Words by the Minute

note from Suzzanne Kelley, Publisher, NDSU Press

How fast do you read?

How about fifty pages in fifteen minutes? That is a pace with which I cannot compete, but Kyla Vaughan–an undergraduate at University of Wisconsin, Madison–consistently reads at that pace, and in the past year, she read 392 books, averaging more than 7 per week! Even when I shift from editor mode to just-enjoy-the-story mode, I cannot read that fast.

An exercise my Practicum in Publishing students will complete in a few weeks is to time how long it takes to read a chapter from the manuscripts they’re working from, and then to time themselves again when they are editing those same pages. In this fashion, they can mark an estimate for how many hours they need to block out in order to read and edit their manuscript projects. From my days as a freelance editor and from experience in teaching students to edit, I know that this exercise is an essential beginning to bidding out a job or completing a project by end of semester.

Practicum in Publishing book team from February 2020. Working on Half the Terrible Things, a novel by Paul Legler, are (left to right) Zachary Vietz, Oliver Sime, Nataly Routledge, and Kalley Miller.

The students think they are ready, and I know they are eager to begin, but we have some preparatory work to do. For example, in the upcoming weeks, they must become proficient at several tasks. Among those tasks are to:

  • practice awareness. Based on terminology coined by Karen Judd, editor and author, students will learn to attend to cognitive aspects of reading. Some readers are naturally observant, noticing and remembering where on a page some detail of a story appeared; catching that a name was spelled one way in an early chapter and another way in a subsequent chapter; watching for red flags of a factual nature. My students must double-down on being aware and observant.
  • become familiar with The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th Edition. My publishing mentor, Mary Ann Blochowiak (long-time editor for The Chronicles of Oklahoma), tasked me with reading the first one hundred pages of the CMOS many years ago. This exercise formed my understanding of how books are published, physically and in accord with standards of practice. The reading assignment is a gift I pay forward to my students. Students will also be tasked with learning how to consult CMOS when formatting a manuscript for publication and when searching for guidance in matters of copyright, editing, punctuation, and proofreading. (Really, it’s all fun!)
  • learn to use standard proofreaders’ marks. As in all matters for book publishing, we rely upon the guidance of The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th Edition. Using the CMOS Proofreaders’ Marks, we’ll practice posting carets, circling and underlining, and implementing various curlicues.
  • build a style sheet. We’ll draft a style sheet together for practice, and then students will be able to devise style sheets built upon their specific manuscript projects. Style sheets are records of the choices we make when editing. They are documents made to ensure the book interior is consistent throughout. 

This short list hardly encompasses all the actions students will take, but you can see they are in for some close reading in the coming weeks. As we carefully scrutinize every sentence, this will not be the year to set any book-reading records, but it is the semester to dive deep into the process of transforming a manuscript into a book. 

 

Related notes:

Article about Kyla Vaughan: “Need a New Year’s Resolution? Read a book a day. This undergrad did.” by Doug Erickson, University of Wisconsin–Madison, January 14, 2022.

Karen Judd. Copyediting: A Practical Guide. Menlo Park, CA: Crisp Publications, 2001.

The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th Edition. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2017.

Paul Legler. Half the Terrible Things. North Dakota State University Press, 2020.

 

Land of Sunlit Ice: Giving Region a Voice

note from Suzzanne Kelley, Publisher, NDSU Press

View from my front porch.

As I write, periodically gazing out my study window at a crisp, cold negative 24 degrees day, I revisit one of the first books I published when coming on board with NDSU Press. In a conversation with North Dakota Poet Laureate Larry Woiwode about his current work—back in the fall of 2015—we landed on the proposition of publishing a chapbook of poetry: Land of Sunlit Ice. We wouldn’t do it in simple fashion, but in alliance with newspaperman Allan Burke (the mover and shaker behind the Hunter Times and the Braddock News Letterpress Museums), the Iron Men of the South Central Threshing Association, and my Introduction to Publishing students. That inaugural project kicked off a series of publications, evolving into what we now call the Poetry of the Plains & Prairies (POPP) Award. January 17, 2022, kicks off our seventh call for poetry for this prestigious prize.

Hand-letterpressed covers, individually painted by Introduction to Publishing students, class of 2016.

Introduction to Publishing students from the class of 2016.

Pictured after installing a hanging propane furnace in The Braddock News Letterpress Museum in Braddock, N.D., 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.

Getting off to a stellar start with this fabulous collection led not only to our chapbook series. The publication and the publicity surrounding our work led to our tagline: giving region a voice. I’d like to say that we thought of this all-encompassing phrase all by ourselves, but it came instead from an article about what we do, published in North Dakota Living’s article by Luann Dart “NDSU Press Gives Region a Voice.” At root, this simple tagline represents the mission of the press since its first conception in 1950. We are proud to continue that mission today.

But, what exactly is “region,” and how do we apply the term as a geographic and sensate parameter today?

Our mission statement declares that NDSU Press “exists to stimulate and coordinate interdisciplinary regional scholarship. These regions include the Red River Valley, the state of North Dakota, the plains of North America (comprising both the Great Plains of the United States and the prairies of Canada), and comparable regions of other continents.” We do this via publications in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. With our Contemporary Voices of Indigenous Peoples series, we sometimes step out of region, but on the whole, our mission represents region as defined herein.

Still, on the topic of “region,” enter once again Mr. Woiwode. In a recent interview, Woiwode addresses an ever-burbling question about defining our particular region, with a push to include our region as an outlier of the Midwest. To this, Woiwode responds:

Once, talking heads and weather-people on TV became commonplace, the Midwest started to stretch from Pennsylvania to Nevada—perhaps because media people don’t often travel from their studios on the coasts. Iowa and Illinois and Indiana are at the heart of the Midwest, with Wisconsin and southern Michigan and perhaps western Ohio as participants, but northern Minnesota and North and South Dakota and Montana and Wyoming are definitely not the Midwest . . . Nebraska clings closer to South Dakota and Wyoming than any midwestern state, and the grounding in evidence and practicality of the area comes naturally, because many resident families were farmers or ranchers for generations. Neither occupation runs on theory.

I rejoice at this clarification, for it fits my own recognition of our region, and it clarifies how “comparable” regions might well be defined.

Woiwode’s next statement also lands squarely with my understanding of writers of region, based on my own research in memory and collective memory.

My sense is that a writer’s first steps onto terra firma, the place where the writer learns to walk, whether prairie or high plains or beach or forest or the floor of an apartment and on to concrete and asphalt, that place is the locus of creative power, even if never referred to—it’s the center and source of the words that arrive from one who travels the distance of a novel or collection of stories or enough poems to generate the microcosm of a genuine interior. The rhythms and the texture of the language of that place will always be present in all the creative work that follows.

Genius. That rhythm and texture, that locus of creative power in a work about region—these are the golden threads of what we seek in our publications, from chapbooks of poetry to the magnum opus of a book about turkeys that we have now in production.

 

Related notes:

Submissions to the Poetry of the Plains & Prairies Award will run January 17 through March 17. We seek collections of poetry, 30-35 pages in length (one poem per page; single poems may extend beyond one page) by a single author. There is no submission fee. Send manuscripts to NDSU Press Submission Manager (submittable.com)

Land of Sunlit Ice, by Larry Woiwode (2016, out of print). For more information on our chapbook projects, view Thunderbird & The Land of Sunlit Ice, produced by Sandbagger News.

Larry Woiwode has been North Dakota Poet Laureate since 1995. Born in Carrington, ND, he spent his early, formative years on the land in the farming community of Sykeston. He is widely (and wildly successfully!) published with poetry, novels, biographies, essays, and memoirs.

Woiwode interview quotes from Middle West Review, Volume 8, Number 1, Fall 2021, p. 206.

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!

Hosting from Home

Guest contribution by Sydney Larson

On September 8, 2020, the Midwest Independent Publishers Association presented an educational session called, “Hosting from Home.” Program Coordinator Jenna Kahly and Marketing Coordinator Hillary Stevens, both of the Lake Agassiz Regional Library (a seven-county library system in Minnesota) shared their experiences in hosting on-line readings. Our guest contributor, Sydney Larson, attended the virtual meeting and reflected upon what she gleaned from the session. 

Since Covid-19 began, authors, publishers, libraries, and booksellers alike have been needing to adapt quickly and efficiently to the new technologically-driven society we’ve been forced to become.

When it comes to online book readings, most libraries–or at least libraries in the Lake Agassiz Regional Library network–prefer to use Facebook Live as their medium of choice. This is because a lot of the people who visit normal book readings and those who are patrons of the library already have a Facebook account. It is the platform that is most convenient for a large amount of the audience.

In addition to Facebook Live, they use a site called be.live, which allows the author to broadcast and talk to the Facebook Live audience. The benefit of having the book reading online is that it helps invite people from all over the country to visit, and the format makes it more convenient for people who wouldn’t normally come to their local library for said book reading.

To market a book reading, libraries and other interested forum hosts use multiple social media platforms. Some of the platforms include Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Publishers can help with the marketing of the book as well.

Reading from their books is important to authors, publishers, and booksellers because it is an active and informative way to promote and sell the author’s book. Publishers can get their names out there too, as well as help with the advertising, promotion, and sales of the book.

For the author, the benefits of book readings are straightforward and clear, and while most of those benefits have not changed through this new medium, online readings do have some drawbacks. In the past during book readings, libraries could help sell the author’s discussed book, but with the program now being online, authors have to take a little more agency in their book sales. If the author wanted a more hands-on approach, they could start to sell their book through a personal forum or website and send a link through the Live chat to the audience. There is potentially a chance for the author to get in contact with the library and work out an agreement for sales, but that is not a given for all libraries. Another option is for the author to get in contact with a local bookseller and work out an agreement where the author sends anyone who’s interested in buying their book to the local bookseller. The bookseller could take charge of the distribution and sales of the book in that town. In this way, the bookseller is directly impacted by the online reading work of that author. It must be noted, however, that any option the author, publisher, and/or bookseller takes, they still won’t be selling as many books as they would if the book reading was in person.

Book readings are useful to authors in another way, too. Book readings are chances for readers to probe the author’s mind and have them answer anything readers need clarification on. It can help the author and publisher to know what area of the novel needs elaboration, or other suggestions the readers might offer (if the author feels it would improve the book). Book readings also help make the author more relatable and allow readers to get to know the author and book better.

Sydney Larson

This article is contributed by Sydney Larson, a Junior at NDSU, double majoring in English and Anthropology, with minors in Honors and Zoology. She is pictured here at the fortress of Bourtzi in Napflio, Greece, during a two-week study abroad experience in 2019. Sydney is a student in the Introduction to Publishing course, a required course for the Certificate in Publishing at NDSU.