Welcome to the Rural Lit R.A.L.L.Y. Initiative

There is a saying:  “You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.”

Out of print for decades, and long-since discarded from all but research university libraries, wonderful works of rural based literature are disappearing every day.  Variously called “farm novels,” “regional novels,” or “local color fiction,” these works portray farm life, and just as importantly, American life, perceptively and in great depth.  Written before the age of digitization, these works are being lost before they can be saved.  To lose them is to lose a piece of our collective history; a piece of who we are, as a people and as a nation.

The Rural Lit RALLY Initiative, from its inception as a tangible effort in April 2011, has worked hard to renew interest in this important part of our nation’s memory.

We have established the Rural Lit Library, which currently holds over 100 volumes of these rare manuscripts.  We have established collaborative efforts with similar organizations, such as the Ruth Suckow Memorial Association, Bess Streeter Aldrich Foundation, Mari Sandoz Heritage Society, Norwegian American Historical Association, and the Danish American Archive and Library.  We have partnered with the Redmond Historical Society, Redmond Library, and Buena Vista University to hold exhibits dedicated to spreading the word about our homegrown rural authors and their works.

We have teamed up with those who are also reading and writing about this almost-lost literature, such as Nancy Gluck and James Rosenzweig, as well as those currently working and writing in related genres, such as Page Lambert and Linda M. Hasselstrom.

We have been able to get young adults reading and writing about rural literature through a grant funded program; we currently have three reading groups in place, with an average of 19 students reading one rural novel in each of the two academic semesters.  We are always looking for new reading groups – if you are a teacher (or know of one) who might be interested in supervising a student reading group, please contact us for more information.

We are honored to be partnering with Susan Taylor Chehak and Foreverland Press in our newest venture – re-publishing some of the out of print farm novels in e-format, making them easily accessible to all while also preserving them for future generations.

We are pleased with the results of our efforts to date, but realize that much more work needs to be done!

We ask YOUR help, as someone with an interest in preserving Americana in the written word.  Whether you are a reader, a writer, or an educator, please share with us any ideas that you may have for restoring these works to our collective memory and use.


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18 Responses to Welcome to the Rural Lit R.A.L.L.Y. Initiative

  1. Jim Spindler

    I heard an NPR interview—last summer I think—and was quite intrigued (being a former farm boy and now literary nut who loves regional lit). Did I hear correctly, in the interview, that this collection could be viewed in Storm Lake, Iowa (not far from where I live)?
    Thanks so much.
    Jim Spindler

    • admin

      Hi, Jim.

      If you are referring to our collection of books – the Rural Lit Library – that is currently housed with me in Buffalo, NY. There are photos, and a list of our holdings, on the library page on the website.

      We are doing periodic exhibits in the library on Buena Vista University’s Storm Lake campus; currently on view is a display on Paul Corey and Ruth Lechlitner Corey; in the next few weeks, that will be changed out for an exhibit on Martha Ostenso. I am currently in discussions with Hawkeye Community College to do a more general exhibit of rural authors/works there as well.

      We are always looking for new people who want to get involved and participate in our activities. If there is some way in which you would like to join us, please let me know and we will find something of interest to you.


  2. Elizabeth H

    Do you have a list of rural literature? I’ve been trying to find information about this genre but am having limited success.

    • admin

      Hi, Elizabeth. I don’t have a comprehensive list of rural literature, but if you check our RLR Library page, which I have just reposted, you may find some help. On that page, you will find an excel database of the authors that we have identified as rural-based, as well as works of theirs that we could identify. In addition, you’ll be able to view color photos of all of the books that we have in our library. If there is something in particular you are trying to find, we will try to help, or perhaps direct you to one of our partner organizations.

  3. Elizabeth H

    Thanks so much!

  4. Diane S.

    Some of us live in the past. Your Authors Database is in the newest version of Excel. Could you put it in a format for everyone?

    • admin

      Hi, Diane.

      I will try to help you with this; what version of Excel are you using?

      • Diane S.

        I can read any file that ends .xls; pdf works too. Thanks

        • admin

          Good morning, Diane.

          I have sent a converted copy of the file to your email address. It’s rather large, but seemed to go through okay. If you don’t get it – you may have to check your spam folder – let me know. Thanks for your interest in Rural Lit RALLY!

  5. Andrea Hunter Halgrimson

    I recently wrote a column in our local newspaper, The Forum, about Lois Hudson who was a friend and spent time in Fargo, N. D. If you are interested in having it for your Hudson collection, I will forward it to you.
    Andrea Hunter Halgrimson
    Fourm Columnist

    • admin

      Hi, Andrea.

      We would LOVE to have your article for our archives. I will get in touch with you in the next few days; we’d like to know more about you and your connection to Hudson.

      Thanks for getting in touch with us!


  6. Sherry M

    Years ago SSU hosted an incredible week celebrating regional writers – whatever happened top that – could it be revived? Grants, donations? I loved it

    • admin

      Hi, Sherry.

      I’m in Buffalo, NY – where are you? What is SSU? I am not familiar with an event such as you mention, but would be very interested in learning more about it; it’s one of the things that we at RLR would like to do/be a part of. Currently we have an exhibit in place in Hanley Falls, MN, and one of our board members is giving several talks on their local/rural-based poets over the next month or so. You can email me directly at rurallitrally@gmail.com, if you would like – I hope to hear from you. Cynthia

      • Sherry M

        I am in Willmar, MN. SSU is Southwest State University in Marshall, MN ( not too far from Hanley Falls). SSU Prof David Pichaske may/should remember the Regional Writers Festival.

  7. Sherry M

    I can’t get the library page to work – want to access the list

    • admin

      Sherry – exactly what file are you trying to open, and what software version are you using? I may be able to convert the file you want to an older format and send it along to you. Cynthia

  8. Ram

    I sure am glad I found this website. I am generally averse to urban America but love to know more about rural America. It’s nice to see an initiative such as yours, and will definitely contact you should I come across any article referring to the rural authors in your library, or fall upon a book from a bygone age (I’m also a bookworm with a penchant for rare, forgotten authors).

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