Northern California Quarterly

Crowdfunding Campaign of the Month:

The Northern California Quarterly

Here at the Synthesis we are all for encouraging local authors, and we recognize that we have some pretty radical local talent. I mean, obviously you know that, because you’re reading the Synthesis. We found out that Dan O’Brien—local author, publisher, and psych teacher at Chico State—was spearheading an campaign to publish a quarterly collection of local writing talent, and so we had to get up in his grill and find out more about it. You can also go to to watch a video and get psyched. Dan guarantees that there will be something in the Quarterly for everyone, even if you don’t live in Northern California.

Who’s the real Dan O’Brien?

I’m an author; I’ve written 13 books. I’ve been publishing for years and years. I wanted to put together a traditional trade paperback—something like Tin House or McSweeney’s. We’ve got this local guy Rob Davidson, who’s a really good author, and Alec Binion from over at the Chico News & Review. The idea was that I wanted to produce something that was from Northern California—not Sacramento, San Francisco or Portland—and see where it went.

What’s the $5000 you’re raising going toward?

It’ll be the first print run, and 1000 free issues. It’ll be for sale around town as well.

Can people still submit? How many submissions so far? Are people submitting more than once? Answer all the questions!

The deadline is November 1st, so we’re getting pretty close to that. I want to print enough to be able to give away like 1,000 copies for free and make it something distributable, but also be a paid publication in the region that people can submit to—a paid Quarterly thing.

We’ve had a couple people submit more than one [piece]. It’s poetry, short-fiction, and non-fiction. It’s supposed to represent a magazine’s worth of content. We’ve probably got about a hundred or so. The first one is tough because nobody really knows about it yet; they’re not sure if it’ll stick around. I would love more, but we’re getting close to the deadline. I imagine we’ll get a little burst at the end.

I would like there to be something like this—I love it when local publications put in a little fiction but it’s never enough—I’d like a stout Tin House type of thing that was here and ours and we could be proud of it… a Northern California thing.

Partnerships around town to help move the book?

Yeah, absolutely—Lyon Bookstore. Heather and I are good friends and it’ll definitely be there. I was hoping to build more partnerships through indiegogo. It would be nice to partner with other local entities.

What if somebody from Sacramento or the Bay Area says, “I’m in Northern California too, I want to get in!”

I’d say, “You already have something in your area.” I’m imagining the invisible cutoff is Yuba City, all the way up to the Oregon border. It’s Northern California stories told by Northern California writers; it’s meant for us, with the intent that it will be a publication that we can really be proud of. We can point to it—we’ll have a professional literary journal here. Storytelling is important, and we have a great deal of tremendous writers here who just don’t get the due that they’re owed. We have great writing programs up here, and to me this is a rallying point for great quality. I love that Chico is so artistic. If something like this could take off, and it could be my contribution to the Arts community, that would be great.

Storytelling is important for communities. I think it gives them voice and history, and a continuity.

Yeah, It gives us a narrative, an honest narrative. And when there’s nothing else to do, people create.


The hardest step for a lot of people is realizing that they can do it. I sell 10,000 or more copies a year by self-publishing. It’s what I do for a living, and I’ve done it for a decade. If you do it correctly, you don’t have to pay anybody to do it. Of course you should pay for editing and design—there are professional services you should always pay for—but there are a bunch of predatory publishers out there. I love helping people publish books. Seeing somebody’s book in their hands for the first time, and realizing that it’s possible…it’s great.

What are you teaching right now?

Ha! I’m teaching Perception Psychology right now. Publishing is my love. I like to say everything is a story; everything has a narrative. Teaching has a narrative. I treat it that way. It’s not so much that teaching informs my writing, but writing informs how I teach. It’s something that I do because I like it—but if pressed, the thing I want to do is this. All aspects.

Do you find when you’re teaching, that you’re up there formulating stories in your head, imagining that werewolves will eat them all?

It’s tough to shut that off. Sometimes when I get up there to teach, it’s almost like playing a character. Obviously I can’t swear as much as I do in real life in front of a class…

He’s totally imagining werewolves eating his students. 

For more information about Dan, you can visit his website at, and follow him on twitter @AuthorDanOBrien.

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