Cabin Country: A writer's work in progress

  • Updated: January 16, 2014 - 3:39 PM

In 1992, my spouse, Marcie, and I bought 5 acres of woods on a small lake near Park Rapids. We spent the first summers camping, clearing brush, battling bugs and having all kinds of fun with our two sons, dogs and friends. It didn’t take us long to want more — a cabin where we could hunt, cross-country ski, ice fish and have fun all year long.

Given the realities of our financial situation, it would have to be a small, affordable cabin that would be easy to maintain. I spent many a night drawing up cabin plans and figuring construction budgets, trying to find the right mix of size and cost. The basement for the 16- by 20-foot cabin was dug in August 1998. The excavator ended up being the only contractor we hired. The rest of the cabin was built the old-fashioned way with do-it-yourself labor from a host of talented and not-so-talented family and friends. Like any real cabin, it has a wood stove for heat and an outhouse. We don’t need to keep it heated or worry about pipes and sewer systems freezing in the winter. It should be finished sometime this century.

Coincidental with the start of construction was a trip to Ely, where our oldest son was attending Vermillion Community College. One of the activities offered for Parents Weekend was a tour of Sigrud F. Olson’s cabin on Burntside Lake. The simple one-room Finnish log structure was the inspiration for his second book “Listening Point” and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The visit to Listening Point rekindled my interest in Sigrud’s books and inspired me to try writing about our own cabin experiences. But how would I distinguish myself from the countless other Minnesotans writing about their cabins? I took a gamble and started my writing career with a creative nonfiction piece about our outhouse and how we use it to screen potential visitors.

I got lucky with my first story. “Outhouse Talk” was published in the Lake Country Journal Magazine of Brainerd. Since then, my writing horizons have expanded to include cooking, travel and even a little fiction. I’ve had over 40 articles published in a dozen magazines and literary journals. But cabin life continues to feature heavily in my writing.

As a writer, you can spend lots of time and money on writers retreats, conferences and Internet classes — all offering ideas on how to beat the curse of “writer’s block.” Whenever I have this problem, I just visit the cabin. Problem solved.



SEND US YOUR ICE-FISHING HOUSES! Cabin Country wants to celebrate your cold-weather hideouts this winter, everything from ice-fishing houses to cozy winter cabins. Send your story and photos to or submit online at

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.


Team Irvin 32 FINAL
Team Carter 28
Miami 96 FINAL
Chicago 84
Oklahoma City 98 FINAL
Cleveland 108
Dallas 106 FINAL
New Orleans 109
Indiana 106 FINAL
Orlando 99
LA Clippers 120 FINAL
Phoenix 100
Minnesota 100 FINAL
Atlanta 112
Detroit 110 FINAL
Toronto 114
Milwaukee 95 FINAL
San Antonio 101
Boston 111 FINAL
Golden State 114
Washington 117 FINAL
Denver 115
Houston 99 FINAL
LA Lakers 87
Team Toews 17 FINAL
Team Foligno 12
South Florida 53 FINAL
Connecticut 66
Boston College 64 FINAL
Georgia Tech 62
Virginia 50 FINAL
Virginia Tech 47
Indiana 70 FINAL
Ohio State 82
Stony Brook 61 FINAL
Binghamton 54
Cincinnati 56 FINAL
UCF 46
Maine 70 FINAL
Hartford 61
Monmouth 64 FINAL
Manhattan 71
Fairfield 67 FINAL
Marist 73
Rowan 48 FINAL
Princeton 96
St Bonaventure 48 FINAL
Rhode Island 53
Duke 77 FINAL
St Johns 68
Saint Peters 69 FINAL
Siena 55
Drake 40 FINAL
Wichita State 74
Vermont 61 FINAL
UMass Lowell 50
Seton Hall 57 FINAL
Butler 77
South Alabama 55
Northern Iowa 54 FINAL
Illinois State 53
Louisville 80 FINAL
Pittsburgh 68
Albany 69
Niagara 64 FINAL
Iona 87
Notre Dame 81 FINAL
NC State 78
Belmont 63 FINAL
Tennessee St 55
Creighton 50 FINAL
Villanova 71
Northwestern 67 FINAL
Maryland 68
Washington 56 FINAL
Utah 77
Senior-North 34 FINAL
Senior-South 13
Seton Hall 99 FINAL
Georgetown 85
St Johns 69 FINAL
Villanova 81
Arkansas 58 FINAL
Florida 72
Maine 56 FINAL
Vanderbilt 55 FINAL
Alabama 52
Lafayette 60 FINAL
Lehigh 65
SMU 57
Utah 51 FINAL
Washington 63
James Madison 73 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 53
Delaware 56 FINAL
Drexel 61
Hofstra 56 FINAL
William & Mary 57
Hartford 58 FINAL
Albany 82
Binghamton 54 FINAL
Stony Brook 67
Towson 63 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 71
Wake Forest 80 FINAL
(17) Florida State 110
Georgia Tech 68 FINAL
Virginia 62
(22) Georgia 51 FINAL
(5) Tennessee 59
Drake 79 FINAL
Evansville 62
Iona 80 FINAL
Canisius 62
Fairfield 33 FINAL
Monmouth 59
Northwestern 75 FINAL
Penn State 76
Wisconsin 71 FINAL
Michigan State 77
Ohio State 79 FINAL
Purdue 71
Northern Iowa 57 FINAL
Indiana State 55
Butler 58 FINAL
Xavier 54
Creighton 93 FINAL
Marquette 75
Providence 42 FINAL
DePaul 90
Northeastern 77 FINAL
Elon 80
(2) Connecticut 96 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Oregon 78 FINAL
Arizona 81
Bradley 46 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 45
NC State 49 FINAL
(23) Syracuse 66
(7) Maryland 84 FINAL
Indiana 74
Illinois State 35 FINAL
Missouri State 58
Colorado 68 FINAL
Washington St 73
Tulane 45 FINAL
South Florida 64
(14) Kentucky 83 FINAL
Missouri 69
(9) Oregon State 68 FINAL
(13) Arizona State 57
Vermont 63 FINAL
UMass Lowell 72
Iowa State 58 FINAL
(8) Texas 57
Southern Ill 61 FINAL
Wichita State 80
(15) Duke 74 FINAL
(12) North Carolina 67
Miami-Florida 55 FINAL
(4) Louisville 68
(21) Minnesota 61 FINAL
(25) Rutgers 66
California 72 FINAL
(11) Stanford 71 FINAL
USC 60
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question