Speak Up: How an Extreme Introvert Finds Her Voice

If I have to get up at four o’clock in the morning to catch a flight, coffee better be in the near vicinity, I thought to myself as I climbed into the car. It was a huge day. That was the day that I was moving to Portland to go to graduate school for book publishing. I had only been there once to look at the school, Portland State University, and while I knew what everything looked liked, I was shaking. And not because I hadn’t had my coffee yet. I never lived without family around before. Even during my undergraduate years, I had family close to me. Going to a basically unknown city, where I did not know anybody, alone can almost give an extreme introvert, such as myself, a heart attack. But I had to do this. I wanted to work with books. While the plane was taking off, and I saw my hometown of Los Angeles fade and get smaller, I reminded myself that if I did not take this chance, then I never would.

I have always been shy, and I was always seen with a book in my hand. Growing up, people always told me to smile more or to speak up. Speaking in public has always terrified me. Let’s be honest: people have always terrified me. Whenever I was called on in school, I would freeze, and my mind would go blank. There were some triumphs, but mostly I was a sweaty mess. That’s why books have always been so important to me. I can essentially open up a new world and become immersed. Books were my lifeline when life kept swirling around me. So when I graduated college with a degree in English literature, I wanted to work with books in some way. I asked my little brother Patrick what I should do. Now, my brother is basically a walking encyclopedia, and he had gone to Portland with a group of his friends the year before. He remembered hearing about a graduate program for book publishing in the area. How, I don’t know—that’s just the magic of Patrick. So I went online and researched it. I looked at Ooligan Press and something clicked. I applied and got in. Thank you, Patrick.

My very first day of school dawned, and I felt terrible. Not because of nerves or anxiety. I had a terrible cold. I literally could not talk, which now that I look back is ironic. I came here to learn and to come out of my shell—to essentially take those people’s advice to speak up—and now I physically could not do it. My first class, Intro to Book Publishing, I remember I could barely keep my head up. During my last class that day, I had to get up in front of the classroom and introduce myself. After clearing my throat for eternity, which was the definition of awkward, I barely got my words out. But I was smiling, because I was here. I was doing it.

I did not really think of how much you need to interact with people during this program. As a shy person, I’ve been pushed and challenged at Ooligan, and at times, I had no clue what I was doing. But I get to talk about books all day, learn how to make a manuscript better, and also learn how to market it. I even get to learn about how a book is made from start to finish. A teacher said the other day, “We are here to make books better.” But to be honest, I am better for being here. I am still finding my voice, and most days I drink multiple cups of coffee, but I would not want to be anywhere else.