Write to Publish bridges the gap between writers and publishers

You have a story to tell. You’ve put pen to paper and composed a draft of the next great American novel or memoir or comic or cookbook. So, what’s next? Where does the ambitious writer go from there? How do you traverse the sea of digital media, editors, and publishers? Never fear, Write to Publish is near.

Hosted yearly by Portland State’s student-run press, Ooligan Press, Write to Publish 2016 happens this year on Saturday, Jan. 30 in Smith Memorial Student Union. Doors open at 9 a.m. with discussion panels, personal appointments with publishing house representatives, and a raffle for food and prizes. The conference runs until 5:30 p.m. with a possible meet-and-greet afterwards.

Event coordinators Chelsea Lobey and Kellie Doherty, both graduate students in PSU’s Masters in Book Publishing program, described the agenda and history of the eighth annual conference as a way to simplify the publishing process and educate future authors and publishers.

“The conference is a one-day event with the aim of demystifying the publishing process for new and experienced writers,” Lobey said. “We’re going to have panels on writing for comic books, understanding intellectual property rights, how to navigate the digital media landscape, and how to work with freelance editors.”

There will also be workshops on how to submit manuscripts to agents and publishing houses, what happens during a pitch, connecting with fans, and how to cut unnecessary words to tighten up writing.

“During the lunch hour we’re going to be hosting what we are calling ‘Pitch to a Professional’, which is where you, the author, get to bring your manuscript and pitch it to a host of different publishing houses and literary agents,” Lobey said.

Adam O’Connor Rodriguez, PSU writing and publishing professor and senior editor at Hawthorne Books, will lead a discussion panel on working with freelance editors and a workshop for cutting unnecessary words.

“From my view, the state of the union is strong,” Rodriguez said. “Everyone thought the industry was dead but it very much isn’t. It’s changing, maybe not as fast as it could or should, particularly the big houses, but it’s adapting and mostly thriving.”

“As an editor I’m less concerned with the various industry trends or in the forms and formats writing takes,” he continued. “So long as words are around to communicate something, my vocation will be necessary.”

PSU publishing professor DongWon Song will run a workshop on how to submit manuscripts to agents, the basics of what goes into a query, common pitfalls to avoid and advice on how to catch the attention of an agent and determine if they’re right for you and your career.

Song also discussed a robust, dynamic publishing industry in 2016.

“We’re still looking at a landscape that’s been massively transformed by the rise of e-reading, both for the better and for the worse,” Song said. “2016 will present all kinds of new challenges and opportunities as the gulf between traditional and self-published books continues to widen and habits start to calcify. I would like to see more efforts on both sides to bridge that gap.”

Writers typically want to focus on writing, understandably, while publishing can appear difficult, complicated, and often scary. Write to Publish is meant to help with some of that, and bring writers and publishers of all kinds together to make friends and connections.

“Most of us bookish types would probably rather stay home with a good book and some tea,” Lobey said. “But I think it’s important to meet others who share your interests and goals, for so many reasons.”

The varied roles of publishers and writers can sometimes be counterintuitive to each other. Writers just want to write, and publishers need to sell books and come up with good marketing strategies. Write to Publish offers the opportunity to bridge the gap and launch literary projects.

“We all want to put good books out into the world, so getting to know each other and making friends is just incredibly valuable, I think, especially for such a budding literary community like Portland,” Lobey said.

Rodriguez described the writing and publishing scene in Portland as among the most vibrant in the country.

“We have great writers’ workshops, formal and not, and seminars, and formal programs like PSU’s Masters in Book Publishing Program,” Rodriguez said. “And the literary scene here is pretty approachable, with useful internships and low-cost seminars and free readings happening all the time. So up-and-coming writers in this area have a fairly large, inspiring crowd to draw strength from.”

Tickets for Write to Publish can be purchased online at Ooligan Press.