Michael Brecke is the former pastor of Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church and a founding board member of Write On, Door County. Shortly after Write On began, Michael took a position with a church in the Kansas City area. This month, he returns to Juddville to lead a three-part class for Write On, “What a Character!” June 19, 21, and 23. Write On’s Maggie Peterman had the opportunity to talk with Michael about his current writing projects and his upcoming class.
Maggie Peterman: Who is the author and/or book that has most influenced your own writing?
Michael Brecke: Probably Hemingway but like anything else, writing styles evolve and develop with any number of influences. Some are conscience and others just happen. The Old Man and the Sea was very important to me. And so are some lesser known writers, including Jean Toomer and his book Cane; Zora Neale Hurston and her book Their Eyes Were Watching God*; poets like Langston Hughes, Mary Oliver, Jane Kenyon and authors like Wendell Berry, and the list could go on. Norbert Blei had a huge impact on me when I moved to Door County, in conversation and critique of my writing.
MP: What book do you think every elected official should read?
MB: First of all they should read. Our President doesn’t read, he just watches television! Reading is a gift and I usually have three or four books going simultaneously. Every elected official should read American Gospel: God, The Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation by Jon Meacham and Absence of Mind by Marilynne Robinson.
MP: Can you tell us about your childhood?
MB: I grew up in a family of five in a small town of about 1,000 residents in north western Wisconsin. Pretty poor by standards then and now. Two sisters younger than I and I was the “little prince,” at least according to them. My grandparents lived next door. Scandinavian and Ukranian. Lots of wonderful family gatherings and lots of wonderful ethnic meals. Potato roasts. Lutefisk – haha. Pretty normal. Everyone in town was your parent. Usual small town Wisconsin.
MP: What is your favorite library memory?
MB: Walking into Sterling Memorial Library in New Haven, CT, and seeing, what appeared to be a “mile of card catalogues,” then going to the shelves and seeing all those books.
MP: After completing high school, where you said your favorite subject was English, what did you do?
MB: I did all kinds of newspaper stuff. Writing as a stringer for the Madison Capital Times, the St. Paul Post Dispatch, Minneapolis Tribune and the Milwaukee Journal. Later on, I worked for the Albany Herald, some for Kansas City Star and suburban newspapers. I have a journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.
MP: What is your writing discipline?
MB: I write something everyday.
MP: What writing project are you currently working on?
MB: I’m in the editing phase of a couple of children’s books and working with illustrators. I have a big book of theology and a book of reflections called “Burn Barrel Zen: Conversations with and at the Burn Barrel” that is in process.
MP: Why is there a need for an organization like Write On in Door County?
MB: Everyone has a story to tell. Write On gives people an opportunity to take the plunge and write.
MP: Any updates on “Mr. Fooster” – your whimsical fictional character?
MB: Just that it’s fun to write slice of life stories about real things in real time, past and present.
MP: What can people taking your upcoming workshop – “What A Character” -expect?
MB: To write about and talk about the characters they’ve met on their life’s journey.
MP: What advice can you give to aspiring Write On writers?
MB: To write about what you know and to give voice to your personal experience and imagination.
*Hurston’s novel is the July selection for the “Best Book I Never Read” discussion series.