Book by its Cover: Backstories: A Kitchen Table Talk Cookbook

Just a short post today! 

Yesterday, I received galley proofs of Cynthia C. Prescott and Maureen S. Thompson’s Backstories: A Kitchen Table Talk Cookbook. It’s scheduled to appear early next week in conjunction with the Rural Women’s Studies Association meeting and The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota racing down to the wire to ensure that it’ll be ready to go!

I was exceptionally pleased with the cover design by Paul Forest and wanted to share it with everyone “in the paper”: 

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The back looks great too:

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I’m happy with how the text block looked as well. It’s the first time that I’ve designed a book at 7 x 10 and liked the ability to incorporate generous margins on the page.

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This book should be available for download in the next few days (for those of you who can’t wait to get a copy!), and for now, you can check out a preview of the book here

Previewing Backstories: The Kitchen Table Talk Cookbook

Over the last few months, The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota has been working away at a very special project. In collaboration with the Rural Women’s Studies Associate, we are publishing an edited volume of scholarly essays and recipes that celebrate, analyze, and interrogate the relationship between food, women, and rural life. 

The book is edited by Cynthia C. Prescott and Maureen S. Thompson and is titled Backstories: The Kitchen Table Talk Cookbook. One of the book’s reviewers pointed out that this title is a bit of a mouthful, and we decided that this was entirely appropriate for a book about food!

We’ll be ready to release the book during the Rural Women Studies Associate meeting next month. Like all books from The Digital Press, it’ll be available as a high quality, color PDF for free and as a low-cost paperback.

In the meantime, we invite you to bookmark the book’s landing page here and while you’re there, download a preview of the book!

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Three Things Thursday: Black History Month, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and a New Book

I’m almost making a habit of these Three Things Thursdays! This week, I’m mostly sharing things that happening at my other two projects: The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota and North Dakota Quarterly.

Thing the First

Please go and check out this long interview with David Pettegrew on the making of the book One Hundred Voices: Harrisburg’s Historic African American Community, 1850-1920 that he co-edited with Calobe Jackson, Jr. and Katie Wingert McArdle.

It’s a brilliant example of public, digital archaeology that involved a diverse group of individuals and produce a wide range of products, experiences, and community.

Thing the Second

I brought together some stuff about the late Lawrence Ferlinghetti for the NDQ blog including a couple amusing stories about Ferlinghetti’s visit to the UND Writers Conference in 1974 which of course involved the cops and Tom McGrath because North Dakota. 

Thing the Third

This one is a bit top secret, but I want to share it with loyal readers to this blog.

On Monday, The Digital Press will release Rebecca M. Seifried and Deborah E. Stewart Brown’s Deserted Villages: Perspectives from the Eastern Mediterranean. This book is brilliant and brings together nine substantial papers on deserted and abandoned villages in a wide range of contexts (including North Dakota). 

If you want to download a copy for free, in advance of the official publication date, go here or you can be the first to receive your very own paper copy here.

1 Deserted Villages book cover

New Book Day: Epoiesen 4

New book day is always a fun day, and when the new book is a volume of Epoiesen, it makes it particularly fun because it draws attention to one of the most interesting and creative publications in the field of history and archaeology. In fact, I can think of no other journal that is as open to projects that blur the lines between conventional scholarship and creative works as effectively as Epoiesen.  

This past few months have seen some buzz about scholars who have turned to creative approaches as a form of critique and to engage complex scholarly issues in new ways. Some of this is almost certainly a reflection of a growing restlessness that has come from questioning whether convention forms of academic style, language, methods, and texts are adequate to address the real and immediate social and political problems in the world today. The rise of creative non-fiction or works influences by more creative approaches to scholarly articles represents another example of a kind of probing willingness to explore new ways of engaging with our world. There’s a sense that it is not enough for scholars to simply double (triple, quadruple, et c.) down on what we’ve always done and hope for different results. 

In this atmosphere, Epoiesen represents an important venue and one that I’ve found particularly conducive to some of my own work. It is my pleasure to support this project. Find the links to the latest paper issue of the journal below as well as some more reflections.

When the Digital Press was first starting out, Shawn Graham, the editor at a new journal, Epoiesen: A Journal for Creative Engagement in History and Archaeology reached out to the Digital Press and asked whether we might like to collaborate. He envisioned that the press would produce a paginated paper version of the journal which would publish regularly online.

This offer of collaboration meant a good bit to The Digital Press early in its existence, and four years into this relationship, we’re excited to announce Epoiesen, volume 4, is now available.

Don’t let its modest size mislead you. This issue is really strong and anchored by articles by Michael Given and Erin Thompson. As the last few years, the cover image, this time by Marcelo Vitores, is a miniature scholarly statement in its own right.

You can download the issue as a paginated PDF here for free or buy it on Amazon for $10 here.

And check out the other issues available here as either PDF or paper here.

And all the signs point to a really impressive collection of articles in next years issue. Check them out on the Epoiesen webpage!

Cover Epoiesen4

The Digital Press from Small Business Saturday to Cyber-Monday

My apologies to my regular blog readers, but today is a little advertisement for the work I do with some amazing colleagues at The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota. I also wanted to draw attention to the fact that our books, which are all available as free downloads, are also available from local and independent book sellers.

It goes without saying that everyone should download our most ambitious and technologically advanced book to date: Derek B. Counts, Erin Walcek Averett, Kevin Garstki, and Michael Toumazou, Visualizing Votive Practice: Exploring Limestone and Terracotta Sculpture from Athienou-Malloura through 3D Models. It’s free and very cool (even if you’re not particularly interested in Cyprus!). 

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We have over 20 other books to chose from as both free, open-access downloads, and  low-cast paperbacks available from local and independent book stores. Download a book today and if you like it, considering buying a copy for the holidays!

Remember, it’s been a rough year for many small businesses, and it’s more important than ever to support independent bookstores. The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota is proud that most of their catalogue is available through, a digital platform that also raises money to support independent bookstores. lists Ferguson Books and More in Grand Forks and Bismarck and Zambroz Variety in Fargo as two local booksellers in the Red River Valley. Please consider buying from one of these shops if, say, you’re looking for a book from a local author – say Eric Burin’s best seller Picking the President: Understanding the Electoral College – or on a North Dakota subject – such as Kyle Conway’s newest book, Sixty Years of Boom and Bust.

To make this all a bit easier to shop locally and find great Digital Press books, I’ve included links to book and, when relevant, to local book sellers.

William R. Caraher and Brandon R. Olson, Visions of Substance: 3D Imagine in Mediterranean Archaeology. (2015). Download. More Info.

Erin Walcek Averett, Jody Michael Gordon, Derek B Counts, Mobilizing the Past for a Digital Future: The Potential of Digital Archaeology (2016). Download. More info.

William Caraher and Kyle Conway, ed., The Bakken Goes Boom: Oil and the Changing Geographies of Western North Dakota. (2016). Download. More info. Ferguson Books, Grand Forks, ND.

Micah Bloom, Codex (2017). Download. More Info. Ferguson Books, Grand Forks, ND. Main Street Books, Minot, ND.

Eric Burin ed., Picking the President: Understanding the Electoral College (2017). Download. More InfoFerguson Books, Grand Forks, ND.

G. D. R. Sanders, Sarah James and Alicia Carter, Corinth Excavations Archaeological Manual (2017). DownloadMore Info. Ferguson Books, Grand Forks, ND.

David Haeselin ed., Haunted by Waters: The Future of Memory and the Red River Flood of 1997 (2017). Download. More Info. Ferguson Books, Grand Forks, ND.

David Haeselin ed., Dakota Datebook: North Dakota Stories from Prairie Public (2019). Download. More info. Ferguson Books, Grand Forks, ND.

Eric Burin ed., Protesting on Bended Knee: Race, Dissent, and Patriotism in 21st Century America. (2018). Download. More info. Ferguson Books, Grand Forks, ND.

Chris Price, The Old Church on Walnut Street. Revised Edition. (2018). Download. More info. Ferguson Books, Grand Forks, ND.

Paul Worley trans., Snichimal Vayuchil (North Dakota Quarterly Supplement 1). (2018). Download. More Info.

Shawn Graham, Failing Gloriously and Other Essays (2019). Download. More info. Ferguson Books, Grand Forks, ND.

Sebastian Heath, DATAM: Digital Approaches to Teaching the Ancient Mediterranean. (2020). Download. More Info.

Calobe Jackson Jr., Katie Wingert McArdle, and David K. Pettegrew, One Hundred Voices: Harrisburg’s Historic African American Community, 1850-1920 (2020). To support the upkeep of the Commonwealth Monument, buy a copy from Harrisburg’s Midtown Scholar Bookstore here. Download. More info.

Kyle Conway,  Brent L. Willis, Ross B. Talbot, Sixty Years of Boom and Bust: The Impact of Oil in North Dakota, 1958-2018. (2020). Download. More info. Ferguson Books, Grand Forks, ND.

New Book Day: Visualizing Votive Practice

It’s my favorite day at The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota: NEW BOOK DAY.

The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota is excited to announce the publication of Visualizing Votive Practice: Exploring Limestone and Terracotta Sculpture from Athienou-Malloura through 3DModels by Derek B. Counts, Erin Walcek Averett, Kevin Garstki, and Michael Toumazou.

You can download the book for free here.

This book is particularly meaningful to me not only because it was the most complex and ambitious book that The Digital Press has published, but because it has a connection with my earliest days doing archaeology on Cyprus (nearly 20 years ago!). 

When I was fresh out of graduate school and working with Scott Moore and David Pettegrew to get the Pyla-Koutospetria Archaeological Project started on Cyprus, we were trying to understand the practical and political realities of doing work on the island. The team that helped us the most was from the Athienou Archaeological Project. In our first year of field work they showed genuine interest in our work, lent us tables and equipment, and gave us good advice on navigating the political side of doing work on Cyprus. While generosity isn’t uncommon among archaeologists working on the island, their collegiality, good cheer, and support made my transition from field work in Greece to work on Cyprus immeasurably easier.

Of course, this book stands on its own as a significant and innovative work of scholarship. It went through rigorous peer review, received high quality professional copy editing, and abundant, sustained attention from its authors. In some small way, it is also  a gesture of appreciation for the support that I received years ago when I was just starting out on Cyprus.

Here’s the press release and download link. It’s free, open access, and pretty great.

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Visualizing Votive Practice uses 3D images embedded directly in the PDF to present a significant new group of terracotta and limestone sculpture from the sanctuary of Malloura on Cyprus. By combining traditional features of an archaeological artifact catalogue with the dynamic possibilities of a digital book, these fascinating objects come alive on the page. The book also includes thousands of hyperlinks that invite the reader to engage with objects at the world’s greatest museums, explore previous scholarship, and engage the content in new ways. Visualizing Votive Practice provides an important discussion of the theory, methods, and practices that produced the 3D images in archaeology. It is available as a free, open access, download.

Derek B. Counts, Professor and Chair of Art History at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, describes the thinking behind the book “we wanted to challenge traditional approaches to publication and leverage open, digital platforms to provide better access to our research but also connect that research with a wider network of information.”

As Kevin Garstki, Lecturer in the Department of Anthropology, Global Religions, and Cultures at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, explains, “The book builds upon the available platforms for sharing 3D models and combines them with important archaeological context that makes them more than just “pretty” models on a computer screen but actual research tools.”

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The site of Malloura on the Mesaoria Plain on Cyprus is significant in its own right. Erin Walcek Averett, Associate Professor of Art History and Classical & Near Eastern Studies at Creighton University, notes “this sanctuary is one of the few religious sites to be excavated scientifically and provides a wealth of information on changing Cypriot religious practices from the Cypro-Geometric through Roman periods (ca. 8th c. BCE to at least the 4th c. CE). From terracotta warrior figurines to limestone statues of Cypriot Herakles, this  votive assemblage enriches our understanding of the cult and ritual habit at  the site.”

The book also relies on the Alexandria Archive’s Open Context digital, archaeological publishing platform. Each object in the book is linked to a permanent digital version on the web allowing future researches to link to a specific artifact and for the catalogue to expand and develop in the future. Eric Kansa, Open Context’s Program Director explains that the digital publication of these artifacts “allows for continued expansion of the collection, as well as the addition and association of other related archaeological materials—such as the ceramic vessels, coins, and animal bones– facilitating exploration and reuse of the ever-growing collection, even for purposes not currently recognized in the context of the Visualizing Votive Practice publication.”

William Caraher, the director at the Digital Press at the University of North Dakota, remarks “Open access books such as Visualizing Votive Practice shows the potential to combine rigorous peer review and innovative collaborative publishing practices. Scholar-led publishing is not the only future for academic publishing, but works such as this are starting to make the case for it being a viable and significant alternative to traditional academic and commercial publishers.”

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Louise Glück’s Poetry, The Bakken and the Quarterly

It speaks volumes that a fly will overshadow the announcement of an American poet, Louise Elisabeth Glück, winning the Nobel Prize for literature.

If you don’t have some of her poetry on your shelf, I recommend it (for whatever that’s worth). A few years ago Farrar, Strauss and Giroux published an anthology of her work. Here are some of her poems as well. I also like the essay, “Against Sincerity”:

“…the source of art is experience, the end product truth, and the artist, surveying the actual, constantly intervenes and manages, lies and deletes, all in the service of truth.”


I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of downloads that Kyle Conway’s edited volume, Sixty Years of Boom and Bust: The Impact of Oil in North Dakota, 1958-2018. It has already outperformed my expectations and continues to generate interest and excitement.

Kyle is also a great interview (and conversationalist). I did a little interview with him and posted it to the Digital Press blog. We discuss the book and the past and future of his Bakken research. As always he saves elevates my banal questions with his insightful responses. 

Read it here. Or download the book here, buy it on Amazon here, or get a copy from a small bookshop here.


Last but not least, I’ve posted the table of contents for the next issue of North Dakota Quarterly over at the NDQ blog. You can check it out here.

If you like it, you can download volume 85 for free or our latest issue 87.1/2 here.  

As you likely know, these days are particularly challenging for many cultural institutions, publishers, and little magazines. 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.

We are currently reading poetry and essay and are always reading fiction. You can submit something to us here. If you already subscribe, you should get receive your latest copy of NDQ in November. If you’d like to subscribe, please go here

Some Little Publishing Notes from The Digital Press

This fall has been a hectic and exciting one for The Digital Press. We not only published two books, Calobe Jackson, Jr., Katie Wingert McArdle, David Pettegrew’s, One Hundred Voices, Harrisburg’s Historic African American Community, 1850-1920 and Kyle Conway’s Sixty Years of Boom and Bust: The Impact of Oil in North Dakota, 1958-2018, but we have a busy production queue which promises an exciting winter.

The most exciting project simmering right now on The Digital Press’s stove is Derek Counts, Erin Averett, Kevin Garstki, and Michael Toumazou’s Visualizing Votive Practice. Yesterday while I took my mid-morning stroll, I received the marked up copy of the first page proofs from the books authorial trio. I now have weekend plans and we’re on target for a mid-November publication date.

To celebrate this milestone, it seems a good time to release the book’s cover (which we’ve been eager to do since mid September!). Dan Coslett is responsible for the outstanding cover design.

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The bold colors and dynamic design challenges age old conventions that the appearance of catalogues should be staid and formal affairs of interest largely to specialists. For this volume, we tried to capture a bit of the interactive spirit of the 3D models contained in the book and the faceted sculptural face underscores the authors’ attention to practice, both in terms of the votive rituals explored by the book as well as their attention to the production of the 3D scans of the terracotta and limestone sculpture.

Momentum begets momentum or so it would appear. It may be that social distancing begets monument, if I’m to be honest. Whatever the case, the Digital Press was also happy enough to help out with a couple of other “Digital Press Adjacent” projects this fall.

Sometime in the next couple of weeks, the Western Argolid Research Project will upload its survey manual to the tDAR archive where it can be downloaded, modified, and referenced. I typeset the contents to give it just a tiny bit of polish and created a cover for it that probably benefits more from the nice photo than any graphic design acumen on  my part. 

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We also learned that Patrick Henry, a colleague (and regular contributor to NDQ), will be teaching a course of World War I literature this spring semester. He had plans to use a little volume of NDQ Reprints that I put together to highlight some early 20th century content from the Quarterly and to typeset something in Doves Type. The book was initially meant as a digital download only, but for whatever reason never got much traffic (even as we commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Great War), and for a while the download link was broken. This was not a great look for us. Here’s the download link if you’re curious!

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Patrick asked if we could perhaps produce a print version of the book, and I happily agreed! We’ll being making the little book available via Amazon heading into the Holiday Season and donating a little stack of copies to Patrick’s class. Stay tuned for more on this little project over the next month or so. 

Three Things Thursday: Ruins, Books, and the Quarterly

Things are a bit busier than usual these days, so I thought I’d share some of the stuff rattling in my office with a little Three Things Thursday.

Thing the First

I’m pretty sure that I won’t write it, but someone should really pull together a review essay on recent books about ruins. I’m hoping to finish a short review of Martin Devecka’s Broken Cities (2020), which I’ve drafted here, and a few weeks ago, I read and enjoyed Filipe Rojas’s The Pasts of Roman Anatolia (2019). I read and found useful parts of Simon Murray’s 2020 book, Performing Ruins, which stands at the intersection of archaeology, drama, and social critique. It wouldn’t be difficult to add Rodney Harrison and Colin Sterling new edited volume Deterritorializing the Future: Heritage in, of and after the Anthropocene (2020) or the massively collaborative Heritage Futures: Comparative Approaches to Natural and Cultural Heritage Practices (2020) volume to the list. Lynn Meskel’s  A Future in Ruins: UNESCO, World Heritage, and the Dream of Peace (2018) fits the theme on the basis of its title alone (I’ve blogged about it here) and Francisco Martínez’s and Patrick Laviolette’s book Repair, Brokenness, Breakthrough: Ethnographic Responses (Berghahn 2019) would fit into a larger conversation about ruins and ruination as well. Finally, Susan Stewart’s book, Ruin Lessons (2020) has been languishing on my “to read pile” for most of the year and I just need to suck it up and read it.

Obviously not all of these books consider ruins in the same way which perhaps makes a kind of comparative review a bit awkward. On the other hand, the range of different approaches to ruins could make a kind of oddly compelling essay in the right hands. 

Things the Second

It’s always great to get some media coverage for a book from The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota. This week the Williston Herald published a nice interview with Kyle Conway about Sixty Years of Boom and Bust: The Impact of Oil in North Dakota, 1958-2018. One thing that struck me about this article is that not only did it do more than just rely on the book’s press release, but it also — and perhaps more importantly — drove traffic to the book’s webpage. More than that, this traffic resulted in downloads. For an open access press like mine, downloads are a pretty precious commodity because they mean books are getting into people’s hands.

The Digital Press is also excited to announce that One Hundred Voices: Harrisburg’s Historic African American Community, 1850-1920 is now available from The Midtown Scholar Bookstore in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Proceeds from the books sold there will go to support the maintenance of the Commonwealth Monument. If you’re thinking about buying this remarkable little book, now is a great opportunity to buy it and make a difference.

Finally, over the past six months, Eric Burin’s edited volume, Picking the President: Understanding the Electoral College (2018) has become a surprise best seller for The Digital Press. Following on this success, Dr. Burin was invited to host one of Humanities ND’s “Brave Conversations” about the electoral college. The event is online and, frankly, a bit pricey at $50 for a non Humanities ND member, but I’m sure it’ll be worth it! You can check it out here.

Thing the Third

This time of year is, for the foreseeable future, NDQ time. This means I spend hours processing contributions to the Quarterly, organizing paperwork, and putting the volume into some semblance of order. I detailed my process here.

What makes this all tolerable is that I also get a chance to spend time again with our accepted submissions. This means re-reading the poetry, fiction, and essays that make their way into each issue of the Quarterly.

My excitement usually gets the better of me and I begin to share some of the content from the issue on the NDQ blog. This morning, I shared two of John Sibley Williams’ poems. Go and check them out here.

Sneak Peek at a New Book from The Digital Press

One advantage that readers of my blog get is that I’ll often offer pre-publication peeks of the books published by my press, The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been working with David Pettegrew and his team at the 100 Voices Project, which is part of the larger Digital Harrisburg and Commonwealth Monument Project in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to typeset and design a book titled One Hundred Voices: Harrisburg’s African American Community, 1850-1920. The book was brought together by Calobe Jackson, Jr., Katie Wingert McArdle David Pettegrew and Lenwood Sloan added a foreword. 

The stories contained in the book are really quite remarkable as Harrisburg’s African American community had ties reaching from the Antebellum South to the Harlem Renaissance with local, regional, and national figures in between. Each short biological sketch complements by detailed data points associated with these individual’s lives makes for compelling reading.

One Hundred Voices Cover FINAL 05 ONEPAGE

I was particularly taken by the poetry of Esther Popel Shaw, who was a significant poet in the Harlem Renaissance, the professional accomplishments of Henry H. Summer’s who goes on to teach Greek and Theology at Wilberforce University, and pathbreaking career of Benjamin J. Foote, the first African American policeman in Harrisburg. There’s much more to read and discover in these stories that speak to the dynamism of the African American community in a mid-sized American city and tell stories both relevant to our current public attentiveness to Black history and more enduring considerations.  

Here’s a little description of this amazing project: 

In 2020, a coalition of citizens, organizers, legislators, and educators came together to commemorate the Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments by establishing a new monument in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. This would be a memorial dedicated to the capital city’s significant African American community and its historic struggle for the vote. The Commonwealth Monument, located on the Irvis Equality Circle on the South Lawn of Pennsylvania’s State Capitol Grounds, features a bronze pedestal inscribed with one hundred names of change agents who pursued the power of suffrage and citizenship between 1850 and 1920.

This book is a companion to this monument and tells the stories of those one hundred freedom seekers, abolitionists, activists, suffragists, moralists, policemen, masons, doctors, lawyers, musicians, poets, publishers, teachers, preachers, housekeepers, janitors, and business leaders, among many others. In their committed advocacy for freedom, equality, and justice, these inspiring men and women made unique and lasting contributions to the standing and life of African Americans—and, indeed, the political power of all Americans—within their local communities and across the country.

If you want to download a copy of the book a few weeks before it’s released, go here.