Friday, December 5, 2014

Faculty Spotlight: A Conversation with Eric Dregni

As part of the library's new Faculty Spotlight program, it's our pleasure to feature Eric Dregni, Associate Professor of English. Visit the library to see the full display and page through Dregni's books, including his newest, By the Waters of Minnetonka

What’s the most bizarre story you have to tell about Minnesota? One I've been thinking a lot about recently is Carver’s Cave in St. Paul. With all the talk about the stunning prehistoric cave drawings in Lascaux, France (and elsewhere in that area), we should know that Minnesota had similar petroglyphs here that Jonathan Carver wrote about. Unfortunately, the cave was chopped up by the railroads and only a portion of it survives.

What sparked the idea for your newest book, By the Waters ofMinnetonka? I grew up in Minnetonka and slowly learned some of the unusual history of the lake. I wished that the trolleys still made it out there. I freelanced historical articles about the lake for Lake Minnetonka Magazine – everything from pastors allegedly shooting saloonkeepers to dredging up streetcar boats stuck in the muck at the bottom of the lake for 70 years.

I hear you speak Italian. How did you become interested in
Italy?  I went to Italy in high school at 17 years of age as an exchange student. I didn't know a word of Italian (spaghetti and ravioli don’t really count) and stayed with a family for a year that didn't speak a word of English (hamburger and Elvis Presley don’t count). I kept going back because I love the Italian lifestyle.

How did you first become interested in Scandinavian culture? My dad would make a monthly “Norwegian dinner” with everything white and bland. As a kid, though, taste-free food is good. Only when my wife and I lived in Norway for a year did I learn how potent many of the dishes truly are. Try salt licorice or fermented fish (rakfisk) and you’ll never say Scandinavian food is flavorless. We have much to learn from Norway with its universal health care, free student tuition for college, and love of winter. I’d love to go back someday. 
What advice do you have for Concordia students who want to write books some day? Read! We have this idea that inspiration always comes from within, but it’s crucial to know what others are writing. Then get to work writing by setting aside some time each week to put down your thoughts. Even if you are a creative writer, don’t forget about journalism. Freelance writing for magazines, newspapers, or websites will help hone your skills.  

Anything else you’d like to share with us? I’d encourage students to study abroad for a semester, even if it doesn't “fit into the schedule.” Believe it or not, it’s much easier to live abroad now than it will be once you graduate.