The former teacher from Sartell lost his wife Dorothy to melanoma August of 2005 and turned to creative writing to deal with his grief. She was 61.
“One evening I just decided to write a poem about our life together; it was just something to do,” he said. “It ended up being a five-page poem.”
The poem became part of his first book Grief Journey, and the 71-year-old has since written several others, including a memoir and a suspense novel.
“What happened was a friend of mine who was a very good poet read my poem and said, ‘This is very good; perhaps you should write more,’” he said.
His doctor had suggested he see a grief counselor who asked to read his poetry and asked if she could use his poems in her grief support group.
“The director of the agency saw them and asked if he could publish some in his newsletter, which made me really feel good,” Herschbach recalled. “And then they said, ‘Why don’t you write a book?’”
Herschbach now writes every day and has speaking engagements at book clubs almost every week; he considers his success at writing “fortunate.”
“It was good therapy for me to be writing, but I was eager to share what I wrote,” he said of Grief Journey.
“But as I would write some of these poems, I would cry and cry and cry, and I would try to read them out loud and couldn’t do it.”
“I had always liked to write,” Herschbach said of his schooling while growing up on the Iron Range.
“But the last few years of my teaching, I was what was called a ‘synod-authorized minister’ by the Lutheran church and was given a congregation of my own, a small church on the shore, out by Gooseberry Park.”
Herschbach was a biology teacher for more than three decades, and the father of three lived in Two Harbors for 45 years before remarrying three years ago.
“I continued doing that (ministering) after I retired from teaching; I did that for over 10 years, so I had a lot of writing, a sermon every week,” he said.
“My writing has developed, I guess I’d say, where I write about the human condition, the joys and the sorrows, the good and the bad,” he said.
Herschbach has focused his creative writing on fiction in his recent years; his fifth book, “Seven Graves, Two Harbors,” was published by North Star Press.
“I select topics that are current social problems and fictionalize them,” Herschbach said of his forthcoming book that references his grandfather who came to the U.S. from England.
“In two years, I’ll have a book coming out that is ‘creative nonfiction’ or ‘historical fiction’ and it’s about four immigrant families coming to the U.S. and going to work in an underground mine in Minnesota.”
To learn more about Dennis Herschbach and his works, visit www.DennisHerschbachAuthor.com.