The Book Publishing program has two main elements: the practical work of publishing books through Ooligan Press, and the more theoretical work we do in class. My Ooligan experience is largely covered in the Books section of this site, since I managed Alive at the Center for three terms and focused solely on The Ninth Day in my final term. In this space, I'll explore the classes that accompanied the Ooligan experience in brief, reflective blog posts. I've also embedded some of my papers, presentations, and other projects.
A class still in progress, and my last at PSU. Closing this experience with Design class has been a real pleasure, and it has profoundly informed this project, which involved a great deal more of the "work" of design than I anticipated. I am constantly tweaking the design elements and learning news ways to work within the limitations of the browser platform and the medium.
Type specimen sheets and book cover comps produced for Design Class.
Publishing Software introduces students to Photoshop, Illustrator, and the program they are likely to use most, InDesign. We produced postcards, posters, a menu, a magazine spread, and a longer project–in my case, a guide to making homemade hot sauce, excerpted below in the center image).
Learning InDesign was invaluable. I was starting a new job that required lots of InDesign work when the class began, so I used the software almost every day for one reason or another. It's an incredibly useful program, and it was very helpful to learn how the three programs work together. It's a fun class, too. I regret not taking it sooner! I would have liked to work on design projects for Ooligan.
A sample menu, excerpts from the hot sauce guide, and a sample magazine spread.
A new class on an increasingly relevant subject. In Transmedia Marketing, we applied the staggering amount of information we received about the emerging transmedia marketing landscape to an Ooligan novel, Ruth Tenzer Feldman's The Ninth Day. We examined the book, its predecessor Blue Thread, and the wealth of supplementary information on Ruth's blog, and logged character information, significant details, and important scenes and conflicts. We immersed ourselves in the Blue Thread Universe, and used our detailed knowledge of the property to build out rich, interactive, relevant, and wide-ranging transmedia marketing plans, which were presented to Ruth during the final class. I have included my presentation and notes below, and I discuss my Ooligan experience with The Ninth Day under the Books tab of this website.
Transmedia Marketing plan for the Blue Thread Universe
Supplemental presentation notes
Over the summer, I spent a few days a week at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, creating a language arts curriculum based around the Sherlock Holmes exhibit that OMSI was developing with the Conan Doyle Estate. Because the staff at OMSI was unused to producing language arts lesson plans, they gave me complete freedom to design original plans. Their only stipulation was that the plans align with the Common Core Standards and mimic the format (to the extent it was possible) of the science plans that the OMSI staff regularly produces. As I worked on the language arts plans, I also found myself being pulled into the science plans my colleague was designing. I contributed contextualizing stories and stylistic touches (in the Sherlockian voice the project required) to the science curriculum.
I am sincerely proud of the full curriculum, which I think is fun, practical, and very much in line with the Common Core Standards. You can view the language arts plans below.
A challenging and thought-provoking class that focused on the theoretical history of editing. The class invited students to develop a reasoned and practical personal theory of editing. We examined the seemingly mundane decisions faced by editors, and learned how complex those decisions can be, and how significant their consequences. We also explored rare and unusual editorial circumstances (my paper below, on Nabokov's unfinished, posthumously-published novel, The Original of Laura, addresses some of those issues).
Throughout the term, we interrogated the editor's relationship to the work: how to honor the contents, how to monitor editorial bias, how to proceed in the case of an absent author, etc. If Linda Meyer's editing class taught the daily realities of editing, Per's taught the hidden significance of those seemingly minor decisions, and forced us to articulate why we stood behind them.
Final paper on constructing the definitive edition of Eisner's groundbreaking graphic novel, A Contract with God.
Paper on the posthumously-produced edition of Nabokov's unfinished novel, The Original of Laura.
Children's Literature (along with Vinnie Kinsella's copy editing class) is the class that veteran students tell new students that they "just have" to take. A total immersion into an unfamiliar (to me) segment of the publishing industry, the class covers almost every aspect of the publishing process for picture, beginning reader, middle grade, and young adult books. Because the processes and conventions for these books are often very different from adult books, the classes were surprising, fresh, and full of new information. It was a pleasure, too, to revisit our favorite childhood books and reassess them with newly-trained eyes. A lesson on contracts was also particularly helpful.
For our final project, our class worked in pairs to edit, design, and lay out a children's book--in my case, the middle grade survival novel, Wolf Brother.
Two covers I designed for our book project.
Developmental letter for Wolf Brother
Book Editing had a lot of ground to cover. The classes focused on copy editing, fact-checking, and developmental editing, but there were small, practical lessons in between (we even did a lesson on editing comics). What Linda truly taught, though, was the reality of editing. We would go through copy on our own, and then Linda would take us through it in class, revealing the myriad errors that we had overlooked. We were taught the four C's of editing—consistency, clarity, coherency, and correctness—and how essential they are in building a strong reputation as an editor. We also discussed developmental editing, although with this we took a more intuitive approach. We read and discussed Addie Boswell's young adult manuscript, Essa Vida, and sent a developmental letter to the author, who we met for a discussion on the final day of class. I would later follow Linda's guidelines and good advice when preparing developmental edits of two manuscripts for Future Tense Books.
Developmental Letter for Essa Vida
In Book Marketing, students learn how to create the documents that will become familiar to them over the course of the program: tipsheets, marketing plans, press releases, etc. We contributed weekly examples of creative, inspiring, and effective book marketing, but the class primarily focused on grounding us in the traditional tools used to market books. Our ongoing project focused on marketing a "dream" project--the kind of book we always wanted to exist. The project I invented was Stories from Street View, an anthology collection of short stories inspired by artist Jon Rafman's 9-Eyes project, which displays unique and beautiful moments inadvertently captured on Google Street View.
My copy/pitch for the hypothetical project:
"Google Street View is the kind of magic we’ve come to take for granted. We used to shut our eyes, spin a globe and drop a finger in some exotic locale—now we can dive beneath the surface of the map and explore the frozen streets of an unfamiliar place.
Thirty writers were asked to choose a random location on Google Maps, zoom down to street level and share what they found: Jayne Ann Phillips follows three teenagers down a highway in Tennessee, Anne Beattie waits at crowded bus stop in Tokyo, Mike Birbiglia finds his “pants twin” in Finland. Stewart O’Nan edits this collection of thirty hilarious, intimate and transcendent works of short fiction inspired by the moments captured on Street View."
I designed the cover (using a photo captured on Rafman's blog) and created a marketing plan, which explored multi-author/anthology marketing and the intersection of technology, culture, and literature.
The marketing plan for Stories from Street View
Introduction to Publishing is the ideal incubation class: students get a grounding in publishing history, work together to create a hypothetical press, and acquire, design, and create a marketing plan for the books they choose. My takeaways were valuable ones, proven again and again during my time with the program and the press:
The traditional business model in publishing is a unique one (early on, Abbey explains the consignment model to horrified students), but new models are emerging and being tested every day. Still, the class's mantra is: Publishing will not make you rich. Publishing will not make you rich. Publishing will not make you rich.
Group work is a constant. Dividing work fairly and effectively will always be a challenge, and consensus (especially in matters of taste) will be hard-won.
- The budget informs everything, and it will likely be small. Get creative.
Three hypothetical covers I designed for three hypothetical books.
The final paper produced for the class, an examination of the future of libraries.