MOORHEAD — New Rivers Press has come a long way since C. W. “Bill” Truesdale started the publishing press out of an old barn in New York in 1968.
At the time, the risk-taker with a heart for literature “had no idea what I was getting myself into,” he wrote in his essay “New Rivers Press: A History” in 1998. He just knew that after he had a difficult time getting his first book published, he wanted to make the process “a little easier” for other writers who share the same dream.
This motivation remains at the core of New Rivers Press, which moved to Minnesota in the thick of the literary renaissance in the 1970s and was absorbed by Minnesota State University Moorhead after Truesdale died in 2001. Since then, a dedicated team has continued the founder’s legacy by publishing literary fiction, nonfiction and poetry written by emerging authors from around the globe.
After it moved to MSUM, New Rivers Press evolved into one of the few learning literary presses in the country that gives students hands-on experience in every stage of the publishing process, says Managing Editor Nathan Rundquist.
“Every book we publish is read, edited, designed, marketed and championed by students,” says Rundquist, who currently supervises five student interns. “We’re trying to get them more experience so they have a robust tool set (of skills) when they go out into the world.”
New Rivers Press is also trying to move its mission “toward being more inclusive and more diverse in all kinds of areas,” he adds. On average, New Rivers Press publishes six to eight books each year out of its small office in Weld Hall on the MSUM campus.
This spring, the publisher debuts two books called “Excavating Memory: Archaeology and Home” by Elizabeth Mosier and “throughsmoke: an essay in notes” by Jehanne Dubrow. To celebrate the publication of these books, New Rivers Press is hosting public readings with the authors at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 21, at the MSUM Library and at 6:30 p.m. Friday, March 22, at Zandbroz Variety in downtown Fargo as part of the Clarence Glasrud Lecture and Reading Series.
Both of these short nonfiction works explore memory, scent and familial loss from different frameworks. “Excavating Memory," by Mosier, a Philadelphia-based author and volunteer cultural anthropologist, explores how the objects in our daily lives shape our individual and cultural identities while weaving in her mother’s experience with Alzheimer’s disease, Rundquist says.
“We get a lot of (book submissions) about Alzheimer’s, but this is one that had that interesting framework to it that we thought brought it to life really well,” he says.
Meanwhile, “throughsmoke” by Texas-based author Dubrow examines the role fragrance plays in memory, grief, desire and other human experiences through short prose. Rundquist says the book is “a defense of simple things” often thought of as trivial, including perfume, art and poetry, as well as their importance in the current political climate.
At the book launch celebrations, each author will read excerpts from her book and answer questions from the audience. Both books will be available for purchase.
“We’re feeling good about these books,” Rundquist says. “They’re both fascinating, amazing works and they are some of my favorite books we’ve ever published.”
New Rivers Press sifts through hundreds of submissions of all genres every year. When asked what kind of criteria his staff and his student interns look for in a book, Rundquist says anything that has “life to it.”
“You recognize it when you see it, but you can’t put words to it, which is weird for a bunch of writers to not able to find words,” he laughs. “You just feel it in your gut.”
Overall, Rundquist and his team at New Rivers Press are proud to continue the work Truesdale started on a whim all those years ago.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s fun,” he says. “You don’t have time to get bored.”
If you go
What: New Rivers Press spring book launch
When: 6 p.m. Thursday, March 21, and 6:30 p.m. Friday, March 22
Where: Minnesota State University Moorhead Library, 1104 Seventh Ave. S., Moorhead, on Thursday; Zandbroz Variety, 420 Broadway N., Fargo, on Friday
Info: Both book launches are free and open to the public; newriverspress.com
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.