Authors at Home

There is a certain kind of intimacy that comes with seeing into the home of another person. Normally a relationship needs to reach a certain point before you’re invited inside, but we’re all having to adjust to a new normal. We’re all searching for something to inspire us, and we often turn to the things we read. In light of the stay-at-home orders that most of the world is currently following, authors have brought literary salons––places to explore ideas, share stories, and gain insight into the writing process––to Instagram. By allowing us into their writing spaces, these authors are giving us a rare, uncensored look into their lives. Sharing these spaces allows us to refill our creative wells through conversation and a shared love of books and writing. It won’t surprise me if there’s a new literary renaissance in the next few years as authors––both published and aspiring––create new work under lockdown.

If you’re looking for something to do on a Friday or Saturday night in, look no further than Instagram. Authors are using live video to welcome us into their homes with open arms, sharing a bit of their lives and their writing processes as a way to engage with their readers and escape from the world. Several authors have decided to dive deep into the creative process, sharing details from their publishing and writing journeys that, as readers, we’re not always privy to. You can always read interviews, of course, but there is something curiously enthralling and inspiring about watching authors detail their journeys themselves.

With each Instagram Live stream, viewers gain some perspective on just how much emotional work goes into penning a novel. It’s a rare, uncensored look into an author’s life and their work—from moments when the author is so choked up they can hardly speak to bursts of incredulous laughter when they reread a line written years before. The format allows for spontaneity as authors answer reader questions in real time, which is important in a time when we’re all having to frame our questions and answers around our new reality. We’re able to connect to the rawness and vulnerability that comes from talking about writing during these times, and this shows us what it means to share things together.

Authors sharing an inside look at their writing and publishing journeys are inspiring to aspiring authors. Every journey is different, and these literary salons with truly wonderful writers are providing us with the creative nourishment we need. It’s difficult right now for some people to feel a creative spark, and authors know that some of the best work comes from moments when our creativity is really tested. By welcoming us into their homes, they are supplying a place where we can fan the coals of creativity and hope that something catches and burns into something new.

Here are some authors to follow for that creative spark:

  • Jeff Zentner. His Instagram Live streams are peppered with writing and publishing advice, anecdotes about writing his novel The Serpent King, and small sneak peeks into his upcoming novel, In the Wild Light. He has tentative plans to continue live streams with his second published novel.
  • V. E. Schwab. On Saturdays, she chats with a different writer about their creative process, their origin story, hurdles they’ve had to overcome, and their writing process itself.
  • Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman. They run a weekly read-along and Q and A about their novel, Aurora Rising.
  • Catherynne M. Valente. She is reading from her series The Orphan’s Tales every night until the stay-at-home orders end.

Ooligan in Quarantine: Our Best Titles Paired with the Rooms of Your Home

We are tired of our dwellings. The COVID-19 quarantine has given us house fatigue and has made our precious casas mundane. But what if I told you there was a new way to look at your house? A path—no, a tour—that would help you see your humble abode with fresh eyes?

After minutes of research into our Ooligan titles, I’ve paired each book with a topographical feature of the modern American home. We’ve already endured many weeks of social distancing—during which we’ve learned new recipes or drunk our entire wine cellar—and this tour will provide you with the entertainment and intellectual stimulation you’ll need to get you through the rest of your time at home.

Kitchen: The Widmer Way by Jeff Alworth
According to George Costanza, the kitchen is the most sociable room in the house. But why not learn a little bit about the history of the beer industry with Jeff Alworth’s The Widmer Way: How Two Brothers Led Portland’s Craft Beer Revolution? It’ll catch you up on Portland’s craft beer scene and how Widmer’s Hefeweizen became Portland’s unofficial beer. So stay inside and “sociable” with a few pints and this read.

Living Room: Odsburg by Matt Tompkins
In what might be the quirkiest book on our frontlist, Tompkins takes us to the fictional Pacific Northwest town of Odsburg to experience strange tales and eccentric characters. While you won’t find Odsburg on a map, Tompkins fills the book with entertaining short tales and pokes fun at PNW tropes. “The entire book,” according to Locus Magazine, “is full of strange and inventive ideas.” So strange and original you’ll read long into the night.

Bathtub: The Names We Take by Trace Kerr
Coming in May 2020: you in your bathtub with a bunch of bubbles, reading this book by candlelight. In the wake of a devastating plague (stay with me), our characters must fend for themselves and stick together. This book is a perfect match for our time in quarantine. This may take a few sessions, so settle into that bubble bath and soak up a speculative-fiction story with a premise that might not be too far off in the future.

Dining Room: The Portland Red Guide by Michael Munk
A great conversation piece, The Portland Red Guide plots Portland with walking tours and guides readers through the city’s rich history of radical social dissent. Break bread (with yourself) and celebrate a town of ideas and activism, but also plot your next city activity for when our COVID-19 quarantine finally lifts.

Porch/Backyard: 50 Hikes in the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests by the Sierra Club Oregon Chapter
Speaking of planning, pick a bright spring day and a refreshing drink to help you select your next trail. With a wide selection of day hikes between Portland and the coast that range in difficulty, this guide has something for everyone. Summer is right around the corner, so get planning.

Office/Study: Elephant Speak by Melissa Crandall
One of our more recent releases, Elephant Speak is a nonfiction book that dives into one man’s career caring for our favorite pachyderms. Rated 5/5 by the San Francisco Book Review for its clarity and “wealth of information,” this book is one to dwell on and ruminate over as we get a behind-the-scenes look at a zoo through Roger Henneous’s eyes.

Bedroom: Iditarod Nights by Cindy Hiday
In Ooligan’s first romance (brought to you in partnership with our friends at the Multnomah County Library Writers Project), Cindy Hiday takes us to Alaska, where two wandering souls enter the famed Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in pursuit of healing and redemption. In this adventure near the Arctic, the two must navigate the treacherous path as their own paths intertwine. This is no snoozefest, but rather a steamy journey for your nightstand.

(Bonus) A More Optimistic Post-Quarantine Future: Rethinking Paper & Ink by Jessie Carver and Natalie Guidry
When we emerge from quarantine into a bright future, Rethinking Paper & Ink will give us a look into sustainable publishing. Bright, informative, and perfect for reading outside, this book is an optimistic title and a step toward a healthier future for our planet.

The end (of quarantine) is nigh, but instead of completing Netflix or thinking you’re actually going to get to your Duolingo, break up your time inside with a few Ooligan titles of various genres. Happy reading and stay inside.

Subterranean Home(sick)

The other morning, before opening my eyes, I had this comforting yet strange (and rather eerie) sensibility that I was in my bed at my parents’ home in Tennessee. I swear to God I heard a cow moo, too, before realizing I had in fact moved to the West coast (over a year ago), and was living in the city of Portland, Oregon; and yes, it was cloudy and raining again. I salute you, Pacific Northwesterners, and your ability to persevere through the gray; it was taxing for a Southerner. I will never forget to take my vitamin D supplement ever again.

I’m from a quintessential small rural town: McMinnville, Tennessee. At the base of the Appalachian Mountains, our terrain was in the relatively unexciting area of foothills before it reached the flat, dusty, never-ending agony of West Tennessee. It would get cold, so we had a wood stove, but it rarely ever snowed more than an inch. It would get hot, and hay bales would burst into flames, but that was just part of summer. Tornadoes abrasively greeted us in the springtime (R. I. P. backyard apple trees and trampoline), along with planting onions in the garden (which I hated, for whatever reason). I always knew it was time to go back to school in the fall because the corn had grown almost tall enough to harvest.

Home was a hodgepodge farm of horses, chickens, cows, one evil goat—Goatman—a million dogs, barn cats, and two siblings. I had a pet duck, Ping, who lived to be ten years old, and raised a calf my senior year of high school since her mother had died during her labor. I was my dad’s tractor buddy until my little brother was born; he fortunately took over that position. My sister would pull and eat radishes straight from the dirt. My mother mowed the yard in her bikini. We were country. I was country. Whatever.

I always liked books and reading. It gave me the perfect tool to live and survive acceptably unsocial around my peers (I was reading!). My dad was often the one who would provide me with books to read that would result in me empathetically devastated (The Red Pony by Steinbeck, anyone?). Besides my father providing me books and my English teachers advocating me to pursue a literary degree after graduation, there wasn’t an outlet for students interested in writing. There wasn’t an art club, let alone a writing club. However, my sophomore year of highschool I wrote an essay comparing myself to an opossum and submitted it into a competition called “Laws of Life” contending against all high school students in my county. It was a silly metaphor for “the living dead,” which I felt like I was doing; undoubtedly I was influenced by my intimacy with depression. I won! Third place, but, still. Fancy that—a country girl comparing herself to a rat-like marsupial? It was awesome. I was going to be the most badass writer, but the first thing I needed to do, I thought, was get the hell out of Tennessee and work on camouflaging my country accent. Naturally, and ironically, I only moved a state over (North Carolina) to get my undergraduate degree and “escape.”

Since working on Kait Heacock’s short story collection, Siblings and Other Disappointments, and moving to Oregon in general, the resentment I found towards my home and the South—induced by stereotypes of laziness, poverty, and ignorance—have almost entirely faded (besides how this makes me feel). Even working for Ooligan Press has been interesting with my lack of familiarity with the region I’ve now situated myself in (I’m going to stop acting like I know where Yakima is, for example). I don’t pretend to know how Heacock personally views her writings oriented towards the Pacific Northwest and what that means to her, but damn if your heart doesn’t ache for the beautiful, ugly nature of your home when you’re away, no matter how old you are.

As a writer and a rather sensitive human, living in a city full of visual and literary creativity has allowed me to step back and fully recognize the nuances I always overlooked when I was standing too close. It’s almost like I never even knew it was my place until leaving provided me with a lense to see differently. This isn’t an epiphany by any means. It’s a subtle awareness that quietly rustled the sheets and woke me up one morning. I’ve never felt more at ease telling people where I am from as I attempt to embody that culture into words.

It’s my home. It’s my place.