Teaching Thursday: NDQ Editor’s Note

In general, I try to keep what I do in the classroom and what I do as a researcher (and as a member of the university community more broadly) loosely divided. It ensures that teaching, service, and research retain an element of freshness and my days don’t get too bogged down in doing the same kind of thing over and over. For example, I don’t teach archaeology or do much with Late Roman Cyprus in the classroom. And I rarely allow my work at NDQ or The Digital Press to cross pollinate too fully with what I do as a researcher or in the classroom. I like to think of it as keeping a healthy set of boundaries and diversifying my portfolio.

This semester, though, I let this division slip a bit and I’m teaching a class in editing and publishing which focuses mainly on working with various aspects of North Dakota Quarterly. As part of that, I asked my students to help me craft an “editor’s note” that celebrated their contribution to NDQ. Here it is:

This semester I’ve had the good fortune of being joined by five undergraduates from the University of North Dakota’s English Department’s program in a practicum in editing and publishing. Nicholas Ramos, Aubrey Roemmich, Emily Shank, Elena Uhlenkamp, and Karissa Wehri have talked with me about the content in the issue, put the articles in order, and have happily helped me organize NDQ‘s new office on campus.

As they organized the issue they discussed the themes in the poetry, stories, and essays. They observed how much of work embodied the power of everyday experiences where commonplace settings of offices, shops, schools, and homes give rise to religious, spiritual and even magical encounters. Parenthood, relationships, chance encounters, a book store, and even a cup of coffee create occasions for something special to occur. 

In some ways, the work in this volume reflects the character of North Dakota. As Aubrey Roemmich noted: “Growing up a North Dakota native, I always thought that it was a boring place. It was not until I was much older that I started to appreciate its beauty and intrigue. Many of the poems in this issue perfectly capture the beauty that is inherent in these places.”

Three Things Thursday: Campus, Corinthia, and Conferences

This week has become more hectic than I would have wished, but mostly it’s hectic with good things. I’m looking forward to heading to Fargo tomorrow for the Northern Great Plains History Conference and pleased that some of the work that I put into cleaning up data from the Michigan State Excavations at Isthmia is almost far enough along to sustain some basic hypothesis building. These two things, and the changing face of my institutions campus will be the topic of today’s “three things Thursday.”

Thing the First

UND’s campus is really changing. Over the last three or four years, the university has implemented a new campus master plan, built a number of new buildings, created elevated walkways between existing buildings, and introduced new landscaping to the campus quad that turned several roads into pedestrian only zones.

For the last decade or so the old Medical School’s “Science Building” has housed my Department of History and American Indian Studies. This has been completely renovated with new conference rooms, offices, and classrooms. It’s pretty nice and while I liked my massive office carved out of lab space, my new office feels clean, compact, and contemporary.

It also has a glass door, which is a bit odd, and the hallway outside the office is access only through door controlled by key cards (at least outside normal building hours). The hallway also has a number of cameras. The bathroom has no doors.

I get that we live in a society where control, access, and surveillance have become synonymous with power. And I also understand that privacy is not a right, but a privilege reserved for those who can afford the necessary protocols, treatments, and tactics. And, finally, I get that control over the commons (and a public state university is a kind of commons) is necessary to avoid the abuse of its limited resources.

That said, I am still bit a put off by the level of control and surveillance that exists in our new building.

Thing the Second

I’m so, so, so close to having some of the Michigan State Excavations at Isthmia data ready for some preliminary analysis. In fact, when I’m done a few odds and ends this morning, I plan to work on some of the last bits of data this morning. As I reported last week, most of what I’m doing at this stage is recoding information originally recorded on paper inventory cards and keyed to notebook pages to more standardized formats appropriate for digital databases and keyed to stratigraphic unit (which, in turn, can be connected to particular pages in the notebooks).

While I have some long term goals with this project — including preparing the data for publication — but in the short-term, I want to be able to do some basic analysis of our assemblages that allow us to hypothesis build. For example, it will be possible to analyze the material from various parts of Isthmia as one might analyze a survey assemblage. We’ve been doing this some with the data from Polis where we’ve been able to consider both the presence or absence of certain forms of fine and utility wares across the site. For Isthmia, the plan might be to pull together all the material from, say, the East Field or the Roman Bath and use it as a window into what classes of artifact are present in the region at various times and perhaps even in what proportion to other contemporary artifacts.

Of course, this won’t be the last word in our analysis of the material from Isthmia, but it should offer the first word and an opportunity to understand the character of the Isthmia assemblage in a more systematic, if also more superficial, way.

Thing the Third

If you’re planning on going to the Northern Great Plains History Conference this week, do consider stopping by my panel tomorrow morning. I’ll be talking about the state of North Dakota Quarterly in session 34: The State of State Journals: Past, Present, and Future with editors of South Dakota History, North Dakota History, and Minnesota History.

You can download a copy of the conference program here.

You can read a copy of what I plan to say here.

Three Things Thursday: Data, Books, Teaching

This semester feels very odd to me. Not only did I start the semester a bit more tired than I expected to be, but I also didn’t have a clear set of goals and deadline ahead of me. After I submitted my revised book manuscript at the end of August, my fall semester seemed oddly under scheduled. It’s taken me a while to recognize that this is probably a good thing and more of a feature than a bug at this point in my career. 

This sense of being under-committed this fall has given me the space to work on a number of other projects in a less frantic way than I have in the past and today’s Three Things Thursday is about that.

Thing the First

Earlier this week, I posted about my work with the Isthmia data and my effort to corral and clean up various datasets produced by the Isthmia excavations over the past 50 odd years. My primary goal has been to work on Roman and Post-Roman material from the excavation and to focus particularly on Byzantine and Roman pottery. Earlier in the week I finished recoding the inventoried Roman and the Byzantine pottery so that it can be integrated with the stratigraphic data and context material from the site.

Then I moved on the the lamps from the site, figuring that most of the lamps found in the Ohio State and Michigan State excavations at Isthmia were Roman and later. Fortunately, Birgitta Wohl has just published a volume analyzing the lamps from these excavations, but her substantial catalogue identifies the lamps according to the inventory number and the area where they were found, but not their stratigraphic context or even trench. This is annoying, but perhaps not too unusual. 

More vexing is that I don’t have a table that includes all the lamps in Wohl’s catalogue. Instead, I have a partial table that I excavated from an Access database whose creator and purpose is unknown and I’ve spent about four or five hours now transforming Birgitta’s catalogue into data. This, of course, is both absurd and a completely normal part of archaeology as early-20th century practices and late-20th century digital tools continue to find opportunities for incompatibility. 

Thing the Second

This summer, I spent a good bit of time fretting about the number of projects I had wending their way through The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota. In particular, I was worried about a collaboration that I had hatched with our sister project, North Dakota Quarterly. This project involved the publication of a translation of Jurij Koch’s novella, The Cherry Tree, which would be the second book in our emerging NDQ supplement series.

Cherry Tree Cover FINAL

Our current plan is to release this title on October 11th. In fact, we don’t even have a landin page for the book yet, but the translator convinced us to accelerate the timeline so he could take some copies with him to Croatia next week. Because my fall is under scheduled, we were able to make this happen and while the book has not officially dropped yet, you can, if you know where to look, find a copy from a major online retailer

Thing the Third

Finally, I continue to think about whether being under scheduled is a privilege or something that university faculty should aspire to, and this has started to impact how I teach. In some ways, the current “syllabus as contract” driven environment creates an expectation that the schedule on the syllabus represents an accurate summary of student work during a semester. Because faculty (and students) recognize that under representing the quantity of material creates problems with student expectations, we tend to over represent the amount of material (or at least represent the maximum amount of material) that we hope to cover in a semester. This tends to compound a sense among students (and even among faculty) of being over extended or scheduled “to the max.” 

This doesn’t feel very healthy to me.

The State of North Dakota Quarterly

Next Friday, I’m heading to Fargo, ND to the Northern Great Plains History Conference to participate in a panel on the “The State of State Journals.”  I have the pleasure of representing NDQ at the conference and this gives me a chance to further blur the boundaries between my professional service and research.

My paper is a bit short for now and I’d love to expand it a bit once I get confirmation on the length of paper’s wanted for the panel. But it’s a start and a decent one at that, I think. 

The State of NDQ

First, I want to thank Suzzanne Kelley for bringing this panel together today and giving the region’s editors and publishers as chance to share notes with one another and provide updates on their current situation with our community. My talk today is going to going to sketch out the recent history of North Dakota Quarterly and to foreground the role of the remarkable regional humanities community in ensuring the Quarterly’s survival into the third decade of the 21st century and on the verge of its 90th issue.

As many of you undoubtedly know, NDQ is the state’s “little magazine.” Founded in 1910 as a literary and public humanities magazine, it published continuously until the Great Depression and then from 1956 to the present. Faculty and staff at the University of North Dakota edited and published nearly all of the 90 volumes that have appeared over this time. For the first decade or so, most of the contributions came from on campus contributors, but by the 1920s, the journal had come to consistently feature contributions from regional authors. These contributions tended to focus on issues of contemporary interest and concern, from the role of the region in World War I to the state of North Dakota’s school, the region’s economy, and various thoughts about history, geography, economics, and geology. The rebirth of the Quarterly in 1956 saw the magazine’s slow pivot toward it current “literary magazine” format and the gradual increase in the number of pieces drawn from outside the state and the region. Under Robert Wilkins’ editorship from 1968-1981, the magazine emerged as a national journal of essays, fiction, poetry, and reviews where regional authors and concerns intersected with national contributors and content. From 1981-2007, Bob Lewis transformed NDQ into a national platform that featured emerging writers — particularly Native American authors — and developed a reputation for publishing significant recent research on Lewis’s research specialty, Ernest Hemingway, and the work of Tom McGrath. Lewis’s death in 2013, left the Quarterly with a firm sense of direction but without Lewis’s sage and accomplished leadership.

Fortunately, Lewis endowed NDQ with a strong editorial board, staff, and subject editors, who helped the Quarterly find its footing in the ten years since Bob’s passing. This became all more crucial as the journal faced a series of unexpected challenge brought about by budget cuts at UND and the changing expectations of various university administrators. I joined the editorial board in 2013 amid pressure to expand its digital footprint and transform the Quarterly into a “sustainable” project. Within a few years, this pressure had metastasized into a full fledged crisis with budget cuts leading to the loss of our subscription manager, then the retirement of our longtime managing editor Kate Sweeney, and finally, the loss of course releases or contract time for the journals editors. In these conditions, the burden of managing, editing, and publishing the journal became so large as to be impossible and Sharon Carson and I, who were serving as co-editors, came to the painful conclusion that the journal should be shuttered for good.

Then community happened. As last ditch effort to explore our options before we closed the Quarterly, Sharon and I started to meet with various people and groups in the Red River Valley and beyond to understand how we might save the journal. First, we met with Brenna Gerhardt at Humanities ND and she patiently discussed with us her view of the humanities landscape in the state. Suzzanne Kelley, at NDSU Press, helped us to understand the challenges facing any publisher who would take on the Quarterly. Patrick Alexander at Penn State University Press saw potential value in the Quarterly for a university press and his words of encouragement emboldened us to reach out to the University of Nebraska Press with whom I had worked (along with Suzzanne) to get Elwyn Robinson’s iconic History of North Dakota made available for free. They too saw the potential of NDQ and agreed to publish the journal.

While this was going on, the long-tail of budget cuts and editorial change had meant that our fiction editor, poetry editor, and art editor had left UND and our editorial board was depleted. Once again, the remarkable community and spirit of collaboration and support cultivated in the Red River Valley rose to the challenge. The UND diaspora stepped into the breach. Gilad Elbom, a UND PhD now at Oregon State, agreed to be fiction editor, Paul Worley, who taught at UND from 2009-2014 agreed to be poetry editor, Sheila Liming, who was at UND and is now at Champlain College in Vermont, agreed to read essays for the journal. Ryan Stander, at Minot State, became our new art editor, and Sharon Carson agreed to stick around as our reviews editor. Suzzanne Kelley brought her decades of publishing and editing experience to our editorial board, he was joined by Richard Rothaus, former NDUS vice chancellor, who is now Dean of College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences at Central Michigan University, and a number of new colleagues to fill out an expanded editorial board. Most importantly, for me as a new editor, is that Kate Sweeney, despite having retired, has continued to offer advice, encouragement, and critique as I learn the ropes as journal editor.

Starting with volume 85, NDQ emerged from the challenges of austerity with a editors, a new publisher, and a new lease on life as the material embodiment of Tom McGrath’s hackneyed axiom that “North Dakota is everywhere.” As we now work to bring double issue 89.3/4 to press (it’s due to Nebraska on October 1st!), we can look back on the last 5 issues and see even more clearly how the survival of NDQ depended upon the creative energies, experience, and generosity of our community. For example, a key contribution to NDQ 86.1/2 came from Prof. Crystal Alberts at UND who edited a special section in honor and memory of the great post-modern novelist, critic, and teacher Bill Gass (who, incidentally, was born in Fargo). From down here in Fargo, we’ve been fortunately enough to publish manuscripts from local writers, Sarah Beck (whose “Ymir’s Blood” appeared in 89.1/2 and documents the experience of the 2009 Red River flood), poetry from Emil Vieweg and Anthony Albright (an NDSU PhD) will appear in a forthcoming issues, and John Cox from NDSU has not only published translations from across the Slavic speaking world in NDQ, but we’re excited to welcome — very soon, in fact — his translation of The Cherry Tree, a novella from the German by the leading contemporary Sorbian writer, Jurij Koch, which we’ll publish in collaboration with The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota. This will be the second book length work of fiction published by NDQ, the first being Tom McGrath’s This Coffin Has No Handles, from 1984. Lest the Red River Valley acquire undeserved prominence in my litany, we have also featured authors from Bismarck, Minot, Dickinson, Jamestown, The Cities, and various other communities across the region. Their work joins writers of national and increasingly global status who both amplify these local voices and situate our communities within a global context. The global stature of our authors attracts thousands of submissions annually from which we accept fewer than 5% for publication. Our subscription numbers remain decidedly more modest, but we do hope that the same community who has supported our recovery from the crisis will also support our future health!

My litany today gives you a sense for the state of NDQ in the present as well as a sense for how NDQ’s survival represents both the region’s and its ”diaspora’s” commitment to the journal and the willingness of both institutions and individuals to step into the gap created by the changing administrative and budgetary commitments at UND. I also hope that my description of the state of NDQ demonstrates how a “little magazine” continue to represent the

Teaching Thursday: A Practicum in Editing and Publishing

Next semester, I’m teaching a course once again in the English Department. This course is a practicum in editing and publishing and it will be taught in collaboration with North Dakota Quarterly.

Since I have nearly two weeks before classes start, I don’t have a very clear idea how I’m going to go about teaching this class, but I do know that I want it to be as much of a practicum as possible. This means to me that the course should be hands-on and give students as much real world experience as possible with actual projects. As a result, I’m laying out a series of editing and publishing related projects that intersect with NDQ. These range from the immediate and necessary to the rather more long term and ideal.

First, the most proximate concern is getting NDQ 88.3/4 out. This means not only handling author correspondence, but also, and more importantly, putting the manuscript in order for delivery to University of Nebraska Press.

Second, NDQ will publish a novella this fall which will require production checks and carefully reviewed page proofs. We will also need to produce a press packet: press release, marketing material, and so on.

Third, NDQ will contribute to a panel at the Northern Great Plains History Conference on “the state of the state’s journals” in September. It would be great to get the students involved in preparing this paper. 

These are three pressing and proximate responsibilities that I have as editor of the Quarterly this semester. 

The next three tasks are less pressing but represent the kind of work that publishers often take on.

First, we have archived MOST of the issues from volume 1 (1910) to volume 74.2 (2007). But we have not digitized the issues from volume 74.3-84. This is a thankless task, but one that is necessary to make sure that the digital archive of the journal is complete. We will need to digitize 24.1 (1954) and 57.2 (1989).

Second, there is the somewhat larger issue of creating a local archive of back issues of NDQ. Right now most of the archive exists at the HathiTrust and we have released these issues under a CC-ND license. What we’d like to do is download these volumes, extract each issue from the volume, and upload them to our local institutional repository. This is tedious, but important work.

Third, part of the challenge of the NDQ archive is its size. It is almost 90 volumes, hundreds of issues, and thousands of pages and contributions. Aside from an NDQ reader prepared a couple decades ago there is really no way to engage with this archive. A medium-term goal of the Quarterly is to produce some kind of guide to the archive that allows a reader to engage with the century of content that the Quarterly has published.  

Finally, there are those intermediate term projects that either need to happen regularly or should happen sooner rather than later.

First, there is the blog. Right now, myself or someone from my editorial board posts weekly on the NDQ blog. Mostly post a combination of announcements, new content, and archival gems with the occasional “new content” thrown in. What can the class do to add to the impact of the blog?

Second, there is promoting the Quarterly on campus and in the community. I continue to suspect that there are “low hanging fruit” subscriptions on our campus and that people simply don’t realize that the Quarterly still exists. How do we go about raising the profile of the Quarterly on campus and in the community? Are there fun ways to make it more visible?

Third, there is the issue of moving offices. We have at least two file cabinets filled with material relating to the recent history of NDQ that needs to either migrate to the UND archives or be discarded. Publishing, whether we like it or not, produces massive amounts of paper and figuring out how the manage this paper is part of our responsibility as a publisher and editor.

Finally, there is the challenge of “market research.” Whether we like it or not, publishing and editing is a competitive industry and understanding how NDQ fits into the “market” is part of helping us articulate a vision for the magazine going forward.

Three Things Thursday: Early Christian Greece, Mineral Rites, and Jimmy Carter

I’m taking a real, honest to goodness vacation over the weekend. In fact, I’m going to vacation so hard that I’m not even taking a laptop! I reckon the last time that I vacationed without a laptop was in 2000 or 2001 when I was living in Athens.

To celebrate this unlikely situation, I’m going to offer a very short Three Things Thursday:

Thing the First

It’s pretty rare that I get genuinely excited about a new archaeological discovery and even less frequently that I get really excited about a discovery in the Late Antique Peloponnesus, but I was genuinely thrilled after reading Nikos Tsivikis’s recent article in the Journal of Epigraphical Studies 4 (2022), 175-197, titled “Christian inscriptions from a third and fourth-century house church at Messene (Peloponnese).” You can download it here.

This article provides some pretty solid evidence for a late-third century house church that continued in use into the fourth century. Tsiviki’s argument is grounded in both epigraphy and excavation evidence although the levels are primarily dated on the basis of numismatic evidence. The building is a modified urban villa in the city of Messenia and the inscriptions record the presence of a reader and then a bishop who provided a mosaic for the modified room.

Of course, textual evidence tells us that there were Christian communities in Greece from the first century AD, but archaeological evidence for pre-Constantinean Christianity in Greece has been pretty thin on the ground and comprised mostly of wishful thinking. In fact, there’s precious little indisputable material evidence for fourth century Christianity in Greece. This building will change that and provide the first archaeologically secure (at least to my knowledge) evidence for third (perhaps optimistically) or early fourth century (almost certainly) Christianity in southern Greece. This is exciting.

Thing the Second

I’ve been enjoying Bob Johnson’s Mineral Rites: An Archaeology of the Fossil Economy (Baltimore 2019). I’m not finished the book, but I appreciate his efforts to trace the significance of the fossil economy from the oil fields to the hot yoga studio. His efforts to demonstrate the deep entanglement of fossil fuels and our modern world is perhaps not entirely unexpected, but Johnson offers very readable and highly “textured” (to use a word from the book’s blurb) descriptions of how fossil fuels shape our daily lives. Johnson weaves fossil fuels into the story of the Titanic, various efforts to understand the human equivalency of fossil fuel energy, and a brilliant comparative chapter that considers the difference between Lewis and Clark’s journey and our modern road system. I’m still working my way through his study of the reality TV series Coal and the modern novel.    

Years ago, my buddy and collaborator Bret Weber suggested that we write a paper or an essay that tracked a drop of oil from the well to the atmosphere. Because I’m kind of a jerk, I rolled my eyes and said something jerk-ish about that idea. Years later and after giving it more and more thought, I think it’s really brilliant. In fact, I think Johnson’s book provides an appealing model for how the life of that “drop” of oil could be traced through our system and how much “life” it provides.

Thing the Third

There are a couple cool things from North Dakota Quarterly this week. First, I’ve posted over on the NDQ a poem by David Starkey which will appear in a forthcoming collection from the author. It’s a pretty nice little poem that features a cigarette as a prop. As I say in my post, I like poems that feature things.

There’s also this blog post about the time that NDQ published some of Jimmy Carter’s poetry. For some reason the pages of this issue were scanned or processed out of order so you have to scroll back from the first page, but do check out Lane Chasek’s post here and follow his link to NDQ 60.1 where we feature four of Carter’s poems. Then scroll backward from the first poem to read the three others.

The Other Hampsten

Like most Americans, I’m up early this morning to watch stage Stage 12 of the Tour de France which ascends the famous Alpe d’Huez while keeping an eye on the USA-Zimbabwe cricket match in the Men’s T20 World Cup qualifier

Americans have a particular interest in Alpe d’Huez this year because 30 years ago, “the Other American”, Andy Hampsten, won this stage and is the only American to have ever won this iconic climb in the Tour de France. Hampsten is particularly special to me because because he grew up in Grand Forks, North Dakota where I now live. In fact, last weekend, I rode some of the very same hills that I imagined Hampsten training on.

IMG 7830

This post, however, is not about Andy Hampsten, but his mother, Elizabeth Hampsten, who taught for many years at the University of North Dakota. In addition to a prestigious career as a scholar and translator, she served for over twenty years on the editorial board of North Dakota Quarterly. As far as I know, she only ever published one article in the Quarterly, “A Reading of Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte Arthur” which appeared in NDQ 35.2 (1967). Some 30 years late, she worked with Stephen Dilks to create the first North Dakota Quarterly reader, which you can explore here. A decade after this, some 40 years after her first publication in the Quarterly’s pages, Prof. Hampsten continued  of service on the journal’s advisory board. 

Three Things Thursday: Dissertations, Epoiesen, and Some Poetry

It’s almost mid-term season here and I’m eagerly awaiting the semester to enter its second half and start its long, springtime slide to completion. To help things along, I’m starting to make summer plans and, more importantly, try to wrap up a few wintertime projects before taking my usual early summer break for fieldwork, recovery, and new data. 

This week’s Three Things Thursday will focus on some simmering projects that are just about to reach a boil.

Thing the First

A number of readers asked me for more complete citations for my piece yesterday on Indian residential and boarding schools. I promise that is coming in the future (ideally by next week!), but for now I’d like to highlight a pair of dissertations and a master’s thesis that are really outstanding work and that have influenced my thinking about how archaeology (broadly construed) contributes to making visible thing at sites designed to promote the appearance of order and suppress evidence for resistance.

I found Davina Ruth Two Bears’s 2020 Berkeley dissertation “Shimásání dóó shicheii bi’ólta’ – My Grandmother’s and Grandfather’s School: The Old Leupp Boarding School, A Historic Archaeological Site on the Navajo Reservation” not only helpful, but also inspiring. Katherine Lyndsay Nichols’ University of Manitoba master’s thesis: “Investigation of Unmarked Graves and Burial Grounds at the Brandon Indian Residential School,” is remarkable work for a student at the MA level and shows the potential of collaboration between First Nation tribes and researchers on a very basic and grassroots level.

Finally, while this dissertation does involve Indian schools, Kaniqua L. Robinson’s 2018 dissertation at the University of South Florida, “The Performance of Memorialization: Politics of Memory and Memory-Making at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys.” She builds on the work of the USF led team who documented the unrecorded burials of Black children at the Dozier School for Boys in South Florida. Her dissertation not only summarizes much of that work, but also considers past and future memorial practices at his site.

Thing the Second

We’re slowly getting together Epoiesen volume 5. For those who don’t know about Epoiesen (and you really should!), it is a relatively new journal edited by Shawn Graham at Carleton University in Ottawa and it has really gained momentum in its fifth year. I’m especially honored to have TWO pieces in the most recent gaggle of contributions. The first is “Hearing Corwin Hall: The Archaeology of Anxiety on an American University Campus” with Michael Wittgraf and Wyatt Atchley and the second is a response to a pair of poems on Pompeii that I developed over the last few weeks on my blog while struggling with COVID recovery. 

Each year, I typeset the digital journal to give it pagination and ideally to expand its reach to people who just really prefer paper. One of the most interesting aspects of this is working with our cover template where we include a single panel visual essay. Here’s the cover for Epoiesen volume 5:

Cover Epoiesen5 DigitalFinal6x9

Thing the Third

North Dakota Quarterly 89.1/2 is almost ready for production and I’m chasing down the last few permissions and manuscripts these days. It should be a pretty cool collection with not only the usual poetry, essays, and fiction, but also a special section dedicated to translation. As we live in a world where groups and individuals often struggle to recognize one another’s shared humanity, translation offers a window into the communicative process where it becomes possible to build bridges. 

Over the last few months, I’ve been posting some content from the last issue of the Quarterly (88.3/4), but I really look forward to sharing material from the next issue soon! 

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!

Three Things Thursday: Epoiesen, Teaching, and NDQ

It’s Veterans’ Day today and it would appear that we’re going to get a the first snow of the season (so check back later for my traditional “first snow” post!) As per usual this time of year, a day off from teaching isn’t so much a break as a chance to catch up on other work that has been moved to the back burner as the semester reaches a fevered pitch. 

In light of this chaotic time of the year, it feels like a decent time for a short three things Thursday.

Thing the First

I’m genuinely torn about the ever increasing role that crowd funding plays in higher education. In its ongoing effort to develop new revenue streams to cover everything from student scholarships to innovative research, crowd funding has become a common fixture in the higher education landscape. 

On the one hand, I’m interested in the way in which crowd funding can serve to build new relationships between projects and “stakeholders.” At its best, crowd funding platforms like Patreon have allowed “independent creators” to create communities and the work of groups like The Sportula have backfilled the decline in public (and private) support for working class and disadvantaged college students. It is hard to argue that crowd funding isn’t a useful response to the current funding situation in higher education. 

This is all a long prologue to my shout out to the a new crowdfunding project designed to support the journal Epoiesen. For those of you who don’t know, Epoiesen, is what it says on the box: “a journal for creative engagement in history and archaeology” founded by Shawn Graham at Carleton University in Ottawa. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Epoiesen as both a contributor and a the publisher of the paper version of the journal through The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota

Their crowdfunding project is here and its goal is to support ongoing efforts to professionalize the journal, improve its web interface, and increase its reach. Even a casual visit to Epoiesen will make clear that the journal is not some pie-in-the-sky dream but is already a substantial publication that is making a contribution to the academic conversation. Adding polish will only increase its impact.

This is as good a cause as any and offers a way to close the gap between revenue generated traditionally through subscriptions and expenses associated with production. And, whether we like it or not, crowdfunding is now a key way to help innovative ideas succeed.  

Thing the Second

As the semester winds down, I’ve been thinking more and more about the model that I use in my introductory level history courses. In these classes, students work together to write a series of 2000-2500 word essays on various topics. They draw on the textbook and various primary source collections for evidence and submit outlines and multiple drafts over the course of a four week module. The results are generally pretty decent and almost always better than the traditional essays or papers that I used to require in such a class.

This got me wondering whether the traditional reliance on single authored papers and tests has only limited utility in the college classroom. After all, lab sciences have long relied on group work and applied sciences and professional program often encourage students to work as teams to solve problems. While writing is usually a solitary task, I’d contend that most academic papers are co-authored even if this remains less common in the humanities than in other fields. In other words, there is a strong tradition of collaborative work not only teaching across the university, but also in our research lives. 

The emphasis on sole authorship, then, feels a bit old fashioned and might, in fact, reflect attitudes toward education that emphasized its role to rank and sort students rather than to ensure that students develop the diverse skills necessary for them to thrive. Creating projects where students to work together on writing and research encourages students to work together and contributes to an environment where students who have better writing, reading, and research skills work with and support students who might not be as advanced. This isn’t a pious fantasy, but something I see every night as groups wrestle with the complex task for thinking though, researching, organizing, and writing their essays. This kind of environment has the added bonus of creating spaces where students who might feel isolated have opportunities to work together with their peers and form practical (and perhaps even social bonds). 

I don’t think the collaborative writing will even supplant the single author essay or paper (and there are always some students who think that they can do better on their own), but I’m starting to think that collaborative writing might actually be a way to develop writing intensive classes at scale without the massive burden of individual grading and comments. In other words, this system might be both better for students and better for faculty work loads.   

Thing the Third  

In about 15 minutes, I’ll have to turn my attention to the final steps in preparing North Dakota Quarterly for publication. At this point of the process most of the heavy lifting has been done by our publishing partners at the University of Nebraska Press, but my contributors have eagerly completed their proofing the typeset pages and I simply need to pull together their edits. It’s a testimony to the work at the University of Nebraska Press and my diligent authors that we tend to have very few errors at the proof stage. 

One of the most exciting stages of the publication process is the issue cover. This issue’s cover features art by Reinaldo Gil Zambrano, a Venezuelan print maker who now works from Spokane, Washington. In an era where compliance has increasingly taken on an ominous meaning, it seems almost redundant to title a work “malicious compliance,” but Zambrano’s cover nevertheless stands a provocative reminder of how compliance culture can so easily devolve into violence and pain.

NDQ 88 3 4 cover pdf 2021 11 11 06 46 03