Artist/Author makes Montevideo home

Jessica Stölen-Jacobson
Montevideo American-News

Margaret Fuller, who goes by the pen name M E Fuller, has always been interested in the worlds of art and writing but waited until she retired early to pursue a career in both. Now, Fuller finds herself established in both fields, having published two books with more on the way, as well as having displayed artworks in two galleries. Fuller and her husband moved from Brainerd to Montevideo shortly before the pandemic began, finding a 1940s home that appealed to her both in style and for the fact that it had a space for a studio. “Just being in the house, having the studio space is amazing,” she says. “To get up in the morning, have my coffee or tea, and just step down into the studio to work. I’d always worked out of my bedroom, so for writing and painting, this is what they call hog heaven. I do my creative writing first, then I work for clients, then I do my painting and then I do all the marketing and whatever else it is that you have to do that is associated with having a business. So the studio space helps in that I just have more room to work. I don’t have to put stuff away. I can buy more supplies and actually have a space for them.”

After retirement, Fuller’s first venture was into the world of writing. “Once I retired, I went right to work learning how to write, because I wanted to write a novel,” she says. She published her first book, which she coins a cozy mystery in 2019. Saving the Ghost is described by fuller as literary fiction, an intense drama that centers on survival and emotional healing. Her second book, Blood on the Bridal Wreath is the first in a four-book series titled Filthy Dirty Garden Gloves and was completed during the pandemic. The book is described by Bonnie West, author of the book Boyfriends, as a perfect read for fans of Authors Louise Penny and Agatha Christie, with a story involving a main character described as a devoted cat owner and expert gardener who attracts both danger and devotion. “I’m later in life coming to writing - in my 60s so I don’t know all the genres to write yet and so I thought, why not try comedy? I will say my new book was a joy to write. It’s not literary. The first book, I believe at least from my level of writing was impeccably written - everything was thought out, everything was careful. This book I just rolled with it. It’s newly out - I don’t have any reviews, but I stand by my joy. It was really fun to write and I can’t wait to get started on the next one,” Fuller says. The next book will be titled From Hothouse to Heaven and will feature more of the characters from the first book that make up the fictional Buffalo View Village Garden Club. 

Fuller also plans to delve into different genres of writing through exploring new genres she isn’t personally a fan of. “I received a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board to work with a mentor in the Fantasy Genre so we are doing that this year. I also had an idea on a start on a fantasy. I’m not a fantasy reader so I really needed to work with someone on the fantasy genre,” she says. 

As far as her art goes, Fuller says she’s always been an artist. “I’ve drawn or painted here and there, but that was another thing that I just wanted to learn more about, so I started to learn the craft professionally at the same time I started working on the writing,” she explains. Fuller spent time painting and discovered not only a love for art but also a talent. “That felt good. I started getting better and better,” she said. She describes herself as a “lifetime storyteller” and sees both art and writing as contributing to that. “I’m more illustrative, but conceptual. I look at these paintings and I say yep, that’s my story,” she says. 

Fuller aspires to be an artist featured in galleries and so with some work done, she submitted her first completed piece from a series she calls Disappearances and Emergings to the Watermark Art Center and Bemidji and was accepted from a pool of 40 artists. She went on shortly after to submit a second piece to the Kaddatz Gallery in Fergus Falls during a hosting of duo shows called Hindsight 2020 and Collars for RGB. “I submitted a second piece in Hindsight 2020 that they accepted, so that’s two out of four pieces and I had only three done at that point so I felt like I am doing well,” she says. She is currently working on more pieces in the Disappearances and Emergings collection. “The idea of disappearances and emergings can be anything, so I just have forever to imagine,” she says. Fuller is also currently delving into the world of Abstract Art. “I just completed a tend day intense online course by Louise Fletcher, who I recommend to anyone who has any interest in breaking out of the headspace to create art. I took that class, and it was hard, but in the end, I actually produced something that feels right, so I will be continuing to build on those pieces as well throughout the summer,” she says.

Fuller has displayed her art, as well as having her books for sale at the first Maker’s Market in Granite Falls in June, and will also have both her art and books in Montevideo at the Milwaukee Heritage Railroad Craft & Vendor show this weekend for Fiesta Days. “I’ll have a booth there with some pieces of art and then books. I can certainly sign them for people who want an author-signed copy,” she says. She also plans to be at the Maker’s Market again in July and was accepted as an artist for the Meander Art Crawl this fall, where she will be displaying her work in the Hollywood Theater. 

If all of that didn’t keep Fuller busy enough, she also has plans for writing workshops to be taught in the local area in addition to the ones she already teaches online. Upon arrival in Montevideo, Fuller ensconced herself in the community, bringing the idea of bringing writer’s workshops to town that were quickly canceled due to the pandemic. “I was just getting settled in the house and getting things together,” Fuller said. “I’d had my first gathering of friends and then the pandemic hit. I had just started doing some writing coaching classes and mid-month we had to shut down.” She decided to start providing workshops because she discovered that there were a lot of people who wanted to write but needed mentorship. “One of the things that surprised me when I first started learning how to write was that there were a lot of people out there who want to be writers but are terrified to show their work to anyone. They don’t want any criticism, they don’t want anyone to critique. I will say the thing that will strengthen you the most as a writer is feedback,” she says. Because of this dynamic, Fuller has been working on planning a workshop to be held in the local area with her mentor to focus on the mentor/mentee relationship. “I’m hoping that will drive home the point that it’s okay to share - that there’s a difference between criticism and critique. Not everything has to be championed, but if you want to learn and grow, we need to be able to look at where we need to strengthen our craft,” she says. Fuller also offers personal coaching and will soon begin offering on-site coaching once again. “This is not about teaching people to write. This is about finding an enthusiastic individual and helping them do what they do, but do it aptly,” she says. She is also opening online writing rooms launching July 6th & 7th, titled “Write Night Tuesdays” which will provide an hour and a half on Tuesday evenings for dedicated writing time in an online forum with other writers, and “Writing Wednesday” that allows another hour and a half in the afternoon. “That gives people an opportunity to meet some other writers for a few minutes, but then know they’ve just spent fifteen dollars to spend a dedicated hour to writing. It’s not about sharing work, it’s not about getting feedback, it’s about making that time every week to write. Then there’ll be another fifteen minutes where I can answer questions if anyone has questions,” she says. Fuller got the idea after joining a similar authors group that provided dedicated writing time. “It made such a difference, and I dedicate time to writing, but it made such a difference to be in that space with other writers, so I thought we needed to take that online,” she said. 

Fuller attributes her creativity and aspirations to put words and art into the world of genetics. “My mother was adopted, born in 1913 and I never knew her family,” she says. “About seven years ago I found her relatives and I discovered that half of the people I met are writers and musicians, and my mother was an artist, so there seems to be this genetic component. It’s a natural inclination - it’s like asking the river to go another way, it’s not going to happen.”

She also says she has been enjoying her time in Montevideo, despite not having much opportunity to meet community members due to the pandemic. “I am here because this is where I choose to be because of the people and the opportunity for human connection that I didn’t have as much in Brainerd,” she says. “It’s a different kind of community. I’ve known some people here for many years. My husband and I were looking for a place to retire to - he’s still got a couple of years and I said let’s give it a shot, let's see if we can go to Montevideo. I just feel good in this community.”

M E Fuller is the recipient of grant support for writing from the Five Wings Art Council and the Minnesota State Arts Board and is a member of the Lakes Area Writers Alliance. She has two websites featuring her art and writing, MEfullerwords.com and MEfullerart.com.