Artist Spaces: Retired Duluth judge talks writing, river-facing office – Duluth News Tribune

Artist Spaces: Retired Duluth judge talks writing, river-facing office – Duluth News Tribune

When the Northland author is not penning his latest novel, he’s focused on digitizing his grandmother’s poetry, well-preserved in notebooks.

“She was a fun gal, back in 1915. She smoked. She wore pants. She canoed,” he said.

“The intention isn’t to try to make a bestseller. It’s to put them in a place family can get them,” he said.

This fall, the retired judge released “Duck and Cover: Things Learned Waiting for the Bomb,” a memoir about growing up in Duluth during the Cold War. And this family project affords him a worthwhile break as he develops his next novel.

Mark Munger holds a notebook containing some of his early writing Dec. 1, 2021.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Munger took time to show the News Tribune around his writing space just outside of Duluth.


The studio

Munger sees bald eagles, bears and the Cloquet River from his office, which was originally intended as a three-season porch. He laid claim to it after his wife converted a garage stall into an art studio.

It’s been his since they built the house 20 years ago.

The tongue and groove white pine walls hold artwork from Munger’s family, passed-down antique snowshoes, ski poles and a fly-rod holder.

A Denfeld High School hall of fame plaque hangs near a portrait of Paul Wellstone and a photo of Munger’s sons. A stack of books by Barack Obama, Linda LeGarde Grover and Tom Brokaw rest below.

Books on Mark Munger’s to-read list sit in two stacks in his office.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

A chair from his old law office faces what appears to be his research table, supporting print-outs and journals containing his own poetry from ages 12-24.

“I glibly say I used my poetry to get my wife. There’s some truth to that. Once I accomplished my goal, I quit,” he said, noting their 44-year anniversary this year.

A quote from American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald written on a calendar in Mark Munger’s writing space.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

A scribbled F. Scott Fitzgerald quote testifies: “What people are ashamed of usually makes for a good story.”

It’s a reminder to stay courageous in your craft, Munger said.

Writers, painters, musicians, all artists benefit from being brave. “If you don’t put your soul into it, it isn’t going to be worth somebody’s time.”

Mark Munger stands above the Cloquet River on Dec. 1, 2021. The river is visible from his writing desk.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

The writer

Munger had originally studied journalism at the University of Minnesota Duluth, but he was more drawn to creative writing. He followed his family footsteps into practicing law, and 10 years in, Munger found a way to lean into the writing craft.

After a 1991 surgery left …….