Furrows in his galaxy

McDonald’s new book focuses on ideas


It takes talent to turn short memories or observations into engaging and interesting pieces to readers but that’s exactly what former Stillwater Gazette columnist Bill McDonald does in his new book called “Furrows in the Galaxy.”
McDonald’s book is a compilation of 199 of his columns that appeared in the pages of the Gazette from 2006 to 2011.
“The biggest problem you run into when you write a column on a weekly basis is that sometimes it’s difficult to come up with ideas,” McDonald said. “A lot of them were generated from reading while others were prompted by current events. Some were also taken from things I’d seen in the news and wanted to make comments about them.”
Ideas are what this book is about. The ideas in McDonald’s columns are on everything from the stars in the sky to the Electoral College as well as Ben Franklin and selctions of his poetry and are what makes humanity human in the following excerpt of the introduction of “Furrows in the Galaxy.”
“But, you may say, these are not ideas. These are things — ordinary, everyday things, mostly — things or people that we may hear about or come into contact with in the ordinary course of just being around. What do they have to do with ideas? Yeah, but — dig a little deeper. If we think about how we interact with or are affected by these things we see a seeemingly endless number of stories and each of those stories is built around ideas about what the thing is, ow it works, where it came from, how we interact with it, or how it might be changed or improved or used or enjoyed or learned from or how it used to be or we used to be or may become. Ideas are, I think, the essence of humanity.”
McDonald said his time and finding ideas as a columnist challenged him intellectually.
“It made me think, that’s what you’d say,” McDonald said. “When you write you don’t know what you’re going to say until you’re done. Fiction writers do that all the time, they create characters and just see what happens in their relationship.”
McDonald would know because he’s written a variety of other works that include scientific papers from his math and physics background, as well as a collection of short stories, a collection of poems and personal essays, and The Nunda Irish a fictionalized history of a Dakota community.
But when it comes to column writing, McDonald says you deal with a whole different format than most of his previous works.
“Fiction writing is usually longer and must be followed in order,” he said. “Columns are something onto themselves you can pick up on them in no particular order and they make sense, they stand alone.”
His columns cover various topics and can be thought-provoking. They are part memoir, part commentary on everyday occurrances and have the ability to create discussion, which McDonald said was the favorite part of his column writing experience. He hopes to create more discussion of ideas with the publication of this book.