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» From Corvallis to Hollywood: Jean Hegland and Into the Forest

by Alan Scott Holley, Ooligan Press, published on May 1, 2015

Ellen PageOf all the big names expected to appear in Ooligan’s upcoming publication of CALYX Press’s fortieth anniversary anthology—which includes heavy hitters such as Barbara Kingsolver and Ursula K. Le Guin—there is one relatively unfamiliar name that could very well be joining the ranks of popular female authors in the near future: Jean Hegland. Though her name may not currently ring any bells, Jean Hegland is the author of Into the Forest, a futuristic novel that was published by CALYX in 1996 and is now in the process of being made into a major motion picture. The film, which tells the story of two young sisters living in a remote forest while civilization is on the brink of an apocalypse, will star Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood, and will be released sometime in 2015.

Jean Hegland is a Washington State native and has worked as both an author and a teacher of writing for several years. To date, Hegland has published one nonfiction book and two novels, and is currently seeking publication for a third. Her first novel, Into the Forest, has become recognized not only for its literary merit, but also for its idealistic journey from humble small press beginnings to grander big press success. When it was first published by CALYX, a small-yet-renowned feminist press based in Corvallis, Oregon, the book had been rejected countless times by agents and presses alike. At the time of publication, CALYX had barely enough money to keep its doors open, and Hegland’s book, though well received by readers, ultimately suffered from a complete lack of marketing funds.

The future for both CALYX and Hegland’s book was grim until the day a small bookstore in New Mexico mentioned Into the Forest to a New York publishing rep and provoked a bidding war between Bantam and Ballantine for the rights to republish Hegland’s novel. After Bantam won, CALYX received half of a $350,000 advance and retained the rights to translate the book into a dozen languages, effectively revitalizing the press in one fell swoop. The book was rereleased in a hardcover version to wide acclaim, and both CALYX and Hegland rejoiced in their newfound prosperity. You can read more about the book’s journey to success here.

Hegland, like many other now-accomplished female writers, owes a debt of gratitude to CALYX Press, not just for the part the press played in publishing her writing, but for believing in her work at a time when it seemed no one else did, especially considering the dire circumstances the press was up against. As such, it is possible that an excerpt from Into the Forest will be appearing in CALYX’s fortieth anniversary anthology to be published by Ooligan in the spring of 2016. One can only hope that small presses around the world, like CALYX, will continue to take in and support those talented writers whose dreams far outweigh their bank accounts.

Source: ooligan.pdx.edu

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