Beyond Throwing Milkshakes: 5 Books and Zines to Help You Fight Back

Are you angry enough to start throwing milkshakes? Well, yeah. So are we. It makes for a fantastic statement – while making the opposition look like a fool – but it sometimes feels like it’s the only thing you can do.

It can be easy to feel like there’s nothing you can do about the world right now – but honestly, that’s what the people in charge want you to think. Take a look at these books and zines and learn how to fight back and make a difference in your community. (But I’d keep buying milkshakes – just in case.)

Cover of Becoming a Citizen Activist, which has green and white rays behind the title like sunbeams.

Becoming A Citizen Activist: Stories, Strategies and Advice for Changing Our World by Nick Licata

Do you not even know where to start? This book will give you inspiration by telling the story of previous activists who made a difference in their communities. Learn from the best of the best when it comes to learning how to protest and become an activist.

The cover of Resist! which has a plain light brown background with a white exclamation mark.

Resist! How to Be an Activist in the Age of Defiance by Michael Segalov

Want more straight-forward advice and have things broken down step-by-step? This book walks you through organizing protests, talking to politicians and playing the long game when it comes to creating change in your community. Each section also has a real-life case study so you can read about what it looks like when the advice is put into practice.

Want to get your kids involved? Try Girls Resist! By Kaelyn Rich for a young adult-friendly version!

The cover of Street Journalist, which is bright orange and has a lineart drawing of a megaphone on it.

Street Journalist: Understand and Report the News in Your Community by Lisa Loving

Just as important as organizing protests is getting accurate information out there. Corporate media is corrupt and, while they aren’t quite as bad as Trump claims, they certainly aren’t the unbiased view of the world they claim to be. Learn how to cover the news in your communities and fight back against corporate media with this easy-to-follow guide on how to become a journalist.

How to Boycott: Make Your Voice Heard, Understand History, & Change the World by Joe Biel

We talk about boycotts a lot and how they can force change, but how do you do it effectively? What does it mean to organize a boycott – and how do you follow through? Read this zine to learn about the intricacies of boycotts and their long history – and why just refusing to shop at a specific store isn’t necessarily a boycott.

The cover of Keep Marching, which is the title on a protest sign on a pink background. Along the bottom are more protest signs and hands reaching up.

Keep Marching: How Every Woman can Take Action and Change Our World by Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner

Are you upset about the attacks on women’s rights? Did you march in 2017 during the Women’s March and don’t know how to get that momentum going again? This book dives deep into how to take that momentum and keep the protests going.

When you’re gearing up for your protests, grab some of the zine How to Plan for Action to pass out – it helps protesters understand their rights and how to be a more respectful protester in their community. (Or brush up on How not to get Arrested at a Demonstration.)

And don’t forget to tell your elected officials exactly what you think of them trying to take away your rights with the easy-to-write postcards found in Make Your Voice Heard Postcard Book.

Need more than 40 postcards? Check out other postcard designs – teach them something with Art of Instruction or have a woman be the face of your protest with Rad American Women. Sending angry letters to politicians has never been easier!

We’ve also got you covered when it comes to protest swag – stickers, buttons and patches galore! So get out there and start fighting back – it’s the only way to turn things around.


Open Letter to Kickstarter on the Topic of Unions

A little back-story: We asked, and were invited, to comment to Kickstarter’s executive team about this week’s news that they will not voluntarily recognize employees’ efforts to unionize. Here is the letter we sent to them; we decided to make it public in the hopes that fellow users of the platform, both creators and backers, will be inspired to also make their voices heard on this matter. This decision affects not just the workers at Kickstarter, but will set a precedent for other tech companies, many of whom employ large teams of lower-paid manufacturing workers.

Dear executive team,

For the last decade, I’ve been a heavy user of Kickstarter as a creator (I have something like 40 projects under my belt) and a backer, and I have advocated strongly for your platform to any of our publishing colleagues who will listen. Without Kickstarter, it’s unlikely I would have a career creating books and connecting with readers. Being able to use it now substantially helps us to create an equitable workplace and pay a living wage to a growing staff—and in publishing, that’s no mean feat.

Just this past Saturday, my partner and I traveled to New York so he could participate as a panelist in the Next Page conference organized by your publishing lead. I nearly cried during the conference because it is the first publishing event I’ve ever attended where the majority of participants and the assumed audience were not white, wealthy, able-bodied cis people; and not coincidentally, the only such event I’ve attended where every session furthered an idealistic and practical conversation about how to make our industry more inclusive. It cemented to me something I’ve always implicitly believed about Kickstarter—that at its very bones, the company is committed to leveling the playing field and has goals beyond profit.

That’s why it was so painful to return home and read in yesterday’s Verge article that you have chosen not to voluntarily recognize workers’ efforts to unionize. Worse, the CEO’s comments seemed to place blame on the workers for cultural issues like trust. I don’t know the situation at Kickstarter, but in my experience as a manager, that culture comes from the top, and labor complaints don’t happen without cause. 

We are currently running a Kickstarter project for a book we care deeply about.  But this week, we find we can’t promote this project in good conscience. I would describe the reactions in our office as ranging from bummed to pissed. Your decision is bafflingly, profoundly at odds with the ethic Kickstarter projects in every piece of its branding and behavior—and which has been upheld by every single worker I’ve encountered over the years. Kickstarter and its people are part of our community, and this feels personal. It’s also at odds with our own company’s ethics and history—our founder and publisher is the grandchild of immigrants who were brought out of poverty by labor unions. Our owners and managers make a comparable wage to the rank and file and we are in the process of becoming worker-owned. 

We’ve put our efforts on our current project on hold and are discussing canceling it altogether; we’ll decide next week. Our decision will likely be swayed by communication we received from one of the Kickstarter union organizers thanking us for the solidarity and urging us to continue with our project, as everyone’s shared goal here is to fund and promote creative work. We truly look forward to getting back to focusing on this! But in the meantime, if it comes down to it, we will not cross a digital picket line and we’ll urge our community to do the same.

I’m writing to urge you to reconsider accepting the union of your own accord. Your workers deserve it, the rest of the tech industry needs you to set a strong example, and you’ll re-earn the lifelong loyalty of backers and creators—well, ourselves, certainly. It’s difficult to see what you can’t win.

Thanks for the opportunity to write to you about this.

Elly Blue

Microcosm 

What it Means That We’re a Wholesaler

The publishing industry was shook last week with the news that Baker + Taylor would no longer wholesale to bookstores and will be closing two warehouses in July. This leaves only one major player for stores to purchase books from—essentially a monopoly. Which, let’s face it, historically tends to be less than great for everyone else.

For those of you watching from the stands, what this all means is there is now only one (well, kind of two, but really just one) big business left to supply books to bookstores. Stores can order directly from publishers, but it usually makes more sense for them to order all those publishers’ books at once from the same wholesaler, rather than trying to track down and manage dozens or hundreds of different accounts.

What you may not know is that, along with publishing and distributing our own books, Microcosm is also a specialty wholesaler, offering a curated selection of titles from major houses, large indies, small presses, self-publishers, and DIY zine-makers! Alongside our 500 or so published titles, we carry thousands of others, selected for their interest and alignment with our mission and values. An overwhelming 8,000 new books are published every day, and we’ve already sorted through them to find the best ones.

Anyone who sells books can order stock directly from us at wholesale rates. Set up a MyCosm account on our website and select “wholesale” at checkout. You can also drop us a line or an email. We have no paperwork, no credit approval process, fast turnaround times, and extremely kind customer service.

If you’re buying for a bookstore, you can access our whole catalog through your sales reps for Book Travelers West on the west coast, Fujii in the midwest, and Como out east. Your sales rep can brief you on terms. Please get in touch with them (or with us to connect you) to find out more.

Our Adventures Brought Us Here

Continuing our year of adventure theme, a few of the Microcosm staff talk the many types of experiences that brought them where they are today. BONUS! Some even describe their life as if it were an adventure novel.

Ruby the Service Dog watches the store, ready to help!

This year we went Independent with a big I, which means we both publish and distribute our own books on our own (with the help of lovely reps and teams) and also sell other publishers’ books, rather than having our books available through a single mega-distributor. This change has meant a lot of longer days and more complicated paperwork, new challenges and incredible possibilities. There’s no fantastical reason we’ve gone independent- it’s just the best way to do the best work. But there is a fantastical individual reason for why each of us have joined Microcosm in the first place. What brought us here, in so many cases, was adventure, big and small.

We all had the audacity to go after what we believed was a better way; to believe we could find a way to contribute to affecting people’s lives for the better, and in turn be changed for the better, too. We all took the step, often many steps, to become better versions of ourselves, one way or another, and want to share that sense of possibility with the world. Guess the real adventure was inside us all along (we say with cheesy jest).


Joe

Ruby the service dog naps in the sun.

Twenty five years ago Joe’s life expectancy would be minutes, not hours. The adults around him behaved like children, and morals were adopted to be convenient to the person pretending to exhibit them. Suicidal ideation was the norm, not the exception. Through a series of brief solaces and windows into a more meaningful life, Joe discovered punk rock and his life was forever changed. Publishing became a daily task rather than an occasional hobby. Before long he began coaching suicidal teens and twenty-somethings off the ledge on a weekly basis. It became the mission.
But is it possible to create tools so those people never find their way to the ledge in the first place?

What adventures brought me to [creating] Microcosm? I was a drunk, autistic teenager who needed a hobby and wanted to create the resources that I lacked as a child. It seemed better than rotting in the gutter. It was!


Sidnee

Sidnee reps Microcosm at a con

In a world where little brown girls are told time and again that they’ll have to work twice as hard and be twice as smart to get ahead, this little brown girl is taking names and kicking ass with half as much imposter syndrome and double the self-love than ever before. Follow Sidnee on her quest to slay her to-do list, vanquish the disorganization, charm every customer, and manage and encourage the emotional well-being of the Microcosm Staff. She may be short, disheveled, and perhaps a little too perky but you’ll never guess where she’s headed next — and neither can she!

What kind of adventures brought me to Microcosm? Finishing college, falling in love, and realizing no matter how noble it was I didn’t want to work in the constantly heartbreaking social service sector.


Trista

In 2014 my partner and I decided to move to Portland. We left that summer and made it to Nevada where we ran into car trouble and had to stay and work the rest of the year to be able to save up enough for a new vehicle and to fund the rest of the trip. When we made it to Portland in February, 2016, the housing arrangements that had been made fell through and so we lived in a van for 3 months until we had again saved enough for an apartment. When we weren’t working temp jobs we were in the van, usually in the parking lot of a library or Walmart so that we could use their wifi, and I would work on beefing up my portfolio and search for full time work. It was during our time in the van that I first discovered Microcosm.One afternoon, we were parked in the Multnomah County Library parking lot and I stumbled across Microcosm’s website. I was blown away by their selection of books and zines and the way they utilized the publishing business as a form of activism. That same day I sent them a note through the FAQ page and tried to bribe them with food for an interview. Joe said sure and I’ve been working for them in some capacity ever since.


Lydia

Adventure?
I was in Port Peril, trying to rescue someone off a pirate ship, and suddenly found myself conscripted into a life of piracy. I’ve been fighting bilge rats and trying to make friends on the ship The Wormwood ever since, but it sounds like there might be a mutiny on the horizon and I’m not so sure I’m going to make the cut. [grins]
Probably not the best to ask me about adventure the day after my bi-weekly D&D game. That’s all I have on my mind. We’re doing Pathfinder’s Mutiny on the Wormwood, if you were wondering. We’re on day 3 right now so shhh, no spoilers!


Cyn

Cyn dreamed of travel and books her whole life, but the last place she had ever expected to be was the Pacific Northwest. But after stagnant years of underemployed depression, a manic period, and a craving for more, she pushed her life in a new direction. She packed up their little family and drove across the country to try a new kind of life and follow their weird dreams. As it turns out, the weird dreams are the most fun to realize …

Driving across the country to get here with my partner and our dogs and all our shit was an adventure. Driving back across again together was stressful as fuck, then driving back again by myself with the dogs and also my little sister was a nightmare. What changed? Was the first an adventure because it was the first time? The other trips stressful because they were no longer as exciting, just necessary? I guess it’s like when you start a new group or job or activity, everything is just a little bit exciting, but once you’ve done it for months, or years, most of it’s just work. Sometimes that work leads to the raddest results, sometimes just the right ones.
Is work just adventure we’ve become used to? Is life?
Excuse me while I go have my existential moment elsewhere.


Kellie

Photo by Kellie

Kellie didn’t mean to fall in love again. Hadn’t she admitted that the wounds from her last relationship were still healing? But this time was different. Nightly chats turned into dating, months turned into years, and soon she was finding herself flying out to Oregon, a magical land full of nature, bicycles, and stations where you DON’T pump your own gas. Spurred on to pursue her dreams even further, Kellie seeks out a publishing house as a volunteer base, hoping to gain valuable knowledge of the industry in preparation to create a children’s book, but as she walked through the doors of Microcosm Publishing, Kellie realized that her life adventures were just beginning….

Adventure, for me, can be anything. That edge of the sidewalk bordering the street? That’s not a sidewalk at all. It’s a tightrope, and if you fall into the ocean below who knows what’s lurking beneath it to eat you. That right fork on the hiking trail? It might lead to Mordor if you’re not careful, but it might also lead to Rivendell, and it would be a crime not to find out which it is.
As a kid, my sisters and I were always on an adventure. Sometimes we’d shape it; sometimes it would shape us. As I got older, parts of life got more boring, and so, to keep the excitement alive, I’d turn average, everyday things into an adventure.
What brought me to Microcosm? The adventure of romance and exploration. My boyfriend lived an entire state away and we’d been feeding off of Skype as supplement for four years. Further continuance just would not do. I moved to Oregon to continue the adventure, which turned into further exploration as I looked into developing a children’s book. My wanderings led me to Microcosm, where the adventure has continued as I learn more and more about the publishing industry, which was, after all, the reason I volunteered.


Kristine

Chock-full of political science degrees, Kristine declined job offers from cab companies and the CIA to do the only thing that made sense in this crazy world: open and run a COMIC STORE. Highlights: meeting Will Eisner, Jack Kirby, Phoebe Gloeckner, and R. Crumb; what a weird superhero team they make!
Wading knee-deep into publishing was the next logical step – promoting comics-as-literature, fighting monsters and apathy, here and abroad. Bonus: smuggling books to 5 continents. It’s a good life.


Elly delivers books by bike in Portland, OR

What adventures have gotten you where you are now? What do you still look forward to?

Adventures in Bike-sitting

It’s our year of adventure, and we’re thinking about how everyday activities are really adventures in disguise.
Which activity do we forget about the most?
Bicycling.

We probably forget about it because we’ve written about it a lot.
Like, a lot, a lot.
But most of us here have gone through the excited, nervous fear of finding a bike, the thrill of taking it out onto the streets for a ride, the spidey-sense tingle when something threatens to go bad, and eventually, having to fix it when it’s broken.

On the way home from work recently, a car parked directly underneath a “no parking” sign in front of a bus stop. A tow truck was sent to retrieve it…during rush hour. The parked car blocking the bus lane meant that the bus had to use one of the lanes for cars getting off the freeway. The street was one way so the tow truck was in the middle of an intersection, blocking the light rail. As the traffic light changed, no traffic could move. Even on a “good” day cars in this intersection move at a miserable crawl and run the lights to prevent ten more minutes of compounding traffic delays.
I imagined how infuriating it would to be trapped inside one of those cars sitting in traffic as the actions of one inconsiderate person inconvenienced hundreds of commuters.
With wide eyes, I took a mental picture of everything that was happening in front of me, picked up my bike onto the sidewalk and proceeded through the intersection as dozens of cars sat unable to move. It felt like the one perfect moment that made my entire life make sense.

— Joe

When you have a bicycle, it’s kind of like pet sitting.
Sure, you can just leave it in a corner and ignore its needs, but it’s not going to do you any favors. You can turn the adventure intensity up to ten and ride it till the tires are bald, the chain is covered in gunk, and the brakes squeal, the ride getting a little tougher every time something goes further un-repaired.
It gets harder to pedal, to change gears, to stop, to keep control. Who knows when you’ll have to carry it home- mystery can be adventurous too.
You can do just the basics, sure: pump up the tires when you can tell they’re low, change the brakes when they’re bare…

But if you’re not actually taking care of it, it won’t stay healthy. Eventually, you’re going to lose that bike to the unaddressed damage.

What do you do instead? Get shit done! Like any responsibility, having a bike requires some work and upkeep.
What has many a microcosmonaut done when approached with this issue?

Enter…

THE CHAINBREAKER BIKE BOOK


An Illustrated Manual of Radical Bicycle Maintenance, Culture, & History
by Shelley Lynn Jackson and Ethan Clark

Photo of a hand holding the new edition of Chainbreaker Bike Book with bookshelves in the background

This updated and expanded edition is fresh off the presses, and did I mention it’s shiny? I’m kind of obsessed with that part, especially when contrasted with the very simple, kind of dark original.

Picture of me drenched and smiling

My all time favorite biking adventure happened in Chicago. June humidity suffocated me as I was riding home on the Chicago Lakefront Trail. I was anticipating my boyfriend’s (now fiance) parents would be there waiting. It was a nervous summer already but that day was particularly nerve-wracking. I was biking at break neck speed to slay a dragon (sorry future mother in law) and all of sudden the sky opened up and I was drenched in super sunshine showers. Truly soaked through- not even a hoodie to block me from the rain, I just had to revel in it. I showed up to the family affair sopping but washed clean of nerves- biked my way right to where I needed to be I guess.

— Sidnee

I was just in Boulder, visiting an old pal. Judy is a bike-lover (we both have the same folding Dahon for urban commuting) and her partner is too. She’s got a new street cruiser, a gorgeous mountain bike, six bikes total, and Boulder has trails, trails, trails. We were only there 3 days and we ended up never getting out to ride. Dammit! Story of my life.

— Kristine

The last time I rode a bike purely for the fun of it I was in middle school. Me and a handful of friends would bike through the woods into neighboring towns and explore empty trailers or creek tunnels. It was a great way to escape for a while.

Trista

COOL HELPFUL THINGS IN THIS BOOK INCLUDE:

  • Types of bikes. It’s easy to mistake a cruiser for a fixie, a dirt bike for a street bike. And most of the time, the differences only matter when you’re looking to ride it. Then it’s a good idea to know what kind of bike you have, and how it works.
  • Changing brakes. One of the most seemingly simple tasks, that requires just a bit more paying attention to than we often expect.

I can not describe to you how useful these [Chainbreaker] pages were when my partner’s cheap Target bike’s brakes just straight up did not work, and neither of us had any kind of clue how to replace them. And the internet was not the best at clarifying the different types of brakes and the different parts involved. This book, on the other hand, actually did the trick.

— Cyn
  • The differences in tire tubes and how to replace them. Changing tires or wheels in any way has been one of the most obnoxious basic tasks I’ve ever had to do with a bike (ugh especially in the back). Most of the particularly obnoxious bike tasks are the more complex ones, or the long tedious ones like truing (also helpfully included!)), but many a finger has suffered the pains involved with taking a wheel off it’s axle, fighting with to get the rubber wheel off to get to the tubing inside, then figuring out how to get it out, the new one in, and put it all back together again  — aagh!

For the second half of last year while we were planning our bookstore expansion, every bike commute or errand, no matter how mundane, was actually a foraging adventure. Eyes sharp for discarded furniture or boards, I’d stop and assess anything by the side of the road to see what it was made of and what dimensions it had. If it was what we needed, I’d figure out how to strap it onto my bike, or come back with a trailer, load it up (sometimes with the help of bemused bystanders), and haul it slowly and shakily home for Joe to disassemble and turn into custom shelving for our open warehouse. Every time I walk past these shelves I grin.

Elly
  • Adding shit to your bike. Do you want to haul heavy loads, or attach buckets to your bike for easy grocery shopping? Want custom handlebars or DIY accessories? Between the hardware information throughout Chainbreaker and the zine reprints in the back with even more info on add-ons, attachments, and DIY instructions, it’s got you covered.
  • SO MUCH MORE, like…
    • Dealing with shops, inclusivity, and safety
    • Converting to or from one-speeds
    • Bearing systems
    • Locking your bike up
    • Safety checks
    • and beyond.

Have you used Chainbreaker to fix something frustrating on your bicycle?
What bike adventures are you looking forward to this year?

Microcosm Publishing Has Best Sales Ever From Self-Distributing!

Portland, Or. April 2019 — The first quarter of Microcosm Publishing’s self-distribution saw sales rise 64.8% over last year, with March as our highest net sales month ever.

Joe Biel and Elly Blue (and Ruby the service dog) stand in front of the Microcosm Publishing open warehouse.

photo credit Laura Stanfill

After parting ways with distribution-giants Legato/PGW/Perseus/IPS and Amazon in January, Microcosm Publishing has found even more success by being fully independent. The record growth and a strong future are results of years of preparation and groundwork and are being seen equally in both publishing and distribution numbers.

“This is normally the slowest time of year in publishing,” Joe Biel, Founder and CEO explains, “and often riddled with returns, but we’ve added 50 new accounts in March and found that being closer to the ground has turned it around, into a serious season for sales.”

Microcosm Publishing is a vertically integrated, worker-owned publishing house that equips readers to make positive changes in the world and their lives, emphasizing skill-building, showing hidden histories, and fostering creativity through challenging conventional publishing wisdom. Founded in 1996, Microcosm now has sold over three million books, offers a warehouse open to public browsing, and a staff of 14.

In January alone, net sales were up 86.3%, and first quarter net sales in dollars for 2019 are up 64.8% over 2018. All this without having to cave to terms from damaging mega-corporations like the big A.

“We have taken to ignoring Amazon,” Joe adds, “which ranged from 1-9% of our net sales by month last year, and are no longer servicing them under their unreasonable terms. Rumors indicate that they continue to order through wholesalers. If that’s what they want to do, it’s a win-win.”

With sales of both in-house and distributed titles up, Biel notes that “by focusing on accounts that no one else is thinking of, we continue to grow our small world. In any event, removing obstacles between us and our customers has been tremendously advantageous to selling more books.”

Sex, Cats, and Science Fiction: Two Bikey Calls for Submissions

We have calls for submissions open for two books right now!

For Bikesexuality, we’re looking for nonfiction essays / reporting / personal stories about … bicycling and sex. That can mean anything from contemplating your sexual orientation by bike to tales of pedal-powered sexytimes.

For the next volume of Bikes in Space, we’re seeking fiction. More specifically, feminist bicycle science fiction (and fantasy, and similarly speculative/fantastical genres). About cats.

The respective deadlines are in June and August. You can read the full guidelines over at Taking the Lane. And then get writing!

A St. John’s Adventure with Portland Stair Walks

Exploring the Best of St. John’s: Laura O. Foster’s Stair Walk in Pictures
by Briana Ybanez

Laura O. Foster’s “Portland Stair Walks” begins with a trip to St. John’s, one of Portland’s most famous and photographed bridges, and for good reason, it’s one of the most scenic places in all of Portland. I decided to try this stair walk tour after a long, stressful day, and it turned out to be one of the most enjoyable, calming days I’ve had all winter.

It was freezing cold when I walked down to the boat ramp at Cathedral Park, located right along the water of the Willamette river, under St. John’s Bridge. I was not prepared, only a light sweater to protect myself from Portland’s unusually cold March weather. I stood on the floating dock beneath the bridge, as instructed by Foster, and wondered to myself why I hadn’t made my way out here before, it was a serene moment, realizing that I was the only one standing out there so close to river’s small waves. Initially the sky was grey and cloudy overhead, “Ok, this isn’t too bad,” I thought, “If only it wasn’t so damn cold.” I started to walk back to the shore, wondering how I’d finish the walk under these conditions. But suddenly the cold didn’t seem to matter anymore, as I stood on the shore of the river, I watched as the mute, greyness that surrounded me dissipated, and a soft, warm light began to slowly wash over the bridges concrete anchorages. As soon as I began to wonder if I’d have the chance to witness one of Portland’s rare, yet spectacular, winter sunsets, it happened. The sky opened up to a bright pink, purple, and deep blue. The light posts that line the edge of the bridge in succession lit up as well. Here was the result:

I was so blown away by the sunset on the shore of St. Johns, I had to go back the next day to complete the tour. This was one of my favorite parts of the tour, walking up the famous “wedding stairs” and admiring the symmetry of the arches underneath the bridge.

The highlight of this tour is walking across the bridge, a .7 mile walk with Forest Park as a beautiful backdrop. I could feel the enormity of the structure, in contrast to the more unpolished and worn down neighborhood it stands in. Although it was cold and my shoes were damp from the rain, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride for such a beautiful piece of architecture. As Laura O. Foster writes, “This 3-mile, one-way stair walk rates high on covering intriguing ground, with a few unpleasant bits that make the good stuff all the sweeter.” Although this city was designed to get you outside, depending on the season, and how busy you are,  it can be rare to have the opportunity to contemplate the nooks and crannies that Portland has to offer. “Portland Stair Walks” takes you away from the four walls of your home or work place, and into the unexpected: quirky wall murals and hidden graffiti, the boats resting on the Willamette river, or the white, snow capped treeline against the famous pale green beams of the St. John’s bridge.


This post was written (and amazingly photographed) by Briana Ybanez. Follow her work online, and learn more about the bookPortland Stair Walks on our website.

Walking with Bev :: A NE Portland Adventure

This is part two of Kellie’s review of “Walking with Ramona,” in which Kellie explores a neighborhood of “Beverly Cleary’s Portland” with the guidance of the book by Laura O Foster.


Walking with Beverly
by Kellie Robinson

As I stepped beneath the towering trees of Grant Park, grass softly crunching beneath my feet, mental note was taken of the soft, white flecks peppering my hair, scarf, and jacket. Snow was to be my close companion on this tour, with no apologies given. I smiled. Was there not many a time Beverly Cleary herself had traipsed through this park on snow-laden days? To walk in the footsteps of my favorite author, whether in the thick of winter or the heat of summer, was an honor more than anything.

The tour began on the west side of the park, near a towering sequoia. As I made my way there, several dogs with their owners greeted me near the off-leash area, complete with wet puppy kisses. Upon reaching (and passing) said sequoia, I noticed the first main attraction to my left: the Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden.

A life-sized Ramona gazed wistfully into the distance, with Henry Huggins and his furry companion Ribsy completing the scene. It’s a lovely little dedication by artist Lee Hunt, worth seeing up close and in person. By this time, the snow was falling quite thickly, whipping the faces of all in the vicinity. Ramona didn’t seem to mind, though.

Continuing on past the track and field section of Grant High, I took a gander at the homes peeking through the trees across the way. They are noted in the Walking with Ramona tour for being modeled after English cottages, and they are, indeed, quite charming.

Having left Grant Park, I continued forward for some time until… oops! I’d gone too far! Doubling back so as to hook myself onto the right track, I soon reached the next marker.

At the corner of Hancock and 33rd, a short pause became necessary, not just to get my bearings, but also to admire the residential area of Hancock Street. Its river of concrete traveled quite a ways down past more than one interesting set piece.

But what’s this? At my feet were little hand prints, stamped into the scratchy sidewalk. Seemed like the kind of mischievous thing Ramona would have done.

Across the street, on the right hand side, sat the Fernwood Grammar School, now sporting a new cognomen: the Beverly Cleary School.

On the wall by the east entrance of the school rests a mosaic dedicated to said author and her books.

Turning a corner to travel west on Hancock for a brief spell will reveal the arched entrance to the oldest portion of the school. What might young Beverly have thought as she made her way into the building for the first time?

These days the green doors look out onto a small, grassy area. Something was pulling at me to kick off my shoes and run across the field for the pure fun of it. Maybe some of Ramona’s rascally nature was starting to rub off on me. Alas, I held back the urge and returned to the residential section, where a surprise awaited me….

Down this street, on 3340 Hancock, rests one of Beverly’s childhood homes, the third (and last) that her family rented in Portland. It’s a quaint little thing, all decked out in a coat of red and gray, complete with a soft white and tan-colored trim. I admired the porch, in particular. This is where a young Beverly came out to do her needlework, and perhaps admire the towering elm tree across the way, its branches stretching impressively over the street in an attempt to grasp the rooftops on the opposite side.

As timing would have it, the current owner of the charming abode just so happened to be outside, and he was kind enough to let me snap a few pictures, even giving me leave to access the porch! I was tickled to sit where Beverly once perched and catch a view of what she saw in the early 1900s.

Perhaps I’d lingered a bit too long at the house, for the position of the sun was reminding me that time was of the essence. I had started the tour rather late in the day, and if this was going to be a complete excursion and not a half-baked one, it was time to get moving.

Making my way down town (traveling a little faster than I would have liked), my speedy feet came to a halt at Sandy Boulevard, the home of a very well-known resident indeed: the Hollywood Theatre. There she stood in all her grandeur, reminding me quite fondly of the old movie houses back home in Southern California. The theater has been here since 1925 and, hopefully, she’ll continue to be here for a long time.

I must have looked like such a tourist as I kept checking the tour book for directions on where to go next, following its instructed path down Sandy to the corner of 43rd. Sandy Boulevard, as it turned out, had more surprises in store.

More photos were to be snapped, it seemed, for directly on my right stood the oldest establishment still standing in the neighborhood.

Paulsen’s Pharmacy opened its doors in 1918, and you can still pop in for an ice cream at the soda fountain from the looks of it. I imagined Henry Huggins, one of Beverly’s colorful characters, skipping by the drugstore on his way home.

Directly across the street, proudly positioned in a corner, stood an enormous structure — part apartment, part Whole Foods Market — ironically named “The Beverly”. Why ironic, you say? You’ll have to read the book!

Already the sun was starting to set. The snow had abated somewhat, but the sky was still bathed in gray… and getting darker all the time. One of the next hot spots on nearby Tillamook Street was the Hollywood Library, but this was a dangerous place to enter. Books are like candy to me. Once inside, I might never come out. Was it safe…? Tentatively, I took the risk and stepped past the doors.

The warmth of the library was a great relief from the cold outside, and I certainly wasn’t the only one who had the same idea. The place was well occupied with adults and kids alike, some cozied up at tables with a good book, others accompanied with a son or daughter eager to check out their favorite title. Down the children’s isle, while checking out one of Beverly Cleary’s “Ramona” books, I heard a parent on the other side of the shelves ask, “How many times have you read that book?” Replied their little one, “Seven or eight times!” I smiled at this. Kid, I can relate, I thought.

Sure enough, I’d let myself fall deep into the bowels of more than one book, and by the time I reluctantly trudged out of the library the street lights had turned on. Not good. There were still a couple more locations to visit before the end of the tour. Time to get moving… and quickly.

Heading north on 41st Avenue took me back into residential territory once more. Walking past old horse rings and houses with garages squeezed into their yards led me to Stanton Street and eventually to 38th, and it is here that the homes took on a rather impressive quality. This is the site of “the ridge”, a huge hill of gravel dumped here many years ago by Ice Age flooding. It’s easy to see why it was taken advantage of. From its base to its peak, the location is rich aesthetically. The climb up to the top of the hill offered views of some of the cutest little homes you ever did see — it was as if they were pulled right from a fairytale book. No picture, in my opinion, could have done them justice.

By this time the hour was waning on 6:00 PM. The tour was nearing its peak. And yet, there was one last stop to make on the way back to Grant Park. Returning to the bottom of the ridge, I traveled down 37th Avenue to gaze upon one last, significant house. At 2924 NE 37th rests the home that Beverly’s parents purchased after having sold their farm in Yamhill. Memories both troubled and cherished were made in and around this abode, and, though it would have been a treat to explore it further, I contented myself with admiring the house from the outside.

Not much further down the road lay Grant Park. I decided to take one more picture of the grand facade, all lit up and aglow like a summer firefly (pic 18). Here the tour ended, but not before I was given a friendly farewell. Perhaps the spirit of Ribsy was following me around that evening, for I was sent off with a healthy dose of sniffs and kisses courtesy of two park goers’ dogs — a pleasant way to end the day!

For those looking to extend their experience beyond the pages of Walking with Ramona, taking this tour with said book in tow is a great way to spend your day if you’re a fan of Beverly Cleary’s works, especially of the Ramona series.
(Seriously, take the whole day if you want to check out every nook and cranny, grab a bite to eat, and maybe even see a movie if you’re so inclined. It took me three hours at a slow-to-medium pace and it still wasn’t enough time.)

Unless you don’t mind the cold (and possibly snow), I’d highly recommend taking this tour in the spring or summer; at the very least, it gives you an excuse to stop for some ice cream at one of the local shops in downtown Portland. And if you’re looking to add some beautiful shots to your photo album then, by all means, take your camera. You’re gonna need it.


This post was written by Spring intern Kellie Robinson. Follow Kellie’s work online, check out the book here, and learn more about interning at Microcosm in the FAQ,and learn more about Laura Foster in this recent Portland Business Magazine article.

We Review Things… Walking with Ramona

This spring we got the lovely 2nd edition of Laura O. Foster’s charming Portland guide, Walking with Ramona: Exploring Beverly Cleary’s Portland. This is one of our favorites, and if you’ve been curious about the book but haven’t gotten around to checking it out, spring intern Kellie is here with a review.

~ Walking with Ramona Review ~
By Kellie Robinson

There’s nothing quite like stepping into the shoes of your favorite author, and Portland guide Laura O. Foster helps her readers do just that in Walking with Ramona.

Back in the good ol’ days, when I was a wee lass, there was one author whose books I always returned to time and time again: Beverly Cleary. You may know her well as the vivid personality behind the Ramona Quimby series, but I knew her as the author of my favorite book, The Mouse and the Motorcycle.
Strangely, although I perused that little title so many times I could practically quote it word-for-word, I never even touched the “Ramona” chronicles….

A white book cover with rain drops and a child jumping over a puddle.

Enter, many years later, Walking with Ramona: Exploring Beverly Cleary’s Portland by Laura O. Foster, an insightful look into Ms. Cleary’s childhood days living in Portland, Oregon.

It proffers a playful hand, inviting you to explore where Cleary (and her fictional alter ego, Ramona) spent her youthful days: elm-lined streets that make tunnels with their long branches; seasoned brick-and-mortar schools of days gone by; a local library or two, one of Cleary’s favorite stops; and Grant Park, where the yells and laughter of neighborhood children can still be heard.

Short though this book may be, dull it is not. Foster leads you behind-the-curtain of Ms. Cleary’s life, one which had its fair share of hardships and adventures, encouraging readers to traverse the historic landscape of Portland and its many hidden gems.

It’s a tour book, taking you step-by-step throughout the city and its old neighborhoods, walking where Ramona and friends walked, resting where Cleary rested, and even welcoming you to stop by one or two of Beverly’s childhood homes.

Provided you’re ever in Portland and want to take the tour, it’s recommended that you set aside a whole day for it: you’re gonna need (and want) it!

This book has not only inspired me to want to check out the Ramona Quimby series, but it also motivated me to write a very belated fan letter to Ms. Cleary (at age 102, I hope the letter gets to her!).

Whether you’ve grown up with rascally Ramona, or are just now getting into Beverly Cleary’s books, I’d encourage you to pick up this charming title.


This post was written by Spring intern Kellie Robinson. Check back later this month for all the details on Kellie’s full tour of NE Portland using the book.
Follow Kellie’s work online, check out the book here, and learn more about interning at Microcosm in the FAQ.