Ooligan Press to publish novel on equal rights fight

There is a new voice on the horizon.

It’s the voice of author Karelia Stetz-Waters, whose new book, Forgive Me If I’ve Told You This Before, is a love story set against the backdrop of the fight for equal rights in Oregon. The novel is being published through Ooligan Press, Portland State’s independent Book Publishing program.

“It is a story that readers today are ready for. A story that they are even looking for, and I hope that this book is circulated widely,” said Dr. Per Henningsgaard, director of Ooligan Press.

The release of the novel will be followed by a launch party, held at Another Read Through bookstore on Sunday, Nov. 16. More events are planned to celebrate the book’s release.

A ’90s themed dance party will be held on Thursday, Nov. 20 at Jones Bar. A reading with Stetz-Waters will be held at Powell’s Books at Cedar Hills Crossing on Tuesday, Nov. 25.

Stetz-Waters said her novel began in 1996 as a narrative piece that drew inspiration from journals and diaries.

“There are so few novels that capture an authentic lesbian experience. I grew up with up with very few stories that depicted lesbians at all,” Stetz-Waters said. “I set out to write a lesbian story, because I couldn’t find any. If I were a heterosexual, I don’t think I would be a writer or writing the books that I have written so far.”

Although the novel is fictional, the themes that run throughout are autobiographical. Stetz-Waters, like her character Triinu Hoffman, is the daughter of an Estonian immigrant. She was bullied. She was an outcast.

Stetz-Waters was in the thick of a battle, both for acceptance from peers and for equal rights in the state of Oregon. And she loved. She loved somebody who, in many ways, she was forbidden to love.

Stetz-Waters’ involvement began in 2012 at the Willamette Writer’s conference, where she met with representatives from Ooligan Press. They were accepting story pitches, with a focus on minority voices.

“Every commercial bookstore has to weigh the outcome and the success of the book against the income, time and personal investment to decide, ultimately, if it is a commercially sound endeavor,” Stetz-Waters said.

Ooligan has a large pool of talented labor—without the corresponding costs. Stetz-Waters said she got incredible editorial feedback at every level of the process from professionals who may be young in their field, but good at what they do.