Award-winning fiction writer Will Weaver treated a Pine City audience to a chapter from his next novel, “Power & Light,” and sparked a sweet trip down memory lane during his visit to the local library Aug. 12.
Weaver, who grew up on a small dairy farm near Park Rapids, has touchingly captured the joys and sorrows of life in the rural Midwest with novels such as “Red Earth, White Earth,” and a short story collection called, “Sweet Land.” That book became the basis for a critically-acclaimed independent film by the same name. In his young adult fiction series, “Striking Out,” “Farm Team,” and “Hard Ball,” Weaver explores the teen years through the character of Billy Baggs, a sudden and unlikely baseball prodigy.
“I grew up a farm boy,” Weaver said. “I never imagined becoming a writer, and that’s a message I share when I do these talks. You don’t have to grow up in a family of scientists to be a scientist, or a family of musicians to be a musician, or a family of writers to be a writer. You can make it in life from wherever you are….”
His new novel spans three generations of a northern Minnesota farm family, and Weaver has spent three years researching and writing the book. He describes it as a serious work, based on the true story of a traumatic event that happened to a great aunt. His mother has been his channel to the family’s past.
“I write a lot about my experiences, my family experiences. I have a mother who will be 100, and there’s really nothing wrong with her. For her 99th birthday we gave her a new iPad. She emails; I get them every day. She Skypes with the grandkids…so our family is dealing with longevity, healthy longevity. As long as she’s willing and available, I have been plying her for details about the family history, about the olden days.”
Reading a chapter called, “When it Comes,” Weaver introduced three sisters determined to bring electricity to their farm, and their skeptical older brother, Albert, who was unable to stop them. The author’s colorful descriptions of the men who came to set the poles and string the wires held the audience’s attention. His exacting explanation of the work itself shows the research he did to produce this chapter alone.
Everyone in the room shared a laugh with Weaver as he read about the family waiting for “zero hour, the moment the juice comes on.” “It will be all petered out before it gets to our place,” declared Albert.
The arrival of a Maytag washer with an electric ringer prompted the audience to share their own memories of that iconic appliance. One woman noted that Weaver had the sisters using a knob, not a switch, to turn the lights on, which led to a discussion about the importance of historical accuracy in writing and the role copy editors play.
“I’ve got to get home and write these things down,” Weaver said, as the exchange of memories continued. “This is great. You’ve been really helpful.”
“Public readings are a great way to get input,” he said in an email following the presentation. “I enjoy giving people a sense of contribution and involvement in my writing. I take pride in being a Minnesota author, but I’m trying to write universal stories, to connect to a universal audience.”
Weaver became interested in literature in high school and attended the University of Minnesota, where he earned a B.A. degree. He traveled to California and completed an M.A. in Creative Writing at Stanford. He then taught creative writing and literature at Bemidji State University and began writing short stories on the side. After three or four years of having his stories published, he set to work on his debut novel, Red Earth, White Earth.
Now retired, he writes full time and travels widely, speaking on all matters related to writing, reading, literature and literacy. He continues to work on “Power & Light,” and a publication date has not been determined.
His visit to Pine City was the second in the library’s series of presentations by popular authors. On Sept. 9, Beth Dooley, author of “In Winter’s Kitchen: Growing Roots and Breaking Bread in the Northern Heartland,” will share her insights and her work. Lucie B. Amundsen from Duluth, co-owner of Locally Laid Egg Company and author of the memoir, “Locally Laid,” will wrap up the series on Oct. 7. Both presentations begin at 6:30 p.m.
The events are made possible by Minnesota’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Pine City Librarian Heidi Anderson-Ferdinand, East Central Regional Libraries and the Friends of Pine City Library assist with the presentations.