Mel Wells: From Ooligan to Literary Arts

We’re excited to showcase our talented alums as they move on to bigger things. Mel Wells graduated from Ooligan in 2009 and currently works as the Program Coordinator at Literary Arts in Portland, Oregon.
What made you decide to come to the publishing program at PSU?
As an undergrad, I was an English major with an editing minor and working as a course editor for the university’s Independent Study office. I wasn’t sure how to get a job in book publishing (moving to NYC sounded terrifying) and I’ve always wanted to live in the Pacific Northwest, so when I discovered Ooligan, it was a perfect fit.
Did you always know what you wanted to do in publishing?
Not really, although editing has always been my jam. I love how a book that’s been edited well has “invisible” text, in the sense that a reader gets immersed in the story and doesn’t trip on dangling modifiers or misspellings or shifts in tense.  I also find proofreading to be satisfying on a level that probably indicates a need to be medicated for OCD or something. But until Ooligan, I had no idea how much fun book-centric events could be or that I would love design work.
Do you use much of your Ooligan training in your current job?
Yes! Nonprofit arts administration was an unexpected swerve in my career plans, but I’m constantly using InDesign, proofreading materials, communicating with writers, helping plan and prep for events and readings, and generally promoting the writing community. The professionalism and real-world experiences I had with Ooligan, including managing the editing workgroup, were invaluable. In the interim between graduation and getting hired at Literary Arts, I also worked as a freelance editor.
How much do you think being an Ooligan graduate helped you get your current job?
I like to think that beyond my sparkling personality (this is a joke for my coworkers who know how much I loathe mornings), my experiences at Ooligan were key in landing what has turned out to be my dream job. The network I began while at PSU—specifically through internships, attending readings, and getting to know my amazing peers and fellow alums—was a springboard into where I am now. My connection to Ooligan still opens doors for creative partnerships in the community.
What do you enjoy most about your job at Literary Arts?
The people! Portland’s writing community is full of delightful characters, and I get to work with some of the most talented, ambitious, and witty people I’ve ever met. I feel incredibly lucky to have opportunities such as taking a writing class from Annie Proulx, visiting local high schools with writers like Heidi Durrow and Jeffrey Toobin, and nerding out at all the Portland Arts & Lectures nights and the Oregon Book Awards ceremony. I also work to help local students read their work in front of their peers, perform slam poetry at Verselandia!, get published in a gorgeous anthology, and receive one-on-one mentoring attention on their college essays. My job is a ton of work, but it’s also immensely satisfying and, because I already sound cheesy as hell here, is a source of continual inspiration.