Publisher’s note from Suzzanne Kelley
Here you see visible proof of why moving our chapbook publishing project from the spring to the fall semester was a good choice. Iron Man Tracy Moch, with the South Central Threshing Association, illustrates how this winter is progressing as he works to gain access to The Braddock News Letterpress Museum, located in Braddock, North Dakota. As our spring semester draws to a close, we would have been hard pressed—with snow piled high—to conduct our letterpress printing project of printing, assembling, stitching, trimming, and numbering individual chapbook copies. Instead, our students in the Certificate in Publishing program now use the spring semester to acquire our next chapbook collection in preparation for publishing in the fall.
These days, as we hunker down in the wake of more blizzardy weather, we continue the process of giving first reads to dozens of manuscript submissions for our 8th Poetry of the Plains & Prairies (POPP) Award. Students learn how the acquisition process works for literary press prizes.
The first step is to learn how to navigate our online submissions portal at Submittable, a platform used by more than 11,000 organizations. Submittable is known to poets and writers of all genres as a place to submit their work for publication consideration. In a 2023 review conducted by FinancesOnline, Submittable ranked 3rd of 253 popular apps used for applicant tracking. I chose Submittable because of its familiarity among authors at large, its user-friendly design, and its price. Submittable is an easy place for students to see how publishers (and nonprofits and institutions offering grants and scholarships) are able to receive and track submissions, and it is a place where authors can keep track of all the presses and magazines where their work is being considered.
At Submittable, we are able to design our online entry forms. Here is what the form for submitting POPP Award nominations looks like.
Once manuscripts start rolling in, students in the Practicum in Publishing—taught every spring—learn how to assess manuscripts based on the aim of the POPP Award series and the mission of the press. They will each read each of the submissions, ranking them in accord with this call for submissions:
North Dakota State University Press seeks poetry submissions of any style for our annual Poetry of the Plains and Prairies letterpress chapbook publication. While authors may call any place home, their submissions must deftly capture the feeling of, as well as the reality of, living on the plains and prairies. Authors may submit any number of poems equaling thirty to thirty-five pages in length, with no more than one poem per page.
We accept new submissions for the POPP Award every year from January 17 through March 17. Answering a series of questions about the aim and mission for each submission, students—undergraduate and graduate, coming from studies in multiple disciplines—take part in winnowing the submissions down to about seven to ten finalists. Where submission selections are close, we meet to advocate for favored collections. Thus, the experience prepares students for work at other literary presses, where interns or other in-house readers pore through what they call a “slush pile,” discerning which manuscripts should go forward for further review and acquisition. Our finalist selections are then sent to the previous year’s POPP Award winner, who serves as our finalist judge and selects the winning manuscript.
Our team of students learn about the history and form of chapbooks in the Introduction to Publishing class. They take the POPP Award-winner’s manuscript, chosen in Practicum in Publishing, and they are introduced to the line-editing process, standards for book design, selection of cover art, building a copyright page, and developing marketing and publicity plans.
Instead of printing, assembling, stitching, and trimming chapbooks at the Letterpress Museum during our chill “spring” months, the hands-on labor takes place in the more accommodating fall months. How lucky we are to have the good fortune of reading poetry manuscripts indoors, while the snow piles up around us!
For more information about the Certificate in Publishing, check out our course descriptions for undergraduate and graduate students. If you are age 65 or older, and you would like to audit the publishing courses for free, check out the option in Project 65.
Destiny Manifested, by Bonnie Larson Staiger, was our first POPP Award chapbook publication solicited through competition. The award was first named Voices of the Plains and Prairies, and—in 2019—the award name changed to Poetry of the Plains and Prairies Award (the POPP Award).
- 2022 Surrender Dorothy, by Brett Salsbury (Nevada)
- 2021 Prairie Madness, by Katherine Hoerth (Nebraska)
- 2020 A Muddy Kind of Love, by Carolyn A. Dahl (Texas)
- 2019 Harvest Widows, by Nick Bertelson (Iowa)
- 2018 Destiny Manifested, by Bonnie Larson Staiger (North Dakota)
- 2017 Thunderbird, by Denise Lajimodiere (North Dakota; out of print)
- 2016 Land of Sunlit Ice, by Larry Woiwode (North Dakota; out of print)