The first time I evaluated a manuscript for acquisitions here at Ooligan, it was a mixed experience. I thought that the story could, given some work, become really good, but it wasn’t there yet. The second time was similar—some parts were hugely compelling, while others didn’t keep my interest. They made me feel curiosity, some interest, but no passion. I thought that was probably just how evaluating manuscripts went.
Then I met Conspiring to Be Meri by Meagan Macvie. Written by an author who had attended Ooligan Press’s Write to Publish 2016, the manuscript had been pitched to us at that event and was soon submitted. Since it was about my home state of Alaska, I requested to be one of the Oolies evaluating it. I was a bit reserved at first—you don’t always want to fall too hard, too fast, for something that may not live up to your imagination. That reserve didn’t last too long. I quickly, deeply, fell in love.
It’s a little hard to explain why. On the surface, Conspiring to Be Meri falls into a niche that many other works fill. It’s a coming-of-age story about a young girl on the cusp of womanhood, learning to navigate romance, friendship, and family at a tumultuous time of life. But as an Alaskan expat making her home in Oregon, that story called to me. A lot of it, probably most of it, is simply due to Meagan Macvie’s skill with words. The story felt fresh and interesting, and I was impressed by Macvie’s skillful portrayal of her teenage characters. And though growing up in Fairbanks, Alaska, is doubtlessly different from the smaller town of Soldotna, Alaska, where the novel is set, I couldn’t help but identify strongly with the protagonist. The uniquely Alaskan flavor of the writing made me long for my old home.
I devoured that manuscript in mere hours, then immediately filled out the form recommending the acquisition of the manuscript. Then I thought for a minute and called my best friend from high school. We caught up for the first time in a year. I told him all about the book and how it made me miss him and high school and our friends and our home. He told me he’d like to read it. I told him I hoped that he could someday soon.
So that’s the story of the first manuscript I fell in love with. The first—but now I know, it won’t be the last.