DL dentist 'moonlights' as award-winning author
Nathan Jorgenson may have grown up in the small southern Minnesota community of Jackson, but he has a strong affinity for the lakes country — so when Detroit Lakes dentist John Jordan called him up, said he had an opening at his office, and asked, “Would you like to work here?” Jorgenson’s answer was simple.
“You bet,” he said.
Jorgenson started work as an associate at West River Dental on June 18.
“It’s awesome,” he said, adding that he enjoys the fact that their office combines the latest in dental technology — three dimensional radiographs, a CO2 laser, CEREC unit (which allows crowns, inlays and veneers to be created on-site, the same day as a patient’s visit) — with solid dentistry.
Though Jorgenson still enjoys his work as a dentist, he also has a budding career as an award-winning author that he finds quite challenging — though it wasn’t really in his plans up until about a decade ago.
“When my father was really sick, at the end of his life, I would go to visit with him in the nursing home and sit with him,” Jorgenson said.
He started writing a story for his dad, “just to have something to do,” and he would read the chapters aloud as he went.
“I was always the guy who sat by the campfire and told stories,” Jorgenson said, adding that he found the exercise of telling a story in written words, without benefit of eyes or gestures or vocal inflection, to be “a real growth experience.
“It was fun,” he said.
He decided to make the story about “two guys in a duck boat,” because he and his dad spent a lot of time duck hunting together. Unfortunately, the elder Mr. Jorgenson did not live to hear the end of the story.
“He died when I was at about page 30,” Jorgenson said — but he decided to finish the story anyway, writing it out in longhand, with a No. 2 pencil.
That effort resulted in the publication of Jorgenson’s debut novel, “Waiting for White Horses,” in 2003.
“It won the Benjamin Franklin Award for ‘Best New Voice in Fiction’ (in 2004),” Jorgenson said.
He would have ended his literary aspirations at that point, but for a challenge from one of his dental colleagues, who said, “Anyone can write one book. Can you write another?”
That challenge led directly to “The Mulligan,” a story about “a 50-year-old man who takes a second shot at life.”
Since then, he’s written a third book, “A Crooked Number,” and has a fourth novel in the works.
“It’s a prequel to ‘Waiting for White Horses,’” Jorgenson said. “I made all the characters 30 years younger and brought a couple dead ones back to life.”
He hasn’t come up with a name for the novel yet.
“It’s in the planning stages,” Jorgenson said.
What he does know is that he plans to stick to writing about familiar places and pursuits.
“You can only write about what you know,” Jorgenson said. “So you use your life experiences, but mix in just enough fiction to make a good story.
“You want to tell a story that’s going to resonate with everybody, so you try to pick those life experiences that are common to us all.”
But for now, Jorgenson is being kept plenty busy settling into his new dental practice and building a new home with his wife of 35 years, Terry, at their lake property near Park Rapids.
They met while he was attending dental school at the University of Minnesota, where she was an instructor at the time.
Though their grown children, Solveig, Olaf and Thor, are “all busy with their own lives,” they are frequent visitors there.
“Their favorite place to come back to is the cabin,” Jorgenson said. “That’s where we have our happy times.”
Jorgenson also believes their decision to make the move up north after more than 30 years in Fairmont, Minn., was a fortuitous one.
“The day I retired from my practice in Fairmont, my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer,” he said. “There’s maybe a message in that, to ‘live this part of your life well,’ so we have been.
“The good news is her prognosis is excellent… so far, so good.”
The same might be said for their decision to make the move to the north country.
“We sure enjoy our time here… she (Terry) has become my fishing buddy.”
Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.