From all outward appearances, they’re regular guys. But a deeper look thrusts the reader into a slice of suburban life of males in their middle age dealing with personal crises.
Scott Wrobel, an English professor with a focus on writing at Anoka-Ramsey Community College, has published his first book.
“Cul de Sac” is a 232-page collection of fictional short stories centering on male figures mired in personal turmoil. Wrobel paints intimate word pictures of their sadnesses and struggles in dealing with life’s misfortunes. Yet, he wrings laughter from his stories bordering on a shade of gray. Told from a male perspective, the characters coming from all different backgrounds, converge at the neighborhood cul de sac quickly forming community without the time-honored tradition of shared backgrounds.
“Laughter was the first goal,” said Wrobel about writing his book. “I wanted to make the stories entertaining.”
Wrobel is a resident of Andover and does not live on a cul de sac.
But this in no way hampers his story telling. His imagination enhances his characters and gives them a life-like credibility.
Getting into the zone
For Wrobel, 43, the best part of writing “Cul de Sac” was creating the characters.
“I got into a zone,” he said. “The characters kind of invented themselves in a lot of cases.”
But many of Wrobel’s stories grew out of observing. A trip to Menards proved particularly prolific. There, he made a list of things suburban men might enjoy. Barbecues, power washers, extension cords. He described the items in detail. Some of them ascended to supporting roles, of sorts, in his stories.
He worked on the book for about five years. Ninety percent of the time was spent revising.
Getting the book published was another story. Wrobel entered competitions, scoured lists of agents, submitted to small presses. Nothing.
But a publisher who had read one of his stories online about five years ago liked his work. She stayed in touch. Just as Wrobel was about to throw in the proverbial towel for getting his book published, Paula Bomer contacted him. She now runs her own publishing company. Wrobel’s “Cul de Sac” is the first book on her imprint, Sententia Books.
He fancies humor
A fan of “Monty Python,” other British comedies and the old “Northern Exposure” TV series, Wrobel fancies humor. As a child he immersed himself in such readings as “Mad Magazine,” “Cracked,” “Sick” and “Crazy.”
“My imagination probably started with those weird magazines,” Wrobel said.
Wrobel recalls being a shy, quiet kid. Writing offered a respite from childhood woes.
“It was a natural way to be heard in a way that I otherwise couldn’t be heard,” he said.
Wrobel grew up in Bayport. His family later moved to the state of Washington where he graduated from Marysville-Pilchuck High School, 30 miles north of Seattle.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in creative writing and literature from Southwest State University, Marshall, and a master’s degree in creative writing from Minnesota State University, Mankato.
His first job was teaching writing at Pine Technical College near Hinckley. He has been employed by ARCC for eight years. Before settling in Andover he lived in Lindstrom.
Among Wrobel’s many favorite authors are Edward Abbey, Donald Ray Pollock, Ray Carver and Lorrie Moore. Flannery O’Connor and Russell Banks are two more.
Among his role models are Peter Cook, John Cleese, Spike Milligan, Ricky Gervais and George Carlin.
Wrobel was chosen as part of the Loft Mentor Series in 2006, where he was offered the opportunity to work with seasoned, professional writers at the Minneapolis center.
Wrobel hopes his new book will be met with laughter, introspection into story telling of “guys” from a male perspective and an empathy for his characters.
“I love humor,” Wrobel said. “It makes life tolerable. I hope these stories reflect that message.”
“Cul de Sac” may be purchased for $14.95 at Majors and Quinn in Minneapolis, where he will launch his book April 20, 7:30 p.m., at 3038 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis. The book may also be purchased online at www.amazon.com.
Wrobel will also be a part of an Anoka-Ramsey faculty reading April 25, 5:30 p.m., with Susan Dunn, Kate Kysar and Kathleen Weihe. Anoka-Ramsey Community College is located at 11200 Mississippi Blvd. N.W. in Coon Rapids. For more information, visit www.AnokaRamsey.edu or call 763-433-1250.
For more information on Wrobel, visit his website at www.scottwrobel.com.
Elyse Kaner is at [email protected]