Ooligan Press: Making Books, Designing Careers

I recently joined Portland State University’s graduate program in book publishing. When I applied, I was aware that the program had its own publisher called Ooligan Press, but I must confess I did not think much about it. I thought of Ooligan as an interesting adjunct to the more important academic elements of the program. I could not have been more wrong.

As I have discovered, the breadth and quality of Ooligan’s publishing work is impressive by any measure. But what is beyond impressive is what Ooligan does for its students.

I am quite a bit different from almost all the students at Ooligan. I came to the program after retiring from a long career in a different industry. I came back to school simply for the joy of learning. I wasn’t—and still am not—thinking much about a career after graduation.

My much-younger classmates at Ooligan are in a very different phase of life. They are exactly where I was thirty-five years ago: they are trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives and how they want to start their careers. Ooligan gives these students a hands-on, immersive experience in the publishing process. Quite literally, it is the students who do all the work at Ooligan. They own the publishing process from beginning to end. They are entirely responsible for the success of each book’s publication.

As Ooligan students build successful books, they are also building their own careers. Students are exposed to all the steps in the publishing process, so they get a chance to discover what interests them the most and where they might best succeed in the publishing industry. For those students who wish to pursue a career in writing (as opposed to publishing), Ooligan shows them all the practical steps required to realize their creative aspirations.

Beyond obtaining this hands-on experience, students receive another priceless gift: exposure to Ooligan’s values. For Ooligan, it’s not just about the process of publishing books into the marketplace. It’s about honoring the authors and the stories those authors are seeking to tell. The project teams at Ooligan strive to find authors who would otherwise go unrecognized and stories that would otherwise be left untold. The teams then work tirelessly to ensure each story comes through the publishing process just as the author envisioned.

Through their work with Ooligan, students see that publishing can be more than merely a profitable business venture. Publishing can be the business of finding and sharing important voices for the benefit of our society and our world. These are values upon which students can build meaningful and fulfilling publishing careers, whether they choose to focus on acquisition, editing, marketing, or any other part of the publishing process.

One of my favorite books (not published by Ooligan) is Creative Calling by renowned photographer Chase Jarvis. In the book, Jarvis offers a key insight based on his long and successful career: “Creative lives and creative careers are each designed. They happen intentionally.” Ooligan Press is giving each of its students the opportunity to design a publishing career and a life of purpose that they desire and deserve. And that is beyond impressive by any measure.

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