To the Editor,

Simple pleasures matter more in a noisy, complex world. Such as, steaming hot coffee, blueberry scones, and conversations with Teresa Muckala at the Farmer’s Daughter; learning the magic of watercolor pencils on linen paper with Cheryl Bannes at the cultural center; taking sunset walks to gather tiny pinecones along Polaris Parkway. These experiences, too, are why I’m so grateful to the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center for my month as Artist in Residence (AIR) this January. But most importantly, the New York Mills residency granted me time, space and inspiration to write, uninterrupted by workplace or family demands. 

A month away from home is a gift for any working mother, but it’s life-changing when you’re also a writer. 

Thanks to Betsy Roder, Executive Director, Tammy Kasma, Facilities and Program Assistant, and the entire NYMCC staff for bringing me here. Special thanks to Cheryl Bannes, Programs Director, for ensuring that I had such a productive, generative stay, and for introducing me to the remarkable students and staff of Empowering Kids, Perham—especially Tiffany Schroeer, Executive Director. 

Finally, thanks to Gustavus Adolphus College and my English department colleagues for supporting my work through our sabbatical program.

I’m a poet and an essayist. My current project is called Growing Things, a memoir about how the natural world—including my garden and the forests of Northern Minnesota—sustains me as I raise three sons with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). I’ve also published a poetry collection, Moving this Body (Main Street Rag, 2019), and my work appears in literary magazines. 

I believe that creating art, including literature, music, pottery, and other forms, is how we express our whole selves as humans. Reading, viewing, and listening also helps us understand ourselves and connect with others. Writing helps me to process my experiences as a teacher, a parent, and a southerner surviving Minnesota winters. 

When I became an English professor at Gustavus Adolphus College in 2000, I never dreamed I’d be able to attend such an internationally recognized AIR program. I still can’t believe my good fortune. The New York Mills Regional Cultural Center is a gift. Please continue to cherish it. Thank you for sharing your community with me and other visiting artists. Our time here matters, and we never forget New York Mills.


Rebecca T. Fremo