Western and Gunnison community members showed up to the University Center in force last week to celebrate the release of Mehall’s fourth book, “Graduating from College Me: A Dirtbag Climber Grows Up."
“Graduating from College Me” is Mehall’s second book this year and fourth total. The collection of stories, vignettes and poetry chronicles his adventures and lessons learned after graduating from Western in 2004 with a major in Recreation and Outdoor Education.
“This [new] book is kind of embarrassing,” Mehall joked. “It’s like a love letter you wrote to girl that you would never want her to read. It’s just a book I put out because I wanted to.”
Before reading excerpts from the book, Mehall discussed his literary inspirations, such as Jack Kerouac; talked about his love of rock climbing, which is very prominent in “Graduating from College Me;” and reminisced about his time at Western.
Mehall came to Western in 1999 as a “ragamuffin, unkempt character who wore sweatpants inside out” after stints at two other universities. Western and Mehall clicked immediately thanks to the exceptional professors, small class sizes and endless outdoor activities available in the Gunnison Valley.
The author remains in touch with many of his former professors who “became a part of my life in a meaningful way.” Mehall recalled recently seeing one of his former professors at a wedding.
“I was getting ready for the flattery and stuff,” Mehall jokingly recalled. “But instead of saying she was proud of me she said, ‘I remember writing on one of your papers, you need to become a better writer.’”
Now, Mehall sits down and writes every morning. He is also the cofounder and publisher of “The Climbing Zine,” a rock climbing-focused online publication where he is able to combine his love of climbing and writing.
Mehall began climbing back in his hometown of Normal, Illinois. But instead of mountains, Mehall and his friends would scale the insides of abandoned grain silos. Now after spending years in Colorado, he has explored many of the state’s climbing spots, as well as other crags in the Southwest.
“Everything else aside, climbing is my favorite activity to do,” he said.
In the future, Mehall plans to focus more on writing fiction—rather than about his own experiences.
“I’m tired of writing stuff that embarrasses me,” Mehall said.
Until that fifth book, interested readers can find “Graduating from College Me” locally at Gunnison’s The Bookworm, the Western Bookstore, and at Crested Butte’s Townie Books. His latest book as well as his other three, “American Climber,” “The Great American Dirtbags” and “Climbing out of Bed” are available on climbingzine.com.