The Magic of Portland’s Independent Publishing Resource Center

Portland, Oregon, has long been heralded as one of the best locations in America for artists, authors, and other creatives to find inspiration and community. Indeed, the city’s reputation has made it a hub for creative-minded folks looking for opportunities to hone their crafts and, more importantly, showcase and distribute their work to the public. For authors and artists who don’t have access to publishing technology or spaces to create, print, and publish their work, there are distinct barriers to doing what they love. However, there is an incredible nonprofit organization right here in Portland that seeks to break down these barriers and make publishing affordable and accessible to all.
Founded twenty-one years ago in a partnership between writer, publisher, bookseller, activist, and Portland City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly and printmaker Rebecca Gilbert, the Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC) is a nonprofit community center that is dedicated to making the process of publishing accessible and affordable to all. According to their mission statement, the IPRC seeks to provide “affordable access to space, tools, and resources for creating independently published media and artwork, and to build community and identity through the creation of written and visual art.”
One of the IPRC’s goals is to increase the accessibility of both print and visual publishing materials in order to promote diversity and equity in Portland and beyond through the creating and sharing of art. The center describes their goal this way:

By gathering such a diverse group of people under one roof, the IPRC nourishes an expansive and productive community, and is an incubator for the independent creative spirit that makes Portland unique. The IPRC fills the community need for low-cost access to otherwise expensive space, equipment, and materials, and supports artists to create quality, innovative, and experimental work that couldn’t be made elsewhere.

So just what kind of equipment does the IPRC have? The center’s main studio (currently open by appointment only due to COVID-19 safety precautions) offers an open workspace where patrons can work on individual projects and chat with other community members. The space is home to a digital lab containing iMac computers, which have access to creative software like Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign; black-and-white and color photocopiers (adorably named Blanche and Stella); paper-cutting equipment, including manual and electric paper cutters; paper finishing tools and staplers; button-making tools; and a Bind-Fast 5 perfect book binding machine. Haven’t used these tools before? Either a volunteer or the studio manager will provide you with training before your first use.
Outside of the main studio, the IPRC also offers other specialized studios for different types of printing. The Berlin Family Letterpress Studio is home to a number of letterpresses, a lead type collection, and even offers a galley rental. If screen printing is more your style, you might want to check out the WeMake Screen Printing Studio, which allows members to learn and practice screen printing fundamentals, and offers all the necessary materials that are needed to make a project come to life. Finally, the IPRC Risograph Studio is home to three Risograph printers and thirteen color drums. For each of these specialty printing studios, members are required to complete introductory workshops on how to use the equipment before being allowed to access and use the technology.
The IPRC also offers workshops and classes on a variety of other subjects, including creative writing (both fiction and nonfiction), poetry, chapbooks, zines, and even bookkeeping. The center keeps an updated calendar on their website with information about upcoming workshops and events. Other programs offered by the IPRC include a year-long certificate program that combines creative writing workshops with instruction in design, book arts, and print production; a BIPOC Artist & Writer Residency which provides authors with time and space to create, as well as a stipend of three thousand dollars; and summer youth camps that offer five weeks of creative writing, printmaking, and comic workshops for youth ages five to eighteen.
Interested in using some of the IPRC’s many tools and resources for your creative projects? Learn about membership opportunities and non-member access to studios on their website. You can also donate to this incredible organization to help keep it running so that the Portland community can retain access to these incredible resources. See their wishlist on their website, and support local artists by shopping the wonderful artwork created at the IPRC’s studios.

The Shuffling Madness

I began working with Ooligan my first term as a grad student at PSU. Way back in April, I had a bit of chip on my shoulder. I’d been writing, getting published, and editing the work of other writers for a variety of small press journals for around twenty years. Additionally, I’d spent the prior seven years working in sales and marketing, managing accounts and designing and producing content marketing pieces. All of these experiences together led me to believe that I had little to learn about the workaday life of someone in publishing. I planned to do my time in the program, receive my proverbial sheepskin, and launch a new career in the field of my desire.

My first two terms went completely according to plan. I took Book Marketing and Book Sales, two subjects I could readily apply my background to. I worked in the Marketing department at Ooligan. Then over the summer I took an online grant writing course as an elective and spent the remainder of my time split between Ooligan Acquisitions and Marketing. I headed into the fall feeling good. I was about to take over managing the Acquisitions department for Ooligan, as well as the position of editor in chief at Portland Review, the independent, student-run literary quarterly that’s been published out of Portland State since 1956. I would be taking Book Editing and Intro to Publishing as well, but I wasn’t sweating my course work. Those were two classes that I “could probably teach,” according to one of the other editors at Portland Review. I was soon to find out how wrong she was.

I set a ridiculous timeline for Portland Review: from the start of the term on September 30th, we would have fifteen days to cull through our backlog of roughly two thousand submissions, edit for content and copyedit, design the cover and interior layout, and get it to the printer in time for our scheduled launch party on October 31st. It bears mentioning that I booked all of this knowing full well that we were going to be a brand-new team of full-time students inheriting an office still in boxes with a budget for the following year due on the same date we were set to release our first issue. It seemed like a challenging, yet reasonable schedule: something that would be totally doable, based on the fact that there would be eight of us editors, and we’d have around twenty-five volunteer readers.

I cut my editing teeth in the world of very small independent presses. It’s a world that bears little resemblance, in terms of process and intensity, to the professional world of editing for publication. I am also generally the kind of person who jumps into any new project without waiting for or reading the directions. As a result of my background and nature, I was laboring under a cloud of severe misapprehension: I thought the industry-defined work of acquisitions, developmental editing, and copyediting were all one job, a job I called “content editing.” I also thought that what the industry defines as “proofing” was “copyediting.” From my experience in micropress, zine, and online journal publishing, I’d taken on this assumption as standard. Needless to say, expecting that each section editor would naturally carry these assumptions themselves, not to mention complete their assigned tasks independent of direction or instruction, proved foolish. I inadvertently presumed that most people work like I do and figure things out as they go along. I thought I could assign responsibilities and expect members of the editing staff to work out the details on their own and let me know if they ran into problems.

Thanks to taking that book editing course (the one I supposedly could have taught) in conjunction with our first term of production at Portland Review, I’ve been disabused of many of the assumptions I carried with me into the Book Publishing program. As a team, we are looking at what worked and didn’t work in this last month and developing a structured procedure to use in bringing the next issue into the world. We’re establishing clearer roles and responsibilities based on what I’ve been learning in both Book Editing and Intro to Book Publishing.

Despite my arrogance and ignorance, we managed to get advance copies of our fall issue back in time for the launch events we had scheduled at Rogue Hall on campus Halloween night and the Independent Publishing Resource Center on the first of November. The readings were well-attended and roundly praised. We sold some merchandise, some back issues, and most of our modest advance print run. Now we just have to proof the thing, finalize the design, and get the final to the printer for a delayed launch on the day of this post: November fifteenth. The chip on my shoulder is gone. The process of putting out the fall issue of Portland Review in conjunction with the classes I’m taking has taught me more about publishing than I’ve learned in twenty years of participating in the industry. For that, I am thankful.