month.
Mevissen will host a release party for his latest book, "Good Shepherd," from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday at Blueberry Pines near Menagha. It's a collection of 12 short stories, each involving a different resident of the fictional Good Shepherd Assisted Living Center in Browns Prairie, Minn.
A child of the Great Depression, Mevissen lived throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin during his youth. He started working at Honeywell before getting his degree from the University of Minnesota. Spending most of his career in marketing, he retired in 1987 after more than 36 years with the company.
Although Mevissen hadn't developed a passion for the page, a few years as a technical writer taught him to use words precisely and to meet deadlines.
His transformation into an author coincided with his move to the Nimrod area about 14 years ago.
"The more I was up here, the more I realized this is where I belong," he said.
In the midst of a divorce, he enrolled in a creative writing class at Normandale Community College.
"Writing is therapy, I know that, so I took that class and I wrote and I wrote and I wrote and in one semester I wrote three two-inch notebooks full," he said. "I still have them."
"Some of it was good, but a lot of it was stuff you just have to get out before you can get on with your life ... It was perfect therapy."
One short story was good enough to win a contest. It's included in his last book, "Broken Hart," released in 2007.
Mevissen's Normandale instructor told him that he should keep writing and suggested he take classes at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. He took the advice.
"That's my home away from home," he said. "I'm a patron, I'm a student and I'm a member. It means a lot to me."
About that same time, he turned a personal tragedy into another avenue for his art.
After a good friend died suddenly while ice-fishing, Mevissen wrote a short story in his honor. Unable to muster the composure to read it at the prayer service, he asked Tim Bloomquist, editor of the Sebeka Review-Messenger, to print it.
Bloomquist liked it so much, he offered Mevissen a job.
The author refused, but he did agree to write a general interest column on several conditions, such as not getting paid. Thus began "The Nimrod Chronicles," which ran in the paper for three years.
"I can't tell you how much fun I had doing it," Mevissen said, "and what an opportunity it was to meet all my neighbors."
He parlayed his collection of columns into his first book. "The Nimrod Chronicles," published in 2005, still sells copies.
"I had a huge amount of fun with the book, signings and readings," he said. "I guess I kind of got bit by it."
That book was creative non-fiction. In "Broken Hart," Mevissen broke into the realm of fiction.
But his experiences still shape what he writes.
"I can't write about something I don't know ... Almost every character in there is based on a person I know," he said. "I think everything a fiction writer writes to some extent is autobiographical."
Named for a fictional small town watering hole based on the real-life Nimrod Bar and Grill, "Broken Hart" has the common denominator of place, but it lacks a story that brings all the characters together. With a much stronger flow, Mevissen said, "Good Shepherd" demonstrates his increasing maturity as a writer.
"It's a quantum leap," he said.
He credits the improvement to his editors and peer review from his fellow authors.
On Friday, Mevissen looked forward to hearing feedback on his December short story from the other Jack Pine Writers' Bloc members at the Park Rapids group's monthly meeting Sunday.
"There's a mixture of people of various writer calibers," he said, "but there's enough people whose opinions I trust that it works for me.
"I expect I always will be a member of a writing group. I'll never get to be such a good writer that I'll never need that peer review."
"Good Shepherd" is available for $15 at An Open Book in Wadena, the Nimrod Bar and Grill, the Sebeka Review-Messenger and at Book World in Park Rapids and Baxter. All three of Mevissen's titles can be purchased on his website, http://jerrymevissen.com/.