Meet the Intern—Spring 2019

Meet_the_Intern Photo

Full name: Megan Huddleston

Where did you attend undergrad and what degree did you receive?

I went to the University of Oregon and graduated with a BA in English and Political Science and a minor in French.


When will you graduate from the Ooligan program at PSU?

I’ll graduate spring term 2020—next year!

What is/are your favorite genre(s)?

I love the mystery and horror genres—detective stories, spy thrillers, true crime, psychological thrillers, hard boiled and cozy, Gothic, and bizarre! They’re the books I get lost in, that I can read for hours at a time. My favorite mystery writer is Tana French, and my favorite book ever is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

What is your least favorite genre?

This is a tough question because I enjoy reading all different kinds of books, from literary fiction and science fiction to memoirs and creative nonfiction, cookbooks, books on traveling, old books, new books. I think I really just love reading!

What drew you to the Ooligan program?

I live in Portland, so the location was ideal. I also love that there’s a student-run press where we gain real-life publishing experience.

If you could design your own course within the publishing program, what would it focus on?

I’m interested in the intersection of publishing and literary studies, so I would love to design a course that looks at the historical production of some of the “classics of literature.” Who were they published by? How were they originally marketed? What else did the publisher put out around the same time? And how have their cover designs evolved over time? It’d be like a focused history of publishing and would, of course, involve field trips to special collections to see the first editions!

What part of this internship are you most looking forward to?

I’m super excited to get some more experience copy editing.

What do you like most about editing?

I love language. It’s so fascinating to think about how certain symbols (e.g., the alphabet and punctuation marks) can be combined to create incredibly complex meaning. It’s rewarding to me to be a part of this process—to help the symbols tell a story.

What do you like least about editing?

Frequently in editing, you make and trust your own decisions. I’m very collaborative and love discussing ideas in order to hear as many solutions as possible. I wish I could discuss everything that comes up in an edit, but usually I have to make a decision based upon my own knowledge and experience. I hope this becomes easier as I gain more experience!

What is the one thing that always catches your eye while editing?

I’ve recently been studying the comma section of the Chicago Manual of Style (it’s great night-time reading!), so right now my eyes tend to focus on commas and determining what function they’re performing.

What is one interesting fact about you that has nothing to do with editing or publishing?

I love cooking and trying new foods. The two best ways to learn about our world and the people who inhabit it are through stories and food.

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And We’re Back!

Hello, all!

Thank you to everyone for bearing with me during the last half of 2018. After about six months of work and remodeling insanity, my schedule has finally returned to “normal,” and I no longer feel as though I am being pulled in a dozen directions at once.

With that in mind, I am once again seeking editorial projects and accepting requests for quotes. If you are interested in potentially working with me, please head over to the Request a Quote page to tell me a little about your project.

I look forward to hearing from you!



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An Editorial Pause

Hi, all.

This is just a quick post to let everyone know that I will not be taking on new clients for the foreseeable future, and I have taken down the quote request form for now.

Before anyone jumps to any conclusions, this is a good thing, and I am still editing. In fact, I’m editing so much that I simply don’t have time in my schedule for additional projects.

This may change following the winter holidays, in which case I will once again sent the quote page live.

Until then, I wish you all the best in your publishing endeavors!


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Writing Good Dialogue

When it’s finally time to sit down and write your next best seller, remember that engaging and realistic characters are a crucial component of a successful manuscript. Characters must come to life and help create a sense of reality that readers will naturally connect with. Part of this means having great dialogueone of the trickiest elements of a manuscript. Luckily, there are a few tricks of the trade that can help.

Characters shouldn’t be talking to just fill page space up.

Dialogue should always provide something extra to the story. It can be used to further explain a situation, explore the emotions felt between characters, or uncover a character’s personality. Try to remove dialogue that isn’t necessary or seems redundant. Things like “Hi” and “How are you?” are assumed by the reader (it’s better to write something along the lines of “So-and-So greeted So-and-So when she entered the room”), and an audience won’t be completely engaged in a passage that includes the small talk between characters.

Stay away from the use of hyperbole and stutter words.

Hyperbole, or over exaggeration, and stutter words within dialogue can become a bit messy. These textual devices should really only be used when absolutely necessary. They have the tendency to drag events of the story out longer than needed. Readers often become confused as to whether or not these are intentional style choices from the author or if they’re meant to provide an exaggerated scene.

Choose simple speech tags.

After a character speaks, keep the speech tags simple, or drop them altogether when it’s clear who is speaking. It’s best to use tags such as “said” or “asked” after dialogue. Writers should show what the character is doing, instead of telling the audience. The same rule of simplicity applies to the use of adverbs following speech tags. They can be used, but sparingly and only when adding an important aspect to that particular piece of dialogue. A multitude of adverbs can appear overbearing or overemphasized.

Dialogue should reflect setting and audience.

Your characters’ dialogue should reflect the desired audience you wish to reach and the setting in which your story takes place. For example, your characters might use a lot of slang if your readers are primarily teenagers, but not if your target audience is adults over 40. Similarly, it can get confusing if a character is using words or phrases that appear out of place or out of genre.

In the end, the most important factor in writing dialogue is crafting speech that readers can connect to and that makes them feel as if they’re right there in the conversation.

– Brennah Hale

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Write to Publish 2018 – Tenth Anniversary Edition

Photo Credits: Alec Boehm

This year’s Write to Publish conference was held on April 21st and was nothing short of a success. On a rare (for April) sunny and 75 degree day, attendees gathered from all over the Pacific Northwest in order to engage with publishing professionals. After a complimentary breakfast for both attendees and speakers, including some delicious coffee, bagels, and fruit, the event kicked off with an amazing keynote speech from Claire McKinney, book publicist at Claire McKinney Public Relations, LLC.

Throughout the day, attendees were able to visit different panels and interactive learning sessions, depending on their interest, and browse the vendor fair where they could meet and greet industry professionals from the Regional Arts and Culture Council, the Silk Road Review, Willamette Writers, and Ooligan Press. With guest speakers including Adam O’Connor Rodriguez, Senior Editor at Hawthorne Books; Emily Suvada, author of This Mortal Coil; and Rachel Noorda, Publisher at ThunderStone Books, the panels and interactive learning sessions inspired attendees and helped demystify the publishing process. Lucky for me, I had the opportunity to visit, and even moderate, a few panels and meet some of the outstanding professionals that are shaping this industry today.

The Journey of Publishing: From Idea to Bookshelf

I had the honor of moderating and guiding discussion between panelists and attendees on the very first panel of the day, The Journey of Publishing: From Idea to Bookshelf. This panel was geared toward educating attendees about what the publishing process typically looks like from the perspectives of a writer, an agent, and a publisher. On my panel, I had Reema Zaman, author of I Am Yours; Chip MacGregor, president of MacGregor Literary Inc; and Laura Stanfill, publisher at Forest Avenue Press.

Reema Zaman, an award winning speaker, author, and actress, spoke to the audience about the steps she undertook while pursuing publication of her memoir, I Am Yours, which is set to be released in January of next year. A particularly important part of this process was the revisions she made to her manuscript based in part of the feedback she received from publishers. Zaman explained that she spent almost two years drafting, rewriting, and editing her memoir until it felt perfect. Not only did this process take a lot of time and effort, but it also took courage and strength. Zaman explained to the audience how what you write, particularly when it is a memoir that explores personal and real-life struggles, is part of you, and sending it off to be examined by strangers is a daunting part of publishing.

Chip MacGregor has served in many different roles in the publishing industry. He has worked as a publisher, as a freelance writer and editor, and as an agent. With so many years of expertise, MacGregor has a wealth of knowledge that he used to keep the audience engaged as he spoke about the process of becoming a published author and the role that literary agents play. In particular, he explained that while a literary agent is not always needed, in some cases they play an important role in guiding authors to where they are meant to be.

Laura Stanfill’s passion for the publishing industry really shone through in her responses during this panel. During her portion of the talk, she discussed the importance of finding the right publisher for your specific work. Not all publishers publish every genre, and sometimes, a submission just isn’t right for them. Stanfill further talked about how it can be a good idea for authors to shop around in order to find their best publishing fit. Just because a press publishes your genre does not automatically mean that they are the right press for you.

Travels with Tropes: Publishing and Writing for Genre

As the day continued on, I headed over to the panel that discussed writing in different genres and listened in on advice and the experiences of different authors. On this panel sat Emily Suvada, author of This Mortal Coil; Whitney Edmunds Swann, author of The Price of Perfection; Tony Wolk, author of the Abraham Lincoln: A Novel Life series; and Rachel Noorda, publisher at ThunderStone Books, specializing in children’s literature. From science fiction to romance writing, each of these panel members had different experiences to discuss with the attendees.

Emily Suvada’s novel is a science fiction thriller in which protagonist Catarina Agatta must use her gene-hacking skills to decode a mystic message from her father that conceals a vaccine with the potential to cure a horrifying disease. Suvada explained to the audience how the humans in Agatta’s world are implanted with technology that allows them to recode their DNA. Echoing today’s society and our attachment to our cell phone, Suvada’s main character’s technological advancements are built into her arm. Suvada explains that in science fiction, it’s important to include details that relate to reality for a more believable story.

Whitney Edmunds Swann’s novel takes place during the classical time period where Charlotte Henwood is in search of a perfect reputation. In this novel, Edmunds takes the trope of a “damsel in distress” and twists it to the opposite. Edmunds explained to the audience that her woman characters will never fall to the normal romance tropes and that it is important for writers to represent their own passions and beliefs in their work.

In Tony Wolk’s Abraham Lincoln series, Lincoln accidentally time travels and finds himself falling in love with a woman from the present. In this historical fiction work, Wolk takes on the voice of Lincoln and deciphers the thoughts of one of the greatest presidents in U.S. history. Lincoln’s history has always intrigued Wolk, and he built his story based on his interest in the former president.

Rachel Noorda is the founder and publisher of Thunderstone Books, which focuses on providing texts for children that educate them in a fun, inventive way. Noorda told the audience about Meh by Deborah Malcolm, one of their most recent publications, which draws attention to depression at a young age. She explained how she wanted to use this text to provide an easier way for parents to discuss pressing issues in today’s society, such as mental illness.

By the end of the panel, I was full of new ideas that I plan to use in my own writing and editing endeavors. In addition, I can’t wait to help plan and execute Write to Publish 2019 as part of next year’s Outreach and Project Development team. This year’s conference highlighted so many important aspects of the publishing industry, and I plan to take what I’ve learned from the panels and Interactive Learning Sessions to further inspire young readers and writers.

– Brennah Hale


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Happy National Independent Bookstore Day!

National Independent Bookstore Day honors the amazing shops that have made it possible for us to aimlessly peruse their shelves in a peaceful space. More often than not, these delightful and unique shops have been started by passionate readers or authors who want to share their love of the written word with the world around them.

Today, in keeping with the holiday spirit, I would like to highlight some of the independent shops that bring together the Portland literary community and inspire us to read and write.

Annie Bloom’s Books
7834 SW Capital Hwy

Portland, Oregon 97219

Nestled in the midst of Multnomah Village, Annie Bloom’s has been drawing in readers and authors alike for years. I first discovered this indie bookstore while exploring the neighboring shops throughout the village. I immediately fell in love with the very friendly staff who were eager to invite me into their space. Full of the most popular and trending novels, this shop has a little something in every genre. But, they’re best known for the family friendly atmosphere and the children’s book section that makes up the majority of the back half of the store. And if this isn’t enough to prompt readers to come back, Molly, the all-black cat who wanders the aisles looking for some extra love, will. Keep an eye out for her on your next visit–she can usually be found on the counter of the register or sleeping in the children’s stacks.

Today, Annie Bloom’s will be joining the literary community in the festivities of National Independent Bookstore Day. There will be activities for children and adults, including a surprise, Harry Potter-themed prize for lucky winners. Throughout the day, Annie Bloom’s will be hosting author readings, as well as selling specific items in honor of the holiday!

Another Read Through
3932 N Mississippi Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97227

Another Read Through sits on Mississippi Avenue, one of Portland’s blocks-long shopping centers. The store makes a point to stock their shelves with new editions of novels from local authors. Customers can grab the latest reads and participate in the many different hosted events, including poetry nights, book club meetings, and group readings.

For National Independent Bookstore Day, this shop will be working with a local publisher (which one is a surprise!) in order to have special sales throughout the day in celebration of the holiday. In addition, they will have a tea party with outdoor seating set up in the front, and customers will have the chance to partake in their raffle and win some amazing prizes! There is even an opportunity to get free subscriptions for audio book packages published by Macmillan and Penguin Random House.

Broadway Books
1714 NE Broadway
Portland, Oregon 97232

Broadway Books is women-owned and located in the depths of the Hollywood District. Since opening in the early ’90s, the shop has been an active participant in the community and works to create an interactive environment. The first time I visited Broadway Books, I went in search of an engaging and exciting author reading. Not only did I find what I was looking for in Keith Rosson’s reading of his novel Smoke City, but I also found a shop that strives to build close knit relationships with its customers and authors. Broadway Books, although small in size, has a lot to offer its visitors, whether that be through author readings, book award ceremonies, or simply a chat with the welcoming staff.

It just so happens that this year’s National Independent Bookstore Day is also Broadway Books’ 26th anniversary. To celebrate both, Broadway Books is hosting their own little party, or hoorah, with special sales throughout the day, fun prizes, and cupcakes galore.

Mother Foucault’s Bookshop
523 SE Morrison Street

Portland, Oregon 97214

Among the many nifty and obscure shops that reside in Portland’s industrial district is Mother Foucault’s Bookshop. Perfect for both the everyday reader and the antique book shopper, this store has its own distinct and unique blend of offerings, including vintage books, collectible items, and novelty texts that focus primarily on philosophy and foreign language. Author readings are held weekly, Thursday to Saturday, and if you’re lucky, you might catch one of the rare live acoustic shows that pop up from time to time.

On National Independent Bookstore Day, Mother Foucault’s will be hosting writers from the Lie Factory for a 7:00 pm reading.

Powell’s City of Books
1005 W Burnside Street

Portland, Oregon 97209

Powell’s City of Books lives up to its name as truly, what seems to be, a city of books. Situated on the edge of downtown, this large, indie store has become a Portland destination for both tourists and residents. As you walk in, don’t be overwhelmed by the stacks and stacks of best-selling novels. Powell’s has color coordinated their sections and levels, and if you’re still feeling a bit lost, they have maps available that show the layout of the entire store, including what you’ll find on each level. For those visitors looking for a longer stay in this world of books, there is a coffee shop hidden in the back. It’s the perfect place to grab a cup of joe and relax with your newest buy.

This year, Powell’s will be combining National Independent Bookstore Day with National Tabletop Day, which celebrates tabletop gaming. As Portland’s official host of Tabletop Day, Powell’s stores will be offering a complete day of gaming, new game demos, and surprise giveaways.

Don’t have time to check out your local indie bookstore, but still want to participate in National Independent Bookstore Day? Join the celebration online through social media! Use the hashtag #BookstoreDay on April 28th to join the fun and see what others are talking about.

– Brennah Hale


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Meet our spring intern!

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Brennah Hale

Full name:

Brennah Hale

Where did you attend undergrad and what degree did you receive?

I attended the University of Nevada, Reno, and received my Bachelor’s in English: Writing and a minor in French.

When will you graduate from the Ooligan program at PSU?

spring 2019

What is/are your favorite genre(s)?

memoirs and dystopian novels

Who is your favorite author?

Lauren Oliver has a special place on my bookshelf. However, I just recently discovered Joan Didion, and she is quickly becoming one of my favorites.

Did you always know you wanted to be involved in publishing?

I actually fell in love with publishing after writing a few poems for a class assignment. After, my mother encouraged me to submit them to publishers. Because of this, I came across Eber & Wein Publishing. They were in search of amateur poets with original pieces. I took the leap and sent in two of my poems, which were later published in Eber & Wein’s anthology of amateur poets. The feeling of being recognized and honored for a written piece of art was incredible, and I immediately knew it was something that I hoped to grant to other future authors. Thus, I knew I would later pursue a career in the publishing industry to fulfill this dream.

What drew you to the Ooligan program?

I was born and raised in Nevada, and I desperately wanted to leave my home state and journey onto something new. Once I made the decision to continue my education as part of a graduate program, I began researching the different universities and colleges in Oregon. Portland State University grabbed my attention with its focus on the arts and its connection to downtown Portland. Ooligan is very unique in that it offers students hands-on experience in the publishing industry, and once I learned about it, it was an opportunity I just couldn’t pass up.

What are you looking forward to most about this internship?

I’m really looking forward to getting to shadow an editor on a daily basis. This will be an amazing opportunity to grasp what an editor does, how they find their clients, how to identify the right pay, and even how to know what sort of edits will be the right fit for each manuscript. I’m also interested to find out more about author and editor relations.

What do you like most about editing?

My favorite part of editing is working on a manuscript with the goal of helping turn an author’s work into its best possible version. There’s nothing more fulfilling than knowing that you’re there to help an author succeed.

What do you like least about editing?

I would have to say my least favorite part of editing is telling authors to cut a portion of their work, whether because it doesn’t fit into the text or because it simply doesn’t add anything of value to the text. It’s hard to tell authors that something they’ve taken the time and effort to write should be taken out completely.

What is the one thing that always catches your eye while editing?

One of my pet peeves while editing is when sentences repeatedly start with the same word. Repetition in general seems to always catch my eye, but when multiple sentences begin with the same word over and over, I almost always fixate on the issue.

If you could have any job you wanted, what would it be?

Next to editing, my passion is writing. I would absolutely love to write and edit for a nonprofit journal or magazine. The nonprofit sector in publishing is a strong interest of mine, and my dream career would be to work in that area in some capacity.

What is one interesting fact about you that has nothing to do with editing or publishing?

I grew up with chickens as pets, and since childhood they’ve been my favorite animal. My apartment kitchen is decked out in farm and chicken themed accessories. I even have chicken shaped salt and pepper shakers!

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Sylvia’s saying goodbye for now!

Hello friends,

We wanted to drop in and let you guys know that Sylvia will be going on hiatus from Ex Libris for the time being. Between a new baby and the trials and tribulations of co-running a business across two states, she felt it was time to take a step back and focus on enjoying the new addition (or perhaps edition?) to her family. She’ll still be taking on clients on a limited individual basis, so if you’d like to contract with her in the coming year, you can still reach her at for now.

Thanks, love, and creativity to you in 2018!

—Sylvia & Sarah

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How to Build a Good Query Letter


Cover letters and query letters have more in common than you think.

As any writer seeking traditional publication knows, query letters can be a tricky thing. They are just as personal—and just as difficult—to write as a cover letter when applying for a job, but this time you’re doing it to get your work in front of a much larger audience, and with that comes more scrutiny. While query letters should certainly be tailored toward your audience (you wouldn’t write the same way about a mystery/thriller as you would about a historical nonfiction, for example), there are certain principles you should follow to help build the strength of your query.

Do Your Research

What made you want to submit your book to this press? There should always be a reason: you liked a previous book they published, and your book is similar in theme; they’re looking for a specific genre, and your book fits that; or they’ve been making strong statements on social media, and you think your book fits in with that persona. Whatever it is, you should have a reason, and you should make that clear in your query letter. You have to give the publisher a reason to care about your book, and showing them why you care about them helps establish that connection.

Position Your Book

Where does your book fit within the market, within the publisher, or within existing narratives? All of these can be solved by using comparative titles (frequently shortened to “comp titles”). Positioning your book as a “Title X meets Title Y”—for example, the post-apocalyptic society of The Walking Dead told with the comedic voice of Terry Pratchett—can very quickly convey what kind of readers will be looking for your book and also what the main themes or overarching elements are; the important part is how they intersect.

As an addendum to that, make sure that your comp titles are realistic. Using Harry Potter or The Hunger Games is not helpful, even if it is the closest related title. While it may convey what type of characters you have or the environment your book is set in, those books are cultural phenomena, which makes it unrealistic to expect the same kind of results—and thus difficult for publishers to picture a real marketing strategy for.

Get to the Heart of Your Story

Don’t include just a summary of the book’s big plot points. Pick the most important theme or storyline and focus your pitch on that, even if it ignores some of your other major characters. You want to convey three things during your pitch: the setup or background of the story, the conflict, and what the conflict inspires in the main character. If you are trying to include too many storylines, it can start to blur that focus.

In the end, a query letter should make as many arguments as possible to show why your book is a good fit for a publisher. Each paragraph should support that clearly and succinctly, and while there is no one “right” way to present your argument, following these three suggestions will give that support a solid foundation to build upon.

―Alyssa Schaffer

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Have You Heard the Good Word(stock)?

This last Saturday, thousands of book lovers gathered at the South Park Blocks in downtown Portland for Wordstock, an annual book festival hosted by Literary Arts. While not necessarily well-known outside the community—my rideshare driver was very surprised by all of the people gathered around and that the streets were blocked off—the event is one of the largest for the Portland literary world, and yes, you read that right, thousands of people attend. The goal, according to Literary Arts, is to “[build] community around literature through author events, workshops, a book fair, and more.” This year was especially crowded, with over 100 authors participating, including some big-name speakers like Ta-Nehisi Coates, and an estimate of over 10,000 attendees.

The fun kicked off Friday night with Lit Crawl, a series of book-related events hosted at various bars in downtown Portland. I’m proud to say my group, a table of Ooligan students, lived up to our reputation and knocked it out of the park at Hawthorne Books’ Literary Trivia. In a recurring theme for the festival, events were packed, but we managed to make it to a Sci-fi Karaoke Comedy Horror Bingo Night (yes, all that did happen, and yes, it was fantastic) before heading off to Tin House’s after-party.


Danger Slater (right) reads his short story
with visual accompaniment from Jason Rizos (left).

The next morning, I got in line to pick up my wristband—a line that wrapped around the block. Thankfully, the volunteers were well prepared, and I got through the line and into the Portland Art Museum (where the book fair was being held) in no time.

Now, here’s the secret to Wordstock: you’ve got to pick one or two events that you absolutely can’t miss, and just count the rest as a bonus. Even with my best laid plans, I wasn’t able to make all of the panels I had planned to attend; one panel had filled the theater before I could even get in line. Of the panels I did go to, two stood out.

First, I attended a live recording of OPB’s State of Wonder. The guests were Jeffrey Cranor and Joseph Fink, the creators of the Welcome to Night Vale podcast, and poets Morgan Parker (There Are More Beautiful Things than Beyoncé) and Tommy Pico (Nature Poem). Now, podcasts are a passion of mine, but Parker and Pico shined during their interview, so much so that I immediately went to go buy their books and get them signed—another beauty of attending the book festival.


Joseph Fink (left) and Jeffrey Cranor (middle) chat
with April Baer (right) before the recording.

At the end of the day, I attended a panel about dystopian fiction and how it envisions—in however small of a part—resistance and rebellion. The authors for the panel were Lidia Yuknavitch (The Book of Joan), Omar El Akkad (American War), and Benjamin Percy (The Dark Net). Despite the long day behind us, the crowd was energized to hear the authors’ views on the rebellions and social turmoil they had imagined, especially as all of their works had been written before the 2016 election and published after. This particular panel was marked by a very high level of audience participation, from spontaneous applause to an extended audience question period.

Overall, Wordstock was a great experience. The festival has changed over the years, including condensing from two days to one, but at its heart, there remains an honest love of books and the promotion of the connections that everyone—authors, readers, and publishers alike—get to make over them. I, for one, found new books, new authors, and new publishers to watch. While I will always wish I could go to more author panels, Wordstock does a fantastic job of bringing together authors from the area and across the country to talk about engaging topics. If you’re at all interested, Wordstock is a worthy event, especially at a $15 ticket price.

Do yourself a favor, though: make sure you get in line early.

―Alyssa Schaffer

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