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Getting Books to the People

My Microcosm Adventure

by Briana Ybanez
intern, Spring 2019

I grew up in a quiet suburb in Southern California, and as someone who is a biracial, Mexican American I didn’t feel like I’d ever have access to literary spaces.

When I was twenty-two I changed my major from business to English. A year later I made an even bigger life change and moved to Portland, which in many aspects is considered a literary mecca. It seems like everyone here reads- encouraged by an endless downpour of rain nine months out of the year. Being in such close proximity to best selling authors and aspiring writers trying to make it in the industry helped lift a creative roadblock that I was experiencing in California. Doubt and fear, all those general symptoms that come with pursuing your dreams, melted away. I began exploring avenues of opportunity available to writers that I wasn’t aware of before.

Part of lifting that mental roadblock that was getting in the way of my success was re-thinking my own relationship with books and reading; rethinking what I was told to regard as a great work of literature and what I actually felt was great. Up until college I was told that the best pieces of literature were written by white men or white women. Period. That was it. But then I was exposed to books that were equally as powerful, if not more so, and were written by Chicana writers, like Lorna D. Cervantes, or Chilean-American Isabel Allende. It’s tragic that this revelation didn’t happen sooner. It took nearly twenty years for me discover these authors, but when I did I finally began to recognize pieces of myself in literature, and that was key to piecing together my own identity — I was finally proud of my roots, not ashamed.

St Johns Bridge photographed by Briana Y
St. John’s Bridge, as photographed by Briana

I can say with confidence that I ended up at Microcosm because a seed had been planted during this time period, a desire to figure out how to succeed in spaces that weren’t originally designed for someone like me. I was a big fan of their books and zines after discovering them at Portland’s Book Festival. I thought they were cool and edgy but also geared towards empowering audiences that you typically don’t see represented in publishing: LGBTQ, people of color, activists, people with mental disabilities, and even those who struggle with mental health.

During my interview for the internship position, I was asked why I wanted to join a publishing company. “What are you looking for?” they asked. At the time, I wasn’t sure how to answer that. I only knew that reading and writing had been a lifelong passion of mine. I was always the weird kid with my nose in a book, looking for the answers to my curiosities, or waiting until the moment when I could run home from school and find out what happened to whatever character I was currently reading about. Did I actually know anything about how those books that I loved so much were published? Definitely not.

When I learned that I got the internship, I was ecstatic. Reading their titles alone was a breath of fresh air and it is what ultimately brought me to Microcosm, because I knew that inclusivity for anyone that isn’t middle class, or white, is a huge problem in book publishing.

An infamous survey by Lee and Low Books, The Diversity Baseline Survey, indicates that the industry is 79% white, and only 4% identify as Mexican, Hispanic, or Latino. A 2016 Publisher’s Weekly article highlights that the homogeneity of the industry is not entirely due to publishing companies’ hiring practices. Although the industry giants have made claims to diversify their workforce, census data shows that the lack of diversity in publishing is also a symptom of a lack of access to higher education for people of color. Recent census data shows that 73% of Americans with college degrees are white. So a lack of authors, editors, and publishers that aren’t white can be traced to a much larger issue rooted outside of the industry itself.

Why does this matter and what does this have to do with Microcosm? It matters when you consider the immense power that the book publishing industry holds. Its impact on civilization is so far reaching, it’s scope is beyond measure. It’s an industry that is responsible for cultural production and intellectual movements, a vehicle of influence for individual minds and entire societies. Clearly, it’s time that the industry take notice of a wider audience, one that would like to see itself reflected in what they read. Microcosm intends to do just that and it shows in their business practices. They recently broke most of their ties with Amazon because their monopoly on the industry has been harmful for authors and publishers. And they not only offer their books and zines for underrepresented groups, but they offer them on a sliding scale price, to reach people that are disenfranchised by a lack of money.

After struggling with the idea that this industry may not accept me, you can imagine my excitement after taking this position.  I knew this was where I wanted to be and where I could explore my place in the industry. But I was still worried that the environment would be cut throat and I’d crumble under the pressure. Now, nearly two months into my internship, I haven’t crumbled and the environment isn’t cut throat — quite the opposite in fact. Interns are encouraged to ask questions and grow from our time spent here. Once, the interns were invited in on a meeting where they reviewed the company’s past year performance. I was surprised by how business-focused the whole meeting was, and it was also eye opening because as an avid reader, it’s easy to forget that the book you’re holding in your hands didn’t end up there because of the author alone.

Microcosm has taught me that behind every book is an entire community of people. In this environment, it’s hard to ignore the work that goes in to getting books to the people. On a daily basis there’s constant contact with customers, from mailing catalogs, to making phone calls, to talking face to face with people who stop into the store.

This little community at Microcosm has revealed to me the importance of the day-to-day efforts required to publish and sell books in an ethical way. A small, independent company that stands on a firm foundation of integrity, its ultimate goal is to use their resources and means to carry a message that empowers their audience, to preserve and transmit knowledge, one book (or zine) at a time.

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?

A New Microcosmonaut Enters…

Say Hello to Lydia Rogue!

Lydia Rogue was an intern back in Spring 2018 and, a year later, recently accepted a position as Marketing Associate, helping us keep all these books safe and managed!
You might recognize Lydia as the guest editor of Taking the Lane #15: True Trans Bike Rebel, and the upcoming Bikes in Space #6: The Great Trans-Galactic Bike Ride.
A few weeks in now, I asked Lydia a few questions about what it’s been like to return.

A black and white rat sniffs a small book with a blue van and punk cat on a bicycle on a pink background
Lydia’s pet, Queek, sniffs out True Trans Bike Rebel

How are you enjoying your first week as staff in the office? How does it feel?

It feels great! I’m so thrilled to be back in the office. I’ve been working a variety of jobs since my internship – not necessarily bad or even unfulfilling jobs, just ones that I didn’t necessarily care about. Now I’m doing something I love and something that I’ve been wanting to do for many years. 

Has anything changed since you left?

So much!
When I was an intern, we were all crammed up in the upstairs office, with room for just a couple more people downstairs. Now that the back area is open to us, we’ve got room to grow – and not everyone is trying to fit into a tiny room.
(Also, we have a microwave now. I’m so stoked!)

What do you wish more people knew about… you? Microcosm? publishing?

I’m completely obsessed with RWBY – and yes, I’m that Lydia Rogue, if you were wondering. I also love table top RPG and video games and drink more tea than is probably healthy. 

One thing about Microcosm that’s taken some re-adjusting to is remembering that a company that publishes books like Unfuck Your Brain doesn’t really care if you’re blasting the explicit version of a song on your work computer!

Last day at Lydia’s last job — on to new adventures!

As far as publishing goes, it’s that, No, I can’t help you get your manuscript published. No joke, had 3 of my coworkers ask within about 24 hours of announcing my departure from my last job!

What are some of your hopes and goals for your time and work here?

I’m hoping to expand my skills and knowledge of the publishing industry, as well as get back into my writing groove. Right now, I’m coming off a long run of jobs that just weren’t working for me – not necessarily bad jobs, just ones that weren’t for me – and so being back doing the thing I love most is completing one of my biggest goals right off. 

I’m hoping in the long term to help people find their voices and help promote them, particularly people who often don’t have a voice in the publishing world, or are only allowed to write in a specific niche. 

marketing associate Lydia Rogue with their pet rat, Queek
Lydia & Queek

Tell us about what inspires you these days.

Is it cheesy to say my girlfriend? 

Real talk, though, right now I’m mostly inspired by the people around me. I love doing collaborative storytelling and being able to bounce ideas off of other people. I’ve also been reading a lot of poetry collections lately, which has been wonderful.

What was the last book that brought on some serious feels?

Oh, jeez. I’ve been reading so much nonfiction lately, I can’t really remember the last fiction book I read…
Probably American War which… I’m processing. As a queer white person from the south, it elicited a strong reaction from me, but I’m still not sure what that reaction was, or how I feel about it in the end. It’s a good book, just elicits complicated emotions. 

the princess saves herself in this one and the witch doesn’t burn in this one also were very powerful and gave me some serious feels.

Where can people find you online?

On Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.

Last, what does your bookshelf look like?

A wooden bookshelf covered in books and home items, with a small rat on one shelf
Lydia’s bookshelf at home, with bonus rat!

New Faces in the New Year

The new year brings a new batch of friends around the office and shop. What kind of people volunteer at a publishing house? Well this season’s interns come from all over the country, with a love of books, writing, and stories that brought them, like so many of us, to this cozy green shop.


What do you like to be called? How would you describe yourself?

Neil (he/him): I’m pretty quiet, creative, and curious. I think of myself as an observant little rabbit. I’m very passionate about spreading kindness and learning self love. I spend most of my time drawing or knitting!

Kellie (she/her): Creative, quixotic, and adventurous.

Briana (she/her): Easy going, flexible, creative, fun, and adventurous.

Noah

Noah (they/them): I am a queer, trans, disabled whirlwind with a passion for books, writing, and medicine.

Chris (she/her): Quiet and friendly.
[Chris has been with us since the fall season, you may have seen her book review of This is Your Brain on Depression last month.]


What do you like to spend your time doing?

Neil: Knitting is my very favorite activity. It’s like a challenging puzzle where you can choose colorful materials to make something warm and cozy and once you’re done you feel super accomplished!

Chris’s dog, Cat

Kellie: Drawing, writing, reading, making other people happy

Briana: Either reading a good book or taking pictures around the city. Most of my photography has revolved around activism in Portland.

Noah: I love to write, read, and sometimes draw in my free time. I also dabble in photography and crocheting, although I haven’t done the latter in a while now.

Chris: Coloring! And spending time with my dog, Catawba.


Where are you from? What do you miss/not miss most?

Neil: I go to school in Vermont; I really miss my friends and living in the beautiful mountains, but I’m fine without the heaps of snow.

Kellie: California. I miss my family, the thriving entertainment industry, and the sun.

Briana: I’m from sunny Southern California. I miss my family, the beach, constant 70 degree weather, and my friends. I do not miss the smoggy air and LA traffic.

Chris

Noah: I grew up in Ohio, then went to UW in Seattle for four years before moving to Vancouver. I miss the extreme seasons in Ohio (and the decent air conditioning!).

Chris: I am from North Carolina. I miss my family the most.


What’s your favorite thing about where you live now?

Neil: My roommate brings home donuts every night and my other roommate has a very sweet and cuddly cat named Deidre.

Kellie: Being closer to my boyfriend and the beautiful environment.

Briana: Besides Portland’s blend of urban living with easy access to nature, I’ve always been drawn to the fact that it’s one of the most literary cities in the country. I’ve spent many hours perusing the shelves of Powell’s.

Noah: I live in Vancouver, which is nice because it’s near friends and my husband’s family. That and the parking isn’t as difficult as it is in Portland.


What brings you to Microcosm?

Neil: My goal is to create and publish my own comic books! I knew that Microcosm could teach me a lot about the industry and I was drawn to the topics/goals that Microcosm stands by!

Noah

Kellie: A thirst for knowledge in the area of publishing.

Briana: I was drawn to Microcosm after seeing their selection of books at Portland’s Book Festival. I was impressed by the array of zines and books that were geared towards empowering its readers through self care, activism, and building healthy relationships.

Noah: Books! More seriously, I wanted to test the waters of the publishing industry, and this seemed like a good place to do so while also having my identities respected and recognized.


What do you want to get out of your time here, now that you’ve seen the basics of what we do?

Neil: I’m hoping to strengthen my skills with group work, problem solving and time management! I’ve never had an office job before and I can see I have a lot to learn, which is exciting!

Kellie: Information about the back end of publishing. I wish for my own book to be published in the future and so am interested in the ins and outs of this business.

Briana: I’d like to learn more about editing, and the relationship between author and publisher.

Noah: I just want to learn as much as possible, really.


What’s your favorite or least favorite thing about Microcosm so far?

Neil: My favorite thing is how kind and welcoming everyone is! I felt right at home on my first day. My least favorite thing is that the office is sometimes cold, but I’ve learned to bundle up a bit.

Kellie: I really like the atmosphere and friendly employees.

Briana: Microcosm has so many empowering and informative books, it’s amazing to be part of a publishing company with strong integrity and hard workers.

Noah: I’m editing a zine on accessibility in queer spaces right now, and that is RIGHT up my alley, so I’m really enjoying that kind of work. I also really like the atmosphere of the open warehouse.


Curveball: What is your favorite thing to watch/read/enjoy in the world right now?

Neil: Bob’s Burgers.

Kellie: Animated films; uplifting and atmospheric music. I’ve been really into the movie Smallfoot, for some reason. Does that count?

Briana: Now that it’s winter, I’m spending a lot more time binge watching Netflix, I just finished “You,” a pretty terrifying show from the perspective of a stalker. I’m also reading “Borderlands,”  by Gloria Anzaldua.

Noah: The Adventure Zone, The Good Place… so many more.

Chris: The Good Place. (many of us in the office would like to 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th this one)


Where can people find you online?

Neil: Instagram: @spicy_s0up

Briana: Instagram: @brianaybanez_

Noah: Twitter: @noahyouknow

Chris: Instagram! @alexandria.vale


For information about volunteering or interning at Microcosm, check out our FAQ.

The Year of Adventures

Instead of New Year’s resolutions (ugh), at Microcosm we like to have loose themes to organize our year’s goals and activities around. And we’ve decided that 2019 is our year of adventure!

For us, it’s our first year of being independently distributed. This has already proven to be a serious adventure — not so much a leap into the unknown as a voyage back to our homeland, which has changed considerably since we last visited.
There’s a lot to remember and a lot of new skills to learn. And like on any good adventure, the way we can navigate it safely and have fun is to work together, believe in ourselves, and stay flexible.

But What Is Adventure

Here’s a little from some of our staff about what adventure means to us (in general and in terms of this transition)…

Elly: When Joe and I met 10 years ago, he asked me what my needs in a relationship are, and top of my list was “adventure.” 

Elly rides a bike through Portland with a trailer full of book boxes and event stuff.

He reminds me of this every time I’m pedaling a cargo bike overloaded with books in the rain, or setting off in a cab to pick up event supplies that didn’t make it to our destination, or pulling late nights to make sure our database transition goes smoothly.

And while I don’t require the constant adrenaline to get through my day that I did at 30, I do love that this work is full of unexpected revelations, surprising new areas of growth, and always a problem to solve and a challenge to learn from.


Sidnee: “Adventure” is the word I use when I’m afraid of what’s gonna happen next; but being afraid isn’t going to help me. To me it’s a prettier word for “holy fuck, here we go!” But I’m starting to believe that adventure is in our DNA. Like growing teeth or developing chronic aches. A will for the pursuit of adventure will appear in each of us at some point, programmed to persist and emerge.

cartoon character jumps over an explosion and a vampire dragon
visual representation of Sid’s feels about 2019

The thing about adventure is that uncertainty is a necessary ingredient. I’m ripe with uncertainty. The other thing about adventure is that it forces you to grow. After ten short months, I’m bursting at the seams with growth too.

Joining the Microcosm team is my first post-school adventure. It’s like going from Chutes and Ladders to cross country parkour some days. Other days it’s like going from only ever wading in a swampy pond to sailing on a calm ocean during a brilliant sunset.

What adventures do you look forward to in 2019?

Continuing to survive adult life.


Trista: For me “adventure” means to seek change either from one state of being to another, or in the pursuit of something more meaningful like a change to one’s character. Often this will take the form of a journey, literally or metaphorically, where in the end a person will have experienced something new or experienced something old in a new way.
In my own life the adventures I’ve enjoyed the most are the ones that have altered the way I view the world, the people in it, or the way I view myself.

What adventures do you look forward to in 2019?
Something more gentle, like camping. Or getting to see more of my favorite bands. I got to do a little bit of both earlier in 2018 and I think I should do it more often.


Cyn: Adventure can feel like a loaded word. A big red X on a theoretical treasure map we never get to see. Some expensive, aspirational vision quest into new territory. Ugh. In my reality, my social anxiety makes it so my partner has to push me out of the door to get me to go to any social event, even when I know the people attending or it’s with a close friend. Why isn’t that ordeal considered adventure?

I guess I’d say that adventure is anything that pushes you outside of your boundaries in a way that is unexpected, daring, and propels you forward in some way. For me it has meant everything from the most daring trips to the simplest new get-togethers, to anxiety-ridden standard experiences or exciting, bizarre new friends. The experiences that push at our boundaries and fears and expectations are the ones that give us the space to grow, but those don’t have to be big, giant experiences of exploration, success, or conquest.

I don’t know about you, but just getting outside and meeting someone new is just as much of an adventure as traveling to a new place — and really, aren’t you doing that anyway, emotionally, by putting yourself out there, both literally and psychologically?
With that in mind, I’d like to think that “adventure” for our (and the future) generation will be less about conquest, personal excitement and glory, and more about exciting changes, growth, and building new experiences and communities for each other.

What adventures do you look forward to in 2019?
I’ve started “bullet journaling” and am working on making both productivity and self care balanced priorities in my life. I suppose I look forward to figuring that shit out and clearing out the mess that is my life right now for my future.
Am I adult now?


Joe: Ten years ago, Elly told me she wanted adventure. I don’t think she realized what I was capable of providing in this department. Cars caught on fire unintentionally and it feels like we spent many years fixing the Millennium Falcon during combat.

What adventures do you look forward to in 2019?
Getting WorkingLit [our secret work project] into a form that other publishers can use it, trips to new regional book trade shows, and continuing to grow as an independent publisher. It seems like we ship more boxes every single day around here.



End of Watch — Hanna’s Last Day

Each month we share a little bit about our selves, our staff, and our volunteers. Earlier this Fall, on her last day, intern Hanna B. wrote on her last day about her time here for this month’s issue. What she learned, loved, and hated.
A couple of months ago I was lucky enough to be accepted as a summer intern at Microcosm Publishing. I’m from California, which meant that I would be spending the summer moving to a brand new city completely separate from my family, friends, and basically everything I know. I won’t say that this wasn’t a little scary; it was. But the opportunity was far too great to pass up. So I moved up the coast and settled myself into the City of Roses.
Moving away from California was hard, it meant being on my own for the first time in my life. But Microcosm gave me a home. The experience has been one I am incredibly thankful for; I learned more than I could ever have imagined. Microcosm truly attempts to make the world a better place.

They want to bring books that diversify people’s understanding of the world, that help people’s voices be heard, that improve communities, to their readers. They are always looking for new experiences, new voices, new books, things that hadn’t been done before. I don’t have much experience within the corporate world, but it was touching to see how this company truly focused on things that mattered. I felt this in every single aspect of the company, from the books I saw being edited and published, to their outreach with the community, to every single detail.

And the company cares; about its readers, about its employees, even about the lowly interns. They wanted my experience to be positive; they wanted me to feel that my contribution was valid, that I wasn’t just doing busy work that no one else could be bothered to do. There was a purpose for everything I worked on. I got a hands-on learning experience that I would never have expected normally. I was able to work on and help edit actual books, and do tasks that I would never have dreamed of with normal intern duties.

I want to thank all of my bosses and co-workers for making me feel so safe and welcome – when I struggled or was confused they were there to support and teach me. I was able to learn with some great teachers, and I truly feel that I have grown and learned a lot over this summer. I know I am incredibly lucky in this aspect, many people simply do internships for the small line on their resume, they send meaningless emails for a couple of months, and then leave with no true impact being made. I hope that I have been able to leave my footprint in this company, and cannot express my thanks and gratitude enough to everyone working here for their support, the work they helped me accomplish, and the world-view they allowed me to see.

This internship, most importantly, succeeded in doing what all internships aim to do: showing me what it was truly like working in this industry, and showing me that it truly was what I wanted to do.

 


 

If you want to know more about volunteering or internships at microcosm, check out the FAQ and send us a message.

A Day in the Life, last day edition

This piece was written by our wonderful intern Kedi on her last day at Microcosm. We asked what she’d enjoyed about her time at Microcosm, as well as what she didn’t. Her response is quite charming and passionate, like her. Find Kedi and follow her work on twitter.


Hanging out at PRIDE

My internship with Microcosm Publishing began on June 4th earlier this summer, and my final day, August 10th, has officially caught up with me. That’s 10 weeks for those of you who weren’t counting, or, in internship measurements, 249.07 hours. And yes, I am the type of person to measure hours in hundredths of a decimal.

There are a lot of things I’d say I’ve learned over the course of my internship, though I’m not sure I could exactly say what those things are. I think this might be the easiest to express: there is a difference between liking something and thinking it’s a fit. There are certainly lovely and well-written zines and books out there in the world waiting to be published that will never fit with Microcosm. There is a humor and an energy in Microcosm that is missing in a lot of things. I’ve also learned that there are times where someone can be slow and take their time to make sure a project is finished with the utmost care, but also times where smaller details must be let go in the wake of an oncoming due date.

I’ve learned that the people working at Microcosm enjoy working here, and that they each have a level of dedication that keeps them all pushing forward on their projects, whether they come to the office or not. Most days, of the fourteen people who work here, I’ve seen four or five. Sometimes there were as little as two people in the office, besides the interns. Following that, I’m certain I’ve learned almost nothing of any of them. I’m positive there’s at least three people who work here that I’ve never actually met. But even of the ones I have met, the only last names I know are Joe’s and Elly’s. That being said, I’ve learned that the people working at Microcosm are kind and patient and fun. No one has gotten frustrated with me for asking too many questions (or at least no one who showed it), no one has acted as though I am “just” an intern, and not only do they ask for my ideas and my opinions, they listen. They follow through and dig deeper to see what could work. They also work to keep me included. What I have learned of the people who worked here, I learned from the times they invited me to have lunch with them, or the from game night the company hosted. I think my favorite memory of Microcosm will be when my manager Sidnee and I left the office in the middle of the day to meet Cyn, the publicity director, at a snow cone truck on the next block.

And though that will be my favorite memory, it will not be my proudest. I am proud and honored by the trust placed in me by the team of Microcosm during my internship. That same urging which made me mark the last .07 of my hours here at Microcosm helped me make a name for myself within the office. In my midterm meeting, my manager likened me to a duck. On the surface I am often quite passive and serene, but under the water I work quite diligently, with great care for where I’m heading. She meant that I’m a bit of a slow worker, but I pore over each word, each mark of punctuation, each spacing and pattern in writing until every mark of ink on the page is exactly as it should be.

I have edited three books in these past 249.07 hours, and each opportunity was more difficult and more demanding than the last. The first, a book in Dr. Faith’s This Is Your Brain series, was a simple (simple for people like me who read about comma rules for fun—have I ever told you about the Oxford Comma?) typo search. The second was a read through of Joe Biel’s (the owner and founder of Microcosm) own book on publishing. It was my responsibility to make sure all titles, subtitles, headers and subheaders were appropriately capitalized, as well as looking for typos. The amount of time I spent researching capitalization rules to complete this task would make a math major cry, but it paid off. This research helped me to impress Joe and Elly, so that they trusted me with editing on the master document directly. I shared this with my mom (so she would be proud of me too, of course) and she was proud enough to share it with my grandmothers. The last project will stick with me even through the ending of my internship—literally, because I’m still working on it! For my last project they have trusted me with a developmental edit, and the work I have put in for the past three weeks has been frustrating, agonizingly slow, often bewildering, and completely satisfying. I enjoy the slogging through of information. I feel almost like an archeologist making a discovery with the ways I’m helping to pull a book out of the mess of ideas. (Is that too silly a comparison? Don’t tell anyone I said that.)

Kedi and the spring/summer ’18 intern crew.

 

There are things about this internship I won’t miss. I won’t miss the hour drive between the office and my home. I won’t miss the publicity projects I am absolutely terrible at (Sorry, Cyn). I won’t miss that the very nice woman working in the NICU still hasn’t called me back so we can finally give them their free books—and after we talked three times, no less!

But I will miss eating lunch out on the patio of the office. I will miss the friendly atmosphere. I will miss texting Sidnee to let me in, only for Ben to open the door. I will miss gif conversations with my manager, and I will miss the other interns, and the frustrating, bewildering, satisfying work I have done here. I think I’ll even miss the mailing.

Regards,

Kedi

 


Are you interested in volunteering or interning for credit at Microcosm? Let us know with this form and be a part of the punk rock publishing revolution!

A Day in the Life of… Intern Edition

Every few months a batch of brave young creatives joins our crew for a while to learn, explore, and help out around the office. Some volunteer for fun, experience, out of boredom, or for school credit, and every year we get more and more requests for “how can I help!” and “do you take interns?”.
So I wanted to take a minute to introduce you to what being a volunteer here is actually like, from the volunteers themselves. It’s been a while since I was one myself, so I asked a few others to talk about their average day.
Check out the juicy details below.

(more…)

Where We Work: The Story of Our Building

This post was researched and written with Microcosm intern Lydia Rogue.

microcosm's green storefront today
As Microcosm kicks off its 23rd year, we’re taking a look at our history, starting with the building we now occupy with our office and bookstore. When we purchased the building in late 2013, it had already been around for sixty years! We painted over its dull beige exterior with bright green and purple paint that only upset one neighbor enough to leave some alternative sample paint chips taped to our door.

The location was always zoned as a small office space, even when it was originally built in 1953. The original owners were H.C. Plummer & Co, a real estate agency who sold houses all over north Portland.

But it was in 1957 that the most famous occupant moved in – the NAACP moved their credit union here from the house of the organization’s leaders, Otto and Verdell Rutherford; by 1964, the NAACP also had their chapter headquarters here and it was the place you went to register to vote.

three people holding up a calligraphed sign

The 14th Amendment graced the walls of the NAACP headquarters. Photo courtesy of Oregon Historical Society

Portland has a long history of racism, and during the 1950s and 1960s, the Albina district (where we call home), was one of the few places Black people were allowed to live. Most banks would deny them home loans – and real estate organizations deemed it ‘unethical’ to sell them a home in a ‘white’ neighborhood.

The NAACP advocated strongly for the community and against school segregation and racist real estate practices. Under the Rutherfords’ leadership in 1953, the historic Oregon Public Accommodations Act was passed, making housing discrimination illegal, among a wide range of other changes.

An undated photo taken at the NAACP headquarters – at the far right is Otto Rutherford, next to his daughter Charlotte. Photo courtesy of Oregon Historical Society.

While most of N Williams has been gentrified over the years, buildings torn down and turned into parking lots and trendy shops, this building remains, nestled between historical markers that proudly document African American history all up and down the road.

The NAACP remained in this building until 1983, when they moved to NE Portland.

This Oregonian news article that ran on August 2, 1983.

The credit union, however, remained for several more years, until the building changed hands yet again in 1990. This time, CH2A & Associates took up residency in the building – a consulting firm that specialized in affirmative action, labor relations, conflict resolution, personnel management, and counseling.

Harold C. Williams Sr. co-founded the firm and was its president at the time of his death in 2012. He had been a community leader and on the board of directors for Portland Community College. His son (Harold C. Williams Jr.), following in his father’s footsteps, currently has an active political career.

Now, we hold down the fort in this building, trying not to freeze in the winter or melt in the summer, and trying every day to live up to the activists who worked here before us.

Rad folks doing rad shit

We’ve recently started the kickstarter project for the next issue of Taking the Lane: True Trans Rebel, and it’s got us thinking about all the cool stuff Microcosmonauts are working on right now beyond the books. From quilting to writing, conscious coffee to queer romance, and more.

Here’s some of the cool things we’re doing right now…

 

Jeri Cain Rossi has made our sales numbers blossom in her time here. This spring, she has a collab art show at xoBruno, featuring her quilting formed into amazing Japanese style boro bags.
Check it out until the end of the month and learn more at www.xobruno.com/blog/first-friday-with-jeri-cain-rossi

 


Cyn Marts, our publicity director who hooks folx up with our books and runs our giveaways, just launched a feminist wellness subscription box aimed at cannabis-enthusiasts. With accessories, tools, munchies, and featuring Microcosm books The Stoner Babes Coloring Book and The Feminist Weed Farmer. Learn more and join the babes at manic-pixie-stoner-babes.cratejoy.com or follower her on instagram @manicpixiestonerbabe.


 

Writer Cat Caperello has contributed to several EBP titles with creative flair, including Pedal Zombies. This month’s they’re running a kickstarter to bring their dream business to life: coffee with a conscious.
Check out this rad caffeine biz, Woke Coffee, at www.kickstarter.com/projects/wokecoffee/bring-the-woke-coffee-espresso-cart-to-north-portl

 


 

Administrative Assistant Trista Vercher has a lot of passion projects in the pipeline. From queer romance to mental health, their art is as rad as they are. Check out these sketches!

Follow them on twitter @Vercher_Ink.

 


 

 

Continuing his autism advocacy work, Joe Biel is working to build up more zines, resources, and websites for folks on the spectrum and the people that love and care for them.
You can learn more about upcoming zines like Proud to Be Retarded and Your Neurodiverse Friend and their calls for submissions at .

 


 

Jamae Sabangan, current intern and all around awesome, is working on a couple urban fantasy novels called Shift and Rain, both set in PDX and each following a twenty-something protagonist who’s racing against the sands of time. She also runs a website that shares ways to find joy and personal success in creativity. The site’s most recent ongoing project features multi-passionates and how they integrate their multi-layered interests into daily living.

Details on these, along with her other creative work, including a poetry series and fairy tale retellings, can be found at HintofJam.com.

 


 

Lydia Rogue, currently interning and guest-editing True Trans Bike Rebel, spends their time focused on creative writing!
“My job? Writing. Internship? Writing. School? Writing. Volunteer work? Writing. Relaxation? Writing.”
They’ve been focusing on their poetry, queer fiction, and writing about writing, as well as reviews of resources and solid advice on how to get your write on even when you’re broke af. You can catch their fiction and writing advice on their Patreon.

 


Kelsey Williams, who just finished up with our intern program, spends her time working on her book, started back in 2013. It’s a young adult fantasy book that features tortured souls and a world teetering between life and death, and another she turns to when having writer’s block for the other, which is contemporary fiction with tidbits of poetry and a bittersweet romance. When not writing and editing books, she’s writing on her blog– anything from book and film reviews to veganism topics to travel adventures. You can find her blog at http://www.emourly.com

 


 

And did we mention True Trans Rebels? This latest issue of Taking the Lane (#15) is the passion project of Elly Blue, guest edited by current intern Lydia Rogue and featuring Trista Vercher’s rad art of River the genderfluid Kitty.
The project is live at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ellyblue/true-trans-bike-rebel-taking-the-lane-15 and you can check out the video below.


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