Finding Inspiration When You're Surrounded By Asphalt

Julie R. Neidlinger

Stories about rural life have been slow in coming in recent months, and can pinpoint two precise reasons: I live in a city, and I've been working on a book.

The first reason is no small thing. There is something inherently difficult about observing and considering what it means to be from North Dakota when you are surrounded by pavement and by franchised stores that you can find in just about any other state in the nation. The sameness hides what makes this state unique and it's all too easy to simply start thinking in step with everyone else in every city (big or small) across the land.

The antidote, of course, is to go home to the farm. Every time I do, I find material to write about. Perhaps I need to make that a more regular course of action.

The second reason was also no small thing. One of the surprise results of blogging for more than a decade is that I've managed to compile lots of stories, complete with conversations and details I would have long forgot, of what transpired in life. About four years ago, I decided that I wanted to create a book and compile some of these stories, combining them with my own art and photography. This was quite a task, I discovered, because my old writing needed heavy editing, and a decade worth of blog posts is a lot to go through. I realized I had enough material for several books, and I then had to make the time-consuming task of deciding which stories to include the first time around. Many of the stories you read here were shortened versions of some of the stories that made it into the book. I was in the midst of this editing process and found that several of the stories were a good fit for this blog.

And yes, there is a book. I finally finished it.

It's called There Are Dinosaurs In The Fields, and you can get your own copy online. I've written about Hampden, Starkweather, Edmore, Langdon, Nekoma, Harvey, Devils Lake, and Bismarck. I've told humorous stories of farming gone awry, hilarious dinner party conversation, wild North Dakota weather, life as a reporter, and even UFOs (really).

There are no shortage of books by North Dakotans, many of which are memoirs. I suppose you could call these stories somewhat like a memoir, since they are true and I did experience them, but I made the decision to go for a more universal appeal (or at least, beyond just my family and perhaps beyond the borders of North Dakota). I didn't want it to be a “how to” farming guide or a reminisce about the good old days that an outsider couldn't identify with. I have always felt that the experience of growing up on a farm in North Dakota–without the distractions of pavement, noise, and franchises–gave me a clearer head and a chance to think about the larger themes in life, and so that is the angle I take with the stories in this first book.

Anyway, I wanted to update my readers here to let them know why I'd gone silent for so long, and to offer a wee bit of an apology.