The Story Behind "Water"

Our latest project really started almost 16 years ago, in the early spring of 2000: Mike Draper (RAYGUN founder) applied for a job at Des Moines' Cityview and Jennifer Wilson, then editor, hired him. Jennifer gave Mike a tour of the office, then she resigned before he started working day to day.

Lesson 1: writing has high turnover. 

But Mike and Jennifer reconnected around 2012, when RAYGUN carried Jennifer's acclaimed memoir, Running Away To Home

Since then, Jennifer has been part of the loose-knit group we kick around ideas with. And we've had all sorts of ideas. Some of them decent. Earlier this year she brought us a mostly-finished manuscript called Water

It is the fictional story of Freja Folsom, a reporter in Des Moines, who wants nothing to do with the environmental story she’s been assigned. But a man who illegally dropped a well into the city’s aquifer leads Freja to the passionate showdown between farmers, government workers, worried citizens, and the sexy head of the Water Works utility. Suddenly, the poisoned water of Iowa seems like the story that might save Freja’s life — and revive the spirit of the state she loves before it gives up and becomes Mississippi.

Okay, so maybe it’s not that fictional.

Like a lot of what we've done at RAYGUN, this is a piece of art that's inspired and informed by the Midwestern landscape we inhabit. Nitrates! Politics! A fair amount of smut! We liked it. And when Jennifer asked what we thought about partnering with her to design, publish, and distribute the book, we said "Sure!" because we often make rash decisions before we've run the numbers and logistics. 

We've written our own books before and have not only designed them ourselves, but had them printed by union labor in Des Moines and then bound in Des Moines. We don't just want to comment on the Midwest, we want to grow the nuts and bolts of this God-favored region. This book will be 100% designed, printed, and bound in Des Moines. The paper even comes from Midwestern mills. 

For Water, Jennifer supplied the internal content, and we're supplying the "know how" to bring the project to life. 

We kicked around packaging ideas, design ideas, and the title may seem simple, but it took a lot of brainstorming to come up with something that really stuck. Here are some examples of titles we didn't go with:

In the end, we kept it simple! Water. It's a new experience for both of us. Well, the publishing collaboration part is new. She's a writer and we run a small company, so gambling with our personal financial life is nothing new! But we're pretty sure this one thing won't put either of us into the poor house. So what the hey!