How We Updated Our Mission Statement

In the aftermath of the George Floyd protests last year, our press decided it was time to take more active and progressive steps towards diversifying the books that we publish. In the fall we began investigating and discussing the best way to implement these changes, and in the winter we assembled a team to research and draft an updated mission statement for our press.
Ooligan’s Background
Ooligan Press is a trade press run by the students of Portland State University’s Masters in Book Publishing program. Our press publishes four books each year, which creates learning experiences and fosters growth so that students can enter the publishing industry with both experience and knowledge.
Most of our decisions are made together through a democratic process, whether we are acquiring a new book or voting on a cover. This is a pretty rare process in the publishing industry—and it’s somewhat unique to us—so we wanted the process for updating our mission statement to be just as unique.
Our first task was to have all of our students write a list of several words and/or phrases that they believed should be included in the new mission statement. Regardless of whether or not it was included in the final draft, this allowed the mission writing team to see various trends and learn the values of those who make up the press, which would then be reflected in the updated statement.
Our writing team was composed of eight people who met over Zoom to complete the necessary tasks until a finalized draft was ready to present to the press.
Research
In the winter, we began looking at mission statements from other presses and other facets of the industry such as publishers and printers. Our goal was to analyze a variety of mission statements in order to see what was working and what we could benefit from in terms of structure, rhetoric, etc. This may seem like a fairly obvious step, but this type of research allowed us to see all sorts of language and structures and to consider what would best fit the personality of our organization before we began writing.
We also looked at the slogans used by different corporations. Larger companies tend to focus on their brand and their outward image, so this exercise allowed us to look at effective and punchy copy that used a short number of words.
Rhetoric
One of the most delicate parts of updating a mission statement is choosing your words precisely. While our press had a largely democratic process in the fall, the writing team was responsible for choosing rhetoric that matched the unique identity of our press. We discussed, agreed, and even disagreed, respectfully, favoring words like “equity” and “inclusion” over the more simple and overused “diversity.”
Structure
Another important part of the process was finding a way to simplify our press into its key parts, to really figure out who we are and what we represent in this industry. We felt that the most pertinent aspects of our press were the student-run and Pacific Northwest aspects, but we also wanted to add in a third idea of publishing diverse authorships.
We also looked at the structure of other mission statements, paying particular attention to word count and paragraph breaks to figure out how to most effectively organize our ideas.
Concision
Mission statements are most successful when they are focused and to-the-point. A writer who is submitting their manuscript is going to read dozens of mission statements, so we wanted ours to be under one hundred words in order to keep readers engaged, while still allowing them to get an understanding of who we are.
Pledge for Inclusivity
Our main focus, which I’ve been hinting at, was to add the idea of publishing diverse authorships so that we can demonstrate our progressive values as students. This has been an emerging part of our identity as a press, and we wanted this value to be stated clearly, without being buried behind our other goals. We want other publishers to know that this is what we are going for moving forward.
Team Writing
After our research and discussion near the end of winter, we finally began writing as a team. Team writing can be quite difficult, but we set out with concrete goals and tasks in terms of rhetoric, structure, concision, and our goal for inclusivity.
Our first meeting was very discussion-oriented, and before our second meeting, I compiled the most prominent points from each writer into a draft. When we met the second time, we discussed, tweaked, and played with the format until we had several versions of the same mission statement.
An advisory board of faculty members decided on one of these versions. After we presented it to the press, we allowed each student the chance to vote on the mission statement, and it ultimately passed. We are so excited to release it later this year!
The End of A First Step
Clarity, brevity, and utility were our main goals in updating our mission statement, and our group is incredibly proud of the work we’ve done. In moving towards our values of inclusivity, however, the mission statement is just the first step. Updating our mission statement is at the core of things that Ooligan Press wants to accomplish in terms of shaping literature and the publishing industry, and our work is still cut out for us.

A sign that says "One World" with a picture of the Earth on it.

Announcing FROM KNOWLEDGE TO POWER

Climate change and climate science have been key issues in the last ten years. Why? Because the Earth is slowly heating up, and only we, as a global community, can stop it. Together, we can prevent the global temperature rise from exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius—with knowledge about what is happening, we can affect change. People are more motivated now than ever to understand what exactly is going on with the climate and how we can fix it.

Ooligan Press is thrilled to announce our newest nonfiction title, From Knowledge to Power: Your Handbook for Climate Science and Advocacy by debut author Dr. John Perona, set to launch in October 2021. From Knowledge to Power is a climate advocate’s handbook that addresses climate change from multiple angles. Using his PhD in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry from Yale and his LLM in Environmental and Natural Resources Law from the Northwestern School of Law at Lewis & Clark College, Perona breaks down what exactly is happening from a scientific perspective, a political perspective, and a social perspective in clear prose; moreover, he teaches the reader how to become an advocate, using this knowledge to help the reader understand the issue from multiple perspectives in order to be the best citizen advocate possible.

Using foundation-based knowledge, Perona takes the reader through the entire field of climate change, touching on fundamentals, far-reaching impacts, and how to take action. Breaking down complex topics such as the Green New Deal and the fossil fuel machine, Perona uses science-based solutions in order to make even the most complicated topics clear.

From Knowledge to Power is an essential handbook for anyone interested in climate change. A thorough and concise manual, From Knowledge to Power is the complete guide to understand the data, history, and impacts of climate change. Most importantly, this book offers a message of optimism, empowering the reader to become a climate advocate through realistic, actionable ideas that can help inspire the reader to see a future where things have changed for the better.

As the project manager, my team and I have been working on the basics of marketing and social media strategies while the book begins its journey through the publishing production cycle. Julie, the previous project manager, helped do the developmental edit and really saw the big picture of what the book was about. Julie writes, “The mission of this book is to present a reliable and well-rounded picture of the climate crisis through science education, while including the implications of that science for the near and far future, in order to motivate readers to action via political and personal advocacy. The book will be thorough, yet approachable. It may be read from start to finish by enthusiasts, but will likely be a resource or guide for many readers.”

It has been so exciting to see this book change and grow. Keep your eye out for the visuals in this book—I’m sure they will be as well-designed as they are important.

As Wendell Berry said, “The Earth is what we all have in common.” In October 2021, grab a copy of From Knowledge to Power and learn how you can help our shared home.

Seven Stitches Pub Date and Launch Party

Today we celebrate Valentine’s Day, Oregon’s statehood, and … the publication of Seven Stitches! Ooligan Press is thrilled to bring you the third companion book of the Blue Thread Saga. Read more about Seven Stitches, then join us on Thursday at Another Read Through for the official launch party.

It’s been a year since the Big One—the Cascadia subduction zone earthquake—devastated Portland. While Meryem Zarfati’s injuries have healed and her neighborhood is rebuilding, her mother is still missing. Refusing to give up hope, Meryem continues to search for her mother, even as she learns to live without her in a changed Portland. Along the way, she struggles with her Jewish-Vietnamese heritage and what it means to honor her ancestry. After she receives a magical prayer shawl handed down from her maternal grandmother, a mysterious stranger appears and Meryem is called to save a young girl living in slavery—in sixteenth-century Istanbul. The third companion in the Oregon Book Award–winning Blue Thread saga explores how we recover—and rebuild—after the worst has happened.

Help the author, Ruth Tenzer Feldman, celebrate the launch at Another Read Through on February 16 from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Ruth will be answering questions, reading an excerpt, and signing copies. Refreshments will be provided by the team at Ooligan Press.

W2P 2017: The Final Countdown!

Write to Publish (W2P) 2017 is so close, but there’s still time to get your tickets—which will give you access to all of the panels, workshops, and extras we have planned for Saturday! Our vendors and sponsors have really stepped up and are offering a wide range of goods and services to everyone who stops by. The vendor fair is open to the public, so we encourage everyone to visit Smith Memorial Student Union at PSU to shop with some of Portland’s best publishing houses and services in one location!

One of the most exciting aspects of our conference is the Pitch to a Professional event in which you, as aspiring authors, get a five-minute window to “pitch” your manuscript to a publisher or agent. The publishing professional you are pitching to will provide you with feedback on your pitch content and technique, giving you an inside look at the pitch process—and concrete experience in doing so! This is an educational experience that allows aspiring authors to hone their presentation skills. It’s an action-packed seven minutes that often turns out to be the most memorable experience of the entire conference for authors. But there is a catch to this awesome opportunity—you have to purchase your admission ticket by Tuesday, January 31, because the limited sign-up list will go out on February 1, and it’s a first-come, first-served registration process. Further sign-up details and the list of professionals who will be evaluating your pitches will be introduced in an email sent to our registered attendees next week. Buy tickets now so you don’t miss out on Pitch to a Professional!

We’re really looking forward to meeting all of the aspiring authors who want to get an inside peek at the publishing process on Saturday, February 4, at Smith Memorial Student Union on the beautiful Portland State University campus!

Hiking Through History: Exploring Ricochet River on Its Twenty-Fifth Anniversary

In anticipation of the upcoming release of Ricochet River’s twenty-fifth anniversary edition, our intrepid Ooligan team embarked for Estacada, Oregon, to tour the River Mill Dam. On the way to the dam, we met with our author and literary advocate Robin Cody. He guided us down the wooded road to his hometown—the inspiration for Ricochet River and the fictional town of Calamus—where we met with Terry, a retired Portland General Electric employee and dam tour guide. Terry and Robin were high school classmates, and they shared the small-town familiarity that is expressed so well in Ricochet River. They exemplified the sense of place that is central to Cody’s story and is explored through the natural aspects of Oregon’s historic fishing and lumber communities.
After donning our hard hats (and after one safety-conscious, handsome writer opted for the additional safety vest), we followed Terry across the upper tiers of the dam to see the hardware and the beautiful reservoir scenery. Terry provided history and fielded questions as we snapped pictures, bothered Robin, and milled about to explore the historic infrastructure that influenced the classic book of Oregon’s natural heritage. Then we descended along the downstream side to view the fish ladders.
We passed the older, unused fish ladder that once provided upstream access to migrating fish and wended across catwalks into the concrete passageways within the dam. Eventually we found ourselves on the main generator floor, stories below the massive weight of the reservoir. The generators rested in alternating service, some open for repair while their siblings spun in service to Portland, Estacada, Clackamas, and thousands of other destinations along the grid.
Passing to the exterior again, surrounded by misted leaves and the timeless passage of water below our feet, we traversed the foot of the dam. On the north bank, the new fish ladder wound below the walkways, our guides waiting patiently for clicking phones and city-kid questions.
After departing the dam, Robin took us out for lunch. Fielding even more questions as we sipped beer and pizza, Cody was informative and gracious, even tolerating inquiries into his involvement on the botched film adaptation of his novel. Finished eating, asking questions, and laughing over our leisurely meal, we took our leave of Robin and headed further southeast to the Clackamas River Trail. It was late in the day and overcast as we took to the trail in a herd, shepherded by a twinky-colored dog and fueled by Estacada’s finest cheesy pie. Thankfully our arrival time meant little foot traffic, with the trail clinging to the riverbank, eventually yielding a beautiful rocky beach. As night began to fall, we turned back to dry off in the comfort of the city.
Tasting the spirit and form of the Estacada landscape, and meeting the population that called it home, brought us closer to our work on Cody’s novel. Many of us will return to the town and trails of Estacada with a new appreciation for our title and a sense of connection to the story it tells. Maybe next time it will involve less rain, though certainly hiking and beer.

Transmit Culture: Local Authors on the Life of a Writer

An intimate gathering of aspiring writers and graduate students attended Portland State of Mind’s Transmit Culture: Writers at Work lecture series on October 18. The moderated conversation on balancing professional lives with artistic writing pursuits had a diverse set of panelists including a poet, a short story writer, and a nonfiction writer. The three authors—Kait Heacock, Michael Heald, and David Biespiel—each spoke on their unique experiences as published authors. And while each of these authors varied in backgrounds and genres, each panelist connected through their shared disciplines of what it takes to be a writer while working in the publishing industry.
Kait Heacock, a fiction writer and Ooligan Press alumni, shared her experience writing Siblings and Other Disappointments while working as a publicist at the Feminist Press in New York City. Heacock spoke about being inspired by her colleagues in New York and how working at the Feminist Press pushed her as a writer. She built on this by sharing the benefits of being an author working in the publishing industry, saying, “Working in publishing has given me an insider’s perspective on writing, which has made me a more knowledgeable author.”
The second panelist was nonfiction author and publishing house owner Michael Heald, who wrote Goodbye to the Nervous Apprehension. Heald’s clear passion for running his press became apparent even as he discussed the amount of work it takes to profit on the books he publishes. This led into Heald explaining how working as a publisher informs his writing, saying, “I feel as connected to the books at Perfect Day as the authors do. It’s like having this great long distance friendship.”
David Biespiel is a poet who has authored numerous books, with his most recent work being a collection of essays titled A Long High Whistle. Biespiel approached the conversation as an educator, telling the crowd about his inspiring experiences running a literary studio called Attic Institute of Arts and Letters that he started in 1999. But when Biespiel discussed how he approaches his own writing, it was clear that his pursuits as a writer stem from his inquisitive nature to learn. Of his writing, Biespiel said, “I have no idea what I want to say, but I have questions I want to answer, and my writing is my attempt to answer those questions.”
Writers at Work provided its audience a fantastic glance at the intimate details of three writers who also function in the literary world as professionals. When asked how these busy writers find time to actually write outside of work, Heacock was quick to answer by saying, “Writing is the most natural thing for me, so I structure it like work. I need structure, so I schedule it like work.” This sentiment was echoed by Heald and Biespiel, who agreed that writing demands specific attention and dedication in order to succeed.

Independent Bookstore Day Is Back!

Bookstores in Portland and beyond will celebrate the second Independent Bookstore Day (IBD) on Saturday, April 30, with special events and nifty literary merchandise. The day highlights a growing momentum of support among readers and writers for independent booksellers all over the country. And there’s no bigger fan than Portland writer Ruth Tenzer Feldman, author of Blue Thread, The Ninth Day, and the forthcoming Seven Stitches.

“My favorite thing about indie bookstores is that they are indie,” she said. “Duh! It’s that simple. Each bookstore has its own personality, its own responsiveness to the community it serves. As a participant in the Crazy Eights author tours, I’ve visited an eclectic bunch of indie bookstores across Oregon, some of which I wouldn’t have managed to see on my own. Each was a delight. Unpredictable, quirky, and yet offering the same welcome to readers and writers that is the essence of indie.”

I asked Feldman about the role indie bookstores fill in today’s marketplace. “What comes to mind here is biological diversity,” she said. “An odd analogy, I suppose, but the way I see it, indie bookstores add vigor to the gene pool.” By accommodating local needs, she says, bookstore owners help to “expand the possibilities that a literate and literary community will thrive.”

Bestselling author Lauren Groff (Fates and Furies) would agree. As this year’s Independent Bookstore Day Author Ambassador, she believes IBD “joyously celebrates the literary ecosystem and shows how symbiotic the relationship is between readers, writers, and bookstores, and how essential they all are in sustaining the contemporary written word.”

Participating bookstores in the Portland area—Annie Bloom’s Books, Broadway Books, and Jan’s Paperbacks—will feature these and other items made just for the event:

  • The Care & Feeding of an Independent Bookstore by Ann Patchett, signed by the author
  • Anthony Bourdain’s “Perfect Burger” print, signed by the author
  • Third edition of the Bad Citizen stencil series, with a quote by Fran Lebowitz: “Think before you speak. Read before you think.”
  • Set of two 100 percent cotton literary tea towels
  • Bookstore cats zippered pouch
  • A Neil Gaiman coloring book
  • Raymie Nightingale, signed by Newbery Award-winner Kate DiCamillo
  • Draw Me! with step-by-step instructions on how to draw Mo Willem’s Pigeon, Curious George, and Fly Guy

Find this fascinating stuff and more at these participating bookstores:

Annie Bloom’s Books, 7834 SW Capitol Hwy., Portland, OR 97219

Broadway Books, 1714 NE Broadway St., Portland, OR 97232

Jan’s Paperbacks, 18095 SW Tualatin Valley Hwy., Aloha, OR 97003

Sold yet? A final word from Feldman should get you out the door: “Indie bookstores encourage and inspire me. I’m not in this crazy business alone.”

National Independent Bookstore Day is sponsored in part by Penguin Random House, Ingram, and The American Booksellers Association. IBD is produced by Samantha Schoech in partnership with the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association (NCIBA). Click here for more information.

Ooligan Press Does #PitMad

The Ooligan Press acquisitions department will participate in the Twitter pitch party #PitMad on Thursday, March 17. If Ooligan’s Twitter account—@ooliganpress—likes your #PitMad tweet, we have officially invited you to submit a book proposal package through our Submittable page. Please note in your cover letter that you were invited to submit through #PitMad and include your Twitter handle.

We are looking for submissions regionally significant to the Pacific Northwest in the #PitMad age categories #YA, #NA, and #A and genre categories #AD, #CON, #HF, #MR, #Mem, #LGBT, #LF, #NF, and #WF.

Our full submission guidelines and more information about our press are available on the Ooligan Press website. Please note, we may retweet your #PitMad pitch to boost awareness of your proposal within our publishing network, but if we don’t like your tweet we haven’t invited you to submit to Ooligan, likely because the age or genre of your pitch conflicts with our submission guidelines.

Our acquisitions team wishes everyone participating in #PitMad the best of luck, and we look forward to seeing your pitches!

Interning While Ooliganing

Before applying to graduate school, I didn’t have much interest in pursuing internships. Honestly, it never even crossed my mind to try. This was probably due in large part to the fact that I majored in philosophy, but I think it applies to a fair handful of other disciplines as well, especially those in the liberal arts. What was I going to do with an internship, anyway? In philosophy, you either teach or try to convince employers that your abstract critical-thinking skills and ability to understand complex metaphysical theories qualify you for a job. I did hear a rumor once about a wealthy businessman who employed a personal philosopher while he traveled the world—but in general those things don’t happen, and I don’t like traveling in the first place. As such, when I left undergrad, I happily switched disciplines.

One of the great things about Ooligan Press, arguably its top selling point when compared to similar programs, is the hands-on experience you get by working at an actual press while studying for your degree. But that’s not all they offer in terms of real-world work experience—Ooligan has established connections with numerous local publications and publishing houses, and for students, they’ve compiled an extensive database of places to get in touch with if you’re itching to fill out your resume and gain some extracurricular industry experience. Students are also regularly alerted to many available internship opportunities via email—getting involved in publishing outside of Ooligan is very strongly encouraged by faculty, and they do everything they can to help you.

My first internship was with Portland Book Review. It was an editorial position, completed during my second term, and it served as my introduction to WordPress, review editing, and, once I’d finished, a position as a book reviewer (paid in books!). My second internship took place during my third term, and it was with Hawthorne Books. As a publicity position, it was a sizable step outside my comfort zone, but in a good way—even if I don’t end up working in publicity in the long term, the experience taught me to really appreciate everything that goes into getting a book out there, including research, spreadsheets, pitches, mailings, and phone calls. In general, I felt like I gained a much greater understanding of what book publishing looks like for indie presses, and I hope to complete at least one more internship before I graduate in the spring.

The application processes for the three I’ve applied to so far have been very similar: I found their websites, looked up their internship application instructions, and sent in a cover letter and resume (and writing samples for editorial positions). I took the first one for school credit, so once I was offered the position, I did the relevant paperwork with the program director and registered for the newly created course once it became available in PSU’s system. If you want to intern somewhere that doesn’t regularly take interns on, it never hurts to ask—many places would be more than happy to provide experience in exchange for some free help.

I will add this disclaimer for those just starting out in the grad program at Ooligan: I don’t recommend overloading yourself with internships right away. It’s important to give yourself space and time to get acclimated, especially during your first few (often very difficult) weeks. But once you’re ready, they can be a very beneficial part of building your professional network and repertoire of skills and experience.

Two Deep Breaths and Then Speak

The launch party for Eliot Treichel’s A Series of Small Maneuvers, released on November 1, 2015, was held at Another Read Through on November 17. Treichel spoke about his process and read an excerpt before answering questions and signing books.

Walking into Another Read Through for the first time for the launch of A Series of Small Maneuvers, Ooligan’s fall title, I am immediately struck by the venue. With tall bookshelves brimming with books, entering the store feels like coming home. Heading up to the second floor, where the reading will take place, I get a surprise. Two rows of chairs are already full, with a third quickly filling up. By the time Treichel steps up to the podium, it’s standing room only in the back.

Eliot Treichel is the author of the young adult novel Small Maneuvers and the short story collection Close Is Fine, published back in 2012. Now, at the launch party of his first novel, he describes the events in his life that gave him the inspiration to write the book, from his childhood learning to kayak to his attempts to bang out the novel during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). With that context, he gives a short reading from the text. The section he selects is the one that introduces the ongoing mantra “two deep breaths and go.”

He then accepts questions, telling us a bit about his thought process while writing the book. Most interesting to me is the explanation he gives about the changes made to the protagonist’s father, Parker. Emma, with her teenage angst and impressive survival skills, is a good protagonist, but I find Parker to be a much more complex and engaging character.

Parker as originally written, we learn, was seen by test readers as “too nice.” For the next draft, Eliot gave him more flaws. It was important to Eliot that the parents in his book are fleshed out, rather than the caricatures in books aimed at children and teens. He certainly succeeded: Parker as he appears in the finished novel is a hypocrite, highly judgmental, and not always a nice person, but he is nevertheless skilled, caring, and deeply loyal to his family.

Like Parker, Eliot is a passionate kayaker and river guide. And like Parker, Eliot has (or had at the time he was writing Small Maneuvers) a teenage daughter. Eliot talks about learning to better relate to his daughter through writing the book. When she read it, upon its completion, her reaction was gratifying to Eliot. She told him that reading his depiction of Emma made her realize that Eliot understood her better than she had thought.

As the reading comes to a close, Eliot is mobbed by people asking him to sign their books. The rest of the room forms into clumps of people, many of them Ooligan Press students, chatting away as they enjoy being surrounded by books for a few minutes longer. Slowly people begin to head downstairs, browsing for a few minutes more before they finally head out into the night.