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.
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.
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.