Ooligan Press, the student-staffed press that is part of Portland State’s publishing program, has added a recent innovation: Start to Finish, a project in which students give a behind-the-scenes look at how a book is created. Start to Finish lives on the Ooligan Web site and tracks a book’s evolution from acquisition to cover creation to XML typecoding to launching the book itself. As each step is completed over the months, students blog about their experiences working on the book and providing readers with access to the process.
Writing about her experience working on Close Is Fine by Eliot Treichel, a story collection published in November, PSU student Katie Allen stated: “Working on the book trailer over the summer also helped me to overcome my fear of taking on something bigger than myself. Once I dove in, it turned out to be an incredibly enjoyable experience, and it felt good to work alongside people who weren’t in the press with me, because even though they’d just read the book, they felt passionately enough and believed in it enough to put their whole being into that trailer.”
For a program that gives all control to its students, it only makes sense that Start to Finish is the brainchild a PSU student. Creator Jonathan Stark said, “Each book we publish has an epic story of success behind it that exists totally separately from how well it reads or how well it sells. It’s the story of the book’s publishing and all of the unexpected trials students pass while learning how to make that happen.” Stark said the project’s goal is to tell that story, the unseen (and therefore often neglected) “second” story of the book’s production that runs alongside the actual narrative in the pages. Per Henningsgaard, director of publishing at PSU, said, “I believe the kind of self-conscious reflection on the publishing process that we encourage in a publishing program is likely what gave rise to this realization about the two narratives operating in every book. The feedback so far has been really positive.”