Artists’ spaces: retired Duluth judge talks about writing, office overlooking river

0

When the Northland author isn’t writing his latest novel, he focuses on digitizing his grandmother’s poetry, well preserved in notebooks.

“She was a funny girl in 1915. She smoked. She was wearing pants. She canoeed, ”he said.

“The intention is not to try to make a bestseller. It’s to put them in a place where the family can get them, ”he said.

This fall, the retired judge published “Duck and Cover: Things Learned Waiting for the Bomb,” a memoir about growing up in Duluth during the Cold War. And this family project gives him a break that is worth it in the development of his next novel.

Mark Munger is keeping a notebook with some of his early writings on December 1, 2021. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Mark Munger is keeping a notebook with some of his early writings on December 1, 2021. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Munger took the time to show the News Tribune his writing space just outside of Duluth.

RELATED:

The studio

Munger sees bald eagles, bears, and the Cloquet River from his office, which was originally designed as a three-season porch. He claimed it after his wife turned a garage into an art studio.

It has been hers since they built the house 20 years ago.

Tongue-and-groove white pine walls contain artwork from the Munger family, antique snowshoes, ski poles, and a fly rod holder.

A plaque from the Denfeld High School Hall of Fame hangs near a portrait of Paul Wellstone and a photo of Munger’s sons. Below is a stack of books by Barack Obama, Linda LeGarde Grover, and Tom Brokaw.

The books from Mark Munger's reading list are arranged in two piles in his office.  Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

The books from Mark Munger’s reading list are arranged in two piles in his office. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

A chair from his former law firm faces what appears to be his research table, containing flyers and journals containing his own poetry for ages 12 to 24.

“I casually say that I used my poetry to get my wife. There is some truth to this. Once I reached my goal, I quit, ”he said, marking their 44th anniversary this year.

A quote from American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald written on a calendar in Mark Munger's writing space.  Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

A quote from American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald written on a calendar in Mark Munger’s writing space. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

A scribbled quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald testifies: “What people are ashamed of usually makes a good story.

It’s a reminder to stay courageous in your craft, said Munger.

Writers, painters, musicians, all artists have an interest in being courageous. “If you don’t put your soul into it, it won’t be worth somebody’s time.”

Mark Munger stands over the Cloquet River on December 1, 2021. The river is visible from his office.  Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Mark Munger stands over the Cloquet River on December 1, 2021. The river is visible from his office. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

The writer

Munger had originally studied journalism at the University of Minnesota Duluth, but was more drawn to creative writing. He followed in his family’s footsteps by practicing law, and 10 years later Munger found a way to delve into the writing profession.

After surgery in 1991 made him unable to work or drive: “My wife said, ‘You just sat driving me crazy. Why don’t you write a novel? ‘ And that’s where it comes from.

Wanting to stay away from the law, Munger plunged into history and wrote about Yugoslavia and WWII. His first novel, “The Legacy,” was born on legal blocks that Munger stole from the office, he recalls. After transferring “reams of scribbles” to a digital document for the first time, Munger now writes all of his works on his computer.

Munger continued the historical fiction in “Suomalaiset” and his Finno-American trilogy, and he revisits it again with his latest, “The Pen and the Sword”, inspired by Walter Liggett, a spirited journalist in the 1930s.

A book by American journalist Walter William Liggett is in Mark Munger's office.  Liggett was the inspiration for the book Munger is writing.  An investigative journalist who worked to expose organized crime and corrupt politicians, Liggett was shot dead with a Thompson submachine gun in Minneapolis on December 9, 1935. Despite the testimony of four eyewitnesses, the man they identified as the gunman was acquitted.  Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

A book by American journalist Walter William Liggett is in Mark Munger’s office. Liggett was the inspiration for the book Munger is writing. An investigative journalist who worked to expose organized crime and corrupt politicians, Liggett was shot dead with a Thompson submachine gun in Minneapolis on December 9, 1935. Despite the testimony of four eyewitnesses, the man they identified as the gunman was acquitted. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Munger has a signed copy of Liggett’s 1928 book “The River Riders” in his office, and a handwritten character chart tracks the details of his various players.

By the end of November, Munger had over 100 pages and was still figuring out where he wanted him to go. This is his favorite part: researching, writing and creating characters.

“I don’t know if you can ever put yourself in someone else’s shoes, but you can carry your empathy with you when you’re trying to build a character and their life,” he said.

When asked about Writer’s Block, Munger said it was more of a “hesitation.” “I’m never without an idea and whether all of my ideas are good or not I’m not sure,” he said.

A bust of President John F. Kennedy sits near a stack of prints that are part of Mark Munger's research for his latest novel.  To the left are notebooks and photo albums containing poems her grandmother Eloise Marie Barber Kobe wrote and photos she took.  Munger publishes them in the collection “The Rose Sky and Other Poems.

A bust of President John F. Kennedy sits near a stack of prints that are part of Mark Munger’s research for his latest novel. To the left are notebooks and photo albums containing poems her grandmother Eloise Marie Barber Kobe wrote and photos she took. Munger publishes them in the collection “The Rose Sky and Other Poems.” Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Writing a novel and digitizing her grandmother’s poetry in tandem is a productive couple for Munger – it allows her to produce and create.

“I know a lot of great writers who put a novel in a drawer and that’s where it died.

“If I’m going to work on a story for better or for worse, it’s something I want to tie into the world.”

Reference books can be found near the handmade landing net that belonged to Mark Munger's father.  Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Reference books can be found near the handmade landing net that belonged to Mark Munger’s father. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

“Artist Spaces” is a series featuring artists and where they live or work. If you are an artist or know of an artist with a space that deserves to be showcased, send your information to Melinda Lavine at [email protected]

Find the writings of Mark Munger

Mark Munger

Mark Munger

Share.

Comments are closed.