Congratulations to Zach!

from Suzzanne Kelley, NDSU Press Publisher / Editor in Chief

It’s been a long haul this year for everyone, so when one among us still reaches his goals and in fine fashion, his efforts should be recognized. With this note, we celebrate Zach Vietz’s magnificent finish to his academic program as he is now among those who hold a master’s degree! After an articulate and splendid presentation describing his thesis project, he fielded questions from his committee admirably. I am especially gratified to note that Zach’s research is in the field of publishing. He not only contributed his physical labors and publicist’s acumen to the activities of NDSU Press, he is adding to the corpus of knowledge about publishing.

In addition to his academic program, Zach has served NDSU Press for two years as Publicist and Graduate Assistant in Publishing, and he is a graduate of the Certificate in Publishing. We’re delighted for his accomplishments; we’re sad he will be exiting the program. 

As announced by the chair of Zach’s committee . . .  

Please join me in congratulating Zachary Vietz on his successful MA Thesis defense earlier today. His thesis is titled, “Independent Press Awards: Diversity in Young Adult Literature Awards from 2010-2019.”

Zach’s MA committee members are:

Dr. Amy Gore (Chair), Assistant Professor of English
Dr. Suzzanne Kelley, Publisher at NDSU Press, Assistant Professor of Practice
Dr. Alison Graham-Bertolini, Associate Professor of English

Much thanks to his committee for their service, and many Huzzahs! to Zach for his accomplishments. I’ve attached a photo of our smiling faces.

Best,

Dr. Gore

Post-defense grins by all. Congratulations, Zachary Vietz!

How NDSU Press Acquires Manuscripts

from Suzzanne Kelley, Publisher / Editor in Chief

At NDSU Press, we accept manuscript submissions year-round. There are no fees to submit manuscripts for publication consideration, and we seek works in nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. This past year, from January 1 through December 31, 2020 , we received more than one hundred manuscripts and about a dozen manuscript proposals for publication consideration.

Searching through this lot for the best manuscripts requires a considerable amount of reading and due deliberation. While I am on a constant search for the best scholarly and literary works, I must also be conscientious about balance in filling out our catalog for each year. We cannot publish only poetry or only fiction, and we choose not to publish only scholarly works. We can select only six to ten works for publication annually.

As we are completely self-funded—reliant upon sales and donations for all our operations—I must also be aware of what kinds of books will situate well in the market and how the balance of our creative and scholarly works can produce a return on investment.

Paying close attention to scholarly research and literary contributions, all within the parameters of the mission of the press, is more than a guess-and-by-golly proposition. The process requires being mindful of where we have gaps in knowledge and what kinds of works can reach an interested audience, and we must be aware of current pricing trends in printing and distribution. The process also recognizes that while our production schedule mirrors those of big publishers like Random House, we are not publishing on the same commercial scale. Our mission is generally focused upon scholarly, intellectual, and creative works of regional interest. Like a puzzle piece, each acquisition must contribute to the whole picture, balanced in content and profitable.

A crucial element to getting things right in our acquisitions process is to follow the professional standards of peer review for university presses. The best practices for peer review, as proposed by the Association of University Presses, may be found here.

Our process for manuscript acquisitions—in accord with best practices—has four stages, each building upon the other for making the final selections.

  • In-house review, wherein I make a first determination about whether a manuscript meets our mission for publication and has a potential market or audience.
  • Blind peer review, wherein two experts in the field—unknown to each other and to the author—make an assessment about manuscripts that have passed muster for stage 1. At this stage, I rely upon professionals knowledgeable about the scholarship and/or writing style in the manuscript. I have worked with reviewers who are located locally, within our state, regionally, nationally, and even internationally. Peer reviewers provide a summary overview of the work, noting strengths and weaknesses, gaps or omissions, and they make one of the following recommendations:
    • Accept (manuscript merits publication; some revisions may be requested)
    • Reject with invitation to re-submit (manuscript does not merit publication in its present form but has potential; requires substantial revision)
    • Reject (does not merit publication)
  • Consultation with the author, wherein—if the reviewers have recommended publication or resubmission—the author and I go over each of the reviewers’ observations and recommendations. The author and I map out a plan for addressing the recommendations, and we develop a timeline for the author to deliver the revised manuscript.
  • Certification by the Editorial Advisory Board, wherein I make a summary report, providing our board members with descriptions of the reviewers’ areas of expertise and experience, the reviewers’ comments, the author’s response, and a copy of the manuscript. The Editorial Advisory Board, comprised of faculty and lay-persons at large with a variety of backgrounds and expertise, scrutinize the submissions, ask questions related to content and catalog, and—if everything is in good order—affirms that we have followed all of the standard university press peer review procedures. The board’s certification determination reads as follows:

I certify that [manuscript title], having undergone the peer review process, has scholarly, intellectual, or creative merit for publication with NDSU Press. I further find that this work contributes to scholarly knowledge of region (that is, discovery of new knowledge) or to public consciousness of region (that is, dissemination of information, or interpretation of regional experience).

Following all of these steps keeps us on our toes, and by sheer number of submissions, I am not always able to render a quick response to writers. This is our process, though, and it is thus far working splendidly. In fact, in the next few days, I will be sending two nonfiction manuscripts to our Editorial Advisory Board to seek certification for that fourth step of the acquisitions process.

If you would like to become one of our blind peer reviewers and assist in this important process, I invite you to visit our online submissions portal at Submittable and add your area of interest to our Manuscript Reviewer Database.

Dr. Suzzanne Kelley is assistant professor of practice and editor in chief for NDSU Press. She directs the Certificate in Publishing program and manages all aspects of NDSU Press operations.  Suzzanne is a graduate of University of Texas–Austin, summa cum laude, with a BS in Applied Learning & Development. She holds an MA in History from the University of Central Oklahoma, where she was honored with the Edward Everette Dale Graduate Student Award. Suzzanne graduated from North Dakota State University with her PhD in History, and she has been working in publishing since 2002, first with scholarly journals and then in book publishing since 2005.  She is a member of the honor societies Pi Lambda Theta, Phi Alpha Theta, and Phi Kappa Phi, where she is the immediate past president. Suzzanne is at present serving a second term as president of the Midwest Independent Publishers Association.

 

NDSU Press Giving Day!

This NDSU Giving Day, the future of NDSU Press is in our hands! I support NDSU Press because it is IMPORTANT to publish stories of and from North Dakota and this region and to provide the best experiential learning for our students. Please join me in helping NDSU Press give region a voice.
All day Tuesday, December 1, follow our NDSU Giving Day link: https://www.ndsugivingday.com/amb/NDSUPress
Click on “Give Now”…
1. Then choose Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences.
2. And then choose North Dakota State University Press.
Thank you!
Suzzanne Kelley, Publisher

Flash & the Heidelberg

from Suzzanne Kelley, Publisher, and Allan Burke, Retired Newspaper Publisher and Consultant/Operator for Our Chapbook Publication Projects

The title page for a Muddy Kind of Love is printed on 32# Southworth Naturals Paper, Latte. Interior pages are printed on 32# Southworth Naturals Paper, Birch. 27# Red Maroon Vellum tissue insert at front and back. Cover is printed on 67# Cream Cover Stock. All printing is done with 16-gauge wood-mounted dies prepared by OWOSSO Graphic Arts, Owosso, MI.

While our blog title for today sounds like a crime-fighting duo, in reality, we are talking about chapbook press operations. In a typical year, our Intro to Publishing students would be caravanning to Braddock, ND, where they would print hundreds of pages at the Braddock News Letterpress Museum. This year being atypical, however, we have implemented Plan B.

Thanks to the folks at Flash Printing in Bismarck and to operators and consultants Mike Frykman and Allan Burke, our interior pages for A Muddy Kind of Love are being letterpress printed on a Heidelberg with some regional history.

Flash Printing is the proud owner of a Heidelberg letterpress, which they usually use for numbering, perforating, scoring, and die cutting. This weekend, with two new ink rollers that Allan brought to Flash from the Braddock News Letterpress Museum (Braddock, ND), this project is Back to the Future for the press.

The Heidelberg was bought brand new by the monks of the Benedictine Monastery at Assumption Abbey, Richardton, and Flash is its second home. One or more of the Flash owners attended high school at the abbey, which once had both a high school and a college. Several of the Iron Men—from the South Central Threshing Association—who aid and abet the operations at Braddock News, also attended the abbey’s high school, and one was the general contractor for one or more buildings on the abbey’s campus. Braddock Letterpress Museum founders hold the abbey’s folder in storage, awaiting restoration.


Pictured after installing a hanging propane furnace in The Braddock News Letterpress Museum in Braddock, ND, are, left to right, Ken Rebel of Bismarck, Tony Splonskowski of Bismarck, David Moch of Hazelton, Tracy Moch of Kintyre and Dave Duchscherer of Bismarck. They are all active in the South Central Threshing Association, Inc

Today, even as we write, Allan and Mike are letterpress printing the interior pages of A Muddy Kind of Love—the Poetry of the Plains & Prairies Award won by poet Carolyn A. Dahl—on the Heidelberg press. Through the magic of UPS overnight deliveries between Bismarck, Houston, and Fargo, we anticipate having fully printed, assembled, trimmed, and individually autographed and numbered copies available on December 10. Join Carolyn, Allan, Suzzanne, and our Intro to Publishing students on Saturday, December 12, 2020, at 2:00 p.m. CST for a visit with all and a book-launch-reading by Carolyn Dahl. You can register in advance for this meeting here. Free and open to the public.

Copies of A Muddy Kind of Love are available for pre-sales ordering at our NDSU Press online store.

About the author:

Carolyn A. Dahl, winner of the 2020 POPP Award with her chapbook, A Muddy Kind of Love

Carolyn Dahl was the Grand Prize winner in the national ARTlines2 poetry contest and a finalist in the PEN Texas Literary competition and the Malovrh-Fenlon Poetry Prize. Her chapbook, Art Preserves What Can’t Be Saved, won first place in the Press Women of Texas contest and the National Federation of Press Women’s Communications contest, chapbook division. She is the co-author of The Painted Door Opened: Poetry and Art, the author of three art books, and has been published in many anthologies and literary journals. Raised in Minnesota, she now writes from Texas where she raises monarch butterflies, sending them north to Midwest habitats.  www.carolyndahlstudio.com.

A Muddy Kind of Love is the winner of the 2020 Poetry of the Plains & Prairies Award, hosted by North Dakota State University Press.

Poetry by Carolyn A. Dahl. Cover design by Jamie Trosen.

About the Intro to Publishing class:

Students—graduate and undergraduate—are able to gain experiential learning through our Intro to Publishing class, where they learn the history, business, and practice of small press publishing. The Intro is part of a series of required classes to earn our Certificate in Publishing, which is offered in conjunction with the day-to-day activities of NDSU Press. We could not take our usual class photo this year, as we only met face-to-face in small groups and at all the distance we could muster. Students from the class printed the covers for A Muddy Kind of Love on a Saturday in October using an 1890s Chandler & Price letterpress located at Hunter Times Museum, Bonanzaville, West Fargo. In light of our need to work at some distance, we invited Mikaila Norman to utilize her caricature-drawing skills to depict our chapbook project crew. If you are interested in earning the Certificate in Publishing offered via the daily activities of NDSU press, check out the descriptions here and here.

2020 North Dakota State University Press Introduction to Publishing students, instructors, operators, and consultants. Illustrations by Mikaila Norman.

Top, left to right, Undergraduates: Meghan Arbegast, Jamie Askew, Grace Boysen, Megan Brown, Jake Elkin. Row 2: Abigail Keys, Shawnia Klug, Sydney Larson, Jack Payette, Corrine Redding. Row 3: Kiri Scott, Madeline Wright. Graduate students: Lis Fricker, Oliver Sime, Elle West. Row 4: Allan Burke and Mike Frykman (Press Operators/Consultants); Dr. Suzzanne Kelley (NDSU Press Publisher/Instructor), Kalley Miller (Teaching Assistant), Zachary Vietz (Graduate Assistant in Publicity and Press Operator/Consultant).

www.ndsupress.org

 

A Splendid Enterprise & a Search for a Letterpress Printer

Publisher note from Suzzanne Kelley
*If you are a letterpress printer, please see my purple note at the end of this message.

Since 2016, the NDSU Intro to Publishing students, working with NDSU Press, have had the chance to learn how to operate turn-of-the-20th-century letterpresses. We begin with a Saturday at Hunter Times, a museum located in West Fargo at Bonanzaville. Having learned about Chandler & Price letterpresses and safety measures, students take a turn at  letterpress printing. Allan Burke–an expert in all matters about letterpress history and operations–provides a tour, and then in small-group format, students begin the process of letterpress printing the chapbook covers for the current winner of our Poetry of Plains and Prairies Award.

 

 

Hunter Times location_Students at work with a Chandler & Price letterpress

Students at Hunter Times, learning to operate the Chandler & Price letterpress, one page at a time. Left to right: Raechel Heuer, Sydney Olstad, Ken Smith.

Later in the semester, on a Friday afternoon, we load up a caravan of cars and head for The Braddock News Letterpress Museum, located on the vast grounds of the South Central Threshing Association. The drive is about two-and-a-half hours from campus, and for some of my students, it is the farthest west they’ve ever been.

On Friday night, our host, Allan Burke, gives the students yet another tour. The Braddock News Letterpress Museum is home to multiple pieces of equipment dating from the late 1800s to the 1950s. Here, the students have hands-on access to Chandler & Price letterpresses, a 1940s stitcher, and a trimmer, dating also from the turn of the 20th century.

 

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Fall 2019 Intro to Publishing students at the Braddock News Letterpress Museum, working on the chapbook publication, Harvest Widows, by Nick Bertelson. Students pictured from left to right are Laura Ellen Brandjord, Kalley Miller, Ryan Nix, Nataly Routledge, Zachary Vietz, and Alexis Melby.

Following our museum tour, we dine sumptuously courtesy of the Threshers Association Iron Men and board officers, some of whom do the welcoming, cooking, serving, and cleaning. Initial printing begins after supper.

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Publishing student Samantha Soukup dishes up some homemade stew at Miss Kitty’s, the food hub (and pitstop) for our publishing team while on site at The Braddock News Letterpress Museum.

The students learn about moveable type, and we generally put that knowledge to work when we print our covers. For printing the interior, however, we do resort to some modernization. It would take too long to set type for the forty interior pages, so we order up raised-magnesium printing plates instead. Each plate prints two pages on one side of a sheet of paper. When the papers dry, we can flip them over to print two more pages.

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Sample plates for printing pages from Harvest Widows, by Nick Bertelson. (Photo by Tim Jensen Studios.)

 

Land of Sunlit Ice_ink drying at Braddock

Maggie Krull, setting sheets out to dry. In the background, Angela Beaton and volunteer Jerome Schwartzenberger, retired publisher of the Napoleon [ND] Homestead, make sure everything is right.

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Braddock_Photo by Ken Smith

Our team finishes up the final copies of Land of Sunlit Ice, by North Dakota Poet Laureate Larry Woiwode, the first chapbook project of our series. From left to right: Sydney Olstad, Amanda Biles, Jerome Schwartzenberger, Raechel Heuer, Clarence Hertz, Suzzanne Kelley, Angela Beaton, Allan Burke, Maggie Krull, and Ken Smith.

We start this enterprise as amateurs, and we finish as proficient Devils Printers…the official name for our interns with experience under their belts and ink under their fingernails.

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In this, the year of the pandemic, our options for continuation of this splendid enterprise have become limited for the production of our newest addition to the chapbook series, A Muddy Kind of Love, by Carolyn Dahl. We must cut out our trip to Braddock. We’ll still meet face-to-face in small groups (optional, not required) at Hunter Times to print our covers for the newest addition to our chapbook series. Our current plan (subject to revision) is to hire a professional letterpress printer to print and assemble the interior. If you or someone you know fits the bill, please contact Suzzanne Kelley post haste for details. Contact information is available at our website.

 

 

 

 

When an Author Hits Gold

Publisher note from Suzzanne Kelley

Sometimes a first-time author strikes gold. Such is the way with Rebecca Bender, whose book, Still (NDSU Press, 2019), has been raking in the awards and whose essays and poems are now seeing publication in national newsletters and magazines. Much to her (and our) delight, her work is even cited in other works of scholarship, such as historian David Moon’s The American Steppes: The Unexpected Russian Roots of Great Plains Agriculture, 1870s-1930s (Cambridge University Press, 2020).

Rebecca Bender in ND Sunflower Field in November by Lincoln Bernhard

Rebecca recently won the Gold Medal in the category of Religion & Philosophy from the Midwest Independent Publishers Association’s Midwest Book Awards. Prizewinners compete in a twelve-state region, so her recognition is phenomenal. Still also won First Place in the internationally-competitive Independent Press Award for Judaism.

Rebecca will be the first to tell you that she did not win these awards on her own. She shares authorship with her late father, Kenneth M. Bender (1916-2006). During the last two years of his life, he hand-wrote page after page of his vivid memories. Rebecca typed up his notes with the agreed-upon compensation at the end of each of their working sessions: a shared chocolate milkshake. His and her memories, her exhaustive research and attention to detail reveal a splendid little-known history of Jewish families on the northern plains.

FINAL Penultimate Cover

I will be the first to tell you that Rebecca’s recognition is the result of hard work. I first met her as she and a community of celebrants from across the United States met in the town of Ashley, ND. Rebecca’s efforts had resulted in the successful nomination of the Ashley Jewish Cemetery to the National Register of Historic Places. Rebecca shared the fruits of her research that day in a wonderful story (that included a skit, a song, and a sit-down dinner). I expressed my hope that she would work on a larger project; I am grateful that she was already thinking along those lines.

A former securities litigator in Minnesota, Rebecca has always enjoyed history and hearing uplifting stories, taking pride in family and Jewish traditions, feeling gratefulness and appreciation for life in America, where she and her son are free to practice their religion and to work hard to achieve their goals.

You can read Rebecca’s most recent essay, published July 23, 2020, by the Jewish Book Council, here: Gold from the Prairie, by Rebecca E. Bender.

About Still

More than four hundred Russian and Romanian Jewish homesteaders settled on about eighty-five farms in McIntosh County, North Dakota, beginning in 1905. After clearing rocks and boulders, growing wheat and flax, raising cattle and chickens, and selling cream from their sod houses, most were successful enough to own their own land.

Still is a history of five generations, a family we meet first as they flee Odessa and last as they make their ways as American Jews…and as Dakota farmers, as students and storekeepers, as soldiers and lawyers, and even as a teen in an international competition who stands face-to-face with Netanyahu. Rebecca Bender and Kenneth Bender answer the question recently posed to Rebecca by a newspaper reporter: Are you still Jewish?

Still is available through online sites and at your favorite independent bookstore, as well as direct from North Dakota State University Press.

 

The Folk School on Willow Creek

Publisher note from Suzzanne Kelley

Welcome to the Folk School on Willow Creek, featuring University Distinguished Professor Tom Isern, singing and telling stories from the Salon on Willow Creek. Every Friday evening, 8:00 p.m. Central Time, Isern belts out ballads and tells the backstories of the lyrics, the authors, and the people of the plains who sang the songs. This Friday, July 25, he’ll feature “The Letter Edged in Black.” Do you know the significance of the edging? Tune in . . . you’ll find out. The Folk School lasts about 30 minutes, but you’ll wish it lasted longer. This week’s program is the 14th in the series.

Here is a link to Prairie Public’s Main Street, where host Doug Hamilton interviewed Isern just this week about the Folk School.

And here is a link to the Folk School page on Facebook.

2020-07-17 20.14.19

Literary Aspirations on the Northern Plains

Publisher note from Suzzanne Kelley

In late September, NDSU Press will be visible in multiple sessions and responsibilities at the 55th Northern Great Plains History Conference for 2020. Too bad for all of us, our sessions will be virtual, but I still look forward to witnessing the splendid work from scholars across the United States and Canada. While the conference is by necessity going virtual, its home base will still be Eau Claire, Wisconsin, the sacred and ancestral lands of the Ojibwe and Dakota Nations.

Two of our NDSU Press authors and I will present papers in the session called Literary Aspirations on the Northern Plains, wherein…

Prairie scholars describe and reflect upon their literary aspirations and their place in the history of the northern plains. The first author examines the seventy-year history of publishing by the Institute for Regional Studies; the emergence of its publishing imprint, North Dakota State University Press; and its vision as the voice of the prairies and the plains. The second author reflects on his ambitions and audacity in roasting that great chestnut of regional history, the Nonpartisan League. The third author considers how best to invigorate the familiar genre of collected essays in the realm of regional literary nonfiction.

Here are the session participants:

Jeanne Ode

Jeanne K. Ode

 

 

 

Moderator: Jeanne K. Ode, Acting Press Director and Managing Editor of South Dakota History, South Dakota State Historical Society Press

Suzzanne4

Suzzanne Kelley

Paper 1: “Serving, not only the scholarly world, but the world in which the scholar lives”: North Dakota State University Press Celebrates 70 Years. Suzzanne Kelley, Publisher and Assistant Professor of Practice

 

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Terry L. Shoptaugh

Paper 2: Roasting a Chestnut: Historians Return to the Nonpartisan League. Terry L. Shoptaugh, Archivist and Professor of History (Ret’d.), Minnesota State University–Moorhead

 

Tom

Thomas D. Isern

Paper 3: Doing History in Grassy Places. Thomas D. Isern, University Distinguished Professor and Professor of History, North Dakota State University

 

grettler

David Grettler

 

 

Commentator: David Grettler, Professor of History, Northern Sate University, South Dakota

 

 

 

 

We invite YOU to attend the session and/or the whole conference, September 16-19, 2020. Follow along for updates here: 2020 Northern Great Plains History Conference.

NGPHC

“Bestsellers Born in Social Media”

from Suzzanne Kelley, PhD; Publisher at NDSU Press

While peeling apples and baking pie Saturday, I listened to one of my favorite podcasts, Beyond the Book, hosted by Copyright Clearance Center. Their hot topic, “Bestsellers Born in Social Media” (September 1), focuses on an interview with an agent, talking about how publishers must encourage their authors to have some sort of social media platform. Better yet, authors should have a solid social media platform before even submitting their manuscripts. Yes!

Some authors are daunted by the prospect. After all, much of their authorial life requires working solo, and now we’re asking them to go public. My takeaway from the podcast, however, is that being an author IS being public. Editors make editorial and business evaluations. (Ahhh, but that we could only stick to the editorial!) Paraphrasing commentary from the podcast, publishing is at heart “a business of the gut,” but in order to be successful, it must also be a business. As such, publishers must consider the marketing prospects for any manuscript.

If you are a writer, and you have hopes of adding “published author” to your resume, start working on your social media platform now. Common practice invites authors to begin with a website. As you add content to your web presence, that content can easily be transported to your other social media domains. Starting with a website is not the easiest platform, although free website hosts like WordPress do make the process a good starting place. My preference, my comfort zone, is with  easy-to-use social media like Facebook, but I also highly recommend creating an author page on Goodreads.

It doesn’t matter where you begin, only that you start. Here is a list of the platforms I’ve found most productive and easiest to use, with hopes in the near future to add podcasting in the mix.

  1. Facebook
  2. WordPress
  3. Twitter
  4. Goodreads
  5. Instagram
  6. Pinterest

The best way to start, of course, is to start! Here are some examples of easy social media posting commentary:

  • Testing out a few lines of poetry? Say so. Maybe even include a phrase or a line.
  • Writing from your favorite nook? Say so. Maybe include a picture of your space, possibly with you in it!
  • Visiting the archives and finding some fabulous document supporting your argument? Say so. And include a cell phone pic (if allowed . . . mind the archival site rules).
  • Out for an evening stroll and spying a beautiful sunset? Say so. And include a cell phone pic.
  • Enjoying a dinner out with friends? Say so. And include a cell phone pic.
  • Working on obtaining blurbs for your new book? Say so.
  • Corresponding with your publisher? Say so. You can include a pic of our logo or a link to our website http://www.ndsupress.org. 🙂
  • Feeling angst about posting on Twitter? Say so. Blame it on your publisher.
  • Having an author photo made? Say so. And include the pic.
  • For more ideas & to build up your following, follow other social media users . . . like us, at NDSU Press.

Bitter Harvest

from Suzzanne Kelley, PhD; Publisher at NDSU Press

Imagine my surprise to open The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and find its announcement that it has “been here for 127 years,” showcasing their longevity with a shootout in Medina. It’s been a while since this ad appeared, and even longer since NDSU Press published the hard story of Bitter Harvest: Gordon Kahl and the Posse Comitatus, Murder in the Heartland, by James Corcoran, in 2005. Bitter Harvest is based on Corcoran’s Pulitzer Prize nominated coverage of the murders of three U.S. Marshals by a militant tax protest group.

TheForum.jpg

At the time of Bitter Harvest‘s publication, I was working on my PhD in history and holding an editorial fellowship with the publishing arm of the Institute for Regional Studies (now NDSU Press). I was planning a drive out to Kulm, ND, to conduct an interview for my dissertation, and Dean Tom Riley (now retired), who was director of the press at that time, asked me to shoot some pictures near Medina, where two decades earlier a deadly shootout occurred between the law and anti-taxer Gordon Kahl and other members of the Posse Comitatus. Federal marshals died, Kahl’s son was mortally wounded, and Kahl made his escape. (I won’t tell you how this story ends except to say it’s not pretty.)

There was not much to photograph that told a story, to my way of thinking. But Riley assured me that the cover designer would make something of my pictures. And so she did, capturing the stark stretch of highway where the shooting took place.

Bitter Harvest_Cover

From the book’s publicity copy, we learn: “James Corcoran tells the story of Gordon Kahl and the Posse Comitatus, using captivating narrative and vivid imagery. Sunday, February 13, 1983, was a sunny day in Medina, North Dakota–a seemingly peaceful church-going winter day. But hate politics were broiling in secret locations and the Heartland provided cover for those who wanted to take the law into their own hands. ‘Something terrible, and terribly important, was taking place,’ writes Corcoran. Ever a page-turner, reflect again on this story of violence and how a group of people can construct an alternative version of the law and the truth.”

1983. Not that long ago. A story still relevant today, even as it makes an appearance in a newspaper ad.

Movies, documentaries, and songs followed in the months and years–some showing Kahl a villain, some making him out as a martyr.

Bitter Harvest was first published by Penguin Press published in the 1990s and then by NDSU Press in 2005 with a new foreword by North Dakota journalist Mike Jacobs, former publisher of Grand Forks Herald.

Bitter Harvest: Gordon Kahl and the Posse Comitatus Murder in the Heartland is available at our online store.

More resources:
Altered Lives: Stories from the Medina Tragedy, documentary by Prairie Public, 2016
Death & Taxes, documentary, 1993