What We Do and Why We’re Here
The Jackpine Writers’ Bloc is native to Minnesota. We are a writing group as well as a publishing company. Our literary journal, The Talking Stick, has become a state-wide publishing ground for amateur and experienced writers alike. Our goal in publishing writers is simple – we publish to encourage solid writing that shows promise, creativity and brilliance.
We started where most writers up here seem to start – hiding behind jack pines with few outlets and few who could enjoy our craft with us. Things have changed. The writers in our group, and those from many other writing groups that have sprung up in nearby cities, offer experience, criticism and encouragement in abundance.
We are a community, too – If you’re looking for people who write to become better writers and better people, we are people who believe that being published is a fortunate thing to be cherished. We meet every month. We want to help. That’s why we’re here. We meet on the third Sunday of each month from 12:30 – 3:00 at Bella Caffe in Park Rapids, Minnesota and we hope you will join us there.
Board of Directors
Sharon Harris (website)
Sharon Harris has been writing poetry since she was 15. She has had over 170 poems published in various anthologies and magazines. She is proud to have had several poems in The Lake Country Journal and Lakes Alive and The Talking Stick, all local publications. She was born and raised near Park Rapids and currently works at First National Bank of Menahga & Sebeka as Operations Officer and Assistant Cashier. Her hobbies include photography and reading. She has published two books of her poetry, Timeless Tracks in 1984 and Life Savors in 2000. A third book is in progress.
Sharon Harris has been the co-editor for the TS books since 2003. She does proofing and editing, serves on the Editorial Board, handles the submissions, etc. and she organizes the Third Sunday of each month member meetings and prepares the minutes. She is also on the Board of directors for the JWB.
Jerry Mevissen (website)
Jerry Mevissen emigrated from the Twin Cities to the banks of the Crow Wing River near Nimrod, MN, after a 36-year career in marketing at Honeywell. He found writing to be an effective therapy program in a class at Normandale Junior College, and continued with writing classes at The Loft in Minneapolis. Two years ago he began a column for the Sebeka Review Messenger, “The Nimrod Cronicles”. Now, one hundred columns later, he has assembled the “Best Of…”, a book published in September 2003. You can also find some of his short stories in Volumes 10 and 11 of the annual anthology The Talking Stick.
Niomi Rohn Phillips retired as assistant dean of the Graduate School at the University of North Dakota in 2000. In the past decade her work has been published in periodicals: Generations, Among Women, Lakes Alive, and Lake Country Journal. She has written travel and garden features for the Enterprise, the national publication, Greenprints, and AARP online. She has published work in an anthology, Winter a Season on the Prairie and in literary journals: Whistling Shade, Talking Stick, and Dust and Fire. Her work has won awards from Northwoods Arts Council, the Brainerd Writers Alliance, and Talking Stick.
Tarah L. Wolff (website)
Tarah is a native to Minnesota and has been writing fiction for several years. She is the current webmaster and web designer in the group; the website you’re seeing now was her doing. She has been the co-Editor of the Talking Stick since she joined the group in 2002, and since has been the Layout Designer of all of the books the Jackpine Writers’ Bloc has done (The Talking Stick Volumes 12-Current, Broken Hart by Jerry Mevissen, both of the 20x20s, and five books she has done for other members of the JWB). She owns Web Services of Park Rapids and her blog on writing (The official website of Tarah L. Wolff) has garnered hundreds of followers reading about her journey becoming a novelist. She self published her first book in the spring of 2012 Embraced by Darkness – Book One, Sacrifices.
Evolution of the Jackpine Writers’ Bloc
By Linda Henry
It started in the fall of 1993, with a community-ed class offered through the Park Rapids school system. I was the instructor. The class was given the optimistic title, “Getting Published,” and it was my intention to get local writers who enrolled in the class to send out query letters and manuscripts to potential publishers, collect rejection slips by the truckload, and finally, at long last, to help these budding writers achieve the goal of getting published.
It was a diverse group of teachers, doctors, retirees, renaissance women, and small business owners. My only credential as their instructor was that I’d been working as a freelance writer for several years and had some success getting published in magazines.
After the first couple of weeks, we decided to break up into small groups for a couple of sessions so the students could critique each other’s work. But a few days before the first group was to meet, my family was involved in a horrible car accident. My husband and I were badly injured, and our beautiful baby girl, not quite 16 months old, was killed.
The students were notified that I would not be able to teach the class, and were offered a reimbursement. Each one of them refused the money, asking instead that it be sent to my family as a memorial gift. They also decided to meet for the critique sessions as planned.
As that sad winter progressed, I was cheered by the funny little newsletter sent to me every month by Dr. Carson Gardner, a published poet and student in the class who had become defacto leader of the group. It was a great comfort to me, knowing “the writers’ group” was meeting, and writing, and waiting for me to rejoin them. A few more local writers joined. In one of the newsletters, Carson mentioned they were discussing possible names. Someone had suggested “The Jackpine Writers’ Bloc.” I started attending meetings the following March, just in time to see that the name stuck (by refusing to call the group anything else).
Shortly after moving here several years ago, I wrote an article for an obscure, east-coast literary journal. “Many times in my first months here [in Menahga],” I wrote, “I’ve been tempted to put an ad in the local paper. It would run alongside those selling turkey manure or soliciting adoptable white babies for couples with 212 area codes. Mine would say: ‘Wanted: People who like to read and discuss things over cold mugs of beer or even cocktails.’ I imagine that such smart, artistic people must live around here somewhere. They wear wire-rimmed glasses and they’re really skinny, so they can hide behind the jack pines to avoid detection.”
The members of the Jackpine Writers’ Bloc are those people. Okay, so I was misguided in making a correlation between cocktails and intelligent conversation, but I was coming from a New York City mentality, where a couple of drinks makes one instantly witty and smart, at least in one’s own eyes. And my kindred spirits are not all rail thin, nor were they hiding behind the jack pines. They were simply living their lives, oblivious to the big-city prejudices about signs of intelligent life in the northern woods, writing their poetry, stories, reminiscences, and confessionals, open to criticism and always supportive of one another in a world that is not very supportive of writers. We’re not isolated up here. On the contrary, we’re tightly connected. I hope that this literary journal will be a celebration of life in north-central Minnesota, and of the highly intelligent decision to live outside so-called civilization.
Linda Henry is an essayist, storyteller, and occasional poet. She has written hundreds of articles for national magazines, including Reader’s Digest, Parenting, Travel & Leisure, and Glamour, as well as regional and trade publications, websites, and newspapers. She was a co-founder of The Talking Stick, and was editor in chief of its first 8 volumes (1992?1999). From 1999 through 2001, she contributed a column to Lake Country Journal, “Of Woodstoves and Websites,” about her life as a single mother in northern Minnesota. A full-time freelance writer and editor for eleven years, she is now editorial manager for Children’s Home Society & Family Services. In her personal writing life, she has many works in progress.