Edina Magazine asked five local authors with recent books what inspires them and what their writing muse is. Each one offered unique insight into what spurs their creative spark, along with a personal history about the books they have written.
As a 10-year-old, Colin Nelson read his grandfather’s copy of the Sherlock Holmes story The Hound of the Baskervilles over a Christmas break at his grandmother’s home. He read late into the night as trains rumbled tracks nearby. Over that holiday he became “hooked on mysteries.”
This experience gave him “the dream of someday writing stories myself,” he says. He wrote for the high school newspaper, in college, and throughout law school. Flashover, his third suspense novel about a serial arsonist who intends to start the largest fire in the history of Minnesota was published in September.
Nelson runs the Author’s Studio Workshops at the Edina Art Center and finds Edina “a wonderful place to be a writer.” What keeps him writing? A reader’s thanks for one of his books.
The inspiration for Kelly Fern’s memoir, Songs of My Families: A Thirty-Seven Year Odyssey from Korea to America and Back, was her husband Brad.
More than 20 years ago, over tea on their second date at Applebee’s, she told him about her Korean memories of starvation, her life as an adoptee from Korea in rural Minnesota, and how as a teenage mother she gave up a child for adoption. Her future husband said quite “emphatically” that she “had a very interesting story and should write a book.” Brad Fern became his wife’s co-author.
With her husband’s help and support, Fern discovered the family that she had lost in Korea. She also reached out to the daughter that she had given up in Minnesota. Songs ends with happy beginnings.
JoAnn Kuzma Deveny
When she was 7 years old, JoAnn Kuzma Deveny would ride her bicycle to a wooded area outside of Hibbing commonly known as “the dumps.” She brought with her a brown paper bag that contained library books, a notebook and a pencil. Deveny explored, read Nancy Drew, and wrote “Whimsphere,” a science fiction story.
Decades later, the solace of writing is what Deveny returned to after her youngest son drowned on the shores of Lake Minnetonka. Out of this soul-searching time and 17 years of journaling came the memoir When Bluebirds Fly: Losing a Child, Living With Hope, which was a finalist in 2013 Midwest Book Award and the National Indie Excellence Award.
Before Bluebirds found a publisher, Deveny found success with 99 Ways to Make a Flight Attendant Fly—Off the Handle! It drew on her years as a flight attendant, her sense of humor and her degree in psychology.
Throughout high school Van Anderson had teachers who required students to keep journals. A requirement became a habit. In college, he abandoned pre-med courses for Matthew Arnold and T.S. Eliot, and his first poem was published.
Marriage, the Peace Corps, graduate school, children and grandchildren have all made it into the pages of this busy man’s nearly 50 years of journals. His poems begin there as well. Some of them now grace the pages of his first collection, Tending the Garden.
For 12 years, Anderson taught at Edina High School (EHS). He was the advisor to the school newspaper, Zephyrus. “Beyond the Garden: To My Students” is a poem in Tending that he wrote to his EHS students. “It celebrates the hope that they have given me” in their attempts to find “a path that words/can trace by starlight through this troubled world.”
Terri Peterson Smith
Curiosity inspires the work of award-winning journalist and Edina resident Terri Peterson Smith. Her love of reading and the travel that she has shared with the women in her book club, and on her own, have been the basis for Off the Beaten Page: The Best Trips for Lit Lovers, Book Clubs, and Girls on Getaways.
Smith covers 15 destinations with book clubs and avid readers in mind. Beginning with Boston and ending in Santa Monica, California, she connects authors and books to each locale while offering recommendations for hotels, bars, restaurants, museums, libraries and walking tours. This guidebook also looks at the personal dynamics of group travel and the importance of planning, and explores literary-related adventures that can be found closer to home.
Who is Smith’s muse, a reader might ask? Her husband. He is “supportive of both my writing and my wandering,” she says.
Find books by Colin Nelson, Kelly Fern, JoAnn Kuzma Deveny, Van Anderson and Terri Peterson Smith, and many more, at the Edina Library.