May 15—BEMIDJI — The best part of the writing process for Bemidji's Mark Thorson is when he has the finished product in his hand. His most recently completed product is a collection of short stories titled "Final Delivery, And Eight Others." Thorson will sign copies of the book from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 22, at Bemidji Woolen Mills, 301 Irvine Ave. NW.
"Writing is something I do not enjoy," said the 63-year-old father of four daughters. "To me, writing is an enormous amount of work. But it's very fulfilling to have written and written to my standards. It's just a lot of work to get something onto a page. It means a lot to me having completed it because it's such an enormous task. It feels like chipping away at a mountain with a spoon."
The stories in "Final Delivery" cross race, culture, politics and religion with unique characters who are faced with the simple struggles in life. There is a professor of ethics who hires an assassin, a despondent trust fund baby who tries his hand at running drugs, and there are two good old northern boys who have always lived for the hunt, the kill, but have never contemplated death.
These are stories about change, about awakenings, about paths that are chosen without clarity of what those paths hold. There's a failed Hollywood screenwriter, a washed-up NHL hockey player, and an under-accomplished woman who married the wrong man — all at the brink of life's fragile breaking point. There's a small-town braggart who is about to meet his father for the first time, and also a lonely checkout girl in her final days, who lived her life without ever asserting herself.
After graduating from Bemidji High School and Concordia College in Moorhead, Thorson launched his writing career with a play titled "To Cheat A Clown." He moved to California at age 23, and that first play was produced at the Pan Andreas Theater in Los Angeles in 1982. He was recruited into the American Film Institute in L.A. as a screenwriter, and spent two years honing his skills while producing a short film titled, "American Passage," which was an adaptation of Howard Fast's "Spoiled Child." The film won acclaim at the Houston Film Festival and the American Film Festival.
He followed that with a couple of feature screenplays, neither of which were produced. But they were under option for several years, which is like a lease in real estate.
"You'd get so much a year for it." Thorson said. "I lived off that for several years, even though I didn't have a feature movie produced. I was in that 1% of screenwriters actually making a living. Not a very lucrative one, but enough to pay my rent, put gas in the car and beer in the fridge."
After 12 years in California, Thorson returned to Bemidji to join Thorson Inc., his family's highway contracting business and later formed Mark Sand & Gravel, which continues today out of its Bemidji base.
But writing was still in his blood.
"Now I have more time in this stage of my career," said Thorson, who also ran for mayor of Bemidji in 2020 and for state legislature 10 years earlier. "So I started going back to some of these projects that I had started."
One of those projects was a play titled "A Flower for Death in the Wild, Wild West," which was performed in 2015 at the Chief Theater in Bemidji, with Blair Treuer as lead actress. Thorson also was in the cast.
"After that, I started to complete some of these stories I had for a long time," he said. Some of those stories are included in "Final Delivery," which is available online, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble.