Announcing THE STEP BACK by J.T. Bushnell

Ooligan Press is excited to announce its spring 2021 title, The Step Back by J.T. Bushnell! The Step Back will be Bushnell’s first published novel. He is originally from Sisters, Oregon, and currently lives in Eugene, Oregon, with his family. Bushnell earned a BA in journalism from Linfield College and an MFA in fiction from the University of Oregon. He has taught writing and literature at Oregon State University in Corvallis since 2007. Bushnell’s short fiction has also appeared in Passages North, Mississippi Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Meridian, Flyway, Monkeybicycle, The Greensboro Review, and other literary journals. His writing about fiction appears in Poets & Writers, Fiction Writers Review, and The Science of Story.

The Step Back is a work of literary, coming-of-age fiction about Ed Garrison, an eighteen-year-old Californian who is about to begin college in the fall of 2000. A lover of basketball and dogs, Ed originally plans to attend UC Berkeley, but when his mom announces she is leaving his father and moving across the country to live with her new girlfriend, Ed begins to fall apart. He decides at the last minute to attend the far less prestigious Sequoia College instead, hoping that he can walk on to the school’s last-place, D3 basketball team and retain some sense of the community he is leaving behind. But, in a moment of hesitation, Ed loses his shot at playing college ball and slowly becomes unmoored, unable to connect to his classmates, refusing to communicate with his mother, and losing touch with his friends and—more importantly—his father and brother at home.

As Ed navigates college life, he encounters a series of failed romantic relationships, struggles to find intellectual inspiration, and develops a passion for distance running, all while struggling to regain the sense of home he lost when his mother left. In order to grow, Ed must face his own cruelty and selfishness, and he eventually finds that certain bonds are impossible to break, no matter how neglected.

Told with breathtaking imagery and imbued with compassion, The Step Back examines the loneliness that sometimes accompanies the transition from adolescence to adulthood, which can take a true reckoning to overcome. The novel addresses concerns prevalent to its setting in the early 2000s in ways that still feel relevant today including homophobia, sexism, substance abuse, class, and toxic masculinity.

The Step Back is due to be released in May of 2021, and it will be the first work of literary fiction from the press in over two years. This makes it a special challenge for the 2020 and 2021 Ooligan cohorts and an exciting opportunity to work outside of the genre fiction the press has published recently.

More coverage of The Step Back will be available as the project develops.


Iditarod Nights by Cindy Hiday has been released, and that means a new Library Writers Project title will be coming your way in Spring 2021. Ooligan Press is excited to announce our next title in our partnership with Multnomah County Library: Finding the Vein by Jennifer Hanlon Wilde! This is the third title to be published through the partnership with Multnomah County Library and Ooligan Press, and we are thrilled to be working on this amazing story.

Since 2015, Multnomah County Library has called for submissions every fall through the Library Writers Project. The Library Writers Project gives local authors the opportunity to see their manuscripts published as ebooks through the library. This means that members of Multnomah County Library can check out the submissions via wonderful services like Libby or OverDrive. Ooligan Press and Multnomah County Library became partners in 2018 to feature local Portland authors and to bring ebook-only works into print as a part of the annual collection.

The collection’s newest title, Finding the Vein, is a murder mystery that takes place at Heritage Camp, a summer camp for internationally adopted children in Oregon. It follows the story of teenage camper Isaac and Detective Mikie O’Malley as they try to solve the case of a murdered camp counselor. Isaac and Mikie, the two narrators, show us two very different ways to solve a case—there’s the official way, the way of a detective, and then there’s the not-so-official way, in which Isaac’s supersmart camp friend Hal hacks into a few databases. As Isaac and Mikie start to get answers, more questions are unearthed, and they begin to realize that at Heritage Camp, murder is just the tip of the iceberg.

Get to know the author, Jennifer Hanlon Wilde:

Jennifer Hanlon Wilde lives and writes in Oregon. She is a nurse practitioner and teacher who thinks of her work as opening a kind of map to study the well-worn places where storytelling intersects with health. She also enjoys real maps, traveling the world with her family, and, as a doctoral student at Washington State University, nerding out over global health data. A robust community theater and music scene, acres of orchards, and unparalleled local cider and beer have made it a joy to put roots down in the Columbia River Gorge, but being a Red Sox fan is in her DNA. Finding the Vein is her first novel.

Finding the Vein will be available in print and ebook formats in Spring 2021, and we can’t wait for you to solve the case with Isaac and Mikie. Follow Ooligan’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts for updates!

For more information about Iditarod Nights by Cindy Hiday, visit our book page. Check out the Multnomah County Library site to learn more about the Multnomah County Library Writers Project.

Announcing FAULTLAND by Suzy Vitello

The Big One is coming, whether it’s the big earthquake that could liquidize hillsides or the big revelation that threatens to tear a family apart.

And the Sparrow family is already on the verge of falling apart. Olivia is divorcing, Sherman’s business is in constant legal trouble, and Morgan resents them both for leaving her to care for their ailing father. As the tensions between them multiply, the city itself is shaken to its foundations. The Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake hits Portland, and the Sparrows must come together to survive disaster—and stay on their guard against those who would take advantage of the chaos to further their own political goals.

Ooligan Press is excited to announce Faultland by Suzy Vitello, coming March 30, 2021. This near-future speculative-fiction novel is grounded in family drama between heartbreakingly human characters.

On a personal note, this book is everything I’ve hoped to work on in book publishing. As a lifelong sci-fi reader, I’m always looking for speculative fiction that focuses on heart and humanity as much as it brings up startling ideas about the future. Faultland is what I’ve searched for as a reader, and it’s an honor to help bring it to the world. As this book’s first project manager at Ooligan Press, I’m planning its entire production schedule and working with my team to develop its marketing plan from the ground up. Acquiring a new book always leads to an exciting flurry of work, but it’s especially wonderful when the book is something you’d pick up off the shelf just for fun. Faultland is that book for me.

Right now, editorial is working on copyediting the manuscript. The cover-design process is underway. We’re refining the copy we’ll use to market this book so that it will reach all those readers who will love it just as much as I do. We’re about a year out from publication, but that time will evaporate quickly in the face of all we need to do to give Faultland the life it deserves.

Suzy Vitello’s characters are the kind that make you feel like you know them as real people. She gets into the mud as she explores the Sparrow siblings’ hopes and failings, along with the drastic misunderstandings between them. The first time I read the Faultland manuscript, I knew that witnessing this family come together to survive a very real disaster was an experience I wouldn’t forget. I’m a Portlander myself, and my heart ached at the startling possibility that this could be the future of my city if The Big One were to hit. I know the streets, bridges, and neighborhoods that make up the destruction the Sparrows must navigate. The image of Portland in rubble has stuck with me, but the more human-scale struggles of the Sparrows prove to be just as dramatic.

Prepare for Faultland in March 2021!

New Acquisition: Three Sides Water

Ooligan Press is pleased to announce the acquisition of Three Sides Water from award-winning author Peter Donahue. Three Sides Water is a trilogy of short novels all set on the Olympic Peninsula in three different time periods. We are excited to work with Donahue on these stories, which have been five years in the making.

Peter Donahue is the author of the novels Clara and Merritt (Wordcraft of Oregon, 2010) and Madison House (Hawthorne Books, 2005) as well as the short story collection The Cornelius Arms (Missing Spoke Press, 2000). Madison House won the 2005 Langum Prize for American Historical Fiction.

He has also coedited two literary anthologies with John Trombold, Reading Seattle and Reading Portland, both published by the University of Washington Press. In Fall 2015, he published an abridged and annotated version of Seven Years on the Pacific Slope (Shafer Historical Museum) with coeditor Sheela McLean, a memoir by Mrs. Hugh Fraser about life in the Methow Valley between 1905 and 1912.

Since 2005, he has written the “Retrospective Review” column for Columbia: The Magazine of Northwest History, published by the Washington State Historical Society. His many short stories and critical articles have appeared in such literary and scholarly journals as Connecticut Review, The South Carolina Review, Interim, Washington Square, Chiron Review, The Southern Quarterly, The Midwest Quarterly, and Writing on the Edge.

Michele Ford and her team will be working on this project, so look for their updates in the future!