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I’ve blogged before about the cool things going on at Rural America Contemporary Art (RACA), but now the fine folks have launched the first issue of the online magazine.

Why do I think this is great? Being “rural” is important to me. It’s a huge part of my identity. I grew up in a small Minnesota town, and now I live in a small Minnesota town about 25 miles away from my hometown. I’ve been perfectly happy in this setting all these years. My writing would not have been any different had I lived in Minneapolis or Chicago or San Francisco. The city wouldn’t have made me a better writer. In fact, as I was working on my memoir, being so close to the place about which I was writing was immensely helpful.

I believe in the psyche of places, that the spirituality of a place sinks into you and puts down roots. If I were to leave here, I’m certain the sense of uprootedness would spring me loose, make me wobble.

I sometimes dream of living along the shore of Lake Superior in northern Minnesota (who doesn’t? It’s so incredibly beautiful), but I can’t imagine ever leaving this state. We have a good thing going on here. The coasts may ignore us, agents and editors in New York may pass over a “Midwestern” manuscript, but we go about our lives unimpeded.

RACA Online features work by talented artists: John Jodzio, Debra Monroe, Norwood Creech. My friend and beautiful person, Nicole Helget, writes this about living in a rural place. She brings to her writing a sensibility that comes from growing up on a Sleepy Eye, Minnesota, farm. If you haven’t read her memoir The Summer of Ordinary Ways, rush, rush, rush out and get it.

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