Seen and Heard: Kalmbach is Rochester’s writer-whisperer

December 23, 2018
In this 2016 file photo, Mike Kalmbach signs copies his book at an author booth at Thursdays on First.

Rochester may be known as a medical town, but our community is bursting with writers. From first drafts to published novels, our city’s writers are busy creating.

While some may view writing as a solitary endeavor, many writers yearn to connect with others during the process. Back in 2005, Helen Chen formed the Rochester MN Writers Group to provide a community for writers. While she is still actively involved, with other obligations to tend to Chen handed the reins to local author Mike Kalmbach, who has facilitated the group since 2009.

Kalmbach’s writing experience began in second grade, when he “made (his) first book attempt.” The story bore a resemblance to the Boxcar Children, thus giving him “an introduction to copyright law at an early age.”

Kalmbach went on to earn a degree in mathematics and a master’s degree in software engineering. His current position as a senior analyst/programmer at Mayo Clinic “exercises (his) tech side” while his writing balances out the creative side.

As a writer, Kalmbach attempts to produce at least 500 to 1,000 words per day. His most recent publication, “Writing Advice for Teens: Editing Stories,” while directed at teens, has guidance that is applicable to all writers.

In his role as leader/facilitator, Kalmbach brings a wealth of knowledge to the Rochester MN Writers Group. In addition to strong leadership, the organization thrives because of active membership. With approximately 125 members, the group meets twice per month.

Membership is comprised of a mix of experience. Some writers are relatively new, others have published many works. The aim of the group is to support one another in a friendly environment.

The second Tuesday of the month is the group’s “formal” meeting at the Rochester Public Library, which Kalmbach describes as a “wonderful partner.” Typically eight to 10 writers submit writing a week prior to the meeting. During the actual meeting, which usually has an attendance of 10-15 writers, the work is presented for critique.

“We like to talk, so I keep tabs on the clock,” Kalmbach said. The purpose is to provide constructive feedback and “help each other grow.”

The fourth Tuesday of the month is the group’s “informal” meeting, typically held at Dunn Bros North. This meeting is more about “process.” Folks ask for feedback about areas where they are stuck or discuss the pros and cons of self-publishing versus traditional publishing.

Kalmbach acknowledges that a writing group may not be for everyone. He encourages interested writers to “come observe, sit, and make sure it’s a good fit” before joining.

He shared that some writers choose not to share their own work but do actively participate in supporting other authors. Even when critiquing others’ work, he said, “writers can improve their own writing.”

The Rochester MN Writers Group has no membership fee and all are welcome. Visit its website, www.rochmnwriters.com, to learn more.

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