Depending on Kindness

I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers.

A Streetcar Named Desire
After spending six months dreading the moment I’d have to stand in front of people and read, I approached my biggest fear with a clear picture of every possible thing that could go wrong. Vomiting, fainting, and crying, I’ll have to admit, were at the top of my list of expectations for the night. One thing that was not, however, was Tennessee Williams.
Yet after having managed to make it through reading and speaking alongside authors whose life and work I’ve long admired without falling out of my chair—or accidentally lighting a cigarette, because I was so nervous I forgot where I was—I realized that the one thing I hadn’t imagined happening was the only thing that happened. The kindness of the people around me had overshadowed everything I didn’t want to do, or that I was afraid would happen.
Still, Lidia Yuknavitch is not a stranger. Eliot Treichel is not a stranger. My friends in Portland are not strangers. My wife, Kate, is not a stranger. The wonderful people at Ooligan Press are not strangers. And the people I’d never met before that night at Powell’s, or that I didn’t meet, but were there, are not strangers, either. They’re all actually a lot like me. And every one of them helped me to realize that we were all there experiencing something together.
So, thank you. Even if I still don’t like talking in front of people, I now know that it can be done.
But, more importantly, working with Ooligan Press has shown me that there are some really great publishers out there; publishers that care more about the work they’re putting out than they do about money. The time and care that every person at Ooligan Press puts into every manuscript forced me to realize a lot of things. Mainly that those on both ends of the publishing process are a lot alike in that, as much as they care about anything, they care about books.

Up Nights project team

The Up Nights team: Brittany Torgerson, Olivia Croom, Kylie Byrd, and Daniel Kine

Up Nights: The Finish

Sorry for the radio silence this past week. After the launch party both Kylie and I were beat, so we decided to take a little breather before posting our final Start to Finish post. As my last two posts have been about taking a look back at my time working on Up Nights, I just wanted to take the time to give some thanks before saying my final goodbyes. First, I would just like to thank everyone who came out to the readings and launch party to celebrate the release of Up Nights. We had a great turnout and a good time at all of the events. Along the same lines, thank you to Powell’s City of Books, Sam Bond’s Garage, and The Jack London Bar for letting us host our events at their venues. All of the staff members were very helpful, which took some of the stress off mine and Kylie’s shoulders, so thank you, thank you, thank you!

A special shout-out to the amazing Lidia Yuknavitch for ushering Daniel through his first-ever reading! Not only is she hilarious, but a new favorite author of mine (as I picked up a copy of The Chronology of Water at the Powell’s reading!). I would also like to thank Eliot Treichel for taking time out of his busy schedule to do a reading with Daniel. It’s always a pleasure getting to listen to him read his wonderful stories. To Daniel, a million thank yous for bringing your book to Ooligan, and for putting so much trust in both me and Kylie. It was so amazing to work with you, and I am truly going to miss it. My only wish for Up Nights is that it becomes a  New York Times bestseller! (So go out and get your copy today! Like right this second. Lol.) Lastly, I would like to thank all of our readers, whoever you may be, for sticking with us through this crazy process. I hope that you enjoyed reading about the exciting world of publishing (and the hectic lives of graduate students), and learned a few things along the way. Writing these posts has been a lot more fun than I expected, and they give me something to remember this experience by.

-Brittany

Wow, that’s a tough act to follow. Can I just say “What she said”? In all seriousness, though, it has been my privilege to be a project manager for this book for a whole year. When I became a manager, the book was still in the developmental editing process—Daniel was still hunkered over the manuscript, meticulously addressing our comments and suggestions. Now, it’s edited, designed, marketed, and sold; it’s out in the world, and like an empty-nester, all I can do is twiddle my thumbs and hope that the world will be as good to it as it deserves. I appreciate all the hard work that everyone has put into making the book a success, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to have experienced its production. I’ve learned so much, and have been inspired to push myself out of my comfort zone. I have gotten a taste of what can go wrong or right in a book’s journey from idea to final product. Thank you Brittany, for being such a great partner in crime. Thank you Daniel, for writing a book that made me sit up and say, “Hey, I want to be a part of this,” and for coming all the way across the pond and working so hard to promote it. Thank you Ooligan Press, for being such a positive establishment, such a celebration of what can be accomplished by mere students.

Thank you reader, for reading the Up Nights Start to Finish posts, and taking part in the story of the story. We’ve come full-circle now, and it’s time to say goodbye, but it’s been such a wonderful ride.

Cheers to the future!

Write to Publish Recap

By Kait Heacock
This year’s Write to Publish conference, our fourth, marked a great success for Ooligan Press. Not only did we make money (always a plus), we also introduced many new people to our student staffed publishing house, and more importantly, we helped bring writers, readers, and publishers together. Fresh off the success of our first Transmit Culture lecture series, we continued our work toward demystifying the publishing industry with an all-day conference that featured readings, panel discussions, and workshops.
 Lidia Yuknavitch on a panel
The day’s theme was “Write What You Know” and focused on non-fiction in its many forms, from travel writing and memoir, to journalism and biography. Writers Lidia Yuknavitch, Floyd Skloot, Kevin Sampsell, Ooligan Press’s own Sean Davis, and many more writers explored what it means to write from personal experience. The panels were lively as industry professionals discussed such topics as ethics in journalism and how to sell a travel writing piece.
Per and student
In the classroom publishing panel discussion, Director of Publishing, Per Henningsgaard, discussed the role he feels publishing plays in education, noting that it can be used to “teach anything.” Former Director of Publishing and Ooligan Press founder, Dennis Stovall, believes publishing education helps empower students by giving them an outlet for their writing. He now volunteers with Roosevelt High School students at their own student staffed press. Some of the Roosevelt students appeared on the classroom publishing panel to discuss their own publishing ambitions, which includes publishing their own book later this year.
Journalism panel
In the morning workshop “History and Biography: Forward Through the Past,” Michael McGregor, the current MFA Director, PSU professor, and a writer himself, said that the writing you should be working on now is “whatever you’re obsessed with.” For all those writers who attended this year’s Write to Publish, we hope that whatever your next project is, you find the best avenue for writing it. Hopefully, this year’s Write to Publish conference helped make that path a little clearer.

Write to Publish 2013: Write What You Know

By Rebekah Hunt
Ladies and Gentlemen, it is once again time for Write to Publish! Write to Publish 2013: Write What You Know is all set to kick off Saturday, February 23, from 9 AM to 5 PM at the Native American Student Community Center. As exciting as last year’s event was for us, it promises to be even better this year. Of particular interest to me is the author stage with Lidia Yuknavitch. She’s one of Portland’s all-around raddest ladies, and it was through her writing class with at Mt. Hood way back in the day that I experienced my first tinglings of interest in creative writing. She also had Chuck Palahniuk come and give a reading and then stay and give our class a question-and-answer session about writing fiction, so yeah, it was pretty much the best writing class ever.
The cool thing about our W2P author stage, as opposed to author readings at other conventions, is the industry-mingle setup, which will open up the discussion for authors to talk about their own experiences in publishing. As the W2P description says, “The authors will focus on the ups and downs, challenges, and triumphs they experienced in their careers.” This is a refreshing opportunity for many young writers, who stand to benefit far more from hearing about the real-life workings of the publishing industry through authors they respect and admire, than from hearing them read from their books. And this is pretty much the crux of the event, which is, not to put too fine a point on it, about writing to publish.
Aside from the lovely Lidia, we’ve got our own new author Sean Davis, who will be giving a panel on creative nonfiction along with another Ooligan favorite, instructor Vinnie Kinsella, Floyd Skloot, Kristy Athens, and others. This is only one of the six workshops we’re hosting each day, exploring the process of getting published. Among others are the “Media and Journalism: Devil in the Details” workshop, and the “Framing the Narrative: How Modern Memoirs Make Use of Techniques Borrowed from Fiction to Hook and Hold Their Readers” workshop with Susan DeFreitas, which explores the ways writers of nonfiction can use the tools of fiction writing in their work. From the workshop description: “Just because it happened doesn’t mean it’s true—at least not in the terms that matter most to your readers. This leads to a paradox: in order to make your readers feel like they’re ‘there,’ it’s often necessary to fabricate conversations in whole or part, or drop details that are important in your life, but not to the organizational principle of your memoir. This class will explore ways that some of today’s most popular writers of memoir grapple with this paradox by using tools borrowed from fiction.”
Even if you’re not volunteering to work at the event, you should definitely go. As we say, “Write to Publish is about empowering you as a writer so that you are one step closer to getting published. Get ready to spend a day having your questions answered and seeing how you, too, can become a published author,” and isn’t that what we’re all in the publishing program for anyway? See you all there!

Lidia Yuknavitch at the 2013 Write to Publish

Lidia Yuknavitch will be speaking at this year’s Write to Publish conference (W2P), Saturday, Feb. 23 at the Native American Student and Community Center. Most readers know Yuknavitch from her 2011 memoir, The Chronology of Water, published locally by Hawthorne Books. She is also the author of the novel Dora: A Headcase—what she describes as her “love letter to nerds, misfits, introverts, and arthearts everywhere.” In this interview, Yuknavitch shares her approach to writing memoir, her thoughts on girls coming of age in our current social and political climate, and her experiences dealing with publishers.
Regarding The Chronology of Water, what was the transition like going from writing literary fiction to nonfiction?
The transition from writing fiction to nonfiction was about as thin as skin. To be honest, I think all fiction is invested with biographical material; it’s just fragmented, dispersed, displaced, and alchemized. The writing process, however, was different in that it hurt more to write about my life than to write fiction. It required formal choices that were connected to my bones and heart and blood—fiction writing does too in a way, but not in the same way.
Was it difficult to speak freely about some of your more personal life experiences?
The only difficulty in speaking freely about my darker life experiences had to do with shame. But once I figured out that I wasn’t just writing a me story, that I was writing a we story, the shame disappeared. We don’t have to live in shame—those of us who have effed up in life.  Our stories count too.
Ooligan Press is publishing a follow-up book to the YA novel Blue Thread (by Ruth Tenzer Feldman) called The Ninth Day that is about a teenage girl struggling to find her own voice during the free speech movement in the 1960s. Do you think that times have changed much for women since then, and what would your advice be to girls coming of age these days?
I don’t think times have changed for girls and women as much as we pretend that they have. They’ve changed some, and yet this last year in particular I heard the same old repressive abusive sh*t coming out of the mouths of conservatives, Christians and right-wingers on the topics of women, reproduction rights, and violence against women and minorities. I think “coming of age” has changed in that girls have more access to information and mediascape, and yet in women’s studies classes, when I ask how many people know what Roe v. Wade was about (ages around 18-30), maybe four people raise their hands. There is an ever-dangerous cultural emphasis on the “media woman”—a woman that does not exist that girls are trying to become. I find that tragic. The book I wrote, Dora: A Headcase, is not a YA book for sure, but it has a 17-year-old narrator. I put what I thought about what’s at stake for girls in her mouth. To be honest, I don’t find many YA books opening up cultural possibilities for girls.
How did you decide on the structure of your memoir?
I decided on the structure of my memoir based on my understanding of memory and my study of the neuroscience and biochemistry of memory. I made formal choices that corresponded to the structure of memory. That and I’ve had a life-long tendency to break the rules of literary conventions so I could tell the story the way that felt true to me.
What was your process for finding a publisher, and how has your relationship with Hawthorn Books worked out?
Rhonda Hughes at Hawthorne Books is a superwoman with lady balls. [Before being published by Hawthorne Books] 12 agents and six big-name publishers rejected me, several of which have recently tried to contact me. I consider my collaboration with Rhonda at Hawthorne to be the best of my life.
I see that you have a website, blog, author page on Amazon, and book trailers supporting your writing efforts. What promotional techniques do you think have worked the best for The Chronology of Water?
Because I’m with an indie press, I do a lot of legwork as an author—though to be honest all authors are being asked to do more legwork these days. I think the best approach for each book is to design an adventure for the reader by any means possible. To prove how it is that books are a verb.
Yuknavitch will be a keynote speaker—as well as a panelist for Creative Non-Fiction and Memoir: The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Other Considerations—at W2P. To find out more about W2P, or to buy tickets, visit the W2P website: http://www.ooliganpress.pdx.edu/w2p/
By Lorna Nakell