I was born and raised, as they say, on a family farm north of Emporia, Kansas. I was an only child, my sister having passed away in infancy before I was born; however, there were neighbors with children thereabouts, so I did have playmates. I attended the little country school where both my grandfather Scheel and my father had attended in their youth. As a child, I envied the city kids who had sports teams, easy access to movies, etc., but with maturity I came to appreciate how lucky I was growing up with nature all around me—the livestock, the wildlife, the beauty of the crops and pasture and woods and stream. It was an innocent time with a supportive family network. And a way of life that has, sadly, pretty much vanished now.
What is the greatest thing about the place you call home?
In my young adult days I attended three different universities and during the Vietnam war era I served overseas with the American Red Cross in Vietnam, Thailand, Germany and England. Eventually, I ended up in the Kansas City area where I met my wife, Dee—a Filipina who has kept me focused and healthy, both physically and spiritually. Kansas City is a terrific venue for the literary arts and writers’ groups and District 2 of the Kansas Authors Club. It’s also great for sports enthusiasts with the Chiefs and Royals and KU basketball. And many friendships have been initiated and nurtured here. However, the thing I treasure most about where I’ve now lived for 35 years is my wife Dee, who has made the house where we reside in Mission a true “home.”
What turns you on creatively?
As a boy on the farm, I loved pencil drawing and took art classes in high school. My mother had been a superb artist and encouraged my creativity and enrolled me in English honor classes in high school. Eventually it was words that grabbed my creative impulses and steered them toward writing. I admired great writers like Hemingway and Steinbeck and Salinger who could bring to people new worlds of experience by what they put on pages of paper. And that’s what I aspired to do myself. I’m a “literary” writer, trying to both educate as well as entertain. And that genre can be a hard sell, unless you’re lucky or already famous. But I’m happiest when I know I’ve written something that deeply touched some readers, both emotionally and intellectually. My most recent book, the historical novel ‘The Potter’s Wheel’, is set in the street scene of Hollywood in 1967 and is meticulously accurate to the times. It’s a true example of my motto “Live it, then write it.” Any reader exploring its pages will have vicariously lived the “sixties.”
What is your favorite word, and can you use it in a poetic sentence?
Muse. I mean that in the sense of one’s deepest creative energy and impulse that, I’ve come to appreciate, originate from somewhere outside our own consciousness. I call it “spirit guides.” And they contribute to and help shape what we produce with our art. Even the ancient Greeks knew about them. The epigraph I penned at the beginning of my poetry collection ‘Star Chaser’ pays homage to them as follows:
Old ghosts roam in and out my dreams, And unpenned verse drifts blithly by. Oh for the flame of a faithful muse To coax them whole to the wakeful eye.
What is your pet peeve?
Here I risk, having just celebrated my 80th birthday, of coming off sounding like a “cranky old man”! Ha. My credo has become “writing of yesterday for the reader of tomorrow because life today makes no sense.” I’d have to say my greatest frustration in modern times is seeing the misuse of “technology.” I agree wholeheartedly with the observation: “Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.” Yes, advancements in technology have saved my life—cured cancer, healed my heart, removed the gall bladder problem. But it’s also fouled up the phone system, destroyed any reliable mail delivery, and let’s not even mention wrecked confidence in the system of elections. And that’s just the beginning! But–enough said!
What defines Mark Scheel?
As a writer, for better or worse, how others see my work. As a person, how my wife and friends see me. And a clearer and more complete definition will emerge, I hope, when my next book is published—the memoir nearly completed with the working title ‘Blossoms on the Vine.’ The blossoms are the people I’ve met on life’s road who helped me, taught me, influenced me and amazed me. And I’m quite sure they’ll amaze many readers too providing I can find a way to make them aware the book is there. Yes, I’ve been a student, a farm worker, a laborer, a Red Cross worker, a teacher, a librarian, an editor, an essayist, a novelist, a poet, a lover, a dreamer, an activist and more. But it’s the relationships with the people who really made me who I am–the 80-year-old man, taking a break from his writing and sitting in Wendy’s with a coffee, a newspaper and a smile on his face.
I was born on a farm in Kansas and attended Kansas University. After graduation I served overseas with the American Red Cross and later taught English at Emporia State University and was an info spec with the Johnson County Library. I belong to The Kansas Authors Club and The Writers Place and have served on the boards of directors with two literary magazines. I also was a prose editor for Kansas City Voices magazine. I'm now retired and write full time. My essays, short stories, poems and articles have appeared over a 40-year period in numerous periodicals. I blogged for several years on Scriggler and The Grant Journal and those posts were collected in a book. I have published six books to date representing every major genre. My work has won several literary awards and I'm represented by the Metamorphosis Literary Agency.