Not such a blank rectangle these days…

Today I attended the ND Bloggers & Writers Worship (sponsored by the ND Dept. of Commerce) at the downtown Fargo Radisson. I learned a lot and tried to sow a bit of interest in the WAND book, but I was also distracted a few times by thoughts of this blog–namely its name and the concept behind it.

North Dakota as a blank rectangle. Is it these days? Sure, there are still plenty of people around the country and certainly around the globe who conjure up a big ol’ blank at the name “North Dakota.” But from what I have seen since I moved back to Fargo-Moorhead last summer, including at events like today’s workshop, that is changing.

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It’s not just the oil development in western ND that’s getting attention. North Dakota seems to be gaining recognition as a great place for entrepreneurs of all kinds, as I see almost weekly at One Million Cups gatherings in Fargo (Bismarck also hosts these meet-ups). People around the state are blogging about rural life and gaining strong followings (Jessie Veeder Scofield, whose photos have appeared on this blog, and Jenny Dewey Rohrich are two bloggers who spoke at the workshop). And now there’s the new Fargo TV series. Whether or not that turns out to be an accurate portrayal (and what would “accurate” mean in the context of storytelling?), it still puts a national spotlight on the city and perhaps the whole state.

The Blank Rectangle. I’ve been in many North Dakota spots that will probably never achieve the faintest amount of recognition outside the state or even their county. Still, “blank” doesn’t seem like the best way to describe what people think of us these days.


Update on WAND book and a freewrite

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here–or even visited the blog. For the past several months I’ve been playing the publishing waiting game with the second edition of the WAND book (the first edition being the self-published version we gave to donors in early 2012). Recently I received news from a publisher that our manuscript has been preliminarily accepted for publication, pending a review of a final manuscript. So I am doing another round of editing on the manuscript, and I hope to be able to share the news soon that we are definitely being published.

Meanwhile, I want to share a freewrite I did at the UND Writers Conference this past week. I attended a fiction workshop led by Brian Maxwell, who had us brainstorm North Dakota places then choose one place to write about with specific detail. I had thrown out small-town bars during our brainstorm, so I came up with this during our freewriting period:

I’ve seen these rows of many-flavored vodkas before–they were in the last town’s bar, and the town before that. What is the appeal of these marshmallow vodkas and grape vodkas–this brand of vodka called UV? Is it as mundane as a charismatic distribution salesperson? Or do these bottles with pineapples and birthday cakes strike sunburned, boot-clad North Dakotans as exotic? Maybe they brighten up the bitter winters and dusty summers. Bright green vodka for a pure white day. Candy pink vodka for harvest time.

Do I really believe this brand of alcohol could strike North Dakotans as exotic? I don’t know. I’m sure it’s true for at least one person, but it makes me feel condescending to have speculated that. It sounded good in the moment, anyway.


The End of the WAND

The End of the WAND

Gwen and Richard crossing the bridge to Moorhead (photo by Bruce).


The WAND Part II Approaches

This June, three members of the original WAND team – Richard, Bruce, and Gwen – will set out from Bismarck to complete the journey across North Dakota. This journey, for any readers unfamiliar with us, began in June 2011 with the additional participation of Jeremy and Tyler Bold. We walked from the Montana border near Beach to Bismarck over 14 days, roughly paralleling I-94. In this second stage, we will walk from Bismarck to the Minnesota border near Fargo, over 13 days. With a longer average daily mileage and less training due to life circumstances, we anticipate some hardships, but we also know we’re in for adventure and a great bonding experience. Like before, we will be documenting our travel with journals and some photos (probably not as much photography as last time). After the trip, Gwen will work on a final version of the book we self-published in January 2012, The Walk Across North Dakota, and seek a publisher.

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The WAND II Team


WAND Reunion!

WAND Reunion!

The WAND team reunited for a walk through the North Dakota State Capitol grounds on December 27, 2012.


Long, endless WANDering

…it felt like we were walking forever at times…VOID — the horizon — that we endlessly stared into…and when the day’s end finally came, the packs crashing at our collapsing feet…silence; we found ourselves free.

At long last, here is some of the footage I collected from the WAND.

I’ve often been meditating on the nature of time since we completed the WAND, especially relative to my time in the City.  (Maybe you can tell from the video.)

Over the last year-ish, I’ve gone to a whole new level of relativity; it’s amazing how different the world seems when you are not serving to a Master like the Boss…the Clock…”Society.”

They all demand you at Once, and if you pay them all of your attention, it will likely make you insane.

North Dakota still seems to offer something there: a place beyond the servitude toward these times, a place that is liberated and free.  You will discover the world of Non-Obligated Time.

This video features a song called “The Void,” by Ben Gibbard and Jay Farrar; although, I will not claim that all the lyrics speak to this scene, the sound seemed right.

A piece of advice: go wandering, wherever you can.  Find a place where there is no time and spend a moment there.  Don’t look for the moment, just keep waiting.  You won’t find it until after it is realized.

This is a space that few others can understand, a space beyond sanity, and invaluable in a world of schizophrenic times.


Face of Green wheat stocks

Face of Green wheat stocks

Face of Green wheat stocks,
eyes locked in natural thatch –
Waiting for the sun.


Revision of The Walk Across North Dakota

As I wrote about in April, I have been revising The Walk Across North Dakota this summer. Although the book won’t be finished until 2013 at the earliest, after we have walked the eastern half the state, I wanted to share some of the things I’ve been adding to the first edition. I’m not sure all of these will make the final cut, but most of them will. I welcome any feedback you have.

• Section on other people and animals that have done significant walks in or across North Dakota

• Section on the oil boom and its effects  (economic, social, environmental) on the state

• Sections on the history and present-day conditions of places we passed through on the trip: Assumption Abbey, Sentinel Butte, cities and towns, recreation areas

• Additional meditations, including Richard on the idea of using rafts on the WAND

• Expansion of the daily account, including more physical descriptions

• More details about our gear, including a section on technology we used

• Section on planning the WAND, including excerpts from written plans and other documents

• Quotations from notable travel literature

• Image of a drawing we made in a Medora bar

• Expansion of individual profiles

• Note explaining how Jeremy got the idea for Nodaiku


Book Revision and WAND Part II

Our poor blog – it’s been months since the last post. I doubt many people will read what I’m writing now, but I’ll share two updates anyway:

First, I received some fellowship money from my graduate school program to expand and revise The Walk Across North Dakota this summer. (Now that I think of it, I don’t think I ever posted that I completed the book – at least the first version of it – in January.) I will be reading significant works of travel literature (such as Blue Highways: A Journey into America by William Least Heat-Moon and Henry David Thoreau’s essay “A Walk to Wachusett”), doing other research, and then drafting and revising new content. I may also solicit content from other people connected to the project.

The book cover, designed by Katie Falkenberg.

Second, the walk across the eastern half of North Dakota is tentatively set for the summer of 2013. I really want to make this happen, and I think it can. I’m not sure how many of our original crew will be able to join me, but my desire to walk across the entire state is growing increasingly strong. So it may be that I’ll expand and revise the book again in the future. Hey, I’m game.


Finishing the WAND Book

Just a quick update on the book that was supposed to be complete…a while ago. Richard and I will be working on the book during the next few weeks, probably with some final input from Jeremy and Tyler as well. Though I’ve said it before, I really think it will be done soon. I apologize that it has taken this long, but a little thing called grad school has been taking up most of my time for the past few months. I will put up another brief post when The WAND Chronicles (if that remains the title) is off to print.


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