Where to Get Your Book Fix

With all the closures due to the coronavirus pandemic, many of us have lost physical access to libraries as well as chain and local bookstores. Our access may be diminished, but our need for entertainment—or if we can’t be entertained, at least some kind of distraction—has wildly increased.

But fear not! Just because we can’t physically browse for new books doesn’t mean we’re left to lament a lack of bookish entertainment, or even wait for physical books we order online to be delivered to our home (a recipe for disaster as postal services are overwhelmed with delivering necessities, causing longer wait times than usual). Instead, I present to you in this trying time a fun way to get your book fix without ever leaving your home: ebooks.

You might not have an ereader, but that’s okay! Nowadays, if you’re able to read this blog post, you’re able to access an ebook. Most, if not all, of these options will provide you with some of that good book stuff!

The first option for accessing ebooks is also the most economical: your public library. Many libraries have now partnered with one of several online services to provide their members with access to ebooks. All you need is your library card. Don’t have that? Check with your local library. As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, some libraries are offering residents in their area the option to sign up for a card online.

However, there are a couple of drawbacks to being able to access your local library digitally, like limited selection and long waitlists. If you run into these problems and can’t easily access what you want, there are a multitude of other places where you can get ebooks depending on what device you’re using as well as your personal preferences. For Apple users, there’s the Apple Books marketplace, where you can buy pretty much any ebook you can imagine. For other users, there’s the Google Play store and, of course, Amazon. You can access all of these through your device’s app store or through a web browser.

And for those of us passionate about supporting local bookstores, I present you with another option: Kobo. You can find local bookstores that work with Kobo on their website and support them with your ebook purchases. Kobo does have an ereader, but their app is also available on most systems. Not only can you get the bookish entertainment you need, but you can also help out your local bookstore!

So, while we’re all staying inside and helping to flatten the curve, we can all use these resources to make sure we have no shortage of books to read.

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.

Book Sales, Or Math for English Majors

Sit in a room full of English majors long enough, and you will eventually hear someone groan, “Ugh… math.” The topic may be differential calculus, or how to split the tab, but the sentiment is always the same. Why, the lover of words bemoans, do we have to take a break from talking about books to do things with numbers?

But perhaps your high school algebra teacher told you, as mine did, that math is everywhere. As an adult, I’ve been gratified to learn that she wasn’t pulling one over on a room full of fourteen-year-olds. Math is not only in calculus complexities and restaurant bills, baking and budgets; it can also be found in nature, arts and sciences, and even books. Because those English majors currently dividing their pizza into dollars and cents also bought the books they stayed up too late reading last night. They probably also bought the stack of books currently sitting on their nightstand, and the other stack that’s waiting on the bookshelf beyond that. Publishers know which of their books are in those stacks, and they use that information to make decisions about every part of their publishing process.

This may seem obvious. Publishers create products, so of course, sales are their guiding principle. However, as with other creative industries, workday conversations are often framed differently. During the editorial process, we talk about making the book the best version of itself. During design, we talk about reader appeal, and throughout marketing, the focus is on helping the book find its audience. One of the only places we explicitly talk about sales is during the acquisition process when we are gauging the sales potential of a new project.

Large publishers have the luxury of sales staff—entire departments that do the math of book people. Here at Ooligan, our small teaching press, we have to collaborate and integrate our understanding of sales figures and production into our learning curve.

This time last year, my colleague Elizabeth and I were in training with our publisher’s assistant predecessors, an educational process that memorably included an afternoon (little did we imagine it would be the first of many) kicking up dust in a basement room full of beautiful books. That was the first time I remember wondering, “How many books are there?”

Now, a term spent packing up our basement storage room has better equipped me to understand Ooligan’s inventory, a new interface has introduced me to the movement of books through our distribution, and I’ve received crash courses in royalties, returns, and special sales. These spreadsheets and sales reports may not be the glamorous editorial pursuits or intricate design work we pictured publishing to be, but they keep the wheels turning through every part of the publishing process.

An Interview with Connie King Leonard

Connie King Leonard is the author of Sleeping in My Jeans, a YA novel about a teen girl who has to live out of her car with her mother and young sister. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Connie to discuss what inspired her to write a book about being homeless, what message she hopes it will send, and the unique protagonist at the center of it all—Mattie Rollins.
How did you find Ooligan Press?
I saw an announcement in a Willamette Writers newsletter from Ooligan Press and went to the website. Ooligan was looking for work set in the Northwest dealing with a marginalized population, and I felt Sleeping in My Jeans fit that criteria. I checked with writer friends and found Ooligan had a good reputation as a reputable publishing press.
Your novel is fiction, but it rings true. Do you think it represents real stories of women and girls on the streets?
I do. Women and children are sometimes victims of domestic violence, which puts them in a vulnerable position—particularly if they don’t have the resources to afford to live on their own.
But abuse isn’t the only reason women end up in the street. The loss of a job, a major medical expense, and countless other catastrophes can destroy their ability to meet basic housing expenses. Even families with two adults working full time find themselves with financial problems.
What inspired you to write Sleeping in My Jeans?
I set the story in Eugene because I could visualize Rita parking Ruby in different areas of town, and I thought the best place she could leave Mattie and Meg after school was the city library.
The story was inspired by a sixth grade student I had in science class. Teaching kids to come prepared for class was one of our school goals. That meant bringing your binder, book, and pencil. I checked every day to make sure my students had what they needed.
One boy, I’ll call him Johnny, was a good kid and worked hard in my class, but mid-year he quit bringing his science book. I’d remind him and he would nod that he understood. One day, I said, “Johnny, I want you to go home tonight and look through your room for that science book.”
Johnny whipped his head around and said, “There are five of us living in a camper on the back of a pick-up. My science book is not there.”
Students in middle and high school do not always share the hardships and problems in their lives like elementary students. Even when teachers ask kids if they are okay or need help, older kids don’t open up like little ones. Johnny’s outburst was a shock. I was sick, disgusted with myself for not being in tune with my students.
I got Johnny another science book, but I have never forgotten him, because he taught me a huge lesson. The farm where I grew up in North Dakota was small and poor, but I always had a roof over my head and food on the table. I was privileged.
Why did you choose to write Mattie as biracial?
I am glad to see more wonderful stories being published about kids of color, which is great, but I still don’t see many about biracial kids. From my first idea for this novel, I pictured Mattie as strong, brave, and biracial and couldn’t think of her any other way.
What do you hope your book will achieve?
I want kids to know they are not alone in their struggles, whatever those hardships may be. In Mattie’s case, she has a small and beautiful family, but she lives in extreme hardship. Other kids problems are different, yet sometimes they feel like they are the only kid in school that doesn’t have a perfect life. Mattie is strong and resilient, and I hope kids learn from her determination to strive for a better life.
I also want people to be aware of the lack of affordable housing and know that not everyone goes home to a warm house or even a small apartment. Some of the students in their school may be living in a car, camped in a tent, couchsurfing between family and friends, or living in a shelter.
I hope my readers will enjoy Sleeping in My Jeans and will care about Mattie and her family as much as I do.
Do you have any suggestions for how to get involved with aiding homeless and domestic abuse survivors?
My biggest suggestion is to be aware that the person sleeping in a doorway is a human being. He/she may have serious issues that you and I can not help with, but that person deserves our compassion.
Many people now use the term “houseless” instead of “homeless”, because the new term recognizes that the tent on the side of the freeway or the beat-up minivan parked on a back street is someone’s home. I am training myself to switch terminology.
Lastly and maybe most importantly, we need to fund affordable housing as well as shelters for victims of domestic violence, teen runaways, families in need, veterans, and people with addictions and mental illness. It is a huge task, but one that is being tackled by some great organizations. St. Vincent de Paul in Eugene is doing an amazing job of providing housing options for people in all sorts of circumstances. Food for Lane County and the Oregon Food Bank are two other organizations that provide immense help to so many people in our state.
A portion of the sales of Sleeping in My Jeans will be donated to St. Vincent de Paul for the building of a youth house for houseless teens.

How to Pair Local Beer With Local Books

I don’t know about you, but I spend my reading time with tea in the morning and afternoon and beer in the afternoon and evening. Don’t ask me why, but reading should be accompanied by something that makes you feel warm and cozy.

So which beer? You don’t want the book and beer to overpower or distract from the other. Well if you’re new to Oregon, I’ve got a couple of suggestions to help you choose the best beer to pair with your latest purchase from Ooligan.

At the Waterline by Brian K. Friesen

Goes best with: McMenamin’s Hammerhead Ale

This novel takes place in old Portland, a lesser talked about Portland. Back before handwritten typography was essential for business logos and canvas totes, a New Seasons was on every corner, or Fred Armisen. Back when there were maybe five local microbreweries, McMenamins was one of them. It started in 1983 (probably before your parents even considered having a kid, or before that kid moved out to Portland, Oregon).

Plus, it helps that the book mentions a McMenamins. And Hammerhead is my fav.

Runner up: Rogue’s Dead Guy Ale

This beer and brewery was made in Newport, Oregon, back in 1988. It’s a crusty town and it was a brewery whose patrons are the salt of the earth (or sea). Chad would have fit in.

Ricochet River: 25th Anniversary Edition by Robin Cody

Goes best with: Deschutes Brewery’s Pacific Wonderland Lager

Pop quiz for the native Oregonians out there: Do you remember reading this book in grade school? Well, now you have a chance to revisit Jesse and Wade in Calamus (*cough* Clackamas), Oregon—but this time you get to enjoy it with alcohol! Grab this light brew—perfect for taking down to the river—from a Bend-based brewery that started just four years before the book’s original release.

Runner up: a Montucky Cold Snack

I know it’s not a microbrewery. And I know it’s from Montana. And I know it’s owned by City Brewing. But it’s kinda the perfect drink to take on the Clackamas as you make ironic jokes about how naive Wade was.

Seven Stitches by Ruth Feldman

Goes best with: HUB’s Survival 7-Grain Stout

Ah yes, a fiction based on the Big One—the earthquake to screw over the Pacific Northwest royally for years to come. And then Meryem gets transported to another time where it was difficult to get by—especially for a Jewish-Vietnamese young woman. Survival Stout will help you relax and enjoy this whirlwind of a story.

Siblings and Other Disappointments by Kait Heacock

Goes best with: Fort George’s Bourbon Barrel Cavatica Stout

What pairs best with stories of your family? Alcohol, with a side of alcohol. These stories vary from heartwarming to gut wrenching, so what better to pair it with than Astoria’s beer brewed in bourbon barrels?

Memories Flow In Our Veins from CALYX

Goes best with: a cabernet sauvignon from Ponzi, or Reverend Nat’s Revival cider

I know, I said beer, but there’s more to Oregon than beer. This collection of stories and poems, which comes from the hearts of West Coast women, might bring up memories of your mother, grandmother, aunt, and cousins. And there’s something to a bunch of women sitting around a table drinking something delicious and red—no bitter hops required.

Bonus, from the vaults: The Portland Red Guide by Michael Munk

Goes best with: Lompoc’s Proletariat Red

Read about the socialist activist history in Portland while sipping on a Proletariat Red. Yum. Plus, now they come in cans.

Ooligan in the World

Here at Ooligan Press, our managers, project teams, and department specialists put countless hours of work into creating the books you see on our list. From acquisitions and editing through design and marketing, our talented colleagues sit in meetings together discussing strategies and best practices, take those conversations home to create something wonderful, and then return to our meetings the following week to do it all again.

It’s a deeply effective learning process, but there is one important piece of book birthing that it doesn’t account for: the immensely rewarding experience of bringing our books and our authors out into the world and watching them shine.

From intimate readings to established conferences and book festivals, we’ve spent a lot of time over the past few months arranging opportunities for the world—or at least our Pacific Northwest corner of it—to meet our books and their authors. There have been plenty of volunteer schedules to fill, promotional marketing and social media posts to plan, and boxes of books to cart to and fro. In return for that work, we’ve watched our authors delight and charm audiences while their books are admired, applauded, and carried away to new homes. So where in the world have we found Ooligan authors this fall?

Brian K. Friesen’s At the Waterline was published last May, and this summer found Brian and his family embarking on a book tour across Oregon and Washington, culminating in late summer with a much-anticipated reading at Portland’s book mecca: Powell’s Books. Later this fall, Brian also joined awarding-winning fellow Oolie author Eliot Treichel at the Audubon Society of Portland’s Wild Arts Festival, “a celebration of nature in art and books,” where both were featured authors.

Meagan Macvie’s The Ocean in My Ears entered the world in the beginning of November to glowing reviews from such industry giants as Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, Book Riot, and School Library Journal‘s Teen Librarian Toolbox. It even made it onto a Bustle list of “The 11 New YA Novels You Need To Watch Out For In November 2017.” With her book generating so much enthusiasm, we’ve loved watching Meagan do the same. She began the fall season with a panel appearance at the Montana Book Festival, where she talked about picking a publisher and the advantages of going with a small press. At this year’s Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association (PNBA) conference, Meagan was invited to participate in an evening “Sweet and Greet” event where she signed advanced reader copies of the book and connected with regional authors and booksellers. Then, the big send-off: we celebrated Meagan and the launch of The Ocean in My Ears with 90s trivia and lots of laughter.

Meagan wasn’t our only representative at PNBA. Ooligan Press also staffed a table at this two-day conference, showcasing our books and chatting with booksellers, librarians, and other publishers about our work. Both first and second year students are given the opportunity to attend events such as this and to begin testing the waters of networking and business-to-business marketing.

Ooligan and our authors have had an action-packed fall, and it all built up to the main event of the season: Wordstock. Meagan, Brian, and the Ooligan Press team all attended Portland’s most anticipated book festival to indulge ourselves in all things literary. Brian and Meagan both had pop-up readings in the Portland Art Museum’s American Art Gallery and signed copies of their books for eager readers at Ooligan’s table. Later in the afternoon, Meagan taught at the sold-out workshop Writing YA Fiction: Bringing Young Narrators to Life on the Page, helping budding writers hone their skills. All throughout the day, you could find the smiling faces of Oolies around the festival. Students staffed our table, attended readings and panels, perused the aisles of booksellers, and even staffed other publishers’ tables as part of their various internships. Wordstock also, as it does every year, turned into an unofficial reunion for Ooligan alumni. Graduates flocked to the table to pick up copies of books they worked on during the early stages of development and to catch up with old friends.

Ooligan has been spending a lot of time out in the world over the past few months, and now we are turning our focus inward as we prepare to move out of our current offices in early December.

Write Around Oregon: A Quick Overview of Writing Conferences within the State

When thinking about a writing career, the first words that come to mind are usually not “conferences” or “networking.” While it’s a romantic notion to imagine authors holed up in cabins producing great works of literature all on their own, the truth is that the writing community is vibrant, collaborative, and surprisingly social. Writing conferences in particular have become an indispensable resource for anyone looking to stay connected to what’s current in the industry. Literary culture is constantly evolving, and conferences and other large-scale gatherings offer writers, publishing professionals, and other producers a chance to connect and learn from each other. Listed below are some of the great writing conferences around the state that Oregon authors should be sure to check out.

  • Oregon Writers Colony Annual Conference: For writers looking for something different from the usual large-scale conference atmosphere, the Oregon Writers Colony Annual Conference is a perfect fit. The Oregon Writers Colony is a community of writers that provides workshops, advice, companionship, and access to a writing retreat on the Oregon Coast. The annual conference is held in spring every year. This year, the 2017 conference took place on May 5–7 at the author-centered Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport, Oregon. Check out their website for more information.
  • South Coast Writers Conference: Located in Gold Beach on Oregon’s southwestern coast, the South Coast Writers Conference celebrated its twenty-second anniversary in February of 2017. It is described as an “eclectic” gathering of writers of all genres and experience levels. The conference is cosponsored by Southwestern Oregon Community College and the Gold Beach Visitor Center. Organizers work to schedule this two-day conference each year during Presidents’ Day weekend, but keep an eye on the Southwestern Oregon Community College website for updates about next year’s event.
  • Terroir Creative Writing Festival: Sponsored by the Arts Alliance of Yamhill County, Terroir Creative Writing Festival aims to build a strong local literary presence while also making connections to the broader writing and publishing community. With writing and publishing workshops, speakers, readings, and a festival bookstore, all those interested in contemporary writing are encouraged to attend. The 2017 festival took place on April 22 at the Yamhill County Campus of Chemeketa Community College; information about the 2018 event will be updated on the Terroir website once available.
  • Willamette Writers Conference: Because Willamette Writers is the largest writers organization in the Pacific Northwest, it’s no surprise that this annual conference gathers writers of all kinds—including fiction, nonfiction, memoir, stage, screen, and web—for a three-day conference in Northeast Portland. Whether a writer is new to the scene or a seasoned veteran, the event offers programming varied enough to appeal to the different stages of a writing career. The Willamette Writers website outlines the schedule in detail, but writers can expect to meet with teachers, speakers, authors, agents, editors, and producers that can advise them on their work and the writing process as a whole. The 2017 Willamette Writers Conference will be held from August 4–6 at the Sheraton Portland Airport Hotel in Northeast Portland.
  • Wordstock: More than just a conference, Wordstock: Portland’s Book Festival is a celebration of books, authors, and bibliophiles in general. The festival is hosted by Literary Arts, an invaluable hub for the literary community in the Pacific Northwest. According to the Literary Arts website, last year’s festival featured more than one hundred authors presenting at various onstage events, pop-up readings, and workshops. With food, drink, live music, a large bookfair, and so many events, Wordstock is proof that literary culture is not only alive in Oregon but flourishing. The 2017 Wordstock festival is slated to take place on November 11 in and around the Portland Art Museum in downtown Portland.
  • Write to Publish: Hosted by Ooligan Press—the student-run, nonprofit press affiliated with Portland State University’s publishing program—Write to Publish is centered around “demystifying” the publishing industry for emerging professionals looking to get their work out in the world. Though the event touches on the craft of writing and hosts various workshops and panels, the spotlight is on helping new publishing professionals, writers, and other artists learn to successfully navigate the publishing industry. The 2018 conference marks the tenth annual installment of Write to Publish, so attendees can be sure to expect big things from next year’s event. Write to Publish 2018 is projected to take place next spring in downtown Portland, but be sure to keep checking its website for updates.

As evidenced by the number of large writing events held around the state, Oregon’s literary culture truly thrives in a social setting. Beyond conferences, authors can connect with other writing professionals on a smaller scale through opportunities such as workshops, residencies, and writing groups. Even the most solitary of writers can benefit through collaboration, and the Oregonian writing community is here to help.

Did we omit an important Oregon writing conference from this list? Email the details to oregonauthors@ooliganpress.pdx.edu!

Small Presses and Local Niches

In the world of publishing, the big houses have a reputation of attracting as large and general a readership as possible. Large publishers often exclude books that are primarily of local interest, books that recount some quirk of local history or the current trends in the region. Some writers have resorted to the difficult and oft-derided path of self-publishing in order to get their local-interest books out into the world; other writers have found a good match with one of the small presses in their native region. Indie publishers are usually better suited to concentrate marketing and sales efforts on smaller and more specific target markets.

Here at Ooligan Press, for example, our mission is to produce books that honor the cultural and natural diversity of the Pacific Northwest. Under this umbrella, Ooligan has published various works of fiction, nonfiction, young adult novels, and even poetry, all speaking to some facet of the complex Northwest ethos. One such book is Brew to Bikes: Portland’s Artisan Economy, by Portland State Associate Professor Charles Heying. In Brew to Bikes, Heying takes readers on a whirlwind tour of the many independent artisanal industries that have sprung up in Portland in recent decades, and muses on the factors that have made this particular city the ideal environment for such enterprises. For more books exploring the history and character of the Pacific Northwest, just visit our website.

Santa Fe, New Mexico. Image by user "Camerafiend" from Wikimedia Commons, resized under Creative Commons.

Santa Fe, New Mexico. Image by user “Camerafiend” from Wikimedia Commons, resized, under Creative Commons.

As proudly individualistic as Portland and the rest of the Pacific Northwest are, these are by no means the only places where small presses specializing in local-interest topics can thrive. Santa Fe, New Mexico, is home to an especially interesting example: The Palace Print Shop and Bindery, alternatively known as The Press of the Palace of the Governors. The Palace Print Shop and Bindery is an old-school press, living museum, and historical archive all rolled into one. It produces hand-bound, limited-edition works that focus on prominent events and personalities in the history of New Mexico, all while using genuine historical letterpress machinery.

The Hill Country of Texas. Image by David from Flickr, resized, under Creative Commons.

The Hill Country of Texas. Image by David from Flickr, resized, under Creative Commons.

Local presses need not be associated exclusively with major metropolises—west of San Antonio, in the aptly named Hill Country of Texas, the independent publisher known as Mockingbird Books can be found in a small town called Boerne. Mockingbird Books produces a few trade paperbacks and a whole passel of ebooks dedicated to the history and development of the state of Texas, and of the Hill Country in particular. Mockingbird Books also publishes a legal treatise on oil and gas titles, presumably of great interest in an oil-rich state. Despite being located a good thirty miles outside of San Antonio, Mockingbird Books is still able to call upon a rich regional history in its lineup of local-interest titles.

These three publishers are by no means the only presses dedicated to local topics. There are many such indie presses scattered throughout the United States, for every region, state, and city has its own unique character and history just waiting for native writers and readers to explore. Do you know of a small publisher in your area that focuses on local-interest titles? We at Ooligan Press encourage you to explore and find out—you may be surprised at what you find!