An Inventory of Ooligan History

As we are settling into our roles as Ooligan’s newest dynamic duo of Publisher’s Assistants, we are beginning to realize that our responsibilities exist very much like an iceberg. Above the water, there’s the work that is more directly tangible—such as running meetings—and underneath the water, there’s all of the work that we do to keep the press operating smoothly, such as archiving.

One perfect example of this dual existence is Ooligan’s inventory. We inherited responsibility over a beautifully organized bookshelf in Ooligan’s main office. This shelf contains titles that are either more recent or more successful, and most Oolies would recognize them. However, we also inherited the keys to the basement, which holds all of Ooligan’s inventory. This is a room that is typically only used by the PAs; we quietly manage the inventory and report back to the Publisher. Although the task of managing the greater inventory downstairs might not sound as appealing as organizing the most Instagram-worthy shelfie upstairs, our unique responsibility is already providing us with a newfound perspective on the press that we are supporting.

For instance, did you know that Ooligan began its journey with a collection of translated stories centered in Croatia, called Zagreb, Exit South? One of three titles in what was styled “A New Croatia,” this first book (long out of print) lives in the far back corner of the basement shelves.

Several years and shelves of book boxes later, Ooligan’s Pacific Northwest focus becomes more pronounced in Sid Miller’s Dot-to-Dot Oregon, seven series of poems marking seven routes through every part of the state, from Baker City to Coos Bay, The Dalles to Klamath Falls. Miller’s poems paint scenes ranging from the intimate experience of an old-fashioned pharmacy in downtown Grants Pass to the sweeping horizon visible from the top of the Oregon Dunes. It’s the kind of book that transports you from the floor of a fluorescent-lit storage room to the eclectic and awe-inspiring beauty of the place in which we live.

On the opposite side of that same shelf, our press shifts into the current decade with stacks of Oregon Stories, one hundred fifty answers to the question, “What does Oregon mean to you?” collected and edited by Ooligan students in honor of the Oregon sesquicentennial in 2010. Featuring a foreword by celebrated Oregon writer Kim Stafford and an introduction by former Governor Ted Kulongoski, these Oregon stories come from writers, public servants, poets, students, and more. Governor Kulongoski even chimes back in for an amusingly relatable tale of the trials and tribulations of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in Oregon’s many weathers. Full of short and sweet anecdotes and ripe with state nostalgia, Oregon Stories is a classic collection of voices connected by place, time, and the landscapes beautifully collaged together on the cover.

From Oregon Stories, our inventory shelves move into territory more familiar to more recent Oolies: Ruth Tenzer Feldman’s Blue Thread, The Ninth Day, and Seven Stitches; Oolie Kait Heacock’s Siblings and Other Disappointments; and recent award-winners A Series of Small Maneuvers by Eliot Treichel and Memories Flow in Our Veins: Forty Years of Women’s Writing from CALYX. Finally, there are the numerous boxes of our most recent titles, the 25th anniversary edition of Robin Cody’s Oregon coming-of-age classic Ricochet River and Brian K. Friesen’s literary fiction debut, At the Waterline. Where will these books be five years from now? Ten? Imagining shelves of Ooligan books expanding into the future is one of the unsung joys of inventory; what might seem a menial task, unseen and unappreciated, is actually one of the threads that weaves Ooligan Press together, past, present, and future.

The Evolution of an Oolie, Part Three: Travis Kremer

We’ve reached the end of this series, my friends. After hearing about the anticipation of a green Oolie and the expectations of a graduating Oolie, it’s time to hear from the one you’ve been waiting for: an alum extraordinaire—an Oolie all grown up.

Name: Travis Kremer

Graduation year: 2013

Origin: Portland, Oregon

Alma mater: Portland State University

Bachelor’s degree: Economics

What was your favorite class in the program?

Can I say most of them? Because that’s the answer. There was an entrepreneurial publishing class that was incredibly fun and taught me a fair bit about how to move from being a graduate student to a working professional. The editing and design classes provided me with enough of a background to immediately start picking up paying work.

What positions did you hold in Ooligan?

I foolishly volunteered to be a project manager my first term (I was bad at it, but I learned a lot). After that, I spent three terms as an operations manager (I think this has been retitled to “publisher’s assistant”). I was one of the graduate assistants for the program during my second year. I also spent a lot of time working on other projects such as the Ooligan website, a few of the ebooks, the Write to Publish conference, and one term a friend and I put together a very short-lived (we were both working and couldn’t get our schedules to line up) radio show about publishing with KPSU.

What are you doing now?

I’m an editor at an odd little legal publisher in Portland [called Trial Guides] that focuses on practical skills and strategy books for trial lawyers. It’s like a mix between publishing business books and how-to manuals. The company is very small so I get to do a lot. Some days I get to the office and our salesperson will need a full-page magazine ad in two days. Other days I manage book projects, hire contractors, write marketing copy, design covers, copy edit—I get to do a huge range of things; it’s rarely dull. Today I’ve been putting together cost estimates for our upcoming titles and finishing edits for a manuscript that’s going into production next month.

How do you think graduating from the program prepared you for your career?

I wouldn’t have this career if I hadn’t gone through the program.

What do you wish you did differently in the program?

I wish I’d taken some digital marketing classes. It would have made finding a job easier, and I like data.

What is something you’ve had to learn on the job you didn’t learn at Ooligan?

There are a lot of publishing-related jobs and niche markets that very few people talk or seem to know about. There are a lot of things that an Ooligan grad is capable of doing that have nothing to do with mighty random penguins.

Is book publishing everything you thought it would be?

Let’s say it’s confirmed some of the suspicions I had when I started the program. Most of the work people want to pay you to do is boring, and most of the interesting things are going to be what you do in your spare time.

What would you tell incoming Oolies to help them make the most of their time at Ooligan?

It’s up to you. Literally. Once you graduate, no one is going to care about your past GPA or test scores, so do too many things, go nuts, take risks, and always, always, always treat others with kindness and respect. The publishing world is a very small pond, and you never know who is going to be sitting on the other side of that interview some day in the future. You have to be willing to get outside of your comfort zone and talk to people—and you really should! Publishing people are some of the best people, and some of them will even help you get jobs.

The Evolution of an Oolie, Part Two: Melanie Figueroa

Between jobs, classes, homework, and Ooligan Press, graduate students in Portland State University’s Book Publishing program are busy as hell.

But there’s one Oolie who puts even the best of us to shame.

Name: Melanie Figueroa

Term: Last

Origin: Placentia, California

Alma mater: California State University, Long Beach

Bachelor’s degree: English Rhetoric and Composition (and a technical writing certificate)

While the last installment of “Evolution of an Oolie” featured an Ooligan newbie, it’s time to hear from a veteran who’s just completed her degree. In addition to being a straight-A, working student, and one of Ooligan’s Write to Publish project managers, Figueroa completed internships at Dark Discoveries Magazine, Ex Libris Editing, Forest Avenue Press, and Late Night Library. She also manages her own blog, The Poetics Project, which publishes daily.

Daily, people.

Figueroa is what this program is about.

Why did you decide to apply for this program?

I knew for a long time I wanted to work in book publishing. Even though my technical writing background gave me a lot of in-depth knowledge on editing and organizing documents, I didn’t have practical trade skills. The idea of being able to work at a press while learning about the industry really intrigued me.

What was your favorite class?

Introduction to Book Publishing. It’s a great perspective on the industry as a whole. It helped me shape my own goals for a career in publishing. You get to create your own mock publishing house, sift through query letters, and see what it really takes to make it.

How did your experience as a project manager for Write to Publish prepare you for a career in publishing?

I made a lot of connections. I held myself more accountable for the work I was doing than any other school assignment I’ve ever done because the conference was a real, live event. Publishing is all about managing your time, managing authors and designers and editors, managing deadlines and multiple projects. It was like a test run for my future.

What was the most rewarding part of that experience?

Before one of the attendees left, she came up to the table that most of the Write to Publish team was sitting at and personally thanked us for a great day. She had left the Pitch Roundtable session with two people requesting that she send along her manuscript. She was ecstatic, and that made it all worth it.

How did internships contribute to your graduate experience?

Working for Late Night Library, specifically, put me in contact with many industry contacts—authors and publicists. You just get to know the landscape, and internships help you put all the skills you learn at the press, and in classes, to use. They also help flesh out a resume. There are so many avenues this degree can take you down—nonprofit work, editorial, marketing, design, technical writing—and internships give you a taste of them all.

What advice would you give incoming students?

Get involved. What you get from this program is entirely based on how much you’re willing to put into it. Design covers even if the Adobe Suite terrifies you. Go to acquisitions meetings and read manuscripts and form an opinion. Don’t be afraid to look foolish, because it’s the only way you can find out what you’re good at.

On a scale of one to ten, how damn sick are you of people asking what your plans are after graduation?


Speaking of which, what are your plans after graduation?

My plan right now is flexible, and I think that’s the way it has to be. I grew up in Southern California, but I have a soft spot for the Bay Area, which is probably one of the largest publishing hubs outside of New York. I’m trying to get my foot in the door, and I think something that Ooligan prepares you well for is the ability to be flexible. You leave the program being somewhat of a “generalist,” even if you excel in certain areas more than others.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

In ten years, I hope to be in a management position at a publishing house, in marketing or publicity. Writing, also, is something I think I’ll never fully give up on. I like the idea of being a freelance writer and putting more of my own work out into the world.

Best of luck, Melanie.