Books, Beer, and Bettering a Manuscript: How Ooligan Press Brews a Bestseller

Ooligan Press, local author Jeff Alworth, and the Craft Brew Alliance have teamed up to bring you Ooligan’s next title: The Widmer Way: How Two Brothers Led Portland’s Craft Beer Revolution. The book, out March 26, explores the rise of Portland’s own beer titans: Kurt and Rob Widmer. From modest beginnings hand-delivering kegs out of an old Datsun to partnering with Anheuser-Busch InBev, from begging for customers to sample their wares to sponsoring the Timbers and the Blazers, the two brothers have never lost their status as local boys made good.

Along with our newest title, I would also like to introduce myself. I’m the project manager for this book, and I am lucky enough to see the project from acquisition through to its publication date. Often, project managers at Ooligan Press acquire a project, get the book up and running, and then hand it off to their successors when graduating from the program, or join the project partway through. For The Widmer Way, we decided on an accelerated publication schedule, which means that the book is going from manuscript to finished product in just one year’s time and that my team and I get to see the complete production. I was chosen to train as a project manager a mere six days prior to Ooligan unanimously voting to take on the book, and my training turned into a crash course of meetings, scheduling, and management.

Once the book was acquired, my trainer and outgoing 50 Hikes manager TJ Carter and I sat down with Ooligan’s department heads to plan out the production schedule. Marketing, social media, acquisitions, digital, design, editing, and our team members all came together to prioritize the schedule and decide where to begin.

Our first priority was, obviously, the manuscript. We called for volunteers (as it was spring break) to do a developmental edit. As Jeff is an experienced author, we started out in good shape, but still needed to spend some time polishing. A developmental edit offers (often significant) changes to the structure, narrative, and language of a manuscript. Our editing team collaborates and offers a letter with our proposed changes to the author, who then makes certain edits and returns the manuscript, often for another round of developmental editing. For The Widmer Way, after one round of developmental and line edits, we were ready to move on to copyediting.

At Ooligan, we often do a heavy, medium, and light round of copyediting. This is where we make more granular changes, rather than sweeping developmental changes. We look for clarity and accuracy, all while maintaining the author’s voice as much as possible. As this is a nonfiction title, we also took this time to do some fact checking and gathering of sources for the information presented in the book.

All the while, my team was hard at work on the nitty-gritty, behind-the-scenes, no-one-knows-this-stuff-happens-at-publishing-houses tasks. A marketing plan was developed, complete with our wish list of events we hoped to participate in, social media strategy, and the industry-specific details like BISAC codes. We also used this time to create the beautiful cover you now see, courtesy of our own design department head, Jenny Kimura. Covers are voted on by the entire press body, much in the same way we acquire our books. Everyone has a chance to be heard and give their input as to how the design should develop.

In the months since, we’ve completed editing, are zeroing in on completing the interior design and proofreading (wherein we look at the aesthetics of the words on the page, rather than the words themselves), and are in the process of requesting reviews from major publications. In the next term, leading up to the March 26 publication date, we will be designing the ebook, recording the audiobook, and planning an amazing launch party to celebrate the long, difficult, exciting, frustrating, and rewarding road of turning an idea into the next book you pick up at Powell’s.

Ooligan Celebrates the Release of At the Waterline

Brian K. Friesen stands at the front of the crowded room, a microphone in one hand and a small orange notebook in the other. “The Attic” of the Buffalo Gap Saloon and Eatery is packed full of people to celebrate him and the release of his new book, At the Waterline. Of this fact, he is earnestly aware.

“I just want to say a few words about gratitude and thanks,” he begins. A spiralled stack of At the Waterline copies rests on the table next to him. Its publication is a testament to his craft, heart, and, as Brian notes, the community he immerses himself in.

This is the scene at the At the Waterlinerelease party. The air is joyous, communal, and honestly, a little bit wet. Before settling into the warm atmosphere at Buffalo Gap, a scavenger hunt sent teams all over Portland in search of local wares present in At the Waterline. Through the wind, hail, rain, and occasional sunshine, intrepid folk sought the same kinds of comfort and scenery present in Friesen’s book, which takes place just north of Portland in a ramshackle marina filled with characters as diverse as the items the teams were hunting for.

“How many ducks did you get,” a scavenger hunt judge asks a team in regard to their visit to local Portland craft shop Crafty Wonderland. “Did any of you manage to climb a tree?”

Teams were tasked with taking photos and getting all sorts of At the Waterline–related things from Portland mainstays like Ancestry Brewing, the Willamette Sailing Club, Portland Kayak Company, Pacific Pie Company, The Meadow, Daily Cafe, the Outdoor Program, Crafty Wonderland, and Nossa Familia Coffee, all of which also generously sponsored the event.

At the Waterline is, at its heart, deeply passionate about community. In that way it aligns with the Ooligan Press philosophy. The Press, like the scavenger hunt, is all about turning the literary lens inward, highlighting Oregon authors—like Brian, who lives in Tualatin—and showing the wider literary world what makes Oregon so vibrant.

The crowd at Buffalo Gap reflects this as well. Scavenger hunt teams ranged from Ooligan Press members (some of whom worked on the book), to friends of the author, to those who just want to support local literature. To ignore the communal nature of Ooligan Press is to belittle the multitude of outside contributors that make the dream of book publishing a reality.

As everyone enjoys plates of nachos or cold beer, Brian stands at the bar, scanning the scene. “It feels pretty damn good. Having everyone here, it’s great.”

Oh, and the winning scavenger hunt team? The Hot Ruddered Bums, of course. What’s more perfect than that?

Want to see what everyone was so excited about? Brian K Friesen’s At the Waterline, is available now on IndieBound and Amazon!