What Was THE RAVEN?
Submitted by Steven Reynolds
THE RAVEN: Northwest Minnesota’s Original Art, History & Humor Journal was a creative arts project put together by a handful of talented writers and graphic artists over the course of 24 years, 1994-2018. Minnesota Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund Legacy Grants helped THE RAVEN to be printed and published in Palmville Township in Roseau County.
Joseph McDonnell was its Founder/First Writer. Steven Reynolds was its Editor and General Manager, and Jackie Helms-Reynolds, Secretary and graphic artist were all of Wannaska, Minnesota. CatherineStenzel, from Beltrami Island State Forest, joined us in 2006 as a Contributing Writer.
Aside from being available through yearly subscription, thousands of RAVEN issues were donated across Minnesota from Mankato to Duluth, from Hallock to Rochester, as well as the cities of Grand Forks and Fargo, ND, and throughout the Red River Valley. Readers from coast to coast, border to border, and beyond. THE RAVEN was read in public and university libraries and
historical society collections, including the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul, since 1994. They’ve also been read (and stolen from) the waiting rooms of hospitals and clinics, senior citizen
homes, community centers, cafes, and restaurants. Readers touted THE RAVEN as “Interesting. Entertaining. Unique.”
THE RAVEN came to be known as an ‘irregular time-frame publication’ when we couldn’t meet the deadline after the first year of publishing as family responsibilities, full-time jobs, and other obligations put us further behind. It got to the point where we started putting the acronym S.L.O.D. as in Saw Light Of Day, on issues, i.e., (May S.L.O.D. July). One subscriber said he thought it meant “Still Late On Delivery.” In 2000, when we started printing in color, we even dated the issues ahead a year, *2001, so we wouldn’t fall behind ever again. That didn’t work.
Then a wonderful thing happened when a long-time subscriber (and former Roseau County resident) from Liberty, Missouri, sent us her renewal check with a note that it was … for our delightful ‘irregular time-frame publication. A term that forever labeled us; and let us know that its tardiness wasn’t a detriment to its popularity. That, in fact, receiving a RAVEN issue as regular as clockwork would have made it just another magazine in the mailbox.
In the words of Joey, ‘The Lips’ Fagan, of The Commitments (1991) fame, “Sure we could have been famous and … stuff, but that would have been predictable. This way, it’s poetry.”
One Boston College friend of Joe’s purchased and maintained sixty-eight (68!) gift subscriptions over two years, sending them across the country, including Washington, DC, and one all the way to Japan. It warmed our hearts to know THE RAVEN was being read within view of The White House. Some recipients of his gift thought it was a fun novelty. Many said they eagerly read it from cover to cover when they finally got one; others honestly preferred the traditional fifth of their favorite liquor; go figure.
After reading the story, “Road Trip To Tuff Rubber Balls,” the President of Northland Community & Technical College in Thief River Falls invited us to lunch and gave us a personal tour of the school.
Had we had a real business manager/promoter, we could’ve maybe become famous across Minnesota, but then … that would have been predictable …
Some of the volumes distributed from this location are incomplete, as noted. There are no plans to recreate or re-copy the missing issues. Presumably, whole Raven collections still exist in area attics or in libraries throughout the fifty-six states that we mailed issues, as well as in Canada, and Australia. Hope you enjoy them.
The Roseau County Museum has copies of past THE RAVEN available, thanks to publishers. Stop by early for the best variety of volumes and issues. Donations are appreciated for the copies.