Dunn County Writers on Prairie Public Radio’s ‘Main Street’

If you’re interested in hearing what your neighbors write about life in western North Dakota and beyond, tune your radios to Prairie Public’s “Main Street” program on the afternoon of Tuesday, April 18. That’s when excerpts from the Dunn County Writers’ December 2016 public reading at the Dunn County Museum will be broadcast. For scheduling information, visit www.prairiepublic.org.

The broadcast features readings from the nonprofit group’s three published booklets, Winter Whispers: Holidays Past, Present, Future; A Pen for All Seasons; and Journeys: North Dakota’s Badlands & Beyond.

Dickinson videographer and musician Brady Paulson (Outlaw Sippin’ Productions) recorded the December public reading, which took place at the Dunn County Historical Museum in Dunn Center, where DCW holds its monthly meetings. “Main Street” Producer and Co-Host Ashley Thornberg and Prairie Public Director of Radio Bill Thomas produced the broadcast.

Each booklet represents a year of work for the 15 writers, who are from Dunn and Stark counties. DCW meets monthly for writing workshops.

“There’s nothing that means more to our shared cultural heritage than capturing and chronicling a given time and place,” said Executive Director Jennifer Strange, who has been involved with nonprofit writing groups for nearly 20 years. “Our mission at DCW is to build community around rural western North Dakota’s rich cultural heritage by preserving a written legacy of its people.”

Thornberg was drawn to DCW’s work because of the broad brushstrokes represented by the varied membership and their life experience.

“On Main Street, we tell stories, the stories of this region. That’s exactly why we love to highlight local authors,” said Thornberg. “What stuck out to me about this book is the points of view. I love that there are lifelong North Dakotans and transplants and they’re talking about the past and future, and giving a real sense of life in small towns across North Dakota.”

The idea behind Dunn County Writers is to capture the reflections of residents in transition, as everyone deals with the changes the Bakken Oil Boom created and has left behind, said Terry Moore, a DCW member who worked as a production water tanker in the Oil Patch for three years.

“We hope the listeners will find something of value in what we’ve written and shared,” Moore said. “It’s reaffirming to know that the work of Dunn County Writers is recognized as important by Prairie Public Broadcasting.”

The experience of being professionally recorded stretched members in a new direction. DCW held two trial runs earlier in 2016, with peer coaching and multiple read-throughs.

“Learning how to share your work with an audience is deceivingly different than everyday conversation,” said writer Denise Sandvick of Killdeer. “The hope is that listeners will hang on the words that your heart has produced. Because we are not actresses and actors, we hope that we are in pausing and inflecting in all of the right spots to make our audience feel the moment we shared our emotion on paper.”

When she first came to DCW, Sandvick said she felt inexperienced and like her writing might not be adequate. That fear was quickly squelched as other DCW members welcomed her into the fold and offered a space to brainstorm and be creative on paper.

“Being part of such an amazing batch of grassroots writers really builds up a person’s ego,” Sandvick said. “Under the guidance of very talented individuals, you produce something that stirs the imagination and moves the heart down a path that makes you want to keep reading and listening and hearing about the writers’ journey. Even in our humble state of North Dakota!”

DCW is grateful to ongoing support from the Dunn County Historical Society, High Plains Cultural Center, Heart River Writers’ Circle, North Dakota Humanities Council, City of Dickinson and other businesses, organizations and individuals that have donated to DCW’s different programs. DCW is currently working on its fourth book, “North Dakota Notebook: Life on the High Plains.” It will be published in December. The group will produce its fifth Visiting Writers Series this fall, with the theme of poetry. DCW welcomes members of all literary genres and experience levels. To learn more or to get involved: dunncountywriters@hotmail.com or 541.944.4131.

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