Sometimes, it’s in the smallest things that we discover the biggest ideas.
Such is quite literally the case for NDSU Press’s latest print project, The Little Book of North Dakota, a limited mini-lit series in which writers of all genres wax poetic about the many aspects that make life in the Peace Garden state a big deal.
The Little Book of North Dakota series will consist of books with text longer than an article, shorter than a full-length book—as a way to produce more and more-varied nonfiction, fiction and poetry about North Dakota’s history, science, literary endeavors and more.
The first book in the series, “Field Notes,” by East Coast writer Margaret Rodal, will be released November 2 and available to purchase at www.ndsupress.org. So far, the series will be in print format, with plans for digital versions still in the works.
“Our aim is to publish books about North Dakota from a variety of perspectives that contribute to knowledge and public consciousness of our state,” NDSU Press Publisher and Editor in Chief Suzzanne Kelley said, emphasizing that writers don’t have to be natives of North Dakota, but the content must be topically relevant to the state.
Baby steps, brunch and benevolence
Kelley said she’s been mulling the book series for several years now after a similar project in New Zealand published by Bridget Williams Books (bwb books) piqued her interest. Similar to The Little Book of North Dakota concept, the bwb texts focus on all things New Zealand.
“I bought copies. I became enamored with the idea and scouted other ‘little book’ series wherever I could find them,” she said.
Just before pitching the Little Book concept to NDSU Press’s board of directors for approval, Kelley enlisted North Dakota native and former Grand Forks Herald editor Mike Jacobs to edit the series. Between her passion for mini-lit, Jacobs’ love for North Dakota and their collective reverence for gardening, the two agreed to try and make the series a reality.
“You might say it started with tomatillos,” Kelley said of a preliminary book series meeting with Jacobs over brunch at his home where he served fresh tomatillos from his garden. “We have gardening interests in common, as well as a love for literary culture and North Dakota. Mike's knowledge of North Dakota and his interest in books all ignited the possibility of the plan I had been concocting for some years.”
Jacobs and Kelley collaborated with then-publishing student Ana Rusness-Petersen, now manager of programs and events for downtown Fargo’s Broadway Square, who researched the whole notion of little books: similarities, trends, topics and formats.
Though COVID-19 slowed down the project, NDSU Press student interns, designers Deb Tanner and Jamie Trosen, managed to revive the plan and still make massive progress.
The Little Book of North Dakota series will be smaller than full-length books and bigger than traditional chapbooks. Running from 80 pages up to 125 pages and designed to be 6” by 6”, the mini-lit is slightly smaller than a normal book's trim size of 6” by 9”.
“They will easily slip into a bag or case while traveling, and unlike chapbooks, we hope they will become collector’s items,” Kelley said.
Kelley hopes she and Jacobs, who will serve as the series editor, can publish three or four little books each year, but it all depends on how well books sales go and whether the press continues to receive funding dollars from donors to help support the project.
“As long as our sales and donations hold up, we are able to publish authors who are producing the kind of work that has led our books and our press to being recognized with state, regional, and national awards. We would like to continue that upward trend,” Kelley said.
Submissions open to all
Although the online submission portal for the little book series won’t be available for a few months yet, Kelley encourages writers from all genres who are exploring topics about North Dakota to consider submitting their work at any time.
“It is not too early for authors to be thinking about literary fiction, nonfiction, and poetry that might fit the series,” she said. Interested writers may submit their manuscripts to https://ndsupress.submittable.com/submit.
“Field Notes,” by Margi Rogal
“Field Notes,” by Margi Rogal, the first in the Little Book of North Dakota series, will make its appearance on November 2, 2021, coinciding with the anniversary date of North Dakota’s statehood.
“Field Notes'' was a finalist for the NDSU Press Poetry of the Plains and Prairies in 2019. The poetry collection—interspersed with entries from her grandfather’s field notes jotted down during his time in Cando, ND—combines state history and notable birds of North Dakota.
“Rogal is the granddaughter of Robert Silliman Judd, who was himself the nephew of Elmer Judd, which makes Rogal the great grand-niece of the most esteemed birdman that North Dakota has ever known, perhaps excepting John James Audubon,” said The Little Book of North Dakota Editor Mike Jacobs. “This serendipity produced the poems presented here, which describe the birds that Robert Judd encountered; his family, including his beloved aunt Susie and three lively cousins; and the mysterious beauty that the rugged prairie slowly revealed to him.”
“Field Notes” launches November 2 and will be available for purchase online at www.ndsupress.org.
This article is part of a content partnership with The Arts Partnership, a nonprofit organization cultivating the arts in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo. For more information, visit http://theartspartnership.net.