My Other Project: North Dakota Quarterly

I think a good bit about the “attention economy” and the way that this blog — or any similar self indulgent writing projects — takes a share of one’s attention that could be spent on other things. The more material a blog (or a book) contains and the more regularly it appears, the greater a risk it has for taking more than its share of one’s precious and limited attention. 

Of course, I understand that one makes choice to read a particular website, blog, or big book, but that choice doesn’t somehow absolve the author from the demand that their work places on the reader’s attention. A content producer would be disingenuous to claim otherwise. 

As a consequence of this, I’ve do what I can to use my position to promote the work of other people alongside my own. This blog will largely remain a platform for my own daily ramblings, but I want to make sure that people know that I am not just extracting my pound of attention from their lives. I want to invite them to read other people whose work I admire.

So for today, I direct your attention to my annual wrap up of popular reading from the literary journal that I edit with a very talented, hard working, and patient team of editors at North Dakota Quarterly. NDQ is well over a century old and is on its 89th volume. The Quarterly publishes poetry, short fiction, essays, and reviews from around the world in the long tradition of little magazines. In many cases our authors are our subscribers and, in this regard, we recognize a kind of mutual aid in which individuals collaborate to amplify the voices of their community.  

I inherited the editorship four years ago during a time of financial difficult at UND and general despair about the future of the journal (which I outline loosely here). This moment of crisis brought together a team of editors and partners committed to saving this venerable journal. The University of Nebraska Press stepped up as publisher and my dean allowed me some contract hours to make it happen. Over the last four years, editing NDQ has become the single most meaningful work in my year and I hope that readers of this blog have had at least one occasion to click through to the brilliant and inspiring creative content that we provide regularly on the NDQ blog.

If you haven’t maybe this little year end review offers a nice chance to share some your attention with this amazing group of writers and thinkers. 

The crew here at NDQ is happy to have survived another chaotic year and managed, but just barely, to have produced two robust volumes of fiction, poetry, essays, reviews, and art. The entire editorial staff sends along its appreciation for everyone who entrusted us with their work and took the time to submit, subscribe, and read a copy of the journal during 2021.

In a time where our attention is at a premium and there were so many things demanding it, it was very gratifying to see that so many people took the opportunity to stop by the NDQ website to read something. It was especially exciting to see that NDQ 87.1/2, which we made available for free in 2020, has been downloaded nearly 3,500 times since then. (And we know that downloading is just about like reading).

This year, we have posted 62 times to the NDQ blog and it seem inevitable that some folks might have missed something.

If you’re look for a story to read over the long weekend, you might consider Ian Woollen’s “The Story I Tell Myself,” Kareem Tayyar titled “Through the Window”Jayne Wilson’s short story, “Dynamite,” Katie Edkins Milligan’s story “Witness,” or Kathleen Lynch Baum short story, “A Spy in Vienna, Seduced.” It’s be remiss if I didn’t mention our non-fiction editor Shelia Liming’s first published piece of fiction, “Kept Company.”

If you’re more in the mood for poetry, we feel like we have you covered there too. We’re very privileged to feature works by North Dakota’s associate poet laureate, Bonnie Larson Staiger. Do also read Lindy Obach’s “Red Poppies,” Kelvin Kellman’s poem “Black Woman,” Evan Anders’s “I ritual,” and David R. Solheim’s “North Country.” I have a soft spot for Sanjeev Sethi’s poem “Chronicle,” Lane Chasek’s “Surviving Mardi Gras,” and John Walser’s “Chronoscope 181.” 

I’d be remiss if I didn’t also not a few more very special works. First, Ana P.’s poetry of erasure was a bit too rough and immediate in form to appear in on the page in NDQ, so we agreed to publish it on our website. Our poetry editor Paul Worley worked especially hard to bring us some of the poetry of Dan Quisenberry with a poignant introduction. And finally, for those yearning for a bit of summer, do check out our late poetry editor, Donald Junkin’s series of poetic reflections on his summer at Swan’s Island in Maine.  

NDQ has also long been known as a destination for high quality essays. Mike Miley’s essay, “It Hardly Hurt a Bit,” and Katrin Arefy’s essay “The Day the Sun Didn’t Rise” carry on a tradition visible in the works such as Eric Sevareid’s “The National Crisis” and this interview with the late poet Amy Clampitt. And keep an eye out for more essays and some reviews appearing on the blog this spring. 

Finally, it is a special pleasure to share the covers of each issue. If you don’t have a physical copy, you can still enjoy the cover of 88.1/2 and 88.3/4.

Each time I post here to the NDQ blog, I include the following statement: As you likely know, these days are particularly challenging for many cultural institutions, publishers, and little magazines. So even if NDQ doesn’t float your boat, If you can, consider buying a book from a small presssubscribing to a literary journal (like our UNP stablemate, Hotel Amerika), or otherwise supporting the arts.  

Today I’ll add an additional inducement. If you’re thinking about submitting something to NDQ or subscribing and want to make sure that the journal is right for your work, drop me an email at billcaraher[at]gmail[dot]com and put “NDQ Issue” in the subject line (so your email doesn’t get lost in the shuffle). I’ll respond (very quietly) with a digital copy of our most recent issue (with no questions asked and no obligation.)

Happy New Year!

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