Author shifts from news to mystery

Published 11:11 am Friday, April 13, 2012

Author Ron Handberg talks to students from the Austin High School modern literature class as part of an Austin Page Turners event Thursday morning in Christgau Hall. Photos by Eric Johnson/

With a dash of mystery and a focus on the changing nature of communication, Twin Cities author Ron Handberg visited Austin Thursday as part of the Austin Page Turners annual citywide read event.

“Over the years, I have tried to tell a good story,” Handberg told Austin High School students Thursday morning. Handberg spoke with two AHS classes and gave a presentation at Austin Public Library Thursday night.

For Handberg, being a writer was a dream come true. He wanted to write since he was 6 or 7 years old, and would constantly write short stories about whatever he could growing up.

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He kept on writing, but he took a different tact in college, as he graduated from the University of Minnesota with a journalism degree. Handberg worked for WCCO for more than 30 years, eventually rising from a reporter on WCCO radio to news director of WCCO TV news, finally retiring to pursue his writing in 1989.

Since then, he’s made a name for himself writing mysteries revolving around a Twin Cities TV news station. His fifth book, “Deadly Reunion,” was chosen by the Page Turners as this year’s citywide read.

Students from Austin's modern literature class Thursday listen to author Ron Handberg in Christgau Hall.

Handberg shared his writing process with students, describing how he spends at least a year writing a book. Of course, he draws much of his material from his previous career. In some instances, he creates characters or scenes based on things he’s read or experienced in his career.

“All of the books in one way or another have been connected with my years in television,” he told students.

That’s part of what makes “Deadly Reunion” fascinating, as a major subplot revolves around the ownership and possible sale of the TV station where the protagonist works. Handberg is slightly troubled by the change in news over the years, as well as the change in reading and communication.

“[One of the characters] says in the book that ‘news is more frosting than cake,’ and I think that’s true in real life,” he said.

Handberg hopes students will write more, whether by keeping a diary or learning to create fiction. Though many education experts concentrate on science and mathematics when discussing the U.S.’s future, literacy and effective communication is important, too, Handberg told students.

“Please, take the time to study these things,” he said.

The students seemed impressed with Handberg. AHS student Jesica Alfaro Hernandez was impressed with Handberg’s meticulous dedication and said she didn’t realize how an author thought about using their characters to move a story along.

“It was very inspiring,” she said.