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Writing again

Longtime Fargo-Moorhead newspaper columnist Mary Nelson will sign copies of her newly released book, Delightfully Contrary, at Driftwood Books on Friday, Oct. 6 from noon to 2 p.m.

Nelson wrote for Midweek Publications in Fargo for over 30 years, and has a summer home on Big Detroit Lake.

A resident of the Fargo-Moorhead area since her family moved there in 1949, Nelson graduated from Shanley High School and North Dakota State University.

It was at those two educational institutions that Nelson first got her start in the newspaper business, having served as a staff writer and co-editor of her high school newspaper before moving on to write for the NDSU Spectrum..

"Then, I got married and raised four children... my writing kind of went on hold," Nelson said earlier this week.

Then in 1975, with her children grown, Nelson returned to writing, and was hired by the West Fargo Pioneer.

"I started in October, and in November, I did this feature on a visiting priest who also happened to be a writer," she said. "I wrote the story as though it was the priest interviewing the writer -- in other words, as though he was interviewing himself."

It was this unique approach that won Nelson her first professional literary accolade.

"I won a first place national award from the National Federation of Press Women," she said.

Nelson eventually went on to serve as editor of the Pioneer for eight years, and divided her time between writing for both the Pioneer and The Midweek.

"Eventually, I became the vice president of Midweek Publications," she said. "I handled all special sections, and all publications in general."

During this time, Nelson became active in both the Minnesota Free Paper Association and the Independent Free Papers of America.

"I served as president of both those groups."

She also continued to write for The Midweek until April of this year, when the newspaper's format was changed to remove its editorial content.

After she retired, Nelson began hearing from her loyal readers, who said she ought to consider writing a book.

"I thought, 'Why not?'" Nelson said. So she began putting together a collection of her columns, "On The Edge" and "Quite Contrary," that she had written for The Midweek and The West Fargo Pioneer over the past 30 years.

Eventually, those columns formed the basis for Delightfully Contrary: Snapshots of Life, which was self-published under the Davon Press label in West Fargo.

The first part of the title, "Delightfully Contrary," was suggested by one of her colleagues, editorial cartoonist Steve Stark, at her retirement party.

"He came up to me and said, 'Mary, Mary, she's delightfully contrary,'" Nelson said.

And the second part of the title came from one of her neighbors at the Nelsons' lake home, David Henke, who said her writings were "like snapshots of life."

The entire process took approximately four months, from the time she put together the collection in May until it went to press at the end of August.

"I got my first copies on Sept. 19," Nelson said.

Her family, which includes husband Donovon, a retired public school administrator and former president of the Fargo School Board, and a "blended family" of seven children, 17 grandchildren and two great granddaughters (a third is due in January), is credited as being a "constant source of inspiration" for her writing, and the book is dedicated to her husband... "My rock... who, after 30 years, continues to light up my life."

Copies of the book are now available at Driftwood Books in Detroit Lakes, and will also be available starting this weekend at four other locations: B. Dalton Booksellers and Zandbroz in Fargo, the Heritage Hjemkomst Center Bookstore in Moorhead and the offices of the West Fargo Pioneer.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454