Less than a year after its founding, Pacific University Press celebrated the release of its first book to much fanfare on Thursday, June 23.
The launch of When the Rewards Can Be So Great: Essays on Writing and the Writing Life, edited by Kwame Dawes, marked the Press’ successful debut with a reception in honor of the book’s contributors: Dawes’ fellow faculty within the university’s thriving Master of Fine Arts in Writing low-residency program.
The book is a compilation of selected craft talks delivered by faculty during the program that share the authors' thoughts on writing and the teaching of writing.
“It’s an incredible privilege to be here,” Pacific University president Lesley Hallick told more than 150 attendees. “I can’t begin to express how proud I am that we’ve been able to establish the university press, and I can’t imagine a more fitting way to launch it than with this book. This is really an important milestone for Pacific, and I thank you all for being here to celebrate.”
Comprised of some of the nation’s finest writers, the MFA in Writing faculty spent June 16-26 alongside students from throughout the country for the low-residency program’s 10-day spring session held at the Forest Grove Campus. Joining them at the book release party in the library were university administrators and local community members.
“It is obviously appropriate to launch a university press with a book about writing,” Hallick said. “But we hope this wonderful collection of essays will also serve as a springboard to inspire and stimulate more works to come, of course of the MFA faculty and their incredible talent, but also of you students who are in the program or just graduating. We hope to see your works in the Pacific University Press as well.”
Hallick thanked Dawes and the book’s contributors, noting that their efforts were a “real labor of love.” All involved in the book’s publication agreed to forgo royalties, as proceeds from the book’s sale will instead contribute to the MFA in Writing's scholarship fund.
University librarian and Pacific University Press director Isaac Gilman recognized President Hallick and university administrators for their support of the Press.
“It’s a unique and special thing to be creating a new university press at this point in time,” Gilman said. “There aren’t a lot of them starting. It speaks to Pacific’s dedication to creating and fostering the creation of new scholarship and new creative works. I thank President Hallick, her Cabinet and the entire administration for their support.”
Gilman also thanked his predecessor, former university librarian Marita Kunkel, whom he said “recognized early on, the importance to having a university press. Without Marita’s vision and leadership, the Pacific University Press would not have become a reality.”
In addition to remarking on the university's support for the Press' development, Gilman also acknowledged the confidence that Dawes and his fellow contributors placed in the new press.
“It’s quite a thing for such accomplished authors to be willing to trust an untested press with their work,” he said. “So I am grateful for that trust, and for the patience and grace with which they have worked with us over the last many months. They’ve really set a high standard for all the books that are to come.”
Contributing authors to the book include Dawes, Marvin Bell, Pam Houston, Benjamin Percy, Claire Davis, Sandra Alcosser, Ellen Bass, Debra Gwartney, Carolyn Coman, John McNally, Scott Korb, Valerie Laken, Mike Magnuson, Steve Amick, Laura Hendrie, David Long, Mary Helen Stefaniek and Dorianne Laux.
Laux emphasized the book’s value to writers of all genres, interests and skill levels.
“We, the purveyor of the word, look to one another for how to do what we do,” she said. “This book will be a useful tool for those who wish to better their craft. It is a document of a special place and a special time that has brought together a very special group of poets and writers who are ushering in the next generation.”
Laux believes the book will bring a greater awareness of Pacific’s MFA in Writing program, which is consistently ranked as a top low-residency program by Poets & Writers magazine.
“It will also create a real and lasting contribution to the arts,” she added. “As writers, we’ve sat in these rooms and listened to our colleagues, who are also our teachers, forming the principles of their craft, psychological as well as physical, and becoming aware of ourselves, as part of a great family and a great tradition. These essays bring us more deeply into our hearts and minds.”
Founded in 2015 as a service of the Pacific University Libraries, Pacific University Press continues the university’s mission of scholarship and discovery by creating opportunities for scholars with diverse viewpoints to share their work, Gilman said.
“Consistent with the guiding principles of our mission, the Press will publish works that either contribute to scholarly discourse, to the advancement of professional practice, or to the role of literature in understanding the human condition.”
In addition to publishing under its namesake for traditional scholarly or academic texts, Pacific University Press also publishes under the “Tualatin Books” and “1849 Editions” imprints. Tualatin Books offerings are specifically intended for a practitioner, such as an educator or healthcare professional, while 1849 Editions is limited to works of short fiction and poetry.
“Together, these three imprints focus on areas of academic strength for Pacific, particularly the liberal arts and sciences, healthcare, business, education and creative writing,” Gilman said.
For the most part, Pacific University Press will use an open-access publishing model in which digital editions of books are licensed for re-use and are free upon publication.
“This model is relatively unique within university presses as the primary form of publication and, in our non-literary imprints, it allows us to publish works that may have limited sales potential but could be of great intellectual significance,” Gilman said.
Works from literary imprint 1849 Editions — which includes When the Rewards Can Be So Great — are not open-access unless the author selects that model.
Concurrent with the launch of its first title, the Press is now open for submissions - from any author, regardless of affiliation.
An editorial board made up of members of the Pacific community, as well as external members with years of publishing expertise, selects submissions for publication that align with, and complement, the mission and educational programs of Pacific University.
When the Rewards Can Be So Great: Essays on Writing and the Writing Life is available for purchase from booksellers and online retailers after July 15.