A Drawing is Worth a Thousand Words

The written word of a well-crafted story creates beautiful images in our imaginations. A skillfully drawn or painted piece of art can evoke emotion and wonder. However, when pictures and writing combine, they create an artform unto itself. What I’m talking about here are comics, and they are full of unlimited possibilities. This unique combination allows the reader to experience both received and perceived information all at once and gives them the unique experience of interpreting on multiple planes. What do I mean by that? I mean that comics allow us to see, hear, smell, taste, and feel the story. No other art form does that—that’s why comics are so absorbing. But, how do they do it? How are all of our senses engaged when we read them? Through the use of a specific and deliberately placed line. Yes, a line! Here’s how it works.

We use the language of symbols and icons in our everyday lives—a language that our letters and numbers are a part of. Pictures have always had meaning to us. We know what a circle with a red line through it or a solid red octagon means, and there doesn’t have to be a word on it. The same premise is used in comics. Let’s start with the panel.

The panel is where the magic happens; it’s where the whole world of the story is contained. Any shape and line configuration can be used to help convey the sought-after information. The breaks between panels are of great importance. These little gaps have infinite meaning and represent time. Seconds to millennia can pass, and this is where the reader gets to fill in the blanks. Someone could die in that little bit of space, or decades could be skipped. The reader gets to interpret what the author has intended and put their own perspective twist on it.

Let’s get into the meat and bones of how a story is told. A simple mark on the paper carries its own symbolism. This is where our whole body can participate because our eyes recognize the meaning behind the line. If you think of a swirl, a squiggle, an angle, or a straight line, what kind of emotions come into play? What if the lines are broken or diffused, soft or bold, thick or thin? There’s a world of meaning in the different combinations. For example, a jagged line that’s bold, broken, and splayed can represent anger whereas a curved line that is soft and diffused can represent intimacy. There’s an endless amount of combinations that can be created, each carrying with it a precise meaning that our brains elucidate.

By the time the words in the panels hit us, we may no longer need them because the meaning of the images is so strong. In fact, the sign of good visual storytelling is to be able to understand the story even if the words aren’t there. The use of words in comics is like condiments on a sandwich. They add to the flavor, but they’re not what you want a whole mouthful of. If you look at the picture below, you can clearly see what’s going on in the story. The words were purposely left off to illustrate that the panels can stand on their own. However, the words add a little bit of kick to cement the story line.

Artist Aaron Humphres

The fun thing about comic art is that, as a reader, your interpretations can be subtle and—because the artist is a skilled craftsman—you may never need to wonder about the lines used because you will simply understand. Finding the balance between pictures and words is the sweet spot in telling an effective story. Of course, sometimes the artist and author don’t always hit the nail on the head, but the mistakes may add charm to the story being told.

A Guide to Projects and Planning Conferences

As seasoned veterans of the Outreach and Project Development team, we are now embarking on a journey as managers! Being team members for the duration of our first year and now coming in as managers has allowed us to see the growth and evolution of this team. With a two-fold team, we have been lucky enough to watch projects come in, engage with their development, and pass them along for a possibility in publication, as much as we have had the opportunity to coordinate the Write to Publish conference. With one year under our belts, this year comes with new challenges and hopeful successes.

The project development side of our team has been established for over a year now, and we are happy to announce that we handed off two projects to the acquisitions department during the past few months. Although we can’t go into specific detail, both projects were nonfiction. One of them was unfortunately not accepted, but the other was pitched and acquired by Ooligan!

Passing off a project and having it acquired by the press was a huge milestone for us! We are continuing to work with acquisitions to develop an effective streamlined process between our two teams. By solidifying a handoff document, we can ensure that acquisitions is provided with a substantial amount of information on the projects we pass to them. Currently, our team is working on two fiction manuscripts and has agreed to partner with an editor to create a science fiction anthology with the help of several contributing writers.

On the other side of our team, Write to Publish 2019 planning is underway! The theme of this year’s publishing conference is A Writer’s Guide to Publishing. We hope attendees will come away with a better idea of how to navigate the publishing process and how to find helpful mentors along the way.

Date: The conference will take place on Saturday, April 27, 2019, in the Smith Memorial Student Union.

Presenting Sponsor: A huge thank-you to Image Comics for being our presenting sponsor. Image Comics is one of the largest comic book and graphic novel publishers in the US, and we are very lucky to have their support.

Keynote speaker: We are happy to announce that Kate Ristau, executive director of Willamette Writers and a talented author, will be our keynote speaker this year. Kate is an active member in the Portland literary community, and we’re thrilled that she can share her wisdom and insight about her experience with the writing and publishing process.

Panels and Seminars: The conference will feature six panels and five seminars. This year, we decided to change what were previously known as workshops or interactive learning sessions to seminars. We believe this more accurately describes the educational experience gained from these leader-driven sessions. We will also implement a networking opportunity in place of our usual sixth seminar to allow more community members and industry professionals to meet one another and make meaningful connections.

As we continue to work on branding for this year’s conference, we frequently reference the thoughtful feedback we received from last year’s participants and attendees. Although this is a fundraiser for our program, more than anything, we want this publishing conference to be a valuable contribution to the community. We hope to inspire and inform writers about this amazing industry and “guide” them through the process to publication.

Visit our website for more updates as we get closer to the conference!

Writing Contests, Ticket Sales, and Speakers, Oh My!

Since being revamped and restructured last April, the Outreach and Project Development team has finally stabilized and secured a solid foundation for its future. We’ve got a lot of experience behind us now and plenty more on the horizon—including the much-anticipated tenth annual Write to Publish conference.
In our most recent post, we discussed key developments in the planning of the conference. Planning is still underway, and we still have a lot to prepare, but there are a few exciting new things we’d like to share with you!
Writing contests: The annual Write to Publish writing contests are now open to submissions! We welcome anyone and everyone to participate in our categories of flash fiction and poetry. Here are the submission guidelines:

  • Submissions are accepted February 1–March 1
  • The maximum length for flash fiction is 1,000 words
  • The maximum length for poetry is fifty lines
  • Flash fiction pieces must adhere to this year’s theme of journeys and adventures
  • Poetry pieces must adhere to this year’s theme of personal journeys
  • All work must be original and previously unpublished
  • $10 entry fee per submission

The winner of each category will receive a $50 cash prize, have their work published by a partnering journal, and get an opportunity to read their winning piece at this year’s Write to Publish conference! We’d like to thank Master’s Review for partnering with us for our flash fiction contest again this year as well as Silk Road Review for partnering with us for our poetry contest.
Tickets: Looking to attend Write to Publish 2018 and celebrate our tenth anniversary with us? Tickets are on sale now! Click here to purchase tickets online! Early Bird tickets are now on sale for a reduced price of $65 until March 1. After March 1, general tickets will be available for $80. Students may also purchase reduced-priced tickets for $35—just present a valid student ID at the registration table on the day of the conference. Reminder: Student tickets are available to students of all ages and from all schools and universities!
Speakers: We’re still gathering what promises to be an impressive list of speakers and panelists, but there are a few names we now have confirmed. We’re very excited to announce that Write to Publish 2018 will include Joe Biel, the founder of Microcosm Press and co-founder of the Portland Zine Symposium; Elly Blue, the co-owner of Microcosm Press and co-producer and director of Groundswell films; and Laura Stanfill, the publisher of Forest Avenue Press and the founder of Mainstreet Writers Movement!
What else to look for: Our 2018 social media campaign has officially launched, so watch the #W2P2018 hashtag for more information on the conference! We’ll be posting updates on confirmed speakers and topics for our panels and interactive learning sessions. Please note that this year’s conference will not include workshops like in previous years; instead, we’ve scheduled “interactive learning sessions” (ILSs), which are structured as participatory lectures with a single instructor. We will also have more information in the upcoming weeks about our ever-popular Pitch to a Professional session, which acts as an educational opportunity for writers to learn about the pitching process and receive feedback from agents and publishers on their pitching techniques.
We look forward to seeing you at the conference on April 21!

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 to Publish is Coming to Town

In our past two posts, we’ve told you about our new team and developing protocols and a manual for the team. Now that fall has begun, Write to Publish planning is in full swing, and we have some announcements we can share with you!
Date: Write to Publish 2018 will occur on Saturday, April 21, 2018 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Unlike in recent years, the conference is taking place in the spring instead of winter. Why? We wanted to celebrate this conference’s roots—this is Write to Publish’s tenth anniversary, and the conference was originally held in the spring. It was moved to the winter in 2013 due to concerns about potential scheduling conflicts. However, with the move to winter came weather-related fears, and Write to Publish 2017 was nearly in danger of cancellation because of the heavy snowfall. By moving the conference to April, we’ve eliminated those concerns.
Venue: This year, Write to Publish will take place in Hoffmann Hall, a gorgeous structure built in 1995 and named after George C. Hoffmann, the history professor responsible for renaming Portland State University in 1951. We’ll use Hoffmann for our panel discussions, vendor fair, and keynote speech, and we’ll utilize nearby classrooms for small group discussions and interactive learning sessions.
Keynote Speaker: We are so excited to announce Claire McKinney, the founder and owner of Claire McKinney PR in New York City, as our 2018 Keynote Speaker! Claire is a book publicist with over twenty years of experience and has worked in publicity and marketing departments in multiple renowned publishing companies. Claire recently released a book on promotion for authors, Do You Know What a Book Publicist Does? A Guide for Creating Your Own Campaigns, which will be for sale at Write to Publish this year. She will speak at the 2018 Writer to Publish conference about book promotion, branding, and the importance of thinking about branding even without a finished book.
Presenting Sponsors: We are extremely pleased and grateful to Willamette Writers and Pomegranate Communications for being our presenting sponsors for Write to Publish 2018. Willamette Writers supports aspiring and professional writers throughout the Pacific Northwest, and Pomegranate publishes award-winning fine art books and gift products. Their support helps make this conference happen!
There’s still a lot of work we need to do to prep for Write to Publish, but the conference planning is well under way. We can’t wait to take you with us on a journey through publishing this spring!

Write to Publish, Then and Now

Write to Publish 2017 recently wrapped up, and I’m pleased to have been a part of it as a member of Ooligan Press. Most of my role in Write to Publish consisted of promoting the conference at the last minute and setting up the event, as well as monitoring one of the panels. After the rush to pull everything together in the final days before the conference, it was nice to sit back and listen to panels of authors talk about their experiences in the industry, and it reminded me of a previous Write to Publish experience that I’d had.

While this was the first Write to Publish conference that I helped organize, it was not my first exposure to the annual event.

The first Write to Publish conference that I attended was as an aspiring author way back in 2010. Of course, the premise of the conference to “demystify the publishing process” stands out—even looking back seven years—but I remember the conference having a sort of grand sensibility to it. There were speeches from Ursula K. Le Guin and Chuck Palahniuk! The Smith Memorial Student Union ballroom was filled with chairs facing the stage for these talks, and attendees buzzed with excitement as we packed together to fill the enormous space. Le Guin spoke on the realities of balancing one’s creative vision as a writer against the practical voices of editors and other industry professionals. Apparently, a world-building detail regarding pickle barrels had been cut from one of Le Guin’s Earthsea books at the advising of her editor, who argued that the detail was superfluous to the plot. All of us in the audience laughed along with the starry-eyed thought that someday we would have to leave quirky details of our own stories on the cutting room floor at the behest of our editors. The event felt very much a spectacle, as far as university-organized writing conferences go. The open space and the big-name authors gave the whole ordeal a sort of glitz.

At Write to Publish 2017, I received a vastly different impression of the conference’s tone. It wasn’t just that I was older and participating as a team member rather than an attendee. The 2017 conference was a softer, more intimate affair. The vendor’s hall shared a space with the breakfast table, and those drawn in by the promise of free food looked happy to stop by the tables to chat, while the vendors could be seen conversing with each other and those of us in Write to Publish T-shirts. Sitting in on panels, which were held in much smaller rooms with smaller crowds, I didn’t feel like I was being spoken down to by a grandiose figure in the book world, unlike in 2010. Instead, our guests (including talents such as David F. Walker and Adam O’Connor Rodriguez) were able to speak to their audience at eye level, not just answering one question at a time but having real conversations with them. In the absence of that formal distance between globally famed authors and massive crowds, established writers and those trying to break into the industry were able to have honest discussions about the importance of research, the continuing struggles of underrepresented voices in publishing, and the value (or lack thereof) of reader reactions to one’s work.

Perhaps some of what I felt was the result of having a hand in putting the conference together. Certainly there was a somber element because of the current political climate, which was a topic addressed in many of these panels with unfiltered expressions of anger, fear, and a desire to build meaningful communities together. Whatever the reason, this year’s event felt as much a personal affair as it was a professional one. While this year’s conference may have missed that star-studded element from 2010, this year’s focus on intimate dialogue and community was no less energetic—and perhaps even more valuable to aspiring writers.

W2P 2017 Programming Updates!

The Write to Publish team has been hard at work planning all of the content that will be in this year’s conference, and we have passed several milestones that mean time is passing and the conference planning is coming along! The biggest news is that we have decided on the programming we will be offering for Write to Publish 2017!

Each year we offer four workshops and four panels for our attendees, and this year we have built a program that will provide insight on the publishing industry as well as a timely dialogue around the growing diversity in publishing. Our workshop titles this year are “Writing Outside Yourself,” “Writing Good Dialogue,” “Crafting a Query Letter,” and “Building an Online Presence.” Our workshops will be led by experts in their respective fields and give attendees a more hands-on approach to the publishing industry. The panel titles this year are “Legal Issues in Publishing,” “Self-Publishing: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly,” “The State of Diversity in Publishing,” and “Doing the Research: Preparing to Approach Publishers & Literary Agents.” Our panels will be populated with experts from around the publishing industry and related fields and will offer their personal and professional experiences on the subject at hand.

We’re very proud of the content we will be offering for this year’s conference. It balances the very pertinent information of how to present yourself as an author online, in query letters, and approaching publishers and agents, as well as how to write dialogue and respectfully treat diverse characters. We hope this sneak peek helps to build your excitement as much as it has for us! Stay tuned for more updates as we finalize our design and contest plans!

Writing and Books and Donuts, oh my!

Well everybody, Write to Publish is over. Kellie and I worked on this event for about nine months, but it sometimes felt much longer. The amount of tiny details that needed to be thought of, written down, and planned for was completely insane. Do we have napkins? Enough of them? Will the attendees need spoons or just forks? We have fifty lanyards and forty plastic holders for the lanyards. Where will we get more? The list goes on and on … and on.

But, we did it! And I could not be more ecstatic about the results. Our workshop leaders were engaging and knowledgeable, and our panelists and moderators led fascinating conversations. The vendors were a great place to meet publishers, booksellers, and writing groups from the area, and the lunchtime readers were simply astounding. And for those of you who participated in Pitch to a Professional, I hope you learned a lot.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure I ate my entire yearly limit of Voodoo Doughnuts in a single day. I’m actually quite proud of that, even if my waistline is not so happy.

I want to thank all of our sponsors—those who donated food, raffle items, coupons, and everything else. We couldn’t have done any of this without you. I also want to thank all of our panelists, workshop leaders, vendors, pitch professionals, and keynote speaker Arthur Bradford. Write to Publish relies on each and every one of you to make the conference a success, and this year, you all definitely succeeded. And lastly, I want to thank everyone who attended the conference. Without you, we would all be just talking amongst ourselves, and where’s the fun in that?

Writers, publishers, booksellers, and book lovers all form a community. We rely on each other to make this industry work and to bring books of all types into the world. I hope you all felt at least some sense of community at Write to Publish this year. I know I did.