MARQUETTE - Max Peterson's friends are used to him disappearing for a few hours at a time. He's a writer, writing up to 12 hours a day when he's not in class at Northern Michigan University, working on everything from fiction to newspaper articles to poetry, disappearing to write whenever the inspiration strikes.
"I think it's the words," Peterson said. "To get to create a world is the thing I love the most."
The 20-year-old junior writing major first began the art of telling stories when he was three, dictating stories to his parents in their home in DeTour Village, at the eastern end of the Upper Peninsula.
Max Peterson lounges. His play “Mary Ann and the Father Monster” took runner up in the Western Michigan University Arnie Johnston Undergraduate Playwriting Award competition. (Photo provided by Max Peterson)
"I had stories I wanted to tell and I didn't know how to write it. It frustrated me," he said.
By the sixth grade, Peterson said he knew he wanted to be a writer, starting out by creating stories and characters for his friends to illustrate.
Now as an NMU student, Peterson is continuing to expand on his writing.
While taking a scriptwriting class, he produced a script that his professor, Dr. Beverly Matherne, suggested he submit to the Western Michigan University Arnie Johnston Undergraduate Playwriting Award competition.
Titled "Mary Ann and the Father Monster," the play won Peterson the title of first runner up, an award that was specially created for his submission. The contest typically has two winners, one from WMU and one from outside the campus community.
"It was the first play I ever wrote," Peterson said. "It kind of evolved into a play about domestic violence."
Along with the two other winners, Peterson's play was performed as part of the award ceremony last summer.
"I got to work with the actors. I think the best part of it for me was watching the actors do their thing," he said. "It was a fun experience."
Besides working on creative writing, such as short stories, Peterson has also been writing for The Drummond Island Digest, a small local paper, since he was a high school student.
Last summer, that work paid off as well, as he was sent to southern France to do a travel writing piece for the paper.
Even outside class writing and writing for himself, Peterson has been able to find work as a writer, working as a tutor at NMU's Writing Center and writing content for the NMU websites for the College of Professional Studies and the Department of Technology and Occupational Sciences.
"I write everything," he said. "I think I like fiction most."
Recently Peterson has also started branching out into poetry, which he has been using to try to help himself come to terms with the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
"Japan hit me really hard. It's been in almost everything I've written," he said. "We have trouble imagning 30,000 faces. The loss is just staggering to me, not just the numerical loss, but the experiential loss."
As a junior at NMU, Peterson is also beginning to think about what he will do after he graduates.
"My original plan was to laugh in the face of danger and do nothing but write," he said. "If I write everything I've got to make enough money to not be dead."
With some guidance from his professors, however, he is now beginning to look at doctoral programs for writing and English.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.