Demystifying the publishing process

PSU’s Ooligan Press hosts annual Write to Publish conference for emerging writers

Jessica Clark and Alison Cantrell, a pair of grad students in their second year in the graduate program in Book Publishing at Portland State, have spent many busy months preparing for and organizing the ninth annual Write to Publish conference. The conference, hosted by the English Department’s not-for-profit publishing house Ooligan Press, takes place all day Feb. 4 in Smith Memorial Student Union. The event aims to demystify the publishing process for the public and give emerging writers insight into the professional world.

Previous conferences have seen a myriad of topics covered, from comics to the New Adult genre, and this year is no less intriguing. Write to Publish 2017 will host panels focusing on diversity in publishing, legal issues, self-publishing, and best practices for researching publishers and literary agents. Following the panels, workshops will answer questions such as, “What constitutes well-written dialogue?” and “How to write a query letter,” among other topics.

Attendees will spend time in panels listening to and engaging with writing professionals and then receive hands-on experience in the workshops; the panels and the workshops play off one another in a manner similar to the publishing program’s blend of classroom and practical learning.

Clark and Cantrell both expressed excitement for the diversity panel, which will examine the obstacles facing diversity efforts within the publishing community and industry. This panel follows in the footsteps of movements such as We Need Diverse Books.

During lunch, participants will have the option to present their elevator pitch to professionals and receive feedback on their approach. A representative from HarperCollins’ Children’s Department will be in attendance, emphasizing the conference’s focus on research before action. For writers with an epic YA fantasy novel in the works, she might the best person for feedback.

This year, Ooligan received a record number of fiction and poetry submissions for the annual writing contests. This reveals an exciting trend for the annual conference: while Write to Publish maintains its local roots and its focus on forming relationships within the community, more and more writing communities are taking notice and supporting the event. Attendees are expected from across the country.

In addition to supporting new writers, the other main aim of Write to Publish is to raise money: The not-for-profit event is Ooligan’s biggest fundraiser, and the event’s vendors and sponsors also help the program establish connections within the community. Sponsors include Portland’s nonprofit Independent Publishing and Resource Center and artificial intelligence app developer Devon Technologies; among the vendors are local student-led organization Unique Ink, brand experts Peaceful Media, online and print publishing platform The Masters Review, and others.

Write to Publish has also partnered with Literary Arts, a local nonprofit literary center. Recipients of the Literary Arts Writers of Color Fellowship will receive a free pass to the upcoming conference.

Ooligan will host two supplementary events in the week leading up to Write to Publish. In a Feb. 2 lecture on Native Americans in Writing and Publishing, panelists will focus on Native writers and professionals in the publishing industry. The lecture is free to the public; venue to be announced. On Feb. 3, Ooligan hosts “Storytellers Unite,” an opportunity for speakers and attendees of Write to Publish to meet informally and share their work before the conference. More information regarding the lecture and the meet-and-greet will appear on their respective Facebook event pages.

Event tickets are $80 for the general public and $35 for students. For further questions about Ooligan and Write to Publish, visit or contact [email protected].