It was the first time reading in public for many of the Roosevelt High School students who participated in the Where the Roses Smell the Best presentation at Powell’s on Hawthorne, July 11. This anthology of writing on the people, places and lifestyles of Portland is the first book produced by Unique Ink, the publishing house run by the students of the Publishing and Writing Center at RHS. Many of the students were nervous, but well-known writers who contributed to Where the Roses Smell the Best were there to support them, including Oregon Poet Laureate and former high school teacher Paulann Peterson. She read her poem “To Love Hard Enough” about the deaths of tent caterpillars that plagued the trees of Portland in her childhood.
“It’s an honor to have a poem in this anthology,” Peterson said of the students’ publication. “This Roosevelt High School endeavor is launching itself in Powell’s. Every writer in the world wants a reading at Powell’s.”
Renee Mitchell, a Pulitzer-nominated former journalist, read “Let Me Be Born” about leaving the safety of her job at the Oregonian to follow her heart. Mitchell reassured the uncertain students saying, “I think it’s important to let young people know that we still get nervous. It takes courage to be in front of people expressing your words. This is such an incredible opportunity we didn’t have as teenagers.”
Roosevelt student Miranda Mendoza read “Bus 75,” a vignette about a walk on Lombard Street. She described Renee Mitchell as an encouraging mentor who helped her to believe in her own talent. “I was one of the people who sat in the shadows and thought I wasn’t good enough,” said Mendoza. She gained confidence when she got feedback from Mitchell on a poem that will appear in the next book, coming out this summer.
In a symbiotic partnership between two student-run presses, the graduate students from Ooligan Press pass on their knowledge of publishing to the high school students of Unique Ink. In an earlier post, Ooligan blogger Rebekah Hunt described the rewarding experience:
[Ooligan founder] Dennis Stovall and the Ooligan students help them call for and sort through submissions, write acceptance and rejection letters, edit the submissions, design the interior and exterior layouts of the book, target their audience, market the book, organize events and readings, and anything else that may come up. I found that being involved with the process in a teaching capacity sharpened my own skills and understanding and gave me a new perspective on the publishing process.
At the Powell’s reading, Zachary Learned, recent RHS graduate and former Project Manager for Unique Ink, explained that he had learned important career survival skills in the process, including how to send business emails and use Excel, and had vastly improved his grammar. He plans to apply those lessons to his college experience when he majors in marketing and business at Portland State University.
Where the Roses Smell the Best is already selling briskly. The Heathman Hotel is going to put a copy of the book in every guest room to acquaint newcomers to Portland. That’s 150 copies in just one sale!
Please visit the RHS Writing and Publishing Center’s Facebook page to learn more about the project. You can purchase Where the Roses Smell the Best at many local bookstores including Powell’s, Annie Blooms, and Broadway Books. The final book reading will be at Annie Blooms on July 29th.