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Village Arts Releases “Voices From the Prairie”

By Staff | Oct 2, 2015

A former area resident can add “writer” to his list of accomplishments.

Brian Baumann, of Berkeley, Calif., formerly of Rugby, wrote a story called “Crossing the Tuul”, which appeared in Village Arts’ anthology, “Voices from the Prairie”.

Baumann was asked to contribute by Danielle Skjelver, who helped edit the book along with Kristi Rendahl and Village Arts Artistic Director Glory Monson.

“I was so pleased to be asked. I would do anything for the Village Arts community in Rugby,” Baumann said.

Baumann’s story tells of a river he crossed in Mongolia during his time in the Peace Corps. Baumann said it wasn’t the first story he thought of writing.

“When the opportunity was presented [to] me, my first thought was write a story about hunting or fishing in North Dakota,” Baumann said,”but I immediately came to feel that those stories were too personal. When I mentioned this to Danielle Skjelver, she suggested I do a Mongolia story, and the story of that river was the first thing that came to mind.”

Baumann said that although the story didn’t take him long to write, the biggest challenge, for him, was writing for an anonymous audience.

“Though it happened far away, it has an element of friendship that’s personal and requires the right tone,” Baumann said. “I took the wrong tone originally and had to rewrite it.”

Baumann currently teaches courses in Mongolian Studies at University of California-Berkeley’s East Asian languages and cultures department. His mother, Myrna, still resides in Rugby.

(SUB.) Putting it together

Monson said “Voices from the Prairie” is: “A collection of writing by people who know the prairie, who love the prairie, and in some way by being from the prairie have chosen to express their feelings as prairie people do – with great pride.”

According to Monson, nearly 50 authors submitted works (some more than one) to be included. Then the work began with Monson, Skjelver and Rendahl carrying out revisions.

The design of the book came later, with area resident Deb Jenkins coming into the fold. A photograph of the aurora borealis (Northern Lights) by Dan Smith was chosen as the front cover. Jenkins said Monson had an idea for how each page should be formatted.

“We wanted the formatted book to resemble the best of commercial books on the market,” Jenkins said.

According to Jenkins, the book was designed “page by page”, with her and Monson doing initial work in June 2014, and working from late August through December. Jenkins said to produce the book they used Adobe InDesign, a design and layout computer program they had never used before.

“Working with powerful software has its own problems,” Jenkins said. “On one hand, advanced software programs are full of features, but can be difficult to learn. I had to read a manual and then find tutorials on the Internet for certain formatting techniques.”

The book was then printed in a short run by Infinity Press.

Monson estimates the whole process of putting the book together took thousands of hours.

“We never kept track and I never heard any complaints, because we all felt it was a worthy project,” Monson said.

Sales of the finished product took place during Village Arts’ spring show and the production of “Oliver!”

“I have been very pleased with the comments on the finished product,” Jenkins said. “Not one negative comment that I have heard. People have described the book as ‘beautiful’ and that is very rewarding.”

Brian Baumann said: “I have had a chance to view it, and I’m very pleased with it. It’s hard for me to look at my own work, but this doesn’t keep me from enjoying everyone else’s.”

Monson added, with regards to the overall process: “The people at Infinity Press were very helpful, as well as the authors and photographers. I feel we could have done better on promoting the book, even though we are basically sold out. Promoting a book is the hardest part. We will be going for a second printing, I believe, and maybe we will learn more about that end of publishing.”

Some remaining copies are for sale at Backstage Gallery & Gifts and the Prairie Village Museum – $24.95 for soft cover. Village Arts is also working on making the book available for purchase on Amazon.

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