With the zine craze taking off around the Portland area, Portland State students Dave Cowsert and Douglas Posey are adding to the mix with their own literary magazines after getting involved with the PSU publishing program.
Cowsert came to the publishing program almost by accident. While earning a degree in Community Development and a minor in writing, Cowsert said he thought editing would be a good skill to have on his resume.
He signed up for the publishing program’s editing class and ended up doing the final edit on one of the short stories that appeared in The Survival League, one of three books by Croatian authors published by Ooligan Press.
Ooligan Press is the Portland State founded publishing company staffed by students and advised by faculty in the PSU publishing program. The program is open to both graduate students and undergraduate students.
Cowsert also took the inspiration for his magazine Sofa Ink Quarterly, a magazine that has seen some strong success at PSU, from his fellow students at PSU.
“To be perfectly honest,” Cowsert said, “I enjoyed my writing classes, but I got tired of reading all the violence, sex and foul language in student writing.”
Cowsert said he noticed that many alternative publications that did not include violence or sex were religious in tone.
Cowsert said the he wanted to create an alternative magazine when he realized that doctor’s offices presented the perfect market for his magazine. Theorizing that patients would like to read something besides outdated Field and Stream magazines, Cowsert also saw it as a perfect opportunity to allow advertisers direct access to a willing audience.
Once he realized that the publishing program worked with real books and real projects, Cowsert said he was hooked.
“The publishing program is like crack for book lovers,” the second year graduate student said.
In addition to Sofa Ink Quarterly, Cowsert has also recently published “A Sweeter Understanding” by R. E. Smith, a small poetry gift book called. His company also produces note cards, artwork and acts as a literary agency for authors Heidi Yewman and Julienne Busic.
Cowsert said one of his biggest challenges has been finding writers.
“In the beginning, I felt that the PSU community would support me, but it seemed that people weren’t very supportive. It was like I wasn’t legit because I sat next to them in class,” he said.
As the second issue of Sofa Ink is nearing the end of production, Cowsert said that he is receiving many more submissions.
“I plan to continue featuring writers from Portland State,” he said.
Among the PSU writers featured in Sofa Ink is Pathos Magazine founder Madeline Enos, who had complaints about being censored in publications.
“I laughed when I read her interview in The Vanguard,” Cowsert said, “because I was the guy who censored her.”
Cowsert said he stands by his vision of creating a clean, family-oriented publication. He had remained friends with Enos, and the two often discuss their publishing endeavors.
Cowsert said Ooligan Press and the publishing program gave him the courage to start his own publishing company.
“The program opened up the window of possibility and suddenly I realized: this is what I want to do,” he said.
Like Cowsert, Posey began after his involvement in the publishing program. He calls his magazine Sedition and said it is a creative culture quarterly. Posey hopes to fill a media outlet void in Portland by aiming his magazine at creative people looking for creative entertainment.
The recently completed first issue of Sedition will feature interviews with curators, fine artists, design-driven clothing buyers and others working in the artistic community. Posey intends his magazine to be a mixture of both art and business, a reflection of the arts community and a resource for artists and other creative types.
The first issue will also include a feature on Disjecta, a local non-profit art and performance space. Posey said he was excited to give Disjecta the media coverage it deserves after seeing it largely overlooked in the mainstream media.
“The people at Disjecta were really accommodating,” Posey said, “they’ve been around for a while and they’ve worked hard to become established.”
Posey, a junior in General Studies, first became inspired to start his own magazine when he realized that he and many other students are writers who never saw writing as a realistic career option.
“I’ve been an undergraduate for a really long time,” he said, “creating a magazine seemed like a natural solution to the whole get a degree, get a job situation.”
After taking a writing class at PSU from Virginia Ulrich, Posey felt like he had a better understand of how writing is produced. It was Ulrich who introduced him to Dennis Stovall, coordinator of the publishing program, and Ooligan Press. Posey brought a few sample pages of Sedition to Stovall’s office.
“Dennis looked at me like, this is what the program is for,” Posey said.
“In most of my classes, I’ve always been confused about how the coursework fits the job,” Posey said. “This is my first term being involved with the publishing program and already I’ve learned more that relates to my career than I’ve learned in all the classes I’ve had before.”
Both Cowsert and Posey say they, like most publishers, are always looking for two things: good writers and advertising dollars. They hope to see the publishing program expand in the future by adding extra faculty and classes.
“The publishing program is posed for major academic and market success,” Cowsert said. “We need the administration to get behind this unique program.”
Posey hopes to have issues of Sedition in coffee shops, bookstores and on campus in May. Sedition will also be available online next month at www.seditionmagazine.com.
A preview party for the Sedition art show will be held May 31 at the Mark Wooley Gallery in the Pearl District. Additional events, including a concert at the Wonder Ballroom will be announced at a later time.
“Keep an eye out for the magazine, come to the events, but more importantly support your local creative community,” Posey urged.
The second issue of Sofa Ink Quarterly will also be available in May. Cowsert said another book of R. E. Smith’s poetry is in pre-production at this time as Cowsert continues to promote the current title. All of Cowsert’s publications can be purchased online at www.sofaink.com.