Artist Profile: Michael Heald

Michael Heald works in words. As publisher and founder at Perfect Day Publishing, he brings the creative non-fiction of one author per year to readers, and also writes his own essays. Goodbye to the Nervous Apprehension is his first book.

Michael is a true independent publisher, even though that term is slowly disappearing from Portland changing culture. For him, micro-press books are akin to indie music – honest, edgy, new, part of the lining of the city’s fabric. This business is also an opportunity to elevate little-known talent onto a larger stage.

When asked about his history with the IPRC, Michael replied, “I don’t know if I could have done any of this otherwise.” In 2010 Michael knew he wanted to start a press, but did not have a background in design. Under the leadership of then IPRC executive director Justin Hocking, Michael enrolled in the second year of the organization’s Certificate Program, and went on to volunteer weekly for several years. He entered the program thinking of himself as exclusively a fiction writer, but after being inspired by Justin’s assignment to write a braided essay, his interest quickly shifted to nonfiction.

At the IPRC Michael also learned Adobe’s InDesign software, was guided through the nitty-gritty details of starting a small press by Michael D’Alessandro, found a knowledge-sharing community, and continued to build his writing skills. His first endeavor was with Lisa Wells and her essay collection Yeah. No. Totally. He lost his fear and found an audience for his future.

Michael has gone on to design the interior of most of Perfect Day’s books in the computer lab at the IPRC. He loves the camaraderie and support he’s found there, especially as he’s nearing a deadline. “A couple summers ago I was working on Martha Grover’s second book, scanning all these illustrations, figuring out where everything would go,” he says, “and being around such supportive, curious people made that process so much less fraught. I think Liz Yerby was also working on comics pretty much the whole time I was there, and knowing I could ask them if something looked weird, or which version of a page they preferred, kept me from freaking out about how close I was to the having to send the book to the printer.”

When asked what or who inspires him, Michael says, “I find it cool to work with someone with different strengths.” From the outside, pushing boundaries collaboratively is what inspires Michael. He’s a runner and brings this athletic discipline and dedication to his passion as a publisher and writer.

Michael also is a fan of independent record labels and was influenced by Portland’s ’90s music scene. Perfect Day Publishing’s books are accessible ($10 each) and full of raw authenticity. Typically Michael takes on a manuscript when it’s still being written, and helps guide the author towards completion. “I’m looking for that sense of immediacy that comes out of this kind of pressurized process.”

Independent might be Michael’s middle name. He’s proven that one man with a good nose for talent and a passion for promoting marginalized writers can make books that leave an imprint on a corporate-controlled publishing scene. One example is the book Love Is Not Constantly Wondering If You Are Making the Biggest Mistake of Your Life, by former IPRC member Zachary Auburn, who originally self-published the book anonymously. It was called “a small masterpiece of twentysomething romantic trauma” by Slate, and the title continues to be one of Powell’s best sellers.

This October, Perfect Day Publishing released Portlander Mohamed Asem’s Stranger in the Pen ($7), which is a memoir centered around the experience of detained without cause by British immigration officials.

When procrastinating, Michael says he might go for a run, sometimes with his dog Buster.

When asked “In what ways would you like to see the IPRC grow?”, Michael replied, “Just keep expanding.”

Interview by Alise Munson. Photos by Laura Glazer.