The sun setting over the St. John's Bridge, a large, blue-green suspension bridge.

Book Genres and the Best Portland Parks To Read Them In

If there’s anything Portlanders can agree on, it’s that we love our green space. Take a stroll within any one of Portland’s whopping 154 Parks and you’re sure to notice all kinds of park-goers: the picnickers, the dog walkers, the bubble blowers, the spikeballers . . . but keep your senses tuned and you’ll notice the quiet force of another kind of park-goer: the readers. Usually tucked beneath the shadiest trees with a cozy blanket and perhaps a few snacks, these bookworms understand the importance of a beautiful environment when it comes to enjoying literature. But with so many parks to choose from—all with their own unique flair and personalities—how are Portlanders supposed to decide where to bring their newest literary conquest? Good news! I’ve compiled a list of popular book genres and the Portland parks they can be best enjoyed at. The next time you crave that fresh pacific air and a cozy reading session, you can easily decide where to head.

Romance: Laurelhurst Park

From the nervous first date by the pond to the couple pushing the boundaries on PDA, one lap around Laurelhurst Park is all you need to see that romance is simply in the air there. It’s not a far stretch to imagine your own beloved protagonists strolling through the park’s regal pathways or the historic winding streets of the surrounding Laurelhurst neighborhood–making this park the perfect fit for your newest romance read.

Classics: Washington Park

As one of the oldest and largest parks in Portland, Washington Park in northwest Portland provides the sense of history and drama requisite for enjoying a good classic. Dust off your favorite Brontë or Steinbeck and head to this Portland favorite to make those classic stories come alive in a new way.

Sci-Fi: Elizabeth Caruthers Park

If you’re looking for a futuristic vibe in Portland (though some may argue that’s an Oxymoron), look no further than Elizabeth Caruthers Park. Positioned beneath the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) sky tram and the tall, modern, glassy buildings of the Southwest Waterfront, this park calls to mind many popular sci-fi themes, such as technology, healthcare, artificial intelligence, and dystopia.

Children’s: Westmoreland Park

If there’s a little one in your life, packing up your favorite children’s books and heading to Westmoreland Park in Portland’s Sellwood-Westmoreland neighborhood is a must. Let the kiddos get some energy out playing on this park’s beautiful nature-based playground and then settle down with a cozy, educational read (bonus points for nature themes in the book itself).

Poetry: Peninsula Park

Peninsula Park in north Portland is home to a public rose garden, a gorgeous fountain, and a historical bandstand. The park’s stunning landscaping and historic architecture create a cerebral quality perfect for enjoying poetry both old and new.

Literary Fiction: Cathedral Park

The sophisticated, serene nature of Cathedral Park makes it a perfect place for literary fiction lovers to crack the code on their latest lyrical masterpiece. Situated in the St. Johns neighborhood directly under the majestic St. Johns Bridge, this park is also the perfect place to capture the obligatory #Bookstagram story featuring the gorgeous, artful covers associated with the genre.

Nonfiction: Mt. Tabor Park

We’ve gone a little broad here, but at 176 acres in size, Mt. Tabor Park in southeast Portland has enough room for a whole host of nonfiction titles. That being said, the best fit might be nonfiction titles about geology, geography, or geochemistry. Mt. Tabor is actually a volcanic cinder cone. The more you know!

While we can’t come close to hitting each book genre or each of Portland’s many parks, hopefully this guide can be a jumping off point next time you decide to take your reading to the great outdoors. The perfect book-park pairing is sure to enhance your reading experience and provide a wonderful way to explore our city’s vast array of unique parks and green spaces. Happy reading!

A bookshelf at Kinokuniya that shows how manga is often sorted alphabetically by book title.

What Cover Design Says About Genre in Manga

Manga was one of the largest growing genres in 2021. Despite its growing popularity, in many US bookstores manga is not sorted by subgenre. This can make it more challenging for readers to find the books they’re interested in. Given this context, it’s extremely important for information about a volume’s genre and intended audience to be conveyed through the cover. Manga genres are also defined differently than in US publishing. They are usually primarily categorized by gender and age. This post will be exploring three different manga covers. All three of these are titles that would be considered young adult genre-fiction in Anglophone literary spaces. However, because of the way manga is shelved, they must each distinguish themselves.

Death Note written by Tsugumi Ohba, illustrated by Takeshi Obata

Right away, this cover of Death Note implies darker themes with its extreme color contrasts between black and pink. There is also death and religious imagery in the skulls and cross shape, hinting at the different topics this book will examine. There is also a demonic creature that shows the incorporation of the supernatural elements. It very clearly depicts a teenage boy in a school uniform. This places it in the shonen category, aimed at young men.

RWBY by Bunta Kinami

The focus on RWBY’s cover is the two female characters, Ruby and Weiss. In this image, the two important characters are given contrasting color schemes, expressions, and poses. Fantasy elements are implied through their outfits and weapons. In contrast to Death Note, they are not shown in traditional school uniforms even though their attendance at school is important. What’s interesting is that the manga came after the anime, so in this situation, the priority is emphasizing the characters, the name, and that this is the “official manga.” Ruby’s signature scythe, easily recognizable to people who watched the anime, is one of the clearest elements on the cover.

Tomie by Junji Ito (1996 edition)

Tomie by Junji Ito (2016 edition)

Tomie by Junji Ito was initially published as a serial in a horror-themed magazine meant for adolescent/teenage girls and then put together into a volume in 1996. The earlier cover highlights Tomie, a young woman, continuing with the theme that the protagonist often aligns with the intended audience. The style of the artwork, the dark clouds, and expression on her face as well as the red text hint at the genre—horror. Years later, the author has become well-known as a horror manga artist and writer and, as a result, the intended audience has shifted from young women to horror readers. This is reflected in the newer 2016 cover. The genre is still very clear with the black cover with the red splotch. Tomie’s age and gender are not emphasized as clearly as they were in the first cover.

a bookshelf full of closely spaced books, with text reading "Inside Ooligan Press", the Ooligan Press fishhook logo, and text "Proposals"

What’s in a Proper (Book) Proposal?

Note: This is part of the blog series “Inside Ooligan Press”, about how we take a manuscript from an idea to a professionally published book.

So, you wrote a killer query letter and we requested a proposal package, but what does that mean? Before you go and resubmit the same query letter and call it your proposal (as MANY have done) think again!

The proposal package consists of two crucial items, submitted together on our Submittable page. They are your cover letter and your full manuscript, but let’s break it down even further. If you followed our directions with your query, you only sent us the first ten pages of your manuscript. When we request a proposal package, this is your invitation to submit the full manuscript—you got a full read request. Go you! Submit the most up-to-date, most polished version of your manuscript, preferably in a Word document.

The how and why of the cover letter are a little more complex. With your query, you provided just enough to get us interested in reading your full manuscript. With your cover letter, you are trying to convince us that you and your book are the right fit for our press, for our mission, and for our reach. You’ll want to help us envision the future for your book and provide pertinent details about how to best present it to the world—and how you plan to participate in that presentation if we publish it.

Your proposal cover letter can be a beautifully designed document organized into sections and contain striking headings, images, and mock-ups of the cover, or it can be a bunch of words on a page. While a stylized document certainly helps us envision your book and its potential future more readily, it is not required, and words alone will suffice. Just be sure to include the words we’re looking for.

First up is the content warning. This means letting us know if there is anything in your manuscript that may be triggering to a reader. Triggers vary, but the most common ones include self-harm, suicide, sexual assault, graphic violence, substance abuse, and disordered eating. If you are unsure whether something you’ve written may be a trigger, err on the side of caution and warn us. Do note that this warning will not prevent your manuscript from being read and considered: it simply ensures that the right person will be reading and evaluating it (the right person being an editor to whom the content will not cause mental or emotional harm).

The rest of your letter should include a synopsis of your book, the projected page count, a table of contents if appropriate, the genre and intended audience, comp titles, marketing ideas, and any connections or platforms you have that may be utilized for marketing and promotion purposes. If your query letter did not contain an author bio written in the third-person detailing your pertinent background information, include that here as well. Yes, this requires a little effort, but there is a reason for it, I promise.

Once the Managing Acquisitions Editors decide yours is The One, we still have to pitch your manuscript to the entire press before voting to accept or reject the project. We must convince them to see what we see, that there is potential for a successful collaboration with you and your book. We do this with a pitch presentation, which contains the information from your cover letter, along with our own in-depth market research guided by our expertise in the publishing industry. We set it to music and a little light choreography. That last bit is not true. But we do have to make a strong case for why we should publish this book and be convincing in its presentation: a solid informational foundation and an author who understands their book, has realistic expectations, and is willing to work alongside us to get the job done can make or break our case—and it is your cover letter that reveals all of this to us.

Every manuscript for which we request a proposal package gets thorough, careful consideration. But even with an excellent manuscript, the author’s work is not done. You’ve got to convince us that you and your book are the right fit for us, that you are willing to do what is asked of you and more—and that begins with creating a proper proposal.

A green-speckled, orange pumpkin sits on a small bundle of tan wheat and a green leaf. Next to it sits a white present with a red bow. Sitting on top of the present is a red rose.

Holiday Romance Success

Safe to say, if you’re looking for a sweet, cozy read with a happily ever after, romance is the genre for you; and if you’re also looking for a little bit of holiday cheer, romance has plenty of options to choose from. But the amount of holiday themed romance novels that are advertised through the last half of the year makes one wonder—does anyone read those books after the holiday season passes?

To answer this question, I compared five Halloween books and five Christmas books that are popular recommendations on Booktok and Instagram. Six of the books were published in September or October of 2021, and the other four were published in August and September this year, 2022. After looking at the weekly sales of each of these books from their release dates to this October, the simple answer is no: these festive holiday love stories are not widely read year-round.

Despite this simple answer, however, there are a few interesting exceptions in the six books that have been released for a full year. Particularly, two of the books saw quite a bit of success throughout the year, despite their clear holiday subject matter: The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling and Payback’s a Witch by Lana Harper. While the other four books showed a large decline in sales during the months of March through August, these two titles remained quite successful for holiday themed titles. According to NPD BookScan, both novels had steady weekly sales throughout spring and summer. In comparison, every other book published in 2021—Nick and Noel’s Christmas Playlist by Codi Hall, The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox, The Holiday Switch by Tif Marcelo, and Window Shopping by Tessa Bailey—sold significantly less.

What is so different about those four holiday titles from the other two published at a similar time in the exact same genre? The most obvious difference—those four are all Christmas books. Interestingly, NPD BookScan also shows that these four romances had fewer sales in their first four weeks after release than the two Halloween titles. Sales for the 2021 Christmas releases stayed relatively low, whereas Sterling’s The Ex Hex and Harper’s Payback’s a Witch both sold three to four times more copies. The preference for Halloween novels could lie in the advantage of Halloween being the first holiday of the year between itself and Christmas. However, it could also be because consumers are spending more money during the Christmas season than in the months before Halloween.

While the complete year of data is not available for the holiday romances released this year, the beginning of this same sales pattern is shown in the BookScan numbers for the 2022 releases. When comparing all ten titles together by weekly sales organized from publication date rather than calendar year, the Halloween titles—Angelika Frankenstein Makes Her Match by Sally Thorne, The Kiss Curse by Erin Sterling, and The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna—mirror the sales for last year’s stories. These three Halloween stories had strong sales numbers right at release followed by a slight decline, then a steadying of numbers a few weeks after publication. The Christmas title, however—Codi Hall’s There’s Something About Merry—has low numbers with neither an increase or decline since release. This differs from the 2021 titles because they all saw an incline during the months of November and December, then a decline in the month of January. Presumably, Hall’s title will follow the same pattern.

Ultimately, while the answer to the initial question of “are holiday romances read year round” is no, the Halloween titles still see reasonable success throughout the year. Whether this is because romance readers are always in the mood for something a little witchy, or the fall season is the go-to for a cozy read, the numbers prove that if you want to write or publish a holiday read, Halloween is loved year-round.

Halloween books discussed in this post:

    Angelika Frankenstein Makes Her Match by Sally Thorne
    Payback’s a Witch by Lana Harper
    The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling
    The Kiss Curse by Erin Sterling
    The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna

Christmas books discussed in this post:

    Nick and Noel’s Christmas Playlist by Codi Hall
    The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox
    The Holiday Switch by Tif Marcelo
    There’s Something About Merry by Codi Hall
    Window Shopping by Tessa Bailey
hands holding pen

How Point of View Can Help Your Story Shine

One of the most important elements to consider when beginning a new writing project is point of view (POV). Every story, article, research journal, play, etc. uses POV, and many people, whether they think about it or not, have a preference when it comes to what they like to read and/or write. Depending on the project you’re working on, there are many ways you can use POV to your advantage.

What is a point of view?

There are four types of POV: first person, second person, third person limited, and third person omniscient. Any POV can be used in any project, but the way a writer uses them can have a big impact on the story.

The first person POV uses I and me pronouns, and the narrator is most often the protagonist. First person is great for writing that is more introspective, as it puts the reader in the character’s head, but it also limits the POV to one character. Technically, a story written in first person could have POV switches, but this is often confusing to the reader and can bring them out of the story if they miss the switch. In short, first person is primarily for stories with one narrator only.

The second person POV is the least common of the four, using the you pronoun and mostly used in short, introspective pieces like poetry or choose-your-own-adventure books. Second person invites the reader to step into the character’s (or sometimes even the writer’s) shoes, which can be compelling if done correctly. However, most genre works are typically better suited to the other POVs because it can be difficult for readers to get emotionally invested in a story told in second person, as they may feel like they are following a fictional version of themselves rather than a character. An article on Reedsy mentions a famous example of a well-received story told in second person: Jay McInerney’s novel Bright Lights, Big City, which “follows a magazine fact-checker at a magazine living in the 1980s New York City fast lane.” Reedsy suggests that McInerny might have opted for second person because of the fast pace of the book and the unique perspective of the main character’s profession.

The third person limited and omniscient POVs are similar in that they both use he, she, and they pronouns and allow a certain amount of introspection. The difference is that limited follows the thoughts and feelings of one character at a time, while omniscient has more of a “bird’s-eye view” on the entire story. A common mistake in writing third person limited is that the writer may reveal too much information to the reader that the character would not know. (In this case, if the writer wishes to intentionally add a sense of dramatic irony, their story might be better suited to an omniscient POV.) Third person also lends itself well to POV switches, unlike first and second person. Omniscient doesn’t technically need to switch, since the reader has access to every character’s view at the same time, and limited can switch between line or chapter breaks, provided it is made clear that it has switched. One example of limited POV switching can be found in Rick Riordan’s The Heroes of Olympus series, which denotes POV switches through chapters named after their respective characters.

How to choose your POV based on the story you want to tell

Picking the right POV for you (and your story) is very important as, naturally, the POV is the first thing the reader notices. What genre is your project? This is a good question to ask because some POVs are more commonly used in some genres (for example, fantasy titles tend to lean toward third person, while first person is popular in young adult and coming-of-age titles). Are you writing a story with a single narrator and a lot of inner monologue and introspection? Try first person. Do you want to set the scene for the reader but leave the characters in the dark until it’s time for a dramatic reveal? Third person omniscient might be the right POV for you.

And of course, think about what you like to read. Do you like getting into the heads of the characters? Or following fast-paced scenes back and forth as the plot reaches its climax? Do you want to relate to and feel the emotions of the characters as they happen, or are you looking for more of a commentary approach? Choosing the POV that can answer these questions is the first step in making your story shine.