Publishing and the Undercommons

If you’re around campus tomorrow afternoon at 4:30ish, I’m going to be hanging out with Political Science Professor Brian Urlacher and English Professor Patrick Henry at the World Famous Chester Fritz Library to participate in the Inaugural Randy Rasmussen lecture. This event will feature a reading from Brian’s novel The Library of Chester Fritz (which you can download for free here!) and a conversation between me and Patrick about the future of academic and literary publishing at the University of North Dakota. It should be a good time!

I am not really sure what Patrick and I will end up talking about and my hope is that it is a bit of a conversation between us. One of the concepts, though, that has regained my somewhat fractured attention lately is that of the undercommons. The main source for this idea is Fred Moten and Stefano Harney’s book The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study, which you can download here. The book is too complicated and poetic to try to summarize here. Instead, I’ve been thinking about the notion that universities serve not only to educate students and to promote certain kind of research but also to reproduce themselves (institutionally, intellectually, socially, economically, politically). The institutional effort, policies, and habits to do these things tends to create a more or less permanent underclass of individuals who are not fully part of the institution, but upon whom the institution relies for its success. This includes part-time students, contingent faculty, night and part-time staff and the other folks around a university campus who do not fit neatly in to the institutions main focus. The individuals in these groups constitute what Moten and Harney call an undercommons. They are drawn to campus by the excess energy that such large institutions produce and which they find ways to use for their own benefit and agendas (which may or may not represent goals of the institution).

A great example of this is the library. The library contains both physical resources (books, computers, and increasingly things like scanners, 3D printers, and the like) as well as intellectual resources (ideas!) that leaven the life of the undercommons (as well as the university community). Universities also include campus spaces — student unions, lobbies, unused classrooms, conference rooms — that can function as places where people can gather informally to exchange views, scheme, and work. Of course, recent efforts across the country to restrict what institutions teach formally mean that the undercommons might not only see an influx of individuals disaffected by state mandates, but also make the excess energy produced by institutions all the more important in creating alternative spaces and communities. 

This also got me thinking about my work with North Dakota Quarterly and The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota. I’ve done all I can to keep these two projects as separate from the university as possible while still availing themselves to university resources. To bring this around to conversations about publishing, I like to imagine that universities could serve as platforms of underground, unorthodox, and radical publishing. The technologies are certainly available and the undercommons has abundant expertise and creative energies. 

NDQ and The Digital Press might not qualify as subversive or even particularly radical (no good radical magazine can last for over a century and retains any of its subversive credentials!), but I do want these institutions which can dance along the fine line between the institution and the undercommons to provide opportunities to develop skills useful to amplifying the voices of the commons and the undercommons.   

Teaching Thursday: Practicum Priorities

Once again, this semester I’m lucky enough to be allowed to teach a practicum in editing and publishing for my friends in the English Department. Since I’m not faculty in that department (and haven’t had an English class since high school, as this blog undoubtedly attests), it’s always a privilege to be able to teach there. 

This privilege comes at a bit of a cost, though, in that I need to plan something for the class, and this means establishing some priorities for students who will work on North Dakota Quarterly as well as some projects associated with The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota

This semester we have a range of projects and priorities that might appeal to the students who want to get some experience in both the editing and publishing aspects of “the industry.” Here’s what I proposed last semester. I think my priorities this semester are a bit more clear and well developed.

Some priorities are more pressing than others. 

1. NDQ 90.1/2. On March 1, NDQ 90.1/2 is due to our publisher. This means that we need to send essays, reviews, and poems to the copy editor. Collect the accepted fiction from the fiction editor. Identify cover art. And most importantly, put the issue in order. This latter step is as much of an art as a science and involves understanding which works we must publish in 90.1/2 (and which works can wait until 90.3/4) and how various works fit together to provide a well-considered experience for the reader.

2. NDQat90. This spring we also plan to start our celebrations of the 90th volume of NDQ. Last semester the practicum in editing and publishing prepared a manuscript for an innovative window into the Quarterly archive. This class produced reflections on a collection of 90 works from the last 90 issues of NDQ. This winter and spring our goal is to turn this into a digital and paper book that invites readers to return to the archive through a fresh set of eyes.

There are a couple of mid-range projects that need consistent attention.

3. The Blog. As part of our effort to increase readers, subscribers, and contributors to NDQ, we post weekly to the NDQ Blog. Usually after we publish an issue, we feature content from that issue on the blog. Now, for example, we’re featuring content from 89.3/4. This means that we need to identify content that might attract readers to the issue and reflects the kind of content that we want to encourage in NDQ submissions. This isn’t a lot of work, but is constant work. 

4. Prairie Voices. I had a crazy idea a few weeks ago to re-publish some early-20th century prairie poetry. I was motivated in part by reading Molly Rozum’s Grasslands Grown: Creating Place on the U.S. Northern Plains and Canadian Prairie (Nebraska 2021) and reading a bit of Clell Gannon’s poetry and, in particular, his Songs of the Bunch Grass Acres (1924) which entered the public domain this year. Maybe the students would be interested in republishing this book with some expanded content (say a biographic introduction and some critical commentary from someone versed in prairie poetry)?

5. Building Campus. This spring The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota will publish a book marking the renovation of Merrifield Hall. The book is almost complete, but will require a bit of copy editing, production, and marketing work. It would be fantastic to get the students involved in this book’s “end game,” in part because it emerged from another class that I taught for the English Department in the spring of 2022.

There are some longer-range projects that also would benefit from attention.

6. Tartar Utopia. Some time this semester, I should receive a manuscript that is the translation of Ismail Gaspıralı’s Darürrahat Müslümanlanı (Muslims of the Peaceful Country) by Ciğdem Pala Mull. It will include essays by a number of scholars exploring the potential of this text to invite new ways of utopian thinking some 100 years after its publication. You can read excerpts of it that appeared in NDQ 84.1/2 here. The plan is to desk review this book and then circulate it for peer review this spring.

7. The Archive. Last semester, we completed digitizing the back issues of NDQ and have made all but the last 5 years available in our archive. The issues live at both the HathiTrust and (gulp) WordPress. We certainly need to migrate all this content to our institutional repository. The downside of this is that our institutional repository does not allow us to link to a specific page within the PDF and because of various permission issues, we can’t separate out specific articles from their respective issues. We can do this with PDFs served via WordPress and HathiTrust. That said, we can at least separate out the issues from the scanned volumes in HathiTrust and upload those volumes to the NDQ pages in our institutional repository

This feels like a hectic semester for the practicum class and it is unlikely that all these things get completed, but it will give the students a sense for all the moving parts that involve editing and publishing even at a relatively small scale!

Books in Beta

Over the holiday weekend, I’m going to take some time to finish up typesetting on book that has been lingering on The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota‘s to-do list for last year or so. It’s a textbook on the history of science and technology that is already in use in digital form at the University of Maryland’s global campus. You can check out the digital version of the book here

The challenge of this book for me is that it’s really not complete. That said, it is in use and the main editor of the book wants it available in paper form for students who don’t want to read it on the screen. This makes a certain amount of sense to me.

As a book that will be published under an open license, of course, being complete is a relative situation. Even if the author sees the book as final, it’s status as an open book (especially if it is released under a “by attribution” license) allows it to be adapted and modified in ways that other readers might find more helpful. This is especially relevant for a textbook which might be mined for useful sections, reorganized to fit different priorities, expanded, or even radically condensed depending on a class’s focus. In other words, books like this are in perpetual beta as they are tried and modified to meet the goals of different courses, instructors, and situations.

I’m still struggling a bit to wrap my head around “publishing” a formal version of a book that simply isn’t complete. 

That said, I’ve had a couple of other situations that could justify publishing a beta version of a book. 

I’ve recently received a nice draft of a book which offers some approaches to addressing and teaching about pseudoarchaeology in the archaeology classroom. The author doesn’t expect this book to be the last word on the subject, but see what he and his coauthors have brought together a useful start for anyone looking to teach about pseudoarchaeology. In other words, they hope that this book is expanded and adapted through use. And considering the prominence of conversations about pseudoarchaeology both across social media and in the discipline right now there is real reason to expedite the appearance of this book.

Finally, I have a brilliant manuscript prepared by students in a graduate course in English that I taught last spring. The book is a thoughtful and creative response to their experiences in one of the oldest buildings on campus, Merrifield Hall. This building is slated for a major renovation this spring and summer. Over homecoming weekend, the college held an open house that allowed faculty, students, alumni, and friends to say good bye to the building in its current form and to celebrate their memories and experiences in its broad, low-ceiling, halls and awkwardly designed classrooms and offices. 

The book was essentially done at the time of the event, but it wasn’t quite the level of polish or finish that we wanted. If I had to do it over again, I might have released a beta version for people to enjoy—even if it was just in digital form—at this event. It would have cast a stronger light on these students’ work and encouraged interested readers to “stay tuned” for the final version which will appear in the coming months.

These three examples have given me the idea of creating a “Books in Beta” catalogue at my press which will allow us to release books that aren’t quite (or won’t ever be) finalized. It’ll also acknowledge that in the 21st century, digitally-mediated world, publishing isn’t ever the final step, but just another step in knowledge making. As such, it is perfectly acceptable to recognize publications that exist in various states, from the polished, authoritative, and complete, to the rough, tentative, and provisional.

Would you download a book in beta from The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota?  

New Book Day: Jurij Koch’s The Cherry Tree (Translated by John K. Cox)

I’m very excited to announce the rare product of a crossing of the streams! North Dakota Quarterly and The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota have collaborated once again to publish the second volume in the NDQ supplement series: the first English translation of Jurij Koch’s novella The Cherry TreeYou can download the book here for free!

Advertisement: If you like it, consider buying a paperback copy of it. The proceeds from all sales go back into our efforts to publish interesting fiction, poetry, and essays both in North Dakota Quarterly and occasionally as stand alone books.

The Cherry Tree introduces the reader to a modern world that is only a thin veil covering a more magical past. In  Koch’s novella, Sieghart, an engineer, meets a beautiful woman and her mysterious family when he finds himself stranded in the countryside on a rainy night. This chance encounter draws Sieghart into an enchanted world laced with love, magic, and memory.

Cherry Tree Cover FINAL Single2

Jurij Koch is the most accomplished living Sorbian writer, and this short novel is the first major work of Sorbian literature to appear in English. The novel was originally published in East Germany in 1984. John K. Cox, Professor of History at NDSU translated the novel from German. He explains “This book is witness to the diversity and shared life of different ethnic groups in modern Germany and one of Germany’s best-kept secrets.”

Cox observes: “Koch’s light touch allows him to combine the environmental and the ethnographic, spirituality and modernization, and politics and pantheism, at the intersection of the Slavic and German worlds. The novella explores gendered approaches to the exploitation of coal and hydroelectric resources that endangered many Sorbian villages during the period of communism in East Germany.”

Koch’s style and story resists reducing complex situations into simple solutions and shows how the past, the present, the future are never fully distinct. The author reminds us: “Not everything in this world can be figured out.”

This novella is second volume in NDQ‘s modestly named “supplement” series. The first volume was Paul Worley’s translation of the experimental poetry workshop SnichimalVayuchil or Flowery Dream in bats’i k’op, or Tsotsil Maya which is available here.

The Cherry Tree is the first novel to be published by NDQ since Tom McGrath’s This Coffin Has No Handles which appeared in 1984, which is now also available as a free download.

NDQ has long straddled the line between academic and popular works. Cox’s translation of Koch’s The Cherry Tree is a great example of the kind of fertile ground that exists at this intersection. The novella is a serious work of literature deserving of critical appreciation, but also the kind of work that is accessible to a wider audience.

Like all publications from The Digital Press, the translation is available as a free, no strings attached, download. If you like it, though, we’d love for you to buy copy to support the continued effort of NDQ and The Digital Press to make more good books available in the future.

Three Things Thursday: Books, Quarterly, Books

I feel like this week has somehow gained momentum and now I feel like it is bearing down on me with a certain amount of fury. So this morning, I’ll offer a modest Three Things Thursday that focuses on my work as an editor and publisher.

Thing the First 

Last week, The Digital Press released its first novel, The Library of Chester Fritz by Brian R. Urlacher. Urlacher blends Chester Fritz’s early-20th century account of his travel to China with a story of Lovecraftian intrigue. Today, I posted a conversation that I had with Urlacher about the book, his background as an author, and his future plans for the world that he’s constructed. We also touched upon the influence of Urlacher’s training as a political scientist, the place of the book within the current trend toward “paranoid fiction,” and whether the book offers a subtle critique of contemporary capitalism.

Read the conversation here.  

Thing the Second

As readers of this blog know, October 1 is when the fall issue of North Dakota Quarterly goes off to its publishing partner at the University of Nebraska Press. This week, we published its table of contents and a brief editor’s note crediting the contributions of my practicum in editing and publishing.

I’m both happy with this volume and I feel more and more like I’m getting into a rhythm with publishing NDQ. This is the fifth volume to appear during my time as editor and I’m starting to reflect a bit on what I’ve learned so far doing this kind of work. Right now, I have three things in mind:

1. Expand the subscriber base. How do we get convert readers to subscribers? (And, if you think that reading an amazing collection of stories, essays, reviews, and poetry twice a year is great, perhaps you could subscribe?)

2. Ensure that NDQ has succession plan. I’m not particularly eager to step down as NDQ editor, but I want to make sure that when I do someone is ready to step into the position. A publisher friend observed recently that a journal is only as healthy as its editors and this nudged me once more to think about ensuring that the Quarterly has enthusiastic leadership after I’m done.

3. Special Issues, Novels, Translations, and the Archives. There is so much that we could do with NDQ from developing its “supplement” series (stay tuned) to trying to develop special sections and special issues to working hard to make our archive more accessible. It’s hard to develop a clear sense of priorities or even to discern whether “moving forward” is a useful metaphor for what we’re trying to do at the Quarterly.

Anyway, these are the things that I think about more and more as I get more weathering as editor. 

Check out the table of contents for issue 89.3/4 here.

Thing the Third

It is a pleasure to announce that Rebecca Romsdahl’s book Mindful Wandering: Nature and Global Travel through the Eyes of a Farmgirl Scientist has nominated for a North Dakota Library Association Notable Documents Prize. 

Apparently, this year there is some kind of popular vote component. This means, if you have a moment, it would be awesome if you could do and vote for it. It’s a great book, written in a distinctive voice, and offering insights sure to resonate globally and locally. Vote here. It only takes a second.

New Book Day: The Library of Chester Fritz

It’s homecoming week at UND and we have a homecoming themed book for New Book Day! It’s the first book in what should be a pretty exciting 2022/2023 publishing season!

CCF COVER Single

Brian R. Urlacher’s, The Library of Chester Fritz, is the first novel published by The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota, but is very much in keeping with our focus on the history of the state, our campus, and the region’s remarkable characters.

More importantly (especially to anyone without a real connection to North Dakota or UND), the book is a good story. Urlacher’s novel weaves his story into the real journals of Chester Fritz to produce chimerical narrative where Fritz’s words, Urlacher’s story, and the landscape of early 20th century China combine to create a world where the line between truth and fiction is so blurry as to be almost indistinguishable.

If that sounds pretty cool to you, you can download the book for FREE from The Digital Press website or buy it for the low, low price of $7 from Amazon. Remember being a paperback copy offers more than just the fine sensation of holding a paper book in you hand, but also supports The Digital Press’s mission to publish more open access books in the future!

https://thedigitalpress.org/the-library-of-chester-fritz/

If you’re still on the fence as to whether to download a free book, I offer a slightly more dramatic version of the book’s plot below:

Fate has entangled a library, a businessman, and the future of humanity. A trail of documents left behind by an eccentric businessman, traveler, and philanthropist Chester Fritz is the only way to understand the urgent danger. This book brings together Chester Fritz’s journals and follows his travels through war torn China and his ascent to the heights of global capitalism.

As World War II plunges the world into chaos, Fritz and his traveling companions wrestle with what to do and what forces are too dangerous or too dark for humanity to wield. But something must be done, and the decision will fall to Chester Fritz.

Thank you, as always, for supporting The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota and, if you like this title, do share your enthusiasm over twitter (@digitalpressund) or Facebook.

If you don’t like this title, that’s ok! It was FREE. And I’m pretty sure we’ll publish something that you DO like later in 2022-2023 season!

The formal press release is below and you can download the book’s full media kit here.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Time is Running Out!

The Chester Fritz Library holds the secret of its mysterious donor and the fate of the world hangs in the balance. Anyone who has spent time on the University of North Dakota’s campus knows it to be an enchanted place. A new novel takes this feeling to the next level.

The Library of Chester Fritz, is the debut novel by Professor of Political Science, Brian R. Ulacher. This daring and imaginative work hints that the power of the UND campus might go far beyond its well-kept gardens and collegiate Gothic architecture. Urlacher’s novel traces the travels of former UND student and benefactor, Chester Fritz, through early 20th-century China and speculates that his experiences on this journey introduced him to a powerful, and dangerous, secret.

Chester Fritz’s journal a version of which was published by the University of North Dakota Press in the 1980s and describes his work and travels in China prior to World War II. Fritz was born in Buxton, North Dakota and attended UND before heading to the West Coast and then abroad to make his fortune. In 1950 and 1969, Fritz made sizeable donations to UND which funded the library and auditorium that bear his name. Urlacher built from this manuscript and developed his story in a way that integrates seamlessly with Fritz’s own words. The result is a chimerical narrative where Fritz’s words, Urlacher’s story, and the landscape of early 20th century China combine to create a world where the line between truth and fiction is so blurry as to be almost indistinguishable.

Urlacher points out that Fritz’s journals themselves offer more than enough fodder for the imagination. He said, “I’m fascinated and frankly perplexed by Fritz’s choice to travel across China in 1917. He was utterly unprepared when he set his course through the heart of a civil war in which warlords, bandits, and crusader armies vied for every inch of territory.”

In Urlacher’s novel, Fritz’s mysterious experiences abroad become entangled with his monumental library at the heart of the UND campus. Urlacher explains that he was inspired by the Chester Fritz Library: “I’ve spent a lot of time just wandering among the stacks. I’m not sure if other people experience this, but I get a static tingle in libraries. Something about massing books, each representing a lifetime’s worth of experience, in such close proximity is powerful. There are so many stories about books being more than just pages, and libraries being more than just buildings. When I sat down to start world building, there was never a question of where to anchor the story. It had to be the Chester Fritz Library.”

Urlacher noted that something of Chester Fritz’s spirit lingers on our campus, observing, “Fritz had this unshakable optimism, and it comes through in his journal. He writes with an understated North Dakota humor, which is makes for very charming prose.”

Like all books from The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota, The Library of Chester Fritz is available as a free download or as a paperback book from Amazon.com.

 

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.

A Book By Its Cover: The Cherry Tree

This fall looks to be a busy one for The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota. We not only have three (and maybe a four!) books on tap for the next couple of months, but we also have plans to publish our first two novels. 

The second novel scheduled to appear this fall is in collaboration with our friends at North Dakota Quarterly as the second volume in our little NDQ Supplement series. The first volume in the supplement series was Snichimal Vayuchil, a collection of Tsotsil Maya poetry translated by Paul Worley. In 1984, NDQ published its first full-length novel, Thomas McGrath’s This Coffin Has No Handles

Today, we’ll share a copy of the cover of our next novel, Jurij Koch’s The Cherry Tree, translated by John K. Cox whose talented wife Kathleen T. Cox designed the fantastic cover.  

Cherry Tree Cover IMAGE

Without giving too much away, the cover captures the role of motion and movement in Koch’s compelling tale, while preserving the sense of mystery at the core of the story.

If you want to read a bit more about the book and what it’s about, go here

Layout Work for a Busy Fall at The Digital Press

There are three books in various stages of layout and design this fall. The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota particularly excited to publish a novella titled The Cherry Tree which will appear as the second volume of a series co-produced with North Dakota Quarterly. The Cherry Tree is the first major Sorbian work published in English and its author, Jurij Koch, is perhaps the best known Sorbian literary figure. The novella was translated from the German by John K. Cox. 

John has described the novella like this:

Set in the Sorbian-speaking region of the former East Germany, this unique and thought-provoking novella focuses on Ena, a young farm worker, who is torn between her family’s culture and the growing demands of modern society. She must navigate the conflicting demands and competing world views of her two lovers, Mathias (a Sorbian farmer) and Sieghart (a German engineer), even as she moves to Paris and then deals with the passing of her beloved grandfather. The story is tight and intense, with touches of magical realism as well as beautiful descriptions of nature. Koch’s pithy, accurate descriptions of life in Brandenburg and Saxony are animated by the author’s steadfast and heartening appreciation of rural traditions, the visits of a pre-Christian goddess, and…a surprise ending.

Cherry Tree Proof 0 pdf 2022 08 24 06 05 47

In my reading, the novella has a distinctly modernist vibe to it and I wanted to capture that in my page design while still keeping the overall feeling contemporary and tidy. As a result, I tried a new font to me: PS Fournier, which is a transitional font used for works like the first edition of Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake and a 1930 edition of Thoreau’s Walden. I combined it with the perhaps most distinctly modern German font (and a Digital Press favorite), Futura.

Cherry Tree Proof 0 pdf 2022 08 24 06 04 03

PS Fournier is set at 11.5 pts which should make this a pretty easy book to read and enjoy and give it a pleasant “heft” appropriate for its significance. I’m pretty happy with how it looks and we’re just waiting on the cover and some final edits and this book should appear later this fall! 

Stay tuned for more updates.

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.