Victor Volkman interviewed by Emma Palova on FOR THE LOVE OF BOOKS

EMMA PALOVA: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Love of Books podcast featuring Indian small press authors with host author Emma Pallova. I would like to thank our main sponsor, Doc Chavant. Today, I will be chatting with Modern History Press senior editor Victor Walkman, who will announce the details of his book giveaway of UP Reader volume 8 at the end of the interview. Victor Morkman is the current president of the Upper Peninsula Publishers and Authors Association since 2019.

Modern History Press is the publisher of record for the reader. Now in its 8th installment, Modern History Press publishes about 20 books per year, of which about a dozen are Michigan history, tourism, or fiction related, including the very popular A Mouse Tail on Mackinac Island series, which has just released the 2nd installment. Hello, Victor. How are you on this lovely day?

VICTOR VOLKMAN: Hello, Emma. It’s great to see you and and hear you again. It is a lovely day in June here in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

EMMA PALOVA: Yeah. It’s lovely here in Lowell, Michigan. I wonder what it’s like in UP. Right?


EMMA: You never know. I read your Story about the cover picture. So you mentioned unpredictable weather, right, in UP. Right?

VICTOR: Even a a beautiful summer day, it’ll be 45 when you wake up and 75 in the afternoon. So how do you dress for that? I don’t know.

EMMA: I don’t know. We gotta ask Youper’s. Okay. Let me start us off with a review by Sue Harrison, international best selling author of Mother Earth Father Sky.  “As readers embark upon this storied landscape, they learn that the people of Michigan’s upper peninsula offer a unique voice, a tribute to a timeless place, too long, silent.”

So how do you feel about this hefty UP volume 8, Victor? It’s 181 pages long, packed with short stories, humor, history, memoir, poetry, and more. How does it feel to have this in front of you?

VICTOR: It feels very solid and very significant. Your listeners can’t hear it, but I’m holding it up to the camera. This is actually the biggest it’s ever gonna get. We expanded this one to include the winners, the first, second, and third place winners of the dandelion cottage short story contest. So that’s 6 stories and the kids really liked to write long stories. So that’s how we ended up quite as long as we did. Plus, every year we’ve, had an increasing number of contributors and, judges have had to talk more stories, which is is very sad, but it means a better quality and book for the reader when they get it in their hands.

EMMA: Oh, I couldn’t agree more. Yeah. So now tell us about the beautiful cover, and I believe those are, the pictured rocks. Right?

VICTOR: It is indeed the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, which I believe was the first national lakeshore in the country. And I’m embarrassed to say it was my very first visit up there last summer after, you know, literally driving right by it on my way up to Marquette or Houghton. You know, when you’re at the end of an 8 to 10 hour drive, you’re like, are we gonna stop for a couple hours and look at some rocks? Maybe not, but it was worth the wait.

EMMA: So you liked it, I assume. And you got this lovely photo with your cell phone.

VICTOR: I did. my expensive phone was hanging out the porthole on the starboard side of the, the very smooth riding tourist boat that goes up, 32 miles of the shoreline very quickly. Well, very quickly for 32 miles in about 2 and a half to 3 hours depending on which tour you go. And it was, you know, just a beautiful day, and the sun was out, and it was 60 degrees and couldn’t have been improved.

EMMA: Okay. As far as the content goes, are the categories or sections pretty much the same from volume to volume Like, you mentioned on the cover page that you have short stories, humor, history, memoir, poetry. Is that pretty much consistent from year to year?

VICTOR: It is. Now you may have not noticed that we changed in volume 7 to explicitly add a tag on the front of the cover of each story to say fiction or nonfiction. Because many times, I could not tell which ones were fiction and nonfiction. That’s how real the storytelling is. So, readers of the newer editions of the journal have the benefit of knowing whether they’re reading fiction or nonfiction.

But that being said, we, you know, have from the extremely serious to the extremely silly and and everything in between, especially the stories from the the young writers who are from grades, 6, 7, 8, 9, all the way up to 12th grade, and they they just have the the wildest, craziest imaginations of them all. But this issue I noticed seems to have more than a few fishing stories, which I find fascinating for some reason, even though I haven’t finished since I was a young lad. Some, well, 40 ish years ago.

EMMA: Okay. So plenty of fishing stories from the young people too or….

VICTOR: No. No. The older the writer, the more likely they are to write about trout fishing.

EMMA: Oh, trout fishing.  well, any fishing. Right? Let’s look at Hemingway. Right?

VICTOR: And and I must say we have a lot of poetry in this issue as well.

EMMA: I’ve noticed. Why is that? What would you attribute that to?

VICTOR: Well, we have sort of open discussions with the Marquette, Poet Circle. It’s a group that publishes their own anthology, but, more like every 5 to 10 years. So, we’re sort of providing them with an extra venue for poets. We published in, Beverly is a former UP poet laureate. So, and that’s a big feather in our cap.

EMMA: Oh, yeah. So how do you pick the content to fit into this volume? I mean, how do you pick through it? How many submissions do you get? What is the process? I don’t think we’ve talked about this.

VICTOR: Yeah. I don’t think we have in detail. Actually, submissions for volume 9 just started, officially 5 days ago, on June 1st. Really? They’re gonna the floodgates will open, and we’ll get stuff sporadically all summer, and it will gradually pick up steam towards the, cutoff date, which is November 20th.

And, there are some serial well, a few procrastinators that will literally send it at 2 minutes to midnight. I don’t know if that makes your story that much better. Maybe it just adds more drama to the whole thing. Probably. So then what happens?

Well, we have a panel of 5 or 6 volunteer judges. Actually, probably more than that because, the judges get to choose whether they’re gonna, jury the nonfiction, the fiction, or the poetry. So they just all pick their own segments. I do everything but poetry. I’m not I don’t consider myself a good judge of poetry, but, I love reading all the stories.

And then, we have a a score sheet where we grade them on on different criteria. Mhmm. You know, plot and title and, this, that, and the other thing. And then, Deborah Frontiera, who is our committee chair, where she compiles all the scores. And then, for all the adult writers or writers for adults, I should say. They get notified. Just about, around Christmas time, I think.

And then we have to wait for the, Dandelion Cottage Short story contest, which you can learn about at, And that contest doesn’t wrap up until January 31st.

And then we have a separate panel of judges, for either the, that we have this what we call the senior level and the junior level. The senior stories are grades 9 through 12, and the junior level is grades 5, 6, 7, 8. Well, there’s 2 2 separate juries, but I read everything on those because I just love, reading the stories from the children. Mhmm. And then we have a simpler scoring system for that. And then, around I believe the deadline for that is around February 20th. So then the the madness really begins.

EMMA: And that madness lasts, through May?

VICTOR: Pretty much. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. Because we have 60 to 70 stories. And everyone’s formatted their Word documents very, very differently. So I have to I have to kinda beat it into submission there. And then, oh, and and we have, which your readers your listeners can’t see it. We have the beautiful historical photos that we incorporate in into the text to fill in all the blanks. So it actually kind of reads a little bit like a magazine where you have photos and stories and photos.

And that all goes to my good friend, Michal Splho, in Slovakia who does the typesetting for me. Okay. While he’s doing that, our audio engineer and narrator, Brandy Thomas, is recording laboriously, the audiobook edition. So we’ll have we try and synchronize the audio and print editions as best we can. So, yeah, eventually, it it, our target is always April 1st to be in publication.  Although with printing and shipping, it usually comes up to be more like April 15th. And then there’s just a couple months hiatus before it all starts again.

EMMA: Before it starts all again. Oh my goodness. So this takes up a nice chunk of your time. Right, Victor?

VICTOR:  it does, but, you know, it’s there there’s pauses in between here and there. And the Yeah. It’s a labor of love after all.

EMMA: Yeah. So what is the biggest challenge in putting this hefty publication together? UP Reader volume 8.

VICTOR: It’s kind of embarrassing, but I would say the galley proofs are always the most hair pulling exercise. Right? What I do is, you know, I get a complete PDF file. What did you say? This was 180 pages.  I slice and dice it into 60 or 65 different stories, and then I send out to each author or poet a copy of their story. And I said, you know, please just tell me if there’s any typos or grammatical errors or bad punctuation. And then, of course, they wanna do major revisions.

EMMA: So How do you deal with that?

VICTOR: It’s like hostage negotiation except I’m a hostage and a negotiator.


VICTOR: Right? Because, you know, I have to get their approval, you know, before we go on. Sure. We actually had a little boo boo where, there was, 4 I don’t know if it’s the right word, stanza. So we’ll just say sections of a poem.  And one of them happened to be hidden over the end of a page break. For your listeners, I’m holding my head in my hand right now. And so we actually we actually forgot the conclusion of a poem, which actually brings it all together. So well, then we said, alright. We’ll add back your poem, but now we’ve got a big blank space. So are we negotiating an additional poem for the same poet just so that we wouldn’t have a big hole

I also every year, I update the what I call the comprehensive index, which it has, the sorted by author name, every story, and every volume, and every pages. So if you see an author you like, you can flip to the back immediately and say, You know, Mac Hasseler has 6 different poems in volume 7 and 6 and 5, and I’m gonna go buy those because I really like reading when I

EMMA: Oh, that’s pretty nifty. I see it right now.

VICTOR: So  I grew up, you know, my summer beach reading was, either fantasy or science fiction anthologies, you know, where you read short stories, 10 to 40 pages from different authors. And at the end, I’d always go, gee. I wonder where this is before the Internet was invented. You know, I wonder where I would ever find more stuff by this office. So that solved that problem, I guess.

EMMA: That’s alright. What is the most gratifying part of publishing? Year after year, volume after volume, doing it over and over again, what makes you happy?

VICTOR: Well, just, the way that we treat the young writers is quite nice. You can’t see it from the book here, but they all each writer gets a hardcover copy of the book. They get a cash prize up to, I think, 200 and something dollars.  They get a commemorative medallion. Mhmm. There’s a traveling trophy, like the Stanley Cup of writing. Right?

Their name and their story and the year is engraved on it, and it goes to the school of the person that won the first prize. There’s one for the junior and the senior division. Mhmm. And, you know, we get their photos published, and we do a press release with it. And it’s just a big celebration of the whole point of what we’re doing.

EMMA:  Right. So treat them like royalty. Very nice.

VICTOR: Absolutely. I wish I got a cash prize for doing this. A medal.

EMMA: Or a medal. Right?

VICTOR: Where’s my trophy?

EMMA: We never get any trophy. Any surprises or discoveries in volume 8? What surprised you?

VICTOR: Yeah. I always think, you know, that I’m not much of a writer. I don’t have much to say. And then I think it’s something to write about, which happened to be my, you know, little silly trip out to the Pictured Rocks. But…

EMMA: Oh, I enjoyed reading that. That was quite entertaining.

VICTOR: It’s kind of being, like, asked to pick your favorite child. I really like Larry Jorgensen’s piece, The Memories of the Copper Country Limited, which is the the final passenger train run. I think it was from Green Bay all the way up to Houghton and maybe a bit further north into Hancock and so on. That used to be passenger service, 3 times a day, and, people did, sort of a commuter rail service for people that lived in the UP. And that all got shut down when, post office decided, you know, we’re not we’re not gonna put mail on transit, and we’re not gonna dump.

We’ll just put mail on airplanes and trucks. So that caused the end of a lot of passenger rail in America because that was subsidizing, getting the engines on the tracks and, basically, passenger cars would come for free because it was all anyway, it’s kind of a bittersweet story. My dad was a big railroad fan, and he would go when I was a kid and and watch steam engines run, you know, they would have, like you don’t see that anymore, not the big steam engines from the forties. You’ll see them very scattered now. So it’s just a piece of Americana that’s That’s gone?

EMMA: Come and gone. Wow. All because of the post office. Right?

VICTOR: Oh, so a lot to answer for. Yes. They do.

EMMA: What do you feel you did right in Volume 8?

VICTOR: I think, you know, the whole it’s a whole smorgasbord. The tremendous variety of, things, you know, we have, stories of of Vietnam veterans who are living their, unfavorite moments in present time as he’s just walking along the river. He remembers the river that he was on in the Mekong Delta and an ambush that he managed to avoid, and nobody died. That sort of thing just hits you out of nowhere and, just just lots of great stuff.

EMMA: Yeah. It looks like great variety. What would you have done differently looking back at volume 8?

VICTOR:  Oh, before I forget, I said I’ll say it. It’s the perfect Father’s Day gift that he’ll actually like. Okay? Don’t give your dad another mug that says world’s greatest dad. He doesn’t care.  He doesn’t want a barbecue apron with his name on it. Right. Something to feed his brain. Oh, absolutely. Not too late to buy an ebook or an audiobook or whatever. They’ll deliver it right on the day that you want. I’m sorry. What’s the question?

EMMA: No. That’s perfect. What would you have done differently in Volumate?

VICTOR: Yeah. You know, it is too big, and we’re we’re, our profit margin is razor thin on this. About half of the profit goes back towards supporting the Upper Peninsula Publishers and authors association.  You know, we know people in the UP are all on a limited budget. A lot of them are seasonal workers working 2 and 3 jobs. So, you know, we have a hard limit. We will not go above $19.95 no matter what. So we are gonna go on a little bariatric slim fast Ozempic, whatever diet drug it is.

EMMA: Ozempic. That’s a dangerous thing to be Ozempic.

VICTOR: Or just slash it by about 10,000 words. Most people won’t notice, but we’ll be closer to profitable

EMMA: Yeah. Really?

VICTOR: For volume 9.

EMMA: Okay. So what are some of the takeaways from UP reader volume 8? I’m saying it correctly. Right?

VICTOR:  I’m just, trying to formulate a nice pat answer. I mean, you know, there’s such an emphasis on the divisions in America today. The left and the right and the red and the blue, and this is about the real human story.

EMMA: Yes.

VICTOR: And it doesn’t matter what you checked on your ballot, if you voted or what you’re gonna vote. This is a story of people growing up in America trying to live their lives.

EMMA: Yes. That is beautiful. It, is a testimony to our humanity. That we haven’t lost it yet. And sometimes I doubt that, unfortunately.

VICTOR: Just turn on the news if you do then that’s not what you see.

EMMA: Oh, I watch it.  I’m gonna stop watching it. Okay. How is, UP reader distributed? How do you distribute that? I don’t think we’ve ever talked about this. And we that’s very important. I know when I run into Michael Classen, he usually has copies, all of them, all the volumes in his booth. So that’s one place where you can get it following Michael Klassen around. Where else can people get it?

VICTOR: We encourage all of our contributors to do that by offering them half-price deals on it. So that’s a pretty good markup, for anyone who’s maybe just published 1 book or 2 books and need something to fill out their table.  Deborah Frontiera is my distributor throughout the copper country. She visits somewhere between 12 and 15 stores. In the western UP, she’s got a regular sales route. . But talking, like, nationwide or global, we have, Ingram Distribution, which means we’ll be in Amazon and and all the other online stores around the world. It’s it’s a work in progress.   You know? But if you walk into any Barnes and Noble store, it’s in their catalog. Just, you know, tell the sales clerk you want. They’ll type it in you’ll be able to pick it up at the store with free shipping, you know, because that’s how it works at Barnes and Noble. The audiobooks come out through and Apple iTunes. Audiobooks. So that’s another avenue.

The ebooks come out through Amazon Kindle, through Apple Ebooks, through Google Play Ebooks through, Kobo, which is very popular in Canada and parts of, Oceania. Okay. We have a distributor in Eastern Europe that that hits all the locations all around Europe and, India and everywhere in the world, all the ebooks are available.

Okay. So let’s say a listener decides right now they wanna buy it as a present to their dad. Should they email you? Who should they email, or what should they do? So we’re a little bit practical too.

Yeah. No. I get it, ma’am. It’s Father’s Day is, what, a week from Saturday? Something like that.

Some somewhere around there.

Yeah. Suggest Amazon to be sure because they’ll come and give you a guaranteed delivery date.

So Amazon.

Yeah. Or you can go to re up reader dotorg, and you can order from me, and I would let you know if it’s in stock.

Okay. Good. Sounds good. So what’s next for volume 9 since you’re already accepting submissions? And where can people find the submission guidelines?

Absolutely. I’m gonna click on that just so I don’t fumble it. The great thing is we start at, o r g, and then you click on submission guidelines. It’ll be on the top line if you have a laptop or in that little menu we call the hamburger on your phone. And it’s got all submission guidelines, how many words it can be, genres, what kind of thing we want.

We want, you know, your bio to be between 5075 words. And most importantly, there’s a big green button at the bottom that says submit to UP reader. And that’s where you’re gonna type in your name and your email address and your phone number in case your email doesn’t work. And and then you’ll actually on the form, you’ll attach your manuscripts and your photos and everything else that goes with it. I mean, it’s always gonna be a surprise, so I cannot predict what’s it’s for.

Only that’ll be more gray material.

Do you have to be a resident of UP or do the stories, the the subject, the body of your work has to be from UP?

Now that’s a great question. In order to join the UP, Upper Peninsula Publishers and Office Association, there’s no residency requirement. We have people all the way out in California, Texas, New Mexico, you name it.


the stories, they tend to get a little higher weight if they are local. But I’ll tell you, oh, one of the most gripping stories is by a young woman. I, I, presumably, just out of college single. She goes to, the East Coast of Africa to go whale watching. But it’s I mean, she’s completely on her own.

She rides a bus into the middle of nowhere. She can’t speak any of the language. She’s literally put herself in the in the hands of strangers. I mean, she’s completely defenseless. You know, with nothing but her swimsuit and and it’s just a fascinating story of, of how 2 cultures try and connect with each other and communicate over the course of the week that she was out there, you know, hiring a guide to go whale watching and Wow.

Snorkeling while the whales are swimming around. So be sure not to miss that. And now and and there’s no UP about it other than, you know, she born in UP and then went to college and then went out of state sort of, you know, post post college adventure to Africa.

Sure. Alright. Would you like to read to us?

I’m sorry. You never asked. I’m sorry. No. I didn’t think you’d never asked.

You knew I would eventually get to it.

I think you’d get to it.

I was being very practical this time, you know, all this informational stuff.

I think I’ve got the timing right. It’s gonna be just about a full page, and we’re gonna start where I’m, sort of halfway there.

What page are you on, Victor?

VICTOR:  Page 4. And we’re gonna quiz you on next year to find out how much in volume, mate, you’ve actually read.

EMMA: Okay. Please do.

VICTOR: Alright. Here we go. Trip planning and my lead foot on the pedal got us there at 3 PM. I won’t say without a sweat because I was continually checking my car’s GPS, trying to prove its predictions wrong and gain a minute here and a minute there. So we did our check-in at the counter and proceeded to browse what must be one of the world’s largest gift shops about a 100 feet from the docks.

The check-in girl said boarding starts 30 minutes before departure. So, I said to no one, yeah, no problem. We can kill 30 minutes here easily. At the stroke of 3:30, we ambled down to the boarding maze and discovered that every single last passenger was already lined up. How would we get a seat with a decent view being the last people to board?

This turned out to be a non-problem as all the young and able folks immediately tripped to the top observation deck. My wife and I, not being big stair climbers, were consigned to the bottom deck. This deck could probably seat 250 people in high ceiling, but including the deck cam, there were just perhaps 5 of us, So we had our choice of window seats coming and going. Problem averted. We really lucked out for our trip on June 8, 2023 with a perfect patch of Michigan summer weather, bright blue skies and a mellow 60-ish afternoon in downtown Munizan.

Most importantly, the air was still. There were no white caps, so our ride would be as smooth as glass. Tempting fade itself. I held my hand out the window to get some nice shots with my iPhone, which was a crazy thing to do without a handle or a strap on it. I wondered later how many smartphones are on the bottom of Lake Superior.

Anyways, the cruise itself was great. The captain slash announcer was not annoyingly verbose as, say, your carriage tour guide on Mackinac Island can be. He emphasized his sass by getting so close to the rocks that it was barely further than my hand could reach out the window. He had of brass or steel, maybe. It’s easy to take the majesty of nature for granted, even as a lad who spent a lot of time on the water and in the woods.

However, I was dumbstruck by the beauty of these ancient layered rocks and their continual transformation as pieces fall off from erosion. Is that these moments that you feel the presence of God and what everyone calls, quote, God’s country. A transcendent experience in perfect conditions. We saw beautiful falls, also rocks landing 200 feet below, the mysterious color patterns of rocks spattered by copper and iron infused water, marvelously enticing caves and archways that looked carved by the almighty himself. Especially, the note is a a tall tree on a promontory separated perhaps 50 feet from the cliff, living entirely by a single ropey cable of the route connecting it to the mainland.

Immediately, we feel the fragility of life itself and our connection to the earth. In such a reverie, I snapped the cover picture for UP reader number 8 with my iPhone 13. As a younger man, I might have hiked the national lakeshore park trails or kayak in, but the boat tour is the perfect amount of accessibility for us in the latter years of life. We finished our afternoon with a quick stop at the nearby a burger, where we developed some well earned burgers and chili fries. Heading out to finish our trip into my kit by sunset, We got back on a picturesque m 28 with its many awesome views of the big lake.

Perfect. Thank you. Was the burger any good?

Oh my gosh. After a couple hours on the lake, 8 hours on the road, It’s right on m 28. If you’re going through a mutagen, hit the a burger.

Excellent. Can you give us the details of your book giveaway of UP Reader volume 8?

Sure. It’s very simple. Just, email me Victor, victorat l as in Larry, h as in hotel, press dot com. That’s And the first person who emails me with UP reader in the subject line, well, I’ll send you out a a copy, anywhere in the world.

Hopefully, in the continental US.

Continental US. Can you repeat the email one more time?

Sure. Victor@ That’s l as in Larry, h as in hotel, p r e s s dot com.

Okay. And now parting shots from each one of us. You first, Victor. You’re my guest. What would you like to leave our listeners with?

I would like to say, don’t just go I mean, go up north and enjoy the sights, the beautiful nature, but talk to the people. Get to know everyone you see.

Yes. Connect with the local folks. And my parting shots are write indie, buy indie, and read indie. Read your local newspapers for inspiration. Keep your fingers on the keyboard and your butt in the chair.

Thank you for listening. Goodbye. Happy Father’s Day to all.

Thank you. Goodbye.

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