Category Archives: The Walk

Another Book Update and Prairie Flowers

In my last post I indicated a publishing date of spring 2015 for The Walk Across North Dakota. We now think publication is likely to be in late summer or early fall. The revision stage took significantly longer than we originally anticipated, but the book has now entered the production/design phase, at least.

Meanwhile, if you’re interested in other books that provide insight into the Blank Rectangle (North Dakota, that is), we recommend the catalog of the ND Institute for Regional Studies Press. Recent titles include Important Voices: North Dakota’s Women Elected State Officials Share Their Stories by Susan Wefald, who also wrote Spectacular North Dakota Hikes: Bring the Dog.

And here’s a photo from the WAND Part 2 (Bismarck to Fargo). These prairie flowers in the Magnolia State Game Management Area may be in bloom again for the year, especially considering all the rain the region has had lately.

prairie flowers


Vachel Lindsay and a WAND book update

Today, the Writer’s Almanac informs me, is the birthday of American poet Vachel Lindsay (1879–1931). I became intrigued by Lindsay when I read in his Writer’s Almanac bio, “After struggling [as an artist and poet] for several years and working for a time in the toy department of Marshall Field’s, he decided to walk across the United States, trading his poems and pictures for food and shelter along the way.” Unfortunately, it was rough going: “No one cared for my pictures, no one cared for my verse, and I turned beggar in sheer desperation … [but] I was entirely prepared to die for my work, if necessary, by the side of the road, and was almost at the point of it at times.”

Vachel Lindsay

Vachel Lindsay (image from Wikimedia Commons)

Could Lindsay have walked through North Dakota? If so, I could add him to my essay “Walks That Came Before” in The Walk Across North Dakota. But it seems unlikely. His bio on the Poetry Foundation’s website states that he walked from Florida to Kentucky in 1906 and from Illinois to Colorado and New Mexico in 1912. Though his experiences as an itinerant artist were disappointing for him in ways, I admire him for the effort.

The latest on The Walk Across North Dakota is that we are nearing the end of revising the book in response to a scholarly review, required for all NDSU Institute of Regional Studies Press manuscripts. We’ve added a lot of terrific content, more than 10,000 words. The book should be available in spring 2015.

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.

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

The WAND Calendar

Looks amazing. If you think North Dakota ain’t much to look at, this calendar will prove you wrong.

Thanks Tyler, Jeremy, and Cambria for all your work!


We have ordered the calendars for all our $60 and above donors, but Gwen will be making at least one more order in the future.  Please contact her if you are interested in ordering one.

Progress on the Book

The bad news:

We did not meet the deadline we set for getting the WAND book to print (the end of September).


The good news:

1. We are steadily making progress on this project.

2. We’re on track to print by the end of October. Yesterday we were all able to meet by Skype (no small scheduling feat for 3 graduate students and 2 busy professionals), and we got a lot of questions answered about the format and content of the book. This week we’ll be giving the manuscript to a few of Gwen’s colleagues to look over,  Richard is working on some sketches, and Tyler is working on the route map.

3. We are more confident than ever that The WAND Chronicles is going to knock your socks off.


Hey, the good news totally outnumbers the bad news!

Hey There, Good Lookin’

How about some goofy close-up shots from the WAND? I’ll start with one of myself:

Gwen expelling the unwanted contents of her nose in the tent on Sentinel Butte.

Jeremy doing an impression of a housefly.

Tyler giving a well-known sign of appreciation for the A&B pizza at Crown Butte. Photo by Mary Hoberg.

Richard establishing his gravel road cred.

More Journal Excerpts

As I continue to weave five journals and my own prose into a seamless whole (that’s my goal, anyway), I am continually amazed at how many lovely, funny, and interesting things people wrote. This book is going to be killer, y’all. We still seem to be on track to get it done by the end of this month, so how about a few more excerpts to tide you over.

Day 1 – June 3 – Tyler

As the sun itself becomes visible, like a giant spotlight aimed directly at me, I’m reminded of the scale, the magnitude, of the mechanisms at work behind the profound yet quotidian event—sunrise. I think I can feel the earth turning, hurtling me eastward with rotational momentum.

Day 2 – June 4 – Richard

It was really nice to have a bed of clouds stacked on pillows stacked on kittens’ fur that night.

Day 5 – June 7 – Jeremy

Realizing that we couldn’t keep [the pancakes] warm to eat them all together, we took turns drizzling syrup onto the cake in our hands  and scarfing them down.

Day 7 – June 9 – Bruce

With my Procrustean, four-pound hiking clogs lashed to the top of my pack, and running shoes on my pulpy feet, I felt lighter than air.

WAND Chronicles Update

We’re hard at work putting together The WAND Chronicles, the book documenting our trip. We’re giving it to many of our donors, and it will eventually be available for sale through the blog as well. We don’t know exactly when we will finish, but we’re hoping to send it to the printer by the end of September. Jeremy and I have started to have regular editorial meetings, and Richard will be working on design. The book will probably be 60-70 pages long.

Here’s our table of contents (subject to change, of course):


Sketch and profile for each participant


Day-by-day account with journal excerpts (the bulk of the book)

A few meditations/essays

Profiles of some of the people we met

Interview of an oil worker

WAND by the numbers (fun fact section)

List of animals we saw and heard


Writing on the Road

I have to say, even for an obsessive writer like myself, I have found it difficult to keep up the habit on this trip. Trouble is that our crew has had such a good vibe so far on this trip (whiling away the miles by quoting movies, singing pop songs, making campfires and marveling at the many sights of Western ND – what every good road trip should be) that the thoughts which so often wreak havoc in my head have quieted down. It makes me realize how often I am wrapped up in observing the world, conceptualizing it, trying to describe it in words. The experience is a raw experience this time around, and I’m trying to appreciate that while I can, and just keep spare notes on things that I must elaborate on when I more bored and need to fictionalize some excitement into my normal life.

So this post is in hopes I do better keeping those notes for the rest of the trip and put something really great together for the WAND Chronicles, which I’ll be working on when I get back to NYC. The good news is that I have been able to keep up with the nodaikus, which are crucial little images for reminding myself of what it is like to be out here. Hope you haven’t been missing the Weekly Nodaiku posts too much, but if you have, here’s a recent image for the road.

hike, sun-spattered morn
collapse in a copse of trees —
rain passes over

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