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There’s still time for firsts at 88

St. Peter’s University professor publishes first book, a collection of memoirs

Created date

April 13th, 2017
After years of writing personal essays, Cedar Crest resident Loren Schmidtberger published his first book in December 2016.

After years of writing personal essays, Cedar Crest resident Loren Schmidtberger published his first book in December 2016.

Who has the time to write a book when you’re working and maintaining a house? 

Loren Schmidtberger spent years writing personal essays and participating in a weekly writers group. But it wasn’t until 2015, when he moved to Cedar Crest, an Erickson Living community in Pompton Plains, N.J., that he was able to dedicate even more time to his writing and publish his first book. 

Last December, Truman State University Press published The Beginner’s Cow: Memories of a Volga German From Kansas, a collection of Loren’s personal essays. 

Cedar Crest’s maintenance-free lifestyle has enabled him to trade home maintenance for living life to the fullest. He doesn’t even have to worry about paying several monthly bills; they are consolidated into a single convenient monthly service fee that includes all home maintenance, use of community amenities like the fitness and aquatics center, property taxes, 24/7 security, professional landscaping, and all utilities except telephone.

“Since I am retired and have the time and am in reasonably good health, I thought now is the time to do it,” says Loren, who was initially inspired to write the memoir to leave a record, primarily for his six children and six grandchildren, of episodes in his life.

Humorous, engaging collection

Loren began writing personal essays in May 2006 after his beloved wife of 47 years passed away unexpectedly that year. He had just retired from teaching at Saint Peter’s University and had moved to a new community in Rockland County, N.Y. About a year later, a fellow widower invited him to join a small group of retirees who write for fun.  

The group meets weekly and, since October 2008, Loren has typically written one personal essay a week. Upon moving to Cedar Crest in 2015, he has been an active member of the retirement community’s writing group and short story group.

Loren’s small series of essays collected over the years eventually grew into book length, becoming The Beginner’s Cow

The engaging and humorous essays detail his life growing up in a Volga-German family in rural Kansas during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl years. The tales then span the decades with a clear-eyed gaze, reflecting a cultural legacy that laid the foundation for a life well lived and illustrating the deep cultural changes between America in the 1930s and the America we know today.

He jokes that the Dust Bowl period particularly challenged him because “the topic is, well, dry as dust.” 

Loren is professor emeritus of English at Saint Peter’s University in New Jersey. His writing has appeared in journals such as American Literature, Cross Currents, Thought, The Mississippi Quarterly, and America.  

He earned his bachelor’s degree from Fort Hays State University. Following service in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, he obtained his Ph.D. from Fordham University.  

He taught at St. Peter’s University for 51 years, specializing in American literature, especially the works of William Faulkner. He was appointed the Will and Ariel Durant Professor of Humanities in 1991.  

Advice from the professor

Loren, 88, offers this advice for his peers approaching a book project:

“Hurry!” he says. “On a more serious note, every word processing program has a ‘save’ feature somewhere. I recommend that people find that button and press it often.”

The Beginner’s Cow: Memories of a Volga German from Kansas, can be ordered from Truman State University Press, Barnes & Noble, or through Amazon.

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