The Publishing Conference that Wasn’t

Yesterday, were the weather to have cooperated more, there would have been a Publishing Conference at UMD. But it all started badly. It ended amazingly, though, and it’s worth some reflection. Parts of it (including an awesome talk or two by Roy Booth and by David Wong) are still to come, if you can join us.

First, our central guest, writer, urban ecologist and architect David Wong tried to get here starting Wednesday, but weather in Chicago resulted in his inability to even board a plane in Vancouver. On Thursday, he was able to board the plane but only got as far as Chicago, where he overnighted. First thing Friday morning, he arrived in Duluth to a closed campus.

He wasn’t the only one. The night before, Roy C. Booth and Cynthia Booth, playwrights (Roy is also a notable fiction author) arrived. Roy and Cynthia drove in from Bemidji. So did Wameng Moua, editor of the nationally distributed Hmong Today, who drove up from the Cities. Mitchell Ogden and Michael Faris, faculty members from UW-Stout and UW-Eau Claire, respectively, drove together from southeastern Wisconsin. So beginning Thursday night, we had a sort of mini-conference. Everyone was staying at the Edgewater (which picked up the slack from the Radisson, where the university had a contract for rooms before its flood), and I live within eight blocks of the Edgewater, so we walked to Black Woods for dinner. In a very real sense, this small dinner was amazing conversation to me — multiple kinds of writing and publishing experience.

I didn’t know it until Friday, but Ryan Christiansen of New Rivers Press had traveled in the snow from Moorhead. The next morning, after we struggled to warn guests that the event had been canceled, I tried to salvage the experience for some participants. So some of my students and colleagues still held a Google Hangout with Ryan Christiansen, Michael Faris, UMD Alum Joe Erickson of Angelo State University, Kris Blair of Bowling Green State University, Amy Lynn (local creative writer and writing instructor), Gwendolen Hoberg, Jaime Jost, Lindsey Jungman, and others. 

The conversation circled around the transition to electronic publication — Joe and Kris talking about the inherently collaborative process of editing an author — doubly collaborative when the manuscript isn’t just dumped as a .pdf but truly designed to take advantage of multimedia composition. Amy Lynn echoed these sentiments; perhaps because she is an accomplished spoken word performer, she asks her composition students to experiment with audio podcasting as a form of composition. Ryan raised provocative questions about the ways that a nonprofit literary publisher might turn toward electronic-only publication of literary texts. 

The dialogue between Blair, Erickson, and Faris (really the New Media expert of the Wisconsin-Minnesota region, living and breathing the practice and the critical reflection on new media communication), then modeled the questions of academic work in new media or electronic publication, while Amy Lynn and Ryan brought the questions of creative production (and marketing) to the conversation. 

The UMD students, meanwhile, were razor-sharp, asking questions both about professional practice and about the ways that student curriculum can be transformed in the future for students who seek the flexibility to work in both academic and professional worlds. I have never been more impressed by a Google Hangout.

At noon, Wameng, the freshly arrived David, Roy, Michael, Cynthia, Kate and I continued the conversations at Perkins. We lingered there until late in the afternoon, happily surprised when students arrived around 2:30. So at least a handful of students got to meet Mr. Moua before he went home.

That night, Ryan, David, Roy, Cynthia, Gwen and Seth Langreck joined two members of the Board of Wildwoods at Duluth Grill. Gwen, Seth, Roy, and Ryan caught fire in conversations about the best practices for publishing and editing. But more importantly, David Wong has a second passion, beyond his work in architecture and urban ecology — a love for frogs and their ecological preservation:

David is an immensely versatile thinker, and whether we speak of his architecture, his graphic novel, or his passion for the ecology of amphibians, he has been a gift to the Duluth community on this visit.

If only the 120 people registered at the conference could have come to know him in this way.  Or Roy, or Wameng, or Mitch, or Ryan…

Good news though:

David Wong will be meeting with faculty and students on Monday, April 15, at 9:30 a.m. to talk about his graphic novel about Asian immigration to the Pacific Northwest, Escape to Gold Mountain. Everyone across Duluth is welcome for this rescheduled event. Then, at 11, he will talk about his award-winning work as a sustainability architect working with First Nations communities. Join us if you can. I have reserved Kirby Student Center 268 for these events.

Today, Saturday, Roy C. Booth will give a talk on playwrighting (note the “gh” — that will help you understand the awesomeness of Roy’s perspective) at the new Underground. I will be there and I hope you will, too.

1 Comment


about 11 years ago

I was wondering how it went, thanks for the report. I hope UMD schedules another publishing conference! Just do it either in the fall or later in the spring...

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