Many Rivers to Cross

A home for books by carpenters, teachers, and upcoming writers, Minnesota's New Rivers Press looks for a future beyond its founder

While some of the writers Truesdale has shepherded into print have gone on to careers as professional writers--most notably David Haynes, Charles Baxter, and Diane Glancy--others have simply had the one-time pleasure of seeing their work in book form, then retreated back to full-time jobs or the more private practice of writing. Truesdale's favorite stories of the press's long life are those of hard-working writers--carpenters, teachers, parents--who make their debut with New Rivers when they're on the brink of abandoning hope for publication.

"It's like a dream come true," says Pamela Gemin, an English teacher from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, whose book of poems was released this September. "I feel very grateful." After submitting her manuscript to the Minnesota Voices Project competition four times, and receiving increasingly encouraging notes from Truesdale on her rejection slips, Gemin finally won the competition for Vendettas, Charms, and Prayers. "I have always loved New Rivers books," she says, "and thought to myself, This is where I want to be published."

Open book: Many of New Rivers' titles come from regional competitions and previously unpublished writers
Open book: Many of New Rivers' titles come from regional competitions and previously unpublished writers

Occasionally, this adamantly noncommercial press stumbles upon a salable title in the course of its regular business. Jendro notes the recent happy occasion of the sale of paperback reprint rights to Annie Tremmel Wilcox's A Degree of Mastery; the Book-of-the-Month Club has even made it an alternate selection. A memoir that rolled off the presses during one of Truesdale's last months of work, this title details Wilcox's experiences as a master bookbinder's apprentice in Iowa. And the success of such a book--focusing on the pleasures of a now-antiquated art form, and the ways it remains both satisfying and important--makes a fitting salute to New Rivers' founder.

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