Celebrating the Most Notorious Works of Beverly Cleary

Beverly Cleary was born on April 12, 1916, in McMinnville, Oregon, about an hour outside of Portland. Beloved author, daughter, spouse, and librarian (she was even named a “Living Legend” by the 2000 Library of Congress), Cleary knew from a young age that she loved books and reading. She began writing and telling stories that kids could identify with after hearing concerns from her children at school. After publishing her first story, Henry Huggins in 1950, Cleary began her journey as a published author, writing over forty books that were translated in twenty-nine languages, and receiving countless awards. It’s easy to say that one could not go through their life without encountering her name or her stories at least once.
With her recent passing on March 25, 2021, the world has collectively mourned the loss of one of the greatest authors in our history. It all started here in Oregon, where she took inspiration from her early childhood memories growing up in areas such as Portland and Yamhill. With little pieces of home woven throughout, let’s take a look at some of Cleary’s most notable works and how they connect to her life in Oregon.

  1. Henry Huggins (1950)
  2. Cleary’s first published book followed the story of Henry, his dog, and his neighbors, including some familiar names: Beezus and Ramona. Cleary explained that her first book took much inspiration from her own childhood and the neighborhood kids that she grew up with in Oregon, as well as the kids she knew from school as a librarian. Because Cleary spent most of her time in the Portland area, the Henry Huggins book series showcases familiar Portland landmarks, including Grant Park, where Henry was well-known for hunting nightcrawlers, and Knott Street, where Henry had his infamous paper route.

  3. Beezus and Ramona (1950)
  4. The main characters in what is probably her most popular book series, Beezus, and her younger sister, Ramona, were first introduced in the Henry Huggins books. Known for their dynamic duo of personalities, the sisters have adventures all over town, even in their very own home located on Klickitat Street in Northeast Portland. Other spots around the city include the Rite Aid on NE 41st, where the Colossal Market from the books is located, and Ramona’s school, Cedarhurst Elementary, is based on Portland’s own Laurelhurst School. The Multnomah County Library even features a stonewall map titled “Walking With Ramona” that maps out the areas that are mentioned throughout the book series so you can walk along the same paths! The books also inspired the 2010 film, Ramona and Beezus, starring Selena Gomez and Joey King. The movie was a box office hit, earning over twenty-seven million dollars.

  5. A Girl From Yamhill (1988)
  6. Although not as well known as her children’s books, Cleary also wrote and published an autobiography about her childhood and early teen years in Oregon. She expresses the difficulties that she had connecting with those in her family and her struggles with learning how to read. She grew up more independent than most would have thought, and her stories are not only inspired by her childhood, but they are also a recreation of what she wished her childhood was like. Cleary opens up and brings forth raw emotions as readers take a look at the woman behind the books. Her yearning for a relationship with her mother and missing her father, who was away so many hours of the day due to his job, are just some examples of what shaped Cleary’s life as she began her writing career.

Many people know the name, “Beverly Cleary” but not everyone knows the story behind the name. With so many iconic characters and series, Cleary has given a name to the Portland area and showcased its beauty through each of her books. The rest of the world will miss her, but the Oregon community in particular will feel her loss the hardest. While she may not be able to recount these stories in person any longer, her words will live on forever and continue to inspire readers of all ages and backgrounds. She not only wrote for herself and her imagined childhood, but for every child out there.

Key Literary Figures in the City of Roses

I walk to Washington Park every Friday morning. After climbing the last of the steep steps to the Lewis and Clark Memorial, I’m greeted by an engraved plaque nestled into the brick wall.

“The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,
One is nearer God’s heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth.”

The poem was written by the English poet by Dorothy Frances Gurney in 1913. Reading this excerpt got me wondering what other historical easter eggs are waiting to be discovered in this park?
The City of Roses and The Oregonian
Portland wouldn’t be the City of Roses without the early influences of certain literary figures in Oregon’s history.
Thomas J. Dryer started The Oregonian as a weekly periodical on December 4, 1850. Ten years later, in 1860, Henry Pittock purchased The Oregonian and began publishing daily issues; that same year, he married Georgiana Burton Pittock and the two began influencing the beginnings of modern Portland society.
Georgiana Pittock was “a philanthropist, reformer, and society leader with her husband Henry Lewis Pittock, owner and publisher of The Oregonian, she inspired Portland to become the cultural and business center of Oregon.” Georgiana was an avid gardener, so much so that in 1888 she founded and organized the Portland Rose Society. In 1889 Georgiana’s church established a competition for the year’s best homegrown roses, which marked the beginning of the annual Portland Rose Festival. Nearly sixteen years later, Portland boasted over two hundred miles of rose-lined streets.
In 1905 the city began preparing for the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition. Over the course of the four-month exposition, nearly 1.6 million visitors traveled to Portland from all over the world. By the end of the display, Portland had earned its reputation as “the City of Roses.”
The International Rose Test Garden
Portland’s newly acquired reputation as the City of Roses, along with the efforts of Jesse A. Curry, led to the creation of the world-renowned International Rose Test Garden.
The Rose Test Garden initially began as a safe haven for hybrid roses grown in Europe in 1915. London hybridists, along with others, feared that the roses would be destroyed during the World War I bombings. Jesse Currey, a rose enthusiast and editor of the Oregon Journal, convinced city officials to create the garden. Hybridists around the world began sending their roses to Portland, and the garden was officially dedicated in 1924.
The garden currently houses more than ten thousand rose bushes from over six hundred rose varieties. The Shakespeare Garden was instituted in 1945 to honor the playwright with roses named after his characters. The dedicated plaque from the LaBarre Shakespeare Club features an engraving of the bard himself and the quote, “Of all flowers methinks a rose is best.”
Located in the largest city park in Portland, the International Rose Test Garden receives around 3.5 million visitors every year. I visit the park and gardens every week, and I still can’t get enough, no matter the season.
Acknowledgement of the Original People of the Land
I pass by the Lewis and Clark Memorial often, and everytime I think about how this beautiful place that I live came to be. I cannot write this without acknowledging the sacrifices and hardships that the Indigenous People of this land had to encounter in order for me to be here today. What we now call Portland, Oregon, and Multnomah County were the traditional lands of the Multnomah, Kathlamet, Clackamas, Tumwater, Tualatin Kalapuya, Wasco, Molalla, Cowlitz, Watlala, and many other tribes who made their homes along the Columbia River.

The Magic of Portland’s Independent Publishing Resource Center

Portland, Oregon, has long been heralded as one of the best locations in America for artists, authors, and other creatives to find inspiration and community. Indeed, the city’s reputation has made it a hub for creative-minded folks looking for opportunities to hone their crafts and, more importantly, showcase and distribute their work to the public. For authors and artists who don’t have access to publishing technology or spaces to create, print, and publish their work, there are distinct barriers to doing what they love. However, there is an incredible nonprofit organization right here in Portland that seeks to break down these barriers and make publishing affordable and accessible to all.
Founded twenty-one years ago in a partnership between writer, publisher, bookseller, activist, and Portland City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly and printmaker Rebecca Gilbert, the Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC) is a nonprofit community center that is dedicated to making the process of publishing accessible and affordable to all. According to their mission statement, the IPRC seeks to provide “affordable access to space, tools, and resources for creating independently published media and artwork, and to build community and identity through the creation of written and visual art.”
One of the IPRC’s goals is to increase the accessibility of both print and visual publishing materials in order to promote diversity and equity in Portland and beyond through the creating and sharing of art. The center describes their goal this way:

By gathering such a diverse group of people under one roof, the IPRC nourishes an expansive and productive community, and is an incubator for the independent creative spirit that makes Portland unique. The IPRC fills the community need for low-cost access to otherwise expensive space, equipment, and materials, and supports artists to create quality, innovative, and experimental work that couldn’t be made elsewhere.

So just what kind of equipment does the IPRC have? The center’s main studio (currently open by appointment only due to COVID-19 safety precautions) offers an open workspace where patrons can work on individual projects and chat with other community members. The space is home to a digital lab containing iMac computers, which have access to creative software like Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign; black-and-white and color photocopiers (adorably named Blanche and Stella); paper-cutting equipment, including manual and electric paper cutters; paper finishing tools and staplers; button-making tools; and a Bind-Fast 5 perfect book binding machine. Haven’t used these tools before? Either a volunteer or the studio manager will provide you with training before your first use.
Outside of the main studio, the IPRC also offers other specialized studios for different types of printing. The Berlin Family Letterpress Studio is home to a number of letterpresses, a lead type collection, and even offers a galley rental. If screen printing is more your style, you might want to check out the WeMake Screen Printing Studio, which allows members to learn and practice screen printing fundamentals, and offers all the necessary materials that are needed to make a project come to life. Finally, the IPRC Risograph Studio is home to three Risograph printers and thirteen color drums. For each of these specialty printing studios, members are required to complete introductory workshops on how to use the equipment before being allowed to access and use the technology.
The IPRC also offers workshops and classes on a variety of other subjects, including creative writing (both fiction and nonfiction), poetry, chapbooks, zines, and even bookkeeping. The center keeps an updated calendar on their website with information about upcoming workshops and events. Other programs offered by the IPRC include a year-long certificate program that combines creative writing workshops with instruction in design, book arts, and print production; a BIPOC Artist & Writer Residency which provides authors with time and space to create, as well as a stipend of three thousand dollars; and summer youth camps that offer five weeks of creative writing, printmaking, and comic workshops for youth ages five to eighteen.
Interested in using some of the IPRC’s many tools and resources for your creative projects? Learn about membership opportunities and non-member access to studios on their website. You can also donate to this incredible organization to help keep it running so that the Portland community can retain access to these incredible resources. See their wishlist on their website, and support local artists by shopping the wonderful artwork created at the IPRC’s studios.

FAULTLAND's red book cover featuring a map of Portland in the shape of a piano

FAULTLAND’s Digital Launch

On March 30, 2021, Ooligan Press launched Suzy Vitello’s debut adult novel, Faultland, with a virtual launch party that not only celebrated the book itself, but also it’s journey from an idea in Suzy’s mind to a beautiful novel that is already gaining wide acclaim. During the launch, Suzy answered questions, did a short reading from the novel, and engaged in an insightful conversation with fellow author and moderator for the evening, Monica Drake. Special guest Laura Hall of the Regional Disaster Preparedness Organization also joined the conversation, giving expert insight into the protocols that the city of Portland has in place to keep people safe in the event of an earthquake like the one that happens in the book.
Like many other publishers, our team was somewhat nervous about launching a book virtually, but Faultland‘s launch far exceeded our expectations. So much of the work that goes into a launch event like ours happens well in advance. We created collateral and built partnerships with bookstores to promote the book and hand out Faultland postcards that they could give to their patrons. We set up an Eventbrite page for attendees to register for the launch. which allowed us to incorporate a randomized drawing for our raffle item based on ticket sales. We promoted the launch—both online and in-person— for weeks leading up to pub day, and secured some stellar advance reviews to really get people interested in the book. All of this hard work paid off: at the events’ peak, one hundred and twenty people were in the Faultland audience ready to celebrate the book’s launch and engage with the author. While the sales numbers for the book are yet to be determined, if enthusiasm is a barometer for success, then we certainly succeeded with this launch!
More than anything else, we knew that having secure and reliable technology was going to be our biggest hurdle for this digital launch. For this, we tasked one intrepid Oolie with overseeing the technical aspects of the Zoom room. He was in charge of the recording, admitting participants, sifting through the audience Q&A, and running an ongoing chat with the audience that highlighted the speakers’ works and directed the attendees to resources mentioned during the event. Other Oolies were at the ready, live-blogging the event and bringing even more attention to the incredible conversation happening between Suzy and our guests. My job was to play the role of facilitator, which allowed me to step in and introduce the speakers and keep an eye on the flow of the event. Because I was able to monitor the time and let the speakers know when it was time to move on, there was less pressure on them and they were able to focus on their conversation and, of course, the book itself, instead of watching the clock.
Above all else Suzy’s natural charisma and her history as a writing teacher ensured that the event went off without a hitch. The audience was immediately drawn in to the playful banter she had with writer and longtime friend, Monica Drake. Together, they navigated difficult audience questions, told charming stories of their “coming up” as young writers, and discussed the finer points of Portland safety protocols with Laura Hall. Through it all, Suzy’s love for her newest book shined brightly. The acme of it all was being able to celebrate the triumph of seeing her book on shelves and sharing that with an audience who was eager to recognize her dedication to bringing it to life.
There’s something so bittersweet about a book launch at Ooligan; it’s a culmination of everything that has gone into creating a book: the months of research, editing, development, marketing, and countless hours of Ooligan student work. Like the changing of the seasons, it signals the end of one book project and the emergence of a new one. We are so excited to start on our next book project, but the Faultland team (and everyone who has worked on the book) will undoubtedly be touched by the work that we put into Faultland for years to come. Now that the book has officially launched, this will be the last Faultland start-to-finish and I’m so proud to leave it on such a fantastic note.
Faultland is now available for purchase just about everywhere books are sold. You can find your copy at Ooligan-favorite online retailer bookshop.org. If you missed the event, you can still celebrate the launch by watching the recording on our Facebook page!

Front cover of the book Finding the Vein which portrays the title on a forested background.

Positive Predictions for FINDING THE VEIN

As of writing this, Finding the Vein is on the verge of publication and the entire team is so excited! We’ve been working on a number of things to ensure that the book has an excellent launch. Ooligan has partnered with Hood River’s favorite indie book retailer, Waucoma Bookstore, to host our virtual launch event. Our team has been hard at work creating content for our social media campaign, and we’re getting the word out through our local library partners. While this post will be going up after the launch for Finding the Vein has officially kicked off, rest assured that our team will keep the enthusiasm rolling as we continue to promote Ooligan Press’s first mystery novel.
The Finding the Vein team partnered with Waucoma Bookstore to host our Zoom launch event on April 20, 2021. As Ooligan’s third foray into digital launches, it was an interesting event to set up and gave our team members the opportunity to work with an independent bookstore to arrange an evening that would serve the interests of the press, the author, and the shop itself. The terms of the launch had to be negotiated carefully to ensure that everyone was happy with the outcomes.
Originally, the bookstore wanted to do a traditional Zoom room for the event to allow the audience to pop on camera and ask their questions during the Q&A. The case they made for this modality was in good spirits, and the bookstore representatives wanting to allow for a similar kind of audience engagement one would have at an in-person launch event is understandable. However, our team was concerned about some of the hazards this modality could pose to the event’s schedule and that it might cause lag if the event was well attended. Most of us are familiar with Zoom-era horror stories of someone forgetting to turn off their microphone or have experienced firsthand the bandwidth problems of having too many cameras on at once. On top of that, we were also concerned that if people decided to keep their cameras on that it could distract from the author and do a disservice to the launch experience. Lastly, we were worried that the chat, which we wouldn’t be able to disable in a standard session, would also distract from the questions audience members wanted to ask. It took us a bit, but we got everyone on board with a webinar format instead as it would bypass so many of the problems we were hoping to avoid. Of course, by the time this blog is released, the event will have already happened, and because of the team’s careful planning and dedication to quality, I’m certain that it will have been a hit!
The Finding the Vein team is also hard at work creating engaging social media content both for the launch event and for the weeks following the launch. We’re leaning heavily into the mystery plot and imagery of the Pacific Northwest for our campaign, tapping into some of the most celebrated themes of the book to engage readers. On top of social media, Oolies have been distributing posters throughout the city to advertise the launch, using the beautiful Oolie-designed cover to catch the eyes of passersby. We’re not alone in promoting Finding the Vein as our partners at the Multnomah County Library Writers Project are also busily working to distribute the book through their system and help increase patron awareness of it once it officially launches.
With the launch of Finding the Vein, it’s only natural for one to think: “What’s next?” We have an exciting new project on the horizon—but all I can tell you right now is that it’s going to be awesome. The incoming project manager, Wren Haines, will be taking over for the outgoing manager, the amazing Bailey Potter, at the end of the term and they will be announcing the new project in detail soon! So stay tuned to Ooligan’s official channels for an update about next year’s Library Writers Project release.
Finding the Vein launched on April 20, 2021, in both trade paperback and ebook formats. To learn more about the Library Writers Project and how to submit work to the Multnomah County Library, please visit their website.

Reaching Unconventional Contacts

Welcome back to Finding the Vein by Jennifer Hanlon Wilde, Ooligan’s third title in the Library Writers Project, our partnership with Multnomah County Library. Ooligan’s first mystery title follows two detectives, a teen sleuth and a police sergeant, as they and their respective partners-in-crime (or in-justice, as the case may be) investigate a camp counselor’s death. In addition to the multiple potential murderers and classic mystery genre red herrings, Finding the Vein is filled with comedy and heart.

When we developed the marketing plan for this book, we included unconventional contacts that were appropriate for the themes in Finding the Vein. These included adoption associations, libraries, book clubs, and summer camps, in addition to the typical contacts that a project team collects such as national and regional publications and magazines, independent bookstores, individual bloggers and book reviewers on social media, and podcasts. Our question was this: How do we reach the unconventional ones? Thankfully, some of the libraries are already taken care of through our partnership with LWP: Multnomah County Library purchases a few copies of the LWP books as they are published to distribute among Multnomah County’s library branches. For the adoption associations, other libraries, book clubs, and summer camps, though, we needed to get more creative. Due to COVID-19, our options were limited because we didn’t have the usual physical collateral that teams include in a sales kit.

We decided that we needed to design something versatile that could be used both physically and virtually in both our marketing and social media campaigns, and we came up with the idea of designing a summer camp–themed postcard. We have a small budget set aside for collateral, which we haven’t used yet, so this is a completely doable strategy. First, we’ll send our contacts an email that informs them of the forthcoming Finding the Vein, gives a summary of the book, describes why it may be of interest to them, and encourages them to tell their colleagues about it. If we get a response, we will send them a physical postcard; that way we don’t waste any by sending them to contacts who won’t be interested or informed of its relevance beforehand. Hopefully we will receive more sales through these connections. At most, we may receive a couple of reviews or an announcement in a newsletter out of our efforts, both of which would be fantastic to have from these more specialized contacts.

The additional benefit of designing a postcard is that we can use it virtually as well. I’ll be sending it to Jennifer, the author, in case she’d like to use it during her email preorder campaign in the early spring of 2021, as well as for usage on her website and blog. They can also be printed out and used as flyers, so we’ll be sure to send the independent bookstores and libraries on our contact list a virtual copy as well. Lastly, the design can be used as an image on social media. Through the combined usage of the postcard design, we are essentially creating an immediately recognizable image that nearly every one of our contacts (and their associates) will eventually see in some format. This ensures that if they or a member of our intended audience sees Finding the Vein on a bookshelf or an online store, they will be that much more likely to purchase it, and in turn, tell others about it.

I’m excited to see how our postcard campaign moves forward, and I can’t wait to see its results!

Finding the Vein will launch on April 20, 2021, in both trade paperback and ebook formats. To learn more about the Library Writers Project and how to submit work to the Multnomah County Library, please visit their website.

The Mystery Behind the Mystery Genre

Overseeing the process of publishing Ooligan’s third title in our partnership with Multnomah County Library and their Library Writers Project has been a whirlwind of mystery and excitement so far. From designing the cover to crafting our marketing plan, Finding the Vein has shown how different the publishing process can be for different genres. As a reminder, Finding the Vein is written by Jennifer Hanlon Wilde and is about a murder at a summer camp for adopted international children. After a well-liked counselor mysteriously dies, camper Isaac and his new friend Hal—a duo not unlike Sherlock Holmes and John Watson—begin to theorize with their fellow campers what could have happened. Sergeant Mikie O’Malley is called to the scene to investigate the case and, due to the nature of the camp, is reminded of her recent discovery that she and her father are not biologically related. Soon, both the amateur and professional detectives come to the conclusion that Paul was murdered. The question is how. All parties involved slowly realize that there is more to Heritage Camp than meets the eye, and the murder is just the beginning.

As the LWP team saw last year while researching the romance genre when working on Iditarod Nights, it can be difficult but also incredibly rewarding to learn how to publish a new genre. Like every kind of genre fiction, we knew that the mystery genre has a large audience, which would be great for Ooligan to break into. We just needed to get there. How? Well, that’s part of the mystery.

Working as detectives, the LWP team investigated the best ways to design the cover—the first step in order to properly reach the desired audience. We researched popular design decisions for mystery and thriller books, finding that dark and misty forest photographs and all-caps sans serif fonts would set the scene of this title perfectly while still meeting the expectations of mystery-book lovers. With this in mind, our designers got to work. What came out is a beautiful cover design that not only solidifies Finding the Vein as a mystery book to its audience, but one that looks like it belongs to the same collection as the two previous LWP titles, The Gifts We Keep and Iditarod Nights. In addition, the design is lighthearted enough to fit the other aspects of Finding the Vein, such as the comedic interactions of the endearing characters, the setting of a summer camp, and themes such as identity and learning what it means to be LGBTQ+.

In regards to marketing, Finding the Vein proved again to be educational to the LWP team. We needed to rethink how to reach our desired audience, so we began researching mystery book bloggers, reviewers, podcasters, and book clubs. We searched for adoption associations, summer camps, and LGBTQ+ media that may be interested in other aspects of the book as well. We are excited about what kinds of attention Finding the Vein may receive once we start inquiring about blurbs and reviews from all of our collected contacts!

In addition to the above-mentioned progress, Finding the Vein has undergone a developmental edit, a heavy copyedit, a medium copyedit, and has been prepared for the design process via XML typecoding. Next up, we’ll see the finalized galley, finish up the social media strategy plan, and do a print proofread.

Finding the Vein will launch in April 2021 in both trade paperback and ebook formats. I can’t wait to see how this title progresses through the publication process and to finally hold it in my hands. For updates on this title and others, stay tuned to Ooligan’s blog, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts. To learn more about the Library Writers Project and how to submit work to the Multnomah County Library, please visit their website.

Indie Portland Bookstores During COVID-19

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, many small businesses are facing hardships due to stay-at-home orders and social distancing measures. In Portland, however, small independent bookstores are changing the way they operate in order to stay open. Below is a list of local booksellers that are using their online presence to their advantage during these difficult times:

While this is not an exhaustive list, these are some of the stores that are staying open due to the patronage of their communities.

How are they operating behind closed doors? Most of these stores are now offering free shipping and, in some cases, free delivery or curbside pickups. However, these models are continually changing as the guidelines and procedures for safe transactions continue to be updated. Many of these small stores do not have a robust online catalog, which means that in order to get your books, you must speak directly with an employee in the store who can let you know what they have in stock and make recommendations. In this way—even though they don’t have the backing of larger chains who might have more employees available to ship books—these small independent stores are giving customers the service and care they always do, and making the extra effort to keep their communities safe.

Another thing to consider is how these companies are advertising to their customers during this time. We know people are not supposed to leave their homes unless it is essential, so how are stores getting the word out? Social media has been a key component in this process, beyond just a simple telephone call. As more and more people find themselves stuck at home with little else to do but skim their phones, these stores have utilized their advertising on social media platforms in order to keep the word out about their options. From posting funny quips to sharing ideas for family-friendly reading activities, these stores have been going above and beyond to reach their communities, all while fielding business in a challenging new way. A few of the bookstores have requests on their websites for customers to be patient when it comes to ordering and receiving their books. For a lot of people, that is no problem at all, because there is a lot of time to wait for a book these days.

Their ability to adapt is a testament to the ways independent bookstores go above and beyond to stay in business. During all of this chaos, it’s still important to be able to sit down and read a good book—and as people are stocking up on necessities, they’re starting to consider that as well. So as you consider the small businesses you’re supporting during this time, keep these bookstores in mind.

Announcing FAULTLAND by Suzy Vitello

The Big One is coming, whether it’s the big earthquake that could liquidize hillsides or the big revelation that threatens to tear a family apart.

And the Sparrow family is already on the verge of falling apart. Olivia is divorcing, Sherman’s business is in constant legal trouble, and Morgan resents them both for leaving her to care for their ailing father. As the tensions between them multiply, the city itself is shaken to its foundations. The Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake hits Portland, and the Sparrows must come together to survive disaster—and stay on their guard against those who would take advantage of the chaos to further their own political goals.

Ooligan Press is excited to announce Faultland by Suzy Vitello, coming March 30, 2021. This near-future speculative-fiction novel is grounded in family drama between heartbreakingly human characters.

On a personal note, this book is everything I’ve hoped to work on in book publishing. As a lifelong sci-fi reader, I’m always looking for speculative fiction that focuses on heart and humanity as much as it brings up startling ideas about the future. Faultland is what I’ve searched for as a reader, and it’s an honor to help bring it to the world. As this book’s first project manager at Ooligan Press, I’m planning its entire production schedule and working with my team to develop its marketing plan from the ground up. Acquiring a new book always leads to an exciting flurry of work, but it’s especially wonderful when the book is something you’d pick up off the shelf just for fun. Faultland is that book for me.

Right now, editorial is working on copyediting the manuscript. The cover-design process is underway. We’re refining the copy we’ll use to market this book so that it will reach all those readers who will love it just as much as I do. We’re about a year out from publication, but that time will evaporate quickly in the face of all we need to do to give Faultland the life it deserves.

Suzy Vitello’s characters are the kind that make you feel like you know them as real people. She gets into the mud as she explores the Sparrow siblings’ hopes and failings, along with the drastic misunderstandings between them. The first time I read the Faultland manuscript, I knew that witnessing this family come together to survive a very real disaster was an experience I wouldn’t forget. I’m a Portlander myself, and my heart ached at the startling possibility that this could be the future of my city if The Big One were to hit. I know the streets, bridges, and neighborhoods that make up the destruction the Sparrows must navigate. The image of Portland in rubble has stuck with me, but the more human-scale struggles of the Sparrows prove to be just as dramatic.

Prepare for Faultland in March 2021!

Experiential vs. Educational Learning

Question:
My friends and family were naturally curious when I shared my plans to start a master’s program in book publishing. Many asked why I needed further education to enter the publishing industry. Is a bachelor’s degree in English literature just a fun way to spend four years and thousands of dollars? So I applied for internships before I dove headfirst into another educational commitment. Microcosm Publishing of Portland, Oregon, was gracious enough to offer me an internship, and my personal experiment began. Would this internship be sufficient to teach me everything I wanted to learn about the industry in order to eventually get a full-time job?

As it turns out, the answer is not a clean yes or no.

This post is about the differences and similarities between experiential learning (e.g., my internship) and educational learning (e.g., the publishing program) within the publishing industry and why both have value and complement each other. It will focus on my experiences as an intern at Microcosm Publishing and a first-term student at Ooligan Press and give examples of how what I’ve learned in my classes has directly transferred to my internship and vice versa.

Expertise vs. Infrastructure:
At Microcosm, I’ve gotten my hands dirty. I’ve proofread two manuscripts, worked on Photoshop projects (with which I have very little prior experience but with which they trust me, amazingly), stuffed envelopes with Microcosm’s “witchy” catalog before sending them to hundreds of book retailers across America, moved many, many boxes of books, and gained some incredible insight into what it means to be a small independent publisher in the big pond of publishing.

But without the expertise I’ve been getting from my classes, I would have very little context in which to understand my experiences. How would I know that Microcosm’s decision to do their own distribution and part ways with Ingram was a bold move for an independent publisher? I spent an entire day unpacking all the books that had been sent back to Microcosm, but I didn’t even know what Ingram was prior to starting the program.

Another pertinent example of the way in which my learning has positively impacted my job is my approach to book descriptions—you know, the summaries that entice readers and get them excited to purchase books and read them.

The instructions from my Microcosm supervisor were to read the back cover, skim the first couple chapters, then write a short description and avoid sounding like an Amazon review. I’ve learned from my marketing class that a book purchase is an emotional investment for the average consumer, and this has directly impacted the way I approach my book descriptions for Microcosm’s online catalog. I now understand that I’m not just regurgitating the back cover; I’m helping people find the right book by detailing not only what the book is about but also why someone would want to read it.

Answer:
Undergoing both the educational and experiential learning processes has given me the benefit of being able to immediately apply concepts and theories to real-life situations. Further, I am able to filter my experience as an intern and contextualize it within the larger arena of the publishing industry.

So in short, the answer to the question of whether my internship would teach me everything I needed to know for a career in publishing is no—not on its own. However, this internship has been hugely beneficial for applying and contextualizing all the wisdom and expertise that is being taught in the publishing program at PSU.