In case you hadn’t noticed, Sylvia and I owe our livelihood to the education we received while in the Masters in Writing and Publishing program at Portland State (more commonly referred to as Ooligan). In conjunction with that education, our instructors helped us find agenting and editorial internships with previous Ooligan graduates and local publishers. The “real world” experience we gained was invaluable and provided us with a view of the industry you just can’t get in a classroom, no matter how awesome your teachers are. Now that Ex Libris is firmly established and we’re no longer moving from state to state, we wanted to give back to the program by accepting an intern of our own.
This summer, we were fortunate enough to interview several applicants. They were all very qualified (Ooligan sure does turn out great editors!), but we admit to being thrilled when Alyssa Schaffer agreed to join us as our Fall 2017 intern. Over the next two months, she’ll be here helping us with social media and industry research, shadowing us on our edits, and learning more about what it’s like to actually run a small editing business. You have probably already seen some of her work for us if you follow the blog or any of our social media accounts, and while you can certainly learn a lot about a person through their writing, we thought it would be fun to learn more about Alyssa in a somewhat more direct fashion, so we put together a little Q&A session.
So, without further ado, meet Alyssa!
Full name: Alyssa Schaffer
Where are you from? Idaho originally, but I’ve been living in Portland for a few years now.
Where did you attend undergrad? The University of Idaho.
When will you graduate from the Masters program at PSU? Spring 2018.
What is/are your favorite genre(s)? Literary fiction, narrative nonfiction, and manga.
Who is your favorite author?
This question is always really difficult for me because it changes based on my mood, but I would say that Karen Russell and Gabrielle Calvocoressi are often in the rotation.
Did you always know you wanted to be involved in publishing?
Pretty much. I realized in high school that editing could be fun if it was on a creative piece, rather than on a class assignment. Since then, my goal has been to become an editor.
What drew you to the Ooligan program?
The biggest thing was that the press was student-run. I thought that it would be a good way to gain practical experience—versus just learning the process within a classroom setting—and I feel that I owe the amount of progress I’ve made over the past year to that.
What are you looking forward to most about this internship?
Being able to see another side of editing. Ooligan can feel like its own little world sometimes, and it’s nice to see how the same skills function within different settings.
What do you like most about editing?
That moment when you feel like you really get what an author’s intention is and you know what to suggest to help them achieve that in their writing. It’s why I love developmental editing so much, but it happens in copyediting as well.
What do you like least about editing?
When I get fixated on one particular issue. Every once in a while, I end up going down a rabbit hole looking into a historical event or CMOS rule and emerge on the other side realizing that I didn’t really need to spend that much time on a single hyphen.
What is the one thing that always catches your eye while editing?
On the copyediting side, commas. I am very aware of their presence (or lack thereof) because I have a tendency to overuse them in my own writing. In developmental editing, dialogue tags. Whoever wrote “Said is dead” was wrong. Dialogue tags are there to do exactly that: tag who is saying what. If the tags become too colorful, they distract from the dialogue itself. I wouldn’t say it’s a pet peeve, but I always get caught up on them!
If you could have any job you wanted, what would it be?
Part-time acquisitions editor, part-time freelance editor, full-time pet owner.
Is there anything else we should know about you?
I’m actually terrible at remembering names, so style guides have become one of my biggest tools, even in developmental edits.