Interviews with Book Designers

The newest book season is upon us. In the coming weeks, New Rivers Press will be releasing six fabulous new books, varied in genre and tone, but nonetheless bursting with artistry and insight. Whereas much time and many pixels have been spent on this blog detailing the involvement of students in the production of our books as content editors, relatively little has been used to demonstrate the ways MSUM design students contribute to our books.

The Design Process

Each year, MSUM design students are paired up with an upcoming New Rivers Press release. The design process is largely a group effort: the design students are coached by NRP’s managing editor and their own design professor, in addition to being advised by the student editor team assigned to their book as well as the author. However it is up to the design students themselves to identify the most important and pertinent aspects of the books in order to bring to life a cover that is not only enticing to readers but representative of the author’s vision.


This post is meant to offer these students a mouth piece to describe their invaluable contributions as designers of not only the covers but interior layouts of our books. If you wish to learn more about the designers personally, you can read their bios here.


Phuriwat “Fuse” Chiraphisit
American Fiction Volume 16

American Fiction Volume 16 is a continuation of New Rivers Press’ long-running short-story anthology. Writers hail from all around the globe and are of diverse ages and backgrounds. There is no theme for submissions, though sometimes unique themes have a way of appearing once all the final stories are chosen. This years stories could loosely be tied together with themes of identity, family life, and evolving relationships.


1) What was your vision for the cover you designed?
What stood out to me was how ordinary the lives in the stories are, with a twisted sense of reality hidden in there somewhere. So I thought I’d show a reality that is slightly twisted for the cover.

2) How did that vision change or evolve throughout the process?
After I had the initial concept, the challenge was finding the right imagery to support that concept. I was experimenting with reflections and shadows.

3) What elements from the book itself did you try to incorporate in your design?
The houses were added into the photograph to add a sense of family, livelihood, and domestic conflicts.

4) What was the most challenging aspect of the design process for you?
The most challenging part was finding a common theme between all the stories and representing them with a single image.

5) What was something you found rewarding about the process?
The most rewarding moment was receiving the unedited version of the real book. It’s always fun seeing designs and concepts come to life after working on them on the computer.

6) Is there anything special or hidden in the cover that you hope people notice?
If you stand back far enough, the cover may look like an old-fashioned book cover with tape binding, but as you get closer, you realize it’s a photograph, twisted, rotated, and yet oddly welcoming.

Brittany Shultz
Boy Into Panther

Boy Into Panther is a collection of fourteen short stories varied in theme, setting, and character. Each is filled with emotion and keen observations on the nature of being human.

1) What was your vision for the cover you designed?
My vision for the cover design was to keep it dark and mysterious so people would be more drawn to look closer to the cover while also wanting to read what it’s about.2) How did that vision change or evolve throughout the process?
I originally started with two different designs. One was a rustic design with a black background and a portion of wood along with dust particles. The other design that we went forward with was a simplistic modern design with a black background and specific pieces placed in chevrons leading into the book.3) What elements from the book itself did you try to incorporate in your design?
I included broken glass, flames, wood, and mushrooms.4) What was the most challenging aspect of the design process for you?
The most challenging part was to come up with a design that would try incorporate all of the short stories and not focus on just one main story.5) What was something you found rewarding about the process?
The whole process felt like a reward. Having the ability to design a cover of a great short story book for the first time was an amazing experience.6) Is there anything special or hidden in the cover that you hope people notice?
As mentioned above, the chevrons on the front cover are subtle, but when you look closely you can notice some of the details of the flames, mushroom, broken glass, and wood.

Emily Zaharia
Deep Calls to Deep

Deep Calls to Deep is a collection of poetry which intertwines family life and biblical narrative. Set against the rich backdrop of Israel, the collection draws from thousands of years of history from its ancient deserts to its contemporary scenes of war.


1) What was your vision for the cover you designed?
I first researched images of Jerusalem, as that is where the poems take place for the most part. I compiled many images and gathered three primary colors that I saw in all of the photos. A deep blue, orange, and yellow. I used those colors to represent an over-simplified landscape of the setting; sky, city, and desert. While playing with the words in the title I noticed that [the word] ‘deep’ is basically the same flipped upside down, which was really fun. That played off of the idea of alternatives and reality in the artist’s statement I was given.

2) How did that vision change or evolve throughout the process?
I had a strong idea from the start, but getting everything in the exact right place with the perfect colors took some time and development. I also had come up with other designs, and choosing one was part of the process

3) What elements from the book itself did you try to incorporate in your design?
I tried to include the setting of the book somehow, and I did so in a very simplistic way. I also used a texture to represent the desert.

4) What was the most challenging aspect of the design process for you?
The interior of the book was an interesting challenge for me. I learned a lot about setting type.

5) What was something you found rewarding about the process?
Being able to hold a book that I designed in my hands was the most rewarding. I also really enjoyed getting feedback from the author. It was great when she told me that the cover was representative of what she wanted.

6) Is there anything special or hidden in the cover that you hope people notice?
I hope people can understand that the cover is not just stripes, but a setting and a platform to start the poems with before you even open the book.

Kendal Christenson
Tom o’Vietnam

Tom o’Vietnam juxtaposes the life and times of a contemporary American veteran with the experiences of Shakespeare’s King Lear, communicated through a surreal, stream-of-consciousness narrative.

1) What was your vision for the cover you designed?
In the initial design stages I hoped to incorporate a signature style that I have been curating during my attendance at MSUM, a sketchy and grungy approach that has furthered my understanding of design. I wanted the cover to feel individualized to the main character, Tom.

2) How did that vision change or evolve throughout the process?
As I had been designing the book cover last school year, I had also been enrolled in an illustration class. Knowledge from the class furthered my confidence in illustration which shines through in my finalized book cover.

3) What elements from the book itself did you try to incorporate in your design?
I attempted to depict the sheer individualism of Tom himself through handwritten typography and sketches of symbolism throughout the book.

4) What was the most challenging aspect of the design process for you?
Time management! Seemingly always a weakness for myself . . .

5) What was something you found rewarding about the process?
I find it rewarding to say, as a student, I have published work in the world.

6) Is there anything special or hidden in the cover that you hope people notice?
On page 4 of the novel, Tom O’Vietnam, there appears to be an entire page of scribbles and somewhat illegible words, in actuality the typography says, “Freedom is Hell,” a haunting phrase embroidered into the back of Tom’s jacket.


Mandi Wahl
Man of the House

This is a memoir containing short vignettes told in the first person detailing the thoughts and actions of a young boy in the 1950’s as he struggles to assume the mantle of ‘man of the house.’

1) What was your vision for the cover you designed?
My vision was to create a cover that would be meaningful to the stories inside the book as well as creating something that people would want to pick up on a shelf as they were walking by.

2) How did that vision change or evolve throughout the process?
I am very pleased with how the cover evolved through out the whole design process. The cover has special character to make it feel as if it came from a 50’s book chest. I could not be happier with how the cover turned out in the end!

3) What elements from the book itself did you try to incorporate in your design?
I incorporated the time period by making the cover look worn and gave it a look of an old book/newspaper from the 50’s. I also incorporated stamps which was from one of the most important stories in the book that I personally felt represented the lifestyle of the author back when he was a child telling these stories. It had more meaning to it, which is what I wanted for a cover.

4) What was the most challenging aspect of the design process for you?
The most challenging aspect was to visualize what all of this would be looking like when it was printed. There were so many specifications to follow and seeing a flat designing of something is very different from when you get to see it printed and in its true 3D form.

5) What was something you found rewarding about the process?
I have now designed a book for others to pick up and read! I can say, “My name is in the front cover of a book!” I think that is so cool!

6) Is there anything special or hidden in the cover that you hope people notice?
There is nothing hidden in the cover of my book. I hope people enjoy the cover as much as I do.

Christen Nagel
The Way She Told Her Story

The Way She Told Her Story is a collection of poetry beautifully blending natural imagery with the stories, culture, and legacies of Finnish immigrant women.

1) What was your vision for the cover you designed?
My vision was to do my best to accurately portray what the book is about. This was a bit of a challenge since I didn’t know much about Finnish culture. The cover design I spent the most time on was an illustration I did based on the poem “The Way She Told Her Story,” which is also the name of the book. I did my best to research more about Finnish culture for ideas on any relevant graphics I could incorporate. I came across one symbol that seemed like a good fit and used that in another cover design.

2) How did that vision change or evolve throughout the process?
I ended up using the cover with the Finnish symbol. When the author reviewed it, she suggested a different symbol. I recreated the graphic and made a few other suggested revisions.

3) What elements from the book itself did you try to incorporate in your design?
I tried to incorporate graphics related to Finnish culture. I also used illustrations that I did based on photos of Finnish tapestries, which the author had sent me, for my chapter artwork. I used part of one of my chapter illustrations next to the author photo on the back cover.

4) What was the most challenging aspect of the design process for you?
I would say that the most challenging aspect was researching Finnish symbols. Since I didn’t have direct communication with the author, I spent time on Finnish forums trying to make sure that I wasn’t misusing any of the symbols.

5) What was something you found rewarding about the process?
I really like the book, so I’m glad I got to design it. Since it is poetry, I was able to be more creative with my design for the interior. I think designing the interior was my favorite part since the patterns on the Finnish tapestries that I referenced were really fun to work with.

6) Is there anything special or hidden in the cover that you hope people notice?
I just hope people recognize the symbol and that it gives them a good sense of what the book is about.

If you want to read more about our book designers, you can read their bios here.

Meet the Interns 2017-2018

Meet the Interns

New Rivers Press prides itself on being a teaching press. Because of our partnership with Minnesota State University Moorhead, we have the opportunity to take on students as press interns, or “Printing Devils,” in order to show them the ropes and give them a taste of the publishing industry. Our interns are responsible for numerous areas of operation at NRP, from managing social media to promotion of our books to communication with our authors and supporters as well as day-to-day clerical tasks. We would like to introduce to you our six fabulous interns—divided evenly between new and returning faces—and our managing editor who is in charge of them. Here’s to another wonderful year at the Press!


lauras-bio-picLaura Grimm

. . . is a junior at MSUM. She is double majoring in English and Mass Communications and is pursuing certificates in publishing and professional writing. She grew up on a dairy farm in Waconia, MN. This is Laura’s third year as an Honors Apprentice intern for New Rivers Press, and she’s also the managing editor for the MSUM campus literary magazine, Red Weather and the variety editor for the The Advocate, the campus newspaper. She hopes to one day work at a publishing press as more than an intern.


annabowtiepic1Anna Landsverk

. . . is a senior at MSUM and is in her third year as a New Rivers intern. She is an English major with an economics minor and publishing and professional writing certificates. Anna also works for the The Advocate and Red Weather, so she spends most of her time wandering the halls of the English department muttering about story ideas and deadlines. In her breaks from muttering, she watches a lot of anime, reads a lot of children’s lit, and collects a lot of adorable miniature things she doesn’t need.


Mikaila Norman

. . . is an MSUM senior (who will likely go on to become a super-senior) majoring in way too many things all at once. Her areas of study include English with a Publishing Emphasis, Creative Writing, Cultural Anthropology, and Fine Arts. She is an Honors Apprentice intern, this being her fourth year at the Press. During this time, she has helped edit manuscripts and maintain the website. She has enjoyed her internship with the Press greatly, and hopes to one day work in the publishing industry scene in Minneapolis. In her free time, she enjoys reading manga, kicking butt in ‘dem vidya games, knitting hats (so many hats,) and creating artwork. She loves drinking coffee and wishes she could hug all the dogs.



lauren-staff-bioLauren Phillips

. . . grew up in a small town in northern Illinois, but is originally from Iowa. She is currently a “University Studies” major at Minnesota State, Moorhead which basically means she’s exploring all the subjects that interest her. Her interests span the wide range from English to Neuroscience, so her freshman year will be used to find her niche. She loves to read, especially if it’s out on the lake or in front of a crackling fire. Anytime she’s not jamming to music or eating snacks (preferably Funyuns), she’s playing soccer, and will be part of the woman’s soccer team at Moorhead this year.


13315338_10209305542217081_9051698023330869880_nNayt Rundquist

. . . is New Rivers Press’s managing editor and the one in charge of all the aforementioned Printing Devils. He is a graduate of MSUM’s (now defunct) Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program, and this is his third year as managing editor. When he is not too busy teaching classes, editing books, juggling all the things, and being the boss, he enjoys reading, being overly critical of movies adapted from print, and visiting the worlds he’s invented in his head. He is fond of comic books and prose books alike, and has recently become obsessed with novella-length works (the Binti trilogy, Like Hammers on Bone, The Ballad of Black Tom, and Grief is the Thing with Feathers to name a few). He lives with his jeweler/artist wife and their spaz of a tiny dog.


cameronCameron Shulz

. . . is a Senior at MSUM this year, majoring in English with an emphasis in Publishing. Her hobbies include reading, sleeping, eating, making the occasional sarcastic comment, and looking at cute baby elephant photos. Her favorite color is black, or grey, depending on her mood. Her favorite novel is The Girl who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen. Whenever she can, she makes the long trip home to Southeastern Minnesota to unwind and spend time with her family and friends. She is elated to be interning for New Rivers Press in her final year here and hopes that it will (somewhat) prepare her for life after graduation.


rachael-staff-bioRachael Wing

. . . is a senior at MSUM and is majoring in English with an emphasis in Publishing with a minor in English Writing. She aspires to work in marketing at a publishing house after graduation. This is her first year at New Rivers Press, and in addition to her internship, she is the head publicist for Red Weather, MSUM’s literary magazine for the second year. If Rachael is not curled up next to her mountain of books she has not yet read or watching Friends re-runs, she can easily be spotted jumping in puddles around campus and attending local theater productions. She looks forward to an exciting semester at New River’s Press!


Written by Mikaila Norman
Originally published Sep 7, 2017

Alan Davis on His Time with New Rivers

This year, Alan Davis started the transition from senior editor at New Rivers Press to senior editor emeritus. He has also switched his main focus from teaching at MSUM to writing, which he has done on the side for many years. Intern Anna interviewed Davis in February from his sunny perch in Arizona. The following is their full conversation on Davis’ time with the press and plans for future endeavors.

Q: What made you decide to get involved with bringing the press to a new location?
A: I was a New Rivers Press author, a two-time winner of its MVP competition for Rumors from the Lost World in 1993 and Alone with the Owl in 2000. I had also co-edited four volumes of American Fiction for the press (1996-2000). When Bill Truesdale, its beloved, idiosyncratic founder, died in 2001, NRP went into suspension. My colleague Wayne Gudmundson and I negotiated with MSUM [Minnesota State University Moorhead] and with NRP to relocate it to Moorhead in order to save the press. We agreed to make it a teaching press so that students could learn about the publishing business from the inside out, which pleased MSUM, and to honor Truesdale’s primary mission: to publish the best work we could find by new and emerging writers, especially those residing in Minnesota and the upper Midwest. That commitment convinced the NRP board of directors that the press, once revived, would be in good hands.

Q: What was your previous publishing experience before working with New Rivers?
A: New Rivers published my first two books before I was associated with the press. I had reviewed hundreds of books for the New York Times Book Review, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Kirkus Reviews, and elsewhere, co-edited American Fiction for ten years, and published dozens of stories and poems in various literary journals. My colleague, Wayne Gudmundson, had produced books of photography, many of them documentaries that included work by his Mass Communication students.

Q: What was one of the biggest challenges you faced in reinventing the press as a teaching press?
A: Each press has its traditions, its history and, if successful, its unique duende (a distinctive quality of spirit and passion). Our job was to continue to honor NRP’s past while turning the page and incorporating all aspects of operations into a university curriculum while keeping the passion and innovation of an independent press alive. I think we achieved that goal, and I have every reason to believe that the new team, which is in the process of replacing me this semester, will do the same. I’m excited that Kevin Carollo (Senior Editor), Travis Dolence (Director), and Nayt Rundquist (Managing Editor)—the troika—have agreed to band together to run the press, and that President Blackhurst and many other administrators have voiced their support for it to continue, hopefully for many years to come.

Q: What was one unexpected lesson you learned in your time as senior editor?
A: As a leader of a teaching press, I often had to bite my tongue so that others could learn through their mistakes. Without such patience, I might have completed necessary work in solitude and with more precision, but the point of the press is to pass on such work to others so that they can take chances, make mistakes, and learn in the process (and sometimes, of course, do a better job than I would have done). Under supervision, students edit books, design covers, and assist in all the work required to publish and market a book in today’s brave, new world. I always felt blessed to be paid to do such work.

Q: Which of our older titles do you still have a soft spot for?
A: Lisa Gill’s Mortar and Pestle, an astonishing book of poetry written in the aftermath of an MS diagnosis, is a profound work of the imagination that incorporates a great deal of lore and learning. Richard Hoffman’s Half the House, a memoir about many things, but centered on his sexual abuse at the hands of his baseball coach, a serial molester that the book helped bring to justice, is a powerful testament to the ability of literature to witness the world with grace and bravery. Michael Hettich is one of the best poets writing today; it was a pleasure to reach out to him and convince him to work with us to publish Flock and Shadow: New and Selected Poems. When I need a pick-me-up, I often open that book at random and read.

Q: What is the book you most enjoyed working on as senior editor?
A: As a father I do my best not to play favorites between my son and daughter. I feel the same as an editor. There are some books where I worked with the writer on major and substantive revisions; others needed only a minor copy-editing to be proof-ready. The pleasure of seeing the book in print is the same whatever the labor involved. I’m often happiest, perhaps, when we publish a writer’s first book, because I well remember the feeling of seeing my own first collection of stories in print for the first time, followed a week or so later by a wonderful review in the New York Times written by Dorothy Allison.

Q: Is there one aspect of the press that you will miss in switching your focus to your writing?
A: The labor often kept me from my own work, but there’s nothing quite like reading a manuscript after hours or days of bleary-eyed persistence and feeling the hairs on the back of your neck prickle because you’ve happened upon the real thing: a book that matters and that was written with care and grace and rocks your world.

Q: What are your most exciting/ambitious plans after retiring from New Rivers?
A:I think of myself as moving on, not retiring, and will continue to teach in the Fairfield low-residency MFA program in Mystic, Connecticut. I still live in Moorhead, so I’ll haunt the campus on occasion as an Emeritus Professor and Emeritus Editor to attend book launches and readings. My wife (who retired from teaching kindergarten) and I will travel both here in the States and abroad, first to Norway, where my son is engaged to a wonderful Norwegian woman he met when she was an exchange student at Concordia and MSUM.

I’m also still working with the press and with Thom Tammaro as co-editor to select and prepare an anthology of poems that will contain 100 poems by 100 poets who were inspired by the life and work of Bob Dylan. I look forward to seeing that anthology published and working hard to promote it.

And, of course, I hope to have much more time for my own work, which includes two novels, a fourth collection of stories, a first collection of poems, and a series of nonfiction pieces. If the god and goddess are kind, I hope to be healthy and productive for many years to come. Knock on wood.

Introducing Senior Editor Carollo


The tides of change are coming to New Rivers, since our long-time Senior Editor Dr. Alan Davis will be retiring this spring. Recently, I spoke with soon-to-be senior editor for New Rivers Press, Professor Kevin Carollo, who teaches creative writing and poetry at MSUM and who has helped oversee the poetry judging for New Rivers Press for several years. Joining him on the staff will be web librarian and MSUM alumnus Travis Dolence as the new director.

In his first year as editor, Carollo plans to “stay the course” in terms of publication, largely because many publishing decisions for the next few years have already been made. After that, Carollo is excited to implement some changes, starting with very active engagement with the rest of the staff, including Managing Editor Nathan ‘Nayt’ Rundquist.

“I plan to help Nayt as much as possible,” Carollo said. “I want to be more than a figure who signs on the dotted line and submits final edits.”

In fact, Carollo has plenty of ideas he wants to try out in the future, both large and small. Some of these changes include publishing a chapbook series and more international translations, building a local literary annex for MSUM students and staff, and reconsidering the press’ financial situation, including looking at the effectiveness of the American Fiction project.

Carollo seemed particularly passionate about instating a series of chapbooks, which allow for more creativity and freedom of design than traditional books. He even commented that in addition to full-length translation efforts, there could be a chapbook contest similar to the Many Voices Project and an additional international, translated chapbook series. Carollo pointed out that some presses use international publications as their main focus, and many have become very successful doing so.

fullsizerenderPart of the reason to add a new focus to the press’ publication lineup is to strengthen New Rivers Press’ legacy and importance here on campus. The idea, Carollo said, is that “[w]e want to make ourselves invaluable to the press [and university].” New Rivers Press’ previous international series was fairly popular and sold well compared to other titles, so Carollo in part hopes to draw in more readers and customers that way. After all, a few successful books “could be a game-changer” in press funding, Carollo said. He also mentioned the danger of being a small independent press at a college campus.

“There’s a possibility an administrator could come in and say, ‘Why do we need New Rivers Press?’ And I want to make that impossible,” Carollo said. That also plays into the creation of an annex, which would guarantee a physical legacy for the press.

In cooperation with another creative writing professor at MSUM, Professor Thom Tammaro, Carollo wants to collect the writings and works stored in Carollo’s office and Tammaro’s office, including works by previous New Rivers authors, the writing and notes of the late Tom McGrath, and others. This annex could either be a traveling cart that is wheeled to various classes and apprenticeships, or it could be a permanent fixture near the New Rivers offices or in the library so that any students could visit, peruse, and enjoy the collection of notes, journals, and final works.

Additionally, since presses big and small are tightening their belts, Carollo and the new director, Travis Dolence, will be looking into New Rivers Press’ finances to see what the press can and should be able to afford in the coming years. I will be speaking with Director Dolence later on in the spring about what decisions have been made about the press’ financial health, as he will be the one primarily organizing budgets and creating a sense of feasibility for Carollo’s suggestions.

Finally, Carollo stressed that although it is a time of transition, this is also a time for excitement about something new. Carollo’s enthusiasm for his new role shone through in our interview. He spoke about his mission as an editor to bring his personality and aesthetics to the projects, as well as seek new areas of interest.

“If I’m going to be an editor, I need a strong vision and a taste for great literature,” Carollo said, adding that it “falls to New Rivers to celebrate the book” both locally and beyond. He hopes to tap his vast knowledge of poets to find the best writers for the press.

“What’s really fun is finding something I dig and see[ing] if it’s something the press can get behind,” Carollo said. “I’m committed to see what we can do.”

Meet the Interns

New Rivers Press is happy to have such an energetic and creative batch of student-interns for this school year. Our interns are responsible for numerous areas of operation at NRP, from managing social media to promotion of our books to communication with our authors and supporters as well as day-to-day tasks. Let’s get to know them a little bit.

Laura Grimm


…is a freshman at MSUM, double majoring in English and Mass Communications. Her hobbies include writing, playing piano, and reading. Her favorite novel is Pride and Prejudice, though she is strangely not a fan of romance novels. However, she will read just about anything else. Growing up on a dairy farm gave her a love for animals. If you see someone chasing squirrels around campus, it’s probably her (but don’t worry, her mental health isn’t in need of questioning). A fun fact about her is that she has an extra rib on her left side.

Anna Landsverk

…is a freshman at MSUM, majoring in English-writing emphasis with certificates in publishing and professional writing. She is from Becker, Minnesota, but her parents grew up in Moorhead, and she loves the area. Her hobbies include reading (of course), soccer, speech, playing The Legend of Zelda, watching anime, and studying current events and history. She is very excited to be in her first internship with New Rivers Press and can’t wait to see what the rest of the year has in store!

Mikaila Norman

…is a sophomore at MSUM and finds herself the only returning intern this year, (the others got lost in The Dungeon…) She has so far has been enjoying her upgraded responsibilities, including managing this blog. She is a double major in English with a Publishing Emphasis and Cultural Anthropology. Ever since she was little, she has had a passion for writing (fantasy, sci-fi and… space westerns???) and hopes to one day publish novels. She is fascinated by world cultures, especially Japan, and is currently studying the Japanese language.

Desiree “Desi” Miller

…is a 5th year “Super-Senior” at MSUM, working toward an art major with a double emphasis in illustration and drawing. She is minoring in creative writing and has already completed her certificate in publishing. She plans to graduate Spring 2017. This year, she is the president of both the Yosakoi (Japanese Dance) Club and Dragon’s Den Comics, both of which she is very passionate about. Her favorite book is Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and she’s an avid mythology buff.