Douglas Skrief - An International Falls Renaissance Man
Some of writer Douglas Skrief's earliest memories are of growing up on Sixth Street of International Falls and visits to his father's Red Owl agency on Main Street. A family cabin was his base for exploring Rainy Lake by canoe and sailboat.
After graduating from Falls High School, he headed east to Harvard College, where he majored in art history and English. He pursued the study of literature at Oxford University. He stayed on in England to launch a film magazine with a friend but soon migrated back to Minnesota where he worked as a freelance journalist, editor and museum curator.
The family cabin lured him back to the border waters during summer months. And about ten years ago, he found himself staying for a winter as well, pursuing some creative writing projects. On the day he took a reporter's job at The Daily Journal, he also bought a small house across the bay from the Ranier lift bridge.
"I had the example of well-known journalist Ted Hall and prominent children's book author Mary Casanova, both just a couple doors away. The area seemed a good place to combine both a sense of roots and a writing career," Skrief now recalls. "I had also found - or rediscovered - the opportunities of a small town existence."
When asked to explain, Skrief began to list the sorts of experiences he's had since returning home: conducting the community orchestra, starring in Broadway musicals, beaver trapping, restoring landmark buildings, and teaching at Rainy River Community College. His work as a reporter opened new doors, from visiting eagle's nests in Voyageurs National Park to hopping a train to the Iron Range.
"I've been a housepainter, a watercolorist, a funeral singer, a creative writing coach and headed numerous committees."
In 2006, he was awarded a McKnight/Arrowhead Regional Arts Council Individual Artists Fellowship to write and distribute his poetry - he has been published in The Paris Review and broadcast his poems on BBC Radio. He gave a first reading of his latest work in January at RRCC.
Last year Skrief started his own writing consultancy business, working with local clients as well as with Internet customers. His portfolio is already broad. He has been editing novels, creating copy for distant Web sites, and has even written a musical play celebrating Koochiching County's centennial.
"The opportunities to contribute to the community are enormous," Skrief said. "And with electronic connections to the outside world, there are new, creative ways of making this a home base - surrounded by good people ... and with a great view."