Today is the last day of the University Press Week blog tour. After reading our contribution, continue the tour with University of California Press, Seminary Co-op Bookstores, University of Minnesota Press, and University of North Carolina Press. Learn more about University Press Week here.
Anna Weir is a publicist at the University of Nebraska Press with a deep admiration for books and cross stitch.
As a publicist—or “The Book Review Person,” as I tell interested family members—part of my job is to pay attention to what’s going on in the world and find ways to continue relevant conversation by pointing people in the direction of our books.
(Read: I spend a lot of time on Twitter.)
Every day, my social media feeds are flooded with current events and publishing trends, a textual cacophony of reasons why I should read this book or listen to this columnist. Every day, I’m given new names to watch for—new up-and-comers, potential bestsellers, and the latest book deal. Today I’m adding a few names to that list.
A little over a year ago, as planning for UNP’s seventy-fifth anniversary was underway, I was still watching the rain of ideas from behind the glass partition of the student section. Fundraisers, giveaways, swag, a party, and other half-formed ideas splashed into inboxes. My co-workers were concocting all kinds of plans, and I didn’t want to drag down the excitement of planning for our anniversary with any kind of disappointment, so I tried not to hope for any one idea over another.
Then one day, one of my co-workers poked her head around that glass wall. “You’re a student.”
“Yes,” I said. “That’s why I’m sitting here.”
“Right, but, being a student—if the Press was planning to host a literary contest as part of their anniversary, would you submit something?”
“Yes,” I said again, without hesitation. “And I know a lot of people who would, too.”
My co-worker smiled like I had just settled an argument and walked away. Not long after, UNP finalized the literary contest idea, and I was encouraged to go to my creative writing class with the news.
Over the next several months, I helped put together the contest rules, description, and lists of English teachers around Nebraska. Since this was for our anniversary, we wanted the contest to be a celebration of books and of Nebraska itself. And I think, in the end, that’s exactly what we got.
Voices of Nebraska: Diverse Landscapes, Diverse Peoples draws from the contributors’ experiences with nature, family traditions, and history. Through fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, students across Nebraska were given the opportunity describe their home as more than just flyover country.
An internal panel of UNP judges selected the submissions for inclusion in the volume based on each work’s adherence to the theme and quality of writing. From the nineteen submissions selected by the internal panel, an external panel selected the top five submissions. One of the external judges, DeMisty Bellinger, an assistant professor of English at Fitchburg State University, said choosing the pieces was a difficult but enjoyable job.
“I knew there was diversity in Nebraska, but still I was impressed with the various interpretations of the state and its people from these writers,” said Bellinger. “Impressive, too, was the work in every genre; their words made me long for Nebraska that much more.”
I have to agree with her. I’ve lived in Nebraska for most of my life now, but even I was surprised by the strong voices selected. For many of them, this clearly wasn’t just another assignment in class. Their words came from the heart, from that deep place that makes you shake as you’re writing them.
What the University of Nebraska Press has published is exactly what we hoped to capture back when I was a student: voices on the rise. These are names to watch out for. These are future poets, essayists, and novelists. These are writers, no matter how young or experienced. And you can bet, whether they publish with a university press or not, you’ll see their names in print again.
Nina Hjermstad, “Water Girls” (Fiction)
Brianna Aguilar, “The Adventures of a Beautiful Life” (Nonfiction)
Ashley L Cook, “A Farmer’s Life” (Poetry)
Rachel Danielson, “My Little Slice of the Good Life” (Nonfiction)
Alexis Vrana, “Rusty Cars” (Nonfiction)
*Thaddeus Simpson, “For Nebraska”; “Lyricks to Jijmmy’s Song, the Lockjaws 2013”; “Building Limestone Fathers” (Poetry)
Kamrin Baker, “The Backdrop of My Biography” (Nonfiction)
*Lane Chasek, “Becoming Vegan in Western Nebraska” (Nonfiction)
Luke Gilbert, “Hatchet House” (Fiction)
Amanda Hosveth, “My Dad Is Dead” (Nonfiction)
Sara Mosier, “Living Statues on Highway 77”; “Spectators of Nebraska”; “Memory Keepers of Waverly” (Poetry)
Briana Davis, “Road to Redemption” (Nonfiction)
*Catherine Pedigo, “Cottonwood” (Fiction)
*Daniel McIlhon, “Some Autumn Holiday”; “When It Happens”; “The Main Street Fair” (Poetry)
Alexa Walker, “Reefer Madness” (Fiction)
Faith V. Tracy, “The Search For Her” (Poetry)
Brian Pomplun, “The Genuine Effect” (Nonfiction)
*Kristi Walsh, “Release” (Fiction)
Ellie Feis, “There Is No Place Like Nebraska” (Nonfiction)
*top five winners