MinnesotaBrown’s Top Posts of 2021

PHOTO: Aaron J. Brown

Happy New Year!

If you’re reading this, you’re one of the hard cases. You didn’t find MinnesotaBrown.com by random happenstance. Rather, you’ve continued to check in on this site while I write “Power in the Wilderness” in my basement.

MinnesotaBrown’s new mission statement (PHOTO: Aaron J. Brown)

I haven’t posted much here. I haven’t trended. Nor have I gone viral, except for a very popular meme that I created by accident. Despite this, it’s been a great year. Whether or not anyone noticed, I felt something click this year. My writing improved. I feel more confident behind the keyboard. My strategy of choosing to write better about fewer things seems to be working for me.

One cause for this sense of improvement is that I’ve been writing many thousands of words you haven’t seen yet. The book is a sprawling beast, more than double what the publisher will actually set to print. When it’s all done, properly revised and edited, I think it will distill into the best work I’ve ever done.

Less frequent posting has continued to sap the “metrics” that are used to assess websites. My traffic is steady, but small. Some days I wonder if anyone’s reading at all, but then I receive wonderful e-mails, letters and comments from people like you. It seems like this work matters quite a lot to some, and so I forge on. I really have no other choice. My core function in life is to process feelings, news, and events through writing. Readership is an ancillary benefit.

I do regret that my lack of daily blog posts has left uncovered much of the Iron Range news, politics, and culture I typically follow. You will be glad to know that the place is still here and is largely unchanged. Arguments over copper-nickel mining, partisan political trends, and economic diversification are right where I left them pre-book. Interesting people continue to do interesting things in this very interesting place. I’m not terribly worried about picking up the standard when the time comes.

Top Posts

Your intrepid author in unsuccessful pursuit of wild game.

So, today, I will share my five most popular new posts, four of which were columns from the Mesabi Tribune.

  1. First, as is often the case, came my annual listing of Iron Range Fourth of July parades, street dances, and fireworks displays. It’s just a good combination of search engine-optimized content made possible by local knowledge and conscious brevity.
  2. Second, one of my favorite pieces for the year was also my highest-rated column in terms of site traffic: “The world has changed and it’s not changing back.” This is where my head’s at these days and how I’m processing the world right now.
  3. Third we find “Northern Minnesota has what you need,” a piece about the assets this region has amid the aforementioned changing world.
  4. In the fourth spot, a related topic: “Free ideas for Iron Range future.” This piece was written in response to criticism that my work had become too negative. I don’t necessarily buy that, but it provided enough grit to write this pearl.
  5. Finally, I present: “Cure for waning political power is more people.” This column explores the numbers behind the U.S. Census. With the Iron Range continuing to lose population share relative to growth, we again face lost “clout.” But an important question remains. Do we really want people to move here or not? Economic stability and quality of life will depend upon new people, new ideas, and acceptance of change.

Other Favorites from the Mesabi Tribune

Minnesota Reformer

I’ve been writing a monthly column for the Minnesota Reformer for two years now. This has been a most happy relationship for me. They’ve given me fair pay, great editing, and a wider audience. And I am told the pieces do pretty well considering how regionally-focused they tend to be.

Furthermore, I am very proud of the work the Reformer does with independent investigative reporting and spot coverage of Minnesota politics and news. For years I’ve desperately wanted to write a column for a statewide daily newspaper. But finding my way into the Reformer has given me as much satisfaction as I might have derived from the big dailies, and I don’t have to share the pages with insane letters to the editor or drown in the poisonous comments of online trolls. [chef’s kiss]

I don’t have the stats on my Reformer columns since they are housed elsewhere, so here are my five favorite Reformer columns this year:

Holidays

Writing holiday columns for the local newspaper is an oft-tried, rarely successful endeavor. Nearly all attempts are trite, and most of my writing in this genre falls into that category.

But this year I wrote a couple pieces that people seemed to appreciate. For Thanksgiving, “Thanks for everything.” For the yuletide, “Christmas: The Teen Years.” 

Historical Perspective

The inner workings of a still-functioning Duluth Missabe and Iron Range steam engine. (PHOTO: Aaron J. Brown)

You can’t read 13 years of old newspapers on evenings and weekends without that content ending up in your “present day” columns. You might discern the style that I’ve developed for the book from these interesting historical stories:

First, for the Mesabi Tribune:

And also for the statewide Minnesota Reformer:

I even threw in a bonus post with “When the ‘Field of Dreams’ was in Hibbing,” about the time the Chicago “Black Sox” came to town.

Karl Jacob and I finished the “Power in the Wilderness” podcast project for Northern Community Radio. All episodes are now available wherever you access your favorite podcasts. The podcast is about the same story as my book — Victor Power and his travails in early Hibbing — but focuses more on our journey to find the information. The book will be a richer narrative about the story alone. And yes, Karl is still working to develop a television program about the story that would be based on my book.

What’s Coming

My sincere goal is to have the manuscript to my editor by the end of January. Then comes a year of editing, peer review, and preparations for the release of the book in early 2023. Next year I plan to support the book on tour. 

In 2022, you will see a few changes here at the website. Once the manuscript is finished I plan to redesign MinnesotaBrown.com. It will still be a “reader” website, geared toward highlighting past and future content. However, it will be simplified (I hope) to improve its appearance on a wider range of devices and search engines. You will eventually be able to preorder the book here and listen to the audio content I’ve produced over the years.

The word “blog” is now outdated, I think. Twisted beyond whatever meaning it once had. I’m just a backwoods writer. All my credibility comes from the people who take the time to read what I produce. Thus, for you — the reader — I am very thankful.

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