Write It Down

Stavig EnvelopeOne of the South Dakota State Historical Society Press’s upcoming books is “Dear Unforgettable Brother”: The Stavig Letters from Norway and America, 1881–1937, compiled and edited by Jane and John Rasmussen. The book spans fifty years of letters exchanged between two brothers and other family members. One brother, Lars Stavig, emigrated to the United States with his family in 1876, and the other, Knut Stavig, stayed in Norway. The book is a touching, moving account of their lives. More than just reporting how their crops did that year or how the fishing was, the brothers put their heartfelt emotions down on paper—what a treasure the Rasmussen family has, and how fortunate we are that they shared it with us!

Today, my own family keeps in touch with e-mail and text messages—in other words, short communications. My mother never joined the “computer age” and still sends the occasional handwritten letter (which I keep). She is the youngest sibling of a family of six and kept in contact with her brothers and sister through a “round robin” letter. One sibling wrote a letter, put it in an envelope, and mailed it to the next, who added a letter, and so on. My mother’s siblings and their spouses have now passed on, and she is the only one left with the memories of their youth, my grandparents, my father, stepfather, and others. She tends to forget things that happened yesterday, but she is starting to open up more about her childhood and her life as a young wife and mother, telling stories we have never heard before—some that she found difficult to share. I have asked her many times to “write it down,” and she does keep a “journal,” she says, with notes about the weather, books she has read, and so forth. None of her children (there are seven of us) have ever seen it. It will be something we will read after she is gone, much like the families of Lars and Knut Stavig did with the brothers’ correspondence. Perhaps, the Stavig letters can inspire us to fill in the blanks, to “write it down” for our children, before it is forgotten.


New Books to Look Forward To

As I turn the calendar page to August, autumn has appeared on the horizon. At the South Dakota State Historical Society Press, we are overseeing the birth of new books for the fall.

SD LIPP ACORD COVER First off the press will be Darcy Lipp-Acord’s Circling Back Home: A Plainswoman’s Journey, in which the author shares heart-warming and, at times, heart-rending stories of her pioneer heritage in Dakota and her working life in Wyoming.  The everyday struggles of motherhood and itinerant ranch life are leavened by the joys of nature and children in this lyrical portrait of one family’s experiences. Linda Hasselstrom provides a foreword, placing the book within the growing field of reflective memoirs.



Next out will be “Dear Unforgettable Brother”: The Stavig Letters from Norway and America, 1881–1937, compiled and annotated by Jane and John Rassmussen. The book contains the letters shared between family members on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean—one in South Dakota and one in Romsdal, Norway.  The letters provide vivid pictures of the lives of emigrants and the lives of those who stayed behind.  Edvard Hoem and Betty Bergland provide essays about conditions in the two countries.

Darcy Lipp-Acord and Jane and John Rassmussen will be talking about their books at the South Dakota Festival of Books in Deadwood on 20–22 September 2013.  Please come and meet them.


More Introductions

“Hi, I’m Steve, the new guy in Publications.”

I’ve used this line more times than I can count since 24 June, my first day on the job at the Cultural Heritage Center.  My official title is Associate Editor, which I’m told translates to “jack-of-all-publishing-trades” in this office.  My editing experience before coming to Pierre is best described as researching and writing historical footnotes, plus a little indexing—and some botany, zoology, geology, anthropology, cartography,  and language studies.  Much of my education in these fields came from Prince Maximilian of Wied (1782-1867), a German scientist who traveled the Missouri River from Saint Louis to present-day Montana in 1833-1834 and left a journal, which I was privileged to co-edit for another fine publishing house.  I am also indebted to Gary E. Moulton, editor of the Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, for an introduction to the trade and some important early training; as well as Jeremy Johnston, managing editor of The Papers of William F. Cody, for some more recent experience.

Unlike most of the staff here, I am neither a native South Dakotan nor a long-time resident of the state.  I’m originally from Nebraska and just moved here from Lincoln, though I have also lived in Detroit, Michigan; Iowa City, Iowa; and Darmstadt, Germany (the latter courtesy of the United States Army).  I can claim a few important South Dakota connections, though.  My Grandpa Brannigan was born and raised in eastern South Dakota and was quite proud of it.  I’ve studied the Missouri River extensively via the journals of Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and Prince Maximilian.  And finally, I attended a nice little conference in Pierre back in 2003 called “Finding Lewis and Clark: Old Trails, New Directions,” organized by one Nancy Tystad Koupal.  Little did I know that I would follow the old trail to Pierre again after ten years.  New directions surely lie ahead.


Coming Release – Circling Back Home: A Plainswoman’s Journey

The South Dakota State Historical Society Press announces the coming release of Circling Back Home: A Plainswoman’s Journey, by Darcy Lipp-Acord, with a forward by Linda M. Hasselstrom.


At a time when values of frugality, home, family, and care of the land seem increasingly absent, one woman looks to her past to create a life of significance for her family. Her search takes her back to the prairie of her grandmothers, who survived personal hardships and lived off what the land provided. Lipp-Acord mourns the loss of one child and celebrates the birth of others, all while balancing her own desire to put down roots with her husband’s life as a ranch hand.  Written over ten years, these essays compose a picture of endurance and grace as the author addresses her history and finds her way home.

The granddaughter of German-Russian immigrants, Darcy Lipp-Acord grew up in Timber Lake, South Dakota, on a farm worked by three generations of her family. She currently lives on a ranch with her husband, Shawn, and their six children near the Montana-Wyoming border. She won the Wyoming Arts Council’s Frank Nelson Doubleday Award for women writers, and her essays have appeared in several anthologies including Woven on the Wind.

“[Darcy] Lipp-Acord is one woman, but she tells a dozen stories, her ancestors’ voices mingling with her own: the farmers’ daughter, the Catholic woman, the wife, the mother, the artist. . . . Circling Back Home reflects the life of a ranch woman in all its prismatic variety.”   —Linda M. Hasselstrom, founder of the Windbreak House Writing Retreats.

Circling Back Home: A Plainswoman’s Journey will be released August, 2013, for $16.95.

Get your pre-order in today by emailing orders@sdshspress.com or calling (605) 773-6009.

Search our online catalog and receive 10% off of another Press publication with your pre-order of Circling Back Home.


On 2 June, my husband, our cat, and I rode into town —not so much rode, as led a caravan that included a moving truck, a pick-up truck, and a couple of cars all packed with those materials that make up a home. Born and raised in Sioux Falls, I, like many young South Dakotans, had visited the state capital, but I never had the privilege of exploring the Pierre community. As the new marketing director for the South Dakota State Historical Society Press, I am pleased to say that that is changing. So far, my husband and I have ridden our bikes on the bike trail, eaten at La Minestra, walked La Framboise Island, and consumed a lot of Zesto ice cream. We have also enjoyed watching the carnival being set up on Missouri Street for Oahe Days this weekend.

While I have a long way to go before we know our way around Pierre, I have been learning about the Press’s authors, readers, publications, and, of course, current marketing strategies and practices. Familiarizing myself with the Pioneer Girl Project, the upcoming conference season, and getting to know the spectacular people that make up the Press and the South Dakota State Historical Society has been a great introduction into the community.

These past few weeks have gone by in a whirl, but I look forward to the work and fun times ahead. Leave me a suggestion in the comment section of this blog about any new marketing directions you might want the Press to consider. Also, please visit the page links below to stay up-to-date on what the Press is working on.


Facebook, www.facebook.com/SDSHSPress

Twitter, @SDSHSPress

Tumblr, http://sdshsp.tumblr.com/

The Pioneer Girl Project, http://pioneergirlproject.org/

The SDSHSP Blog, www.sdshspress.wordpress.com

Questions revisited

A few weeks ago, our director blogged about the questions applicants had asked her during a recent round of job interviews.  One of the queries was, “What do you like about your job?”  Reading this post caused me to think about how I would answer that question.  While I enjoy coming to work simply because the Cultural Heritage Center is a unique building and the staff of the South Dakota State Historical Society is a fun and hard-working group of people, there are particulars about my own position that I find intriguing, interesting, and challenging.

I get to do several things in the course of a week.  I have the flow of a routine, but I also have the variety that comes with having that routine interrupted. The SDSHS Press staff gets together weekly to talk not only about what is currently being accomplished, but to dream and set goals for what we would like to see done.  Because we are a small press, we are all involved in the process of bringing those dreams to reality.  I really like that aspect of my job.  Though I spend much of my time working with the financial aspects of the press—depositing money, paying bills, and producing weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual reports—I am also involved in actually putting our books into your hands: packing them carefully, dropping in a bookmark or two, adding our free sampler of some of the books we’ve published recently, and including a catalog for you to browse.  I imagine what I would like to see if I were opening the package.  Many of our customers might be like me; part of the reason I order from a company is the care they take with my order and the condition of my package when it arrives.

Answering the telephone and visiting with people is another enjoyable part of my job.  It has always been exciting for me to share my love of reading with my own kids, and it makes me happy when a parent or grandparent calls in with that same desire to share both a love of reading and a love of South Dakota history with their family. Sometimes the calls come from people planning trips to South Dakota, and they want to read up on the area’s history before they leave home.  Just this week, we heard from a gentleman who had visited all sixty-six of the state’s counties and was intrigued by what he saw.  He wanted books that expounded on the history of the places he and his wife had just visited.  Some of our inquiries and orders come from relatives or friends of a book’s author or subject, and I enjoy hearing the excitement in their voices.

I can’t conclude this blog without adding that when I think a product is good and useful, I enjoy selling it!  The SDSHS Press creates books that are well written, beautifully produced, and of interest to a wide range of readers.  When I sell our books, I feel like I’ve done the buyer a good service.  This is just one more thing I like about my job.  What do you like about yours?


A Birthday for Baum

Come celebrate L. Frank Baum’s 157th birthday with us on Wednesday, May 15, 2013, at the Cultural Heritage Center. The festivities will begin at 7:00 p.m. at the center, located at 900 Governors Drive in Pierre.

Author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Baum is one of the world’s most popular children’s writers. From 1888 until 1891, he lived in Aberdeen where he operated Baum’s Bazaar, a variety store, and took an active part in community affairs. As editor of the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer, Baum offered controversial opinions on various topics.

Nancy Tystad Koupal, an expert on Baum, will present a program that includes a documentary film produced for the Smithsonian Institution featuring Koupal and other Baum historians.

For further information on Baum, the ebook short, “The Politics of Oz” by Nancy Tystad Koupal, can be ordered through the South Dakota State Historical Society Press website (sdshspress.com) for $.99.

The Politics of Oz

L. Frank Baum historian Nancy Tystad Koupal delves into the true meaning of Baum’s The Wizard of Oz, refuting old ideas of Populist allegory, while establishing a new paradigm for considering this most famous piece of American children’s literature.

This ebook short sets the tone for further discussion of the meaning of Baum’s work, as well, providing new insight and historical background on both the author and the state of South Dakota.

A Dispatch from the Illustration Trail

Coming up with images to illustrate our books or journal articles can pose something of a dilemma at times. Take, for instance, the latest issue of South Dakota History. For starters, it was a bit unusual in that the entire issue consisted of one long piece, a previously unpublished narrative by Colonel Richard Irving Dodge detailing a scouting expedition sent out from Fort Fred Steele in Wyoming Territory in 1868. Dodge had been charged with locating a supply of wood for constructing buildings at the post, created to protect workers on the Union Pacific railroad as the line advanced westward.  His scout took place over a fairly nondescript expanse of land, and he notes countless creeks, mountains, draws, dead-end canyons, and the problems he and his men encountered in navigating the little-known territory.  Unfortunately, he took no camera along on his journey to document the scenery or wildlife he describes or to give us images of the men who accompanied him. There was the colorful post sutler Beall, a tenderfoot who begged to be included and then neglected to bring along even the most basic supplies, such as a coat. Then there were the conniving soldiers who hoarded the expedition’s bacon so that they could abscond with it when they went AWOL shortly before the group was to return to post. Finally, there was Dodge’s faithful orderly, Private Freilinger, who overheard the malcontents talking about the plot and fearfully informed his superior.

South Dakota History, vol. 43, no. 1

Colonel Richard Irving Dodge reminds you to pack a camera.

Dodge painted great word pictures, but in order to create a visually pleasing layout, we always look for interesting images to draw in those who might just be skimming the issue, as well as to break up long passages of monotonous-looking type. The Denver Public Library, Library of Congress, and other sources supplied good historical photographs of the military men and posts described by the editor of the narrative, Wayne R. Kime, in his introduction, but illustrating Dodge’s work itself was more challenging. In this case, we were lucky to have the resources of the South Dakota State Historical Society’s research library. Thanks to our predecessors who began a hundred or more years ago building a collection of books related to the history of the state and region, we have a good number of obscure volumes whose copyright is no longer active that we can scour for little-seen and often desperately needed illustrations.  One such work is one of Dodge’s own books, Our Wild Indians (1882), whose frontispiece supplied the engraving used on the journal’s cover. Another is his The Plains of the Great West and Their Inhabitants (1877), which carried an image of the Laramie Plains. A search of our library records for items pertaining to the Union Pacific Railroad quickly brought up several railroad travel guides published not long after the transcontinental line was completed. Designed to promote western tourism through descriptions of the region’s majestic scenery and superb sporting opportunities, one of these books, published in 1886, yielded engravings of a few of the geographical places and some hunting scenes that meshed nicely with what Dodge described. Lucky finds—but they also made me wonder just what we should be collecting today that will come in handy for whoever is here fifty or one hundred years from now.



One of the unexpected pleasures of interviewing people for jobs is the questions they ask you—questions that get you to thinking about things you haven’t thought about. Some people want to know about the town—how big, what does it have to offer, and so forth. But sometimes they ask such questions in ways that put you on the spot. “What do you, personally, like and dislike about Pierre?” someone asked. Um—I had to puzzle about that the first time, and when I told my staff what I had replied, they told me that I hadn’t done a good job answering. So I’ve had to stop and weigh the pros and cons of the town I have lived in for more than thirty years, and in the process, I started to appreciate something that I hadn’t really given much thought to. Pierre is a river town—on a significant U.S. river, the Missouri River—and the huge dam and reservoir within seven miles of the town offer some of the most outstanding water-related activities in the region. I have always known this fact, but somehow I didn’t consider what it meant. Mark Twain appreciated rivers and river towns, and I venerated Mark Twain, but the fact that I lived in a river town—well, it just didn’t seem like the same thing, somehow.

Someone else asked me, “What do you like about your job?” This one I had thought about before, so I felt more confident in my reply. I like the fact that my job allows me to use all my talents and skills. It stretches me. And because the South Dakota State Historical Society Press is small, every employee is allowed to be a generalist; nobody gets pigeonholed into specialties, but at the same time, everyone can work to their greatest strengths. The job offers little opportunity for boredom and endless possibilities for reinventing yourself through your work.

Other interviewees’ questions related to the future directions of the Press, the office culture, and the day-to-day work. I have ideas about those topics, of course, but in many ways the new people coming in will help to reshape those things as we go forward. And I am looking forward to that.


A memory rekindled

As an Editorial Assistant with the South Dakota State Historical Society Press, I enjoy many aspects of my job. One of the things I like the best is working with the editors here at the Press, whether on an article for South Dakota History or on a book. When the Press began the process of publishing Laura Ingalls Wilder’s autobiography, Pioneer Girl, I worked with another staff member to transcribe Wilder’s handwritten story into typewritten text that we could easily work with on computer. I must admit that I did not read the Little House books as a child (I am in the minority, I have discovered), so having the opportunity to read her autobiography first and then compare that to the Little House books has been one of the projects I have enjoyed most.

Geese on the wing

Today I came across this passage from By the Shores of Silver Lake, in which Laura describes the southern migration of birds: “All those golden autumn days the sky was full of wings. Wings beating low over the blue water of Silver Lake, wings beating high in the blue air far above it. . . . The wings and the golden weather and the tang of frost in the mornings made Laura want to go somewhere. She did not know where. She wanted only to go.” Having grown up in eastern South Dakota, I know what she saw and how she felt, but I hadn’t recalled that fond memory in years.

I find Wilder’s memories of her childhood amazing—especially as I get older and my own memories fade. I am regretting not reading the Little House books when I was younger. But now that I know what I missed, I look forward to giving the books as gifts to my grandchildren (someday), and reading them together will be something I know we will both enjoy.