The first issue of the Lost Lake Folk Opera magazine is for sale on area newsstands and online.
The first issue of the Lost Lake Folk Opera magazine is for sale on area newsstands and online.
The picture of the dam by David Tacke wraps around its covers, tagging it instantly as a product of Lanesboro. The other 60-odd pages of the Lost Lake Folk Opera magazine rest in between. They contain art, journalism and Tom Driscoll's first attempt at publishing a magazine with heft similar to The New Yorker.

Shipwreckt Books is winding up a year that Driscoll said exceeded expectations. "We kept expectations low. We kept them reasonable," he said. The result: six publications within six months.

"For me," explained Driscoll, "it is a culmination of the work plan that I set out."

Shipwreckt Books has three imprints, plus the Lost Lake Folk Opera magazine. Each imprint has at least one book published through them. According to Driscoll, getting them off the ground has been a lot of work and money as he has been financially backing the company's startup entirely himself. "As soon as I'm financially able, I'll hire an assistant," he said, almost wishing it were possible at that moment.

The editing services side of the business has also been keeping Driscoll busy. A steady stream of incoming manuscripts has actually amounted to more than he can handle at one time, but with the increased number comes more connections to potentially great writers. Driscoll has made it his mission to find and nurture quality writers. Folk Opera has been one arm of his strategy, which he hopes will help continue to draw talented writers in, local or not.

At the bottom of the front cover reads a synopsis of the magazine's definition, "The arts heartbeat and journalistic pulse of rural Mid-America."

"It will be a big boast, until someone convinces me to take it off," explained Driscoll, in a way that helps you realize it would take a lot for him to do that. After all, it's his personal goal, his brand for Folk Opera. It starts with Lost Lake.

Pointing to a colorized and digitally altered photograph of the Lanesboro dam framed high up on the wall in the Storytelling Center, located in Lanesboro, Driscoll briefly explains the story of Lost Lake.

The reservoir, which had been created by the 1868 Stone Mill Dam, had quickly filled with silt, causing it to become "lost." The artistic appeal of Lost Lake was such to Driscoll that he used it in his branding of his publishing company. But it's much more than that. To him, the Lost Lake brand is for the whole city and the region. "I'm doing my best to interpret the brand of the city," he explained. "The idea is wholesome and no more realistic than the picture." He points again above his head to the picture of the lake that is no longer there.

Driscoll is trying to reverse the fate of Lost Lake, metaphorically. He is doing so, one quality writer at a time. Folk Opera magazine had 12 different authors, with most of them from southeast Minnesota or nearby. Content included short fiction, poetry, essays, photographs and critical journalism. The theme of Lost Lake was woven throughout the entire publication, which was entirely edited and formatted by Driscoll himself. His hope is for the Folk Opera brand to become established in its reputation, locally and nationally. "It will define itself," said Driscoll confidently. For now, he is "trying to build from the start and develop a good reputation."

He acknowledged the magazine may look different for the next issue. "I'm always looking to improve. A lot of what you see in here is me learning," he said.

Formatting-wise it may look different, but Driscoll is clear on what he is looking for in content. "I want journalism that's down and dirty, plays, poetry and essays. I want it so you just can't pigeonhole it," he added.

Driscoll is interested in advertising through the magazine, which will have three issues in 2014. Driscoll is already planning to have a Vietnam War theme pervade those publications since the 40th anniversary of the end of the war is coming up soon. He noted there will be a diversity of authors for each issue.

Even as Driscoll tries to build up the Lost Lake brand through the Folk Opera magazine and his publishing company, he can't help but see it as a great metaphor for Lanesboro. As addressed in the November issue of Folk Opera, the Lanesboro Arts Campus dream is also becoming a reality, but with a lot of unknowns about how exactly it will turn Lanesboro into a destination.

"We're trying to break out of a mold of rural mid-America in decline," said Driscoll.

What he's suggesting is that perhaps Lost Lake can help Lanesboro find more of its identity. It'll take some time to uncover the Folk Opera vision from underneath the silt, but Driscoll's plan to find writers and artists will help.

Black and white editions of Folk Opera are $9.50 and full-color editions are $15. They can be purchased at vendors in Lanesboro including the Lost Lake Storytelling Center, as well as online at shipwrecktbooks.com.