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It’s Conference Season!

by Jennifer McIntyre published 2021/09/29 09:27:00 GMT-5
It’s Conference Season!

It’s been a good summer and early fall at the SDHS Press offices in Pierre. We’ve done a lot of editing, marketing, manuscript reading, and planning. We’ve sent a multi-year project to the printer. We bid farewell to a valued team member and started a search for a replacement. We sweltered through days of 110 degree heat, grateful for the air conditioners that keep the Cultural Heritage Center (where our office is located) deliciously cool. And we have welcomed the turn toward fall, with its temperate days and abundant harvests. September in South Dakota is lovely.

We even took our books on the road a few times. In June, we participated in the Western Writers of America annual meeting. I drove a minivan full of books across the Pine Ridge Reservation, the Nebraska Panhandle, and southeastern Wyoming. Such beautiful country! And what a fun group the Western Writers are! The lovely folks manning the table next to ours entertained me with their wardrobe of mountain man clothing and caps made of coyote and skunk skins. On the other side was the University of Nebraska Press, who sent their journal acquisitions editor to represent them. We became fast friends.

In July, the SDHS Press represented the South Dakota State Historical Society at the FreedomFest in Rapid City. This is a large annual gathering (2,600 people) that is usually held in Las Vegas. I gave a well-received presentation on Rose Wilder Lane and had many, many great conversations about South Dakota (I somehow became to go-to person for local information, like names of Rapid City dentists and realtors. I wasn’t much help there, but I did know where to direct people to find the information they needed.)

Much like families with school-aged children across the country, the SDHS Press is gearing up for a jam-packed fall. Planning for air travel to conferences feels like a very welcome return to pre-COVID days. Four of our major events of the year take place between late September and late October. These are the Northern Great Plains History Conference (Eau Claire, WI); the annual South Dakota Festival of Books (Deadwood), the West River History Conference (Spearfish) and the Western History Association annual conference (Portland, OR). Alas, our hopes for a return to fully in-person conferences have been somewhat dashed. The South Dakota Festival of Books will be meeting virtually for the second year in a row. This is a great disappointment to us, but we are hoping that the virtual conference showcases our authors to an even larger audience. Be sure to tune in to see presentations by our authors Craig Volk, Nancy Koupal, Emily Crawford Wilson, and illustrator Jeanne Bowman. Or come to Spearfish October 7–9 to catch presentations by SDHS Press authors Paul Higbee and David Wolff, as well as the keynote luncheon speech by State Historian and director of the South Dakota State Historical Society Ben Jones.

If you are not a conference goer, you may be wondering what goes on at these events. The Northern Great Plains History, West River History, and Western History Association conferences are academic in nature, meaning that there are numerous panels scheduled throughout the conference at which speakers give formal presentations about their research. There are exhibit halls full of vendors like us, banquets, and award presentations. They also offer lots of opportunities to talk with old friends and new, meet new potential authors, and see what kinds of books other presses are publishing. The SD Festival of Books, organized by the South Dakota Humanities Council, is a gathering of authors, presses, and book lovers. Usually, there are talks by authors, book signings, and opportunities to browse and purchase wonderful books. The virtual version features the author talks and has a superb lineup.

These fall conferences are crucial for small presses like SDHS Press. They are places where we feature our authors and their books, network with other publishers and potential authors, and meet people who love our books. We hope to see you either in person or virtually at one of our fall events! Also, please mark your calendars for April 22–23, 2022, for the South Dakota State Historical Society’s annual History Conference in Pierre. Our office is planning it, and we are super excited about the excellent lineup of speakers we have put together around the theme, “Fighting the Good War: South Dakotans in World War Two.” In addition, we have several sessions focused on oral history. We are planning a hybrid event for those unable to join us in Pierre. Watch for registration information next spring.

—Dedra McDonald Birzer