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A Visit to Oregon's Un-University Press

January 28, 2016

Liz Pilcher, the Griffis Publishing Intern at OSU Press, will graduate from OSU this year with a major in Digital Communication Arts. Her experience here at the Press has whetted her appetite for all things publishing-related, and inspired her to apply to the graduate publishing program at Portland State University.

Although OSU Press is the only university press in Oregon, the publishing program at PSU is home to Ooligan Press. Ooligan is a book publisher housed at a university. So why isn’t Ooligan a university press? Books published by university presses are subjected to a rigorous process of peer review --  an indispensible step in our mission to publish important works of scholarship. Ooligan, by contrast, functions much more like a commercial trade publisher, except that the publishing decisions are made by students. In fact, the entire operation is student-run, providing a unique educational laboratory.

In this week’s blog post, Liz talks about her love of books,her visit to the PSU campus, and her impressions of the “Oolies.”

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My love for books started before I learned to read. I have fond memories of my mom reading me books before bed and begging her to read them one more time. Of course, it was never just “one more time.” My mom would start reading one of my favorites and make up the story as she went along, tired of reading the same book over and over again. Even though I couldn’t decipher the words on the page, I had memorized the plot so clearly I would cry out, “That’s not how it goes!” and my tired mother would start again, reading the book the way I remembered.

Despite one brief and stubborn stint in elementary school, when I avoided books because I was being told to read, books have always held a warm spot in my heart. Over the years my taste in genres has morphed through Young Adult, Science-Fiction, Romance, and many others. Few things have made me happier than starting a book in the late afternoon after coming home from school, to find myself turning the last page in the early morning hours.

Reading books and writing tend to go hand in hand, and for me, reading books had led me to write fan-fiction. While many look down upon the world of authors who write alternate plots for well-known stories, writing fan fiction gave me a community of writers who supported me and encouraged me to write passionately. Middle school and high school were the perfect years to have friends in fiction and helped me build a foundation I would rely on for years to come.

While I had spent years writing plots based on pre-made universes and evolved into creating worlds of my own, it wasn’t until the summer of my junior year of college that I realized I wanted books to take a more serious role in my life. I had taken a novel writing class with my favorite professor, who, when hearing I was interested in graduate school, encouraged me to look into Portland State University’s Book Publishing program. At the time it was more of a fanciful thought than a potential reality, but after spending a couple months interning for the OSU Press, I realized I had greater plans in mind.

Marty Brown, our Marketing Manager, and my guide and teacher at the OSU Press, put me in contact with Abbey Gaterud and Per Henningsgaard at the Ooligan Press at PSU. Less than a week later, I found myself navigating downtown Portland, hunting for the only parking spot open in the parkade, and wandering around Neuberger Hall to find Room 341. In this room, my Ooligan adventure began.

I met Abbey and Per, who gave me a brief introduction and explanation of the meeting to come. I sat down and looked around a large room full of the students who made up the Ooligan Press. These were the bright minds of the Press whom I aspired to be. As the meeting commenced and the Project Managers gave their quick update reports, I couldn’t help my bubbling excitement. I listened to the various stages of publication these groups were working through and wondered what it would be like to be part of that process. I imagined the day I could speak up for my group and report the progress we had made.

At the end of the Executive Meeting, everyone split off for their individual group meetings and Per introduced me to Hayley. A bright, confident, and warm young woman, Hayley was one of the Project Managers whose group I would be shadowing. Her group was composed of ladies who had been working on Memories Flow in Our Veins: Forty Years of Women’s Writing from CALYX. They discussed their plans for marketing this anthology on Tumblr and designing the ebook; I listened quietly with my own mixture of ideas and attempts to keep up. While I made comments here and there, I resisted my desire to contribute so they could focus on their work.

After the meeting was over, I had the chance to sit with Hayley and a couple of the remaining group members, where I was able to ask all the questions filling my mind. They told me what the program was like from a student’s perspective and described the “Oolies” as the welcoming people I already knew them to be. Witnessing Hayley’s group working first hand was the best experience I could have asked for. They fueled my desire to apply to the program.

Before I left, I was able to meet with Per one-on-one where he answered my questions about the application process and internship experiences available to the students. Although I had already been planning what I’d like to include in my writing sample for a few weeks, gears began to churn in my mind anew.

When I felt as though all my questions had been answered and I was ready to make the long drive back to Corvallis, Per kindly showed me how to get through the maze of hallways. As I rode the elevator down to the ground floor, I couldn’t help but hope I would find myself in this building again as a student in the Fall.

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