Last month, we introduced you to the Sister Team behind Elyssar Press, a small publishing press based in Redlands, California. What began as a tiny seed planted by Katia Aoun Hage, the founder of Elyssar Press, has blossomed into a space for stories from around the world to be celebrated and shared. That’s why the press publishes both local and international works, with a focus on sharing the human experience.
Right now, the full team consists of Katia Aoun Hage, Samar Hage, Nadia Boulos, Maryse Naaman, Stephanie Bou Karam, Jess Yowell, Traci Takahara, Wendy Hunt, Allie Rigby, Sim Jimenez, Jean-Claude Hage, Anis Bou Karam, Greg Gomez, Rachad Aoun, and Marie Fares.
The Word Nerds: Samar, Jess, and Allie
As a small team, everyone at Elyssar Press plays a vital role in reviewing, editing, designing, and publishing manuscripts from around the world. Right now, the editing team consists of Samar Hage, Jessica Yowell, and Allie Rigby. They are self-professed word nerds who share a love of words.
We hope you enjoy getting to know the editing team behind Elyssar Press!
Samar Hage could read for hours before noticing that any time has passed—and she frequently does. As part of the sister team behind Elyssar Press, Samar was not that surprised when Katia called her, a few years ago, to announce her dream of starting a publishing press.
Samar loves how with each manuscript, she gets “[…] to read about topics that I would not normally pick. It has given me a broader range of appreciation for different styles and stories.”
As mentioned in our first introductory piece, Samar is exceptional with detail. Her work as an editor is a mix of intuition and expertise. As a speech therapist by trade and a Mom of two, Samar has always valued communication and words. Being born and raised in war times, Samar is also passionate that cross-cultural communication is a key part of peacemaking and a world with less prejudice.
Samar is also an avid reader. “I can get lost in a book for hours. Kids? What kids?” she jokes, adding that she has stayed up many nights just to finish her current read. “I also find pleasure in watching mystery and psychological thrillers. I’ve moved around a lot as a child so I enjoy traveling and I’m fascinated with history and foreign cultures.”
Fun fact: one of Samar’s favorite hobbies is dancing. She knows ballet, Latin, ballroom, and more. Dancing, “[…] has always been a part of my life in different forms too.”
Jess is a soulful person, whose love of travel, creativity, and art, each play a vital part in how she approaches each day—and each manuscript. To be around Jess, even virtually, is to feel like you are in the presence of a calm and mindful philosopher. Her work as an editor involves deep reflection, as Jess finds it an honor to “be a part of someone’s creative journey.”
Jess’ favorite part about reviewing any work is that she gets to help the author or artist realize their stories, vision, or poetry for an audience. “And I get a front row seat for the ride,” she explains, which completely “enriches my own world and life, especially getting to work with authors from different backgrounds.”
Editing is not always easy, and Jess approaches each manuscript with care. “I am always trying to be mindful of the author’s voice and intention. Sometimes there are passages I may phrase differently or simply words I may wish to interject or suggest, but the trick is to help the author realize their voice without imposing my own. The best editing projects are a dialogue that clarify and strengthen the work as a whole.”
Fun fact: Jess always has a book in hand, or at least nearby. “I’m currently obsessed with The Sandman series,” she says. Jess is also an artful soul, who loves cooking and enjoying good food. She’s also known to collect found objects and with them, create something new.
Allie is a poet and a pisces, which explains most decisions she’s made in her life thus far. She is currently pursuing her MFA at San Francisco State University, and she started at Elyssar Press as one of the poetry editors. Now Allie also edits fiction and nonfiction manuscripts for the press.
A couple years ago, Allie met Katia on a blustery day in Joshua Tree while at a poetry reading with Cholla Needles Arts & Literary Library. “I was there with my Mom and Dad, and we were all packed into this tiny, square silver building for the reading,” Allie recalls. “Before we left, I thanked Katia for her words, and Katia invited us to get pizza with her friends and family at a place down the road.” It is one of Allie’s favorite memories of the spontaneity and connection that poetry readings can offer. “It was so windy.” Allie adds. “We were shaking the desert’s dust out of our hair. Every time someone opened the door to come in, it was like the entire desert came with them,” Allie says, smiling at the memory.
As an editor with Elyssar Press, one of Allie’s goals is to let each piece speak for itself, with a general writing philosophy that less is more. Quite simply, she loves words and how they can build bridges.
Fun fact: Allie is trying to learn Romanian. Her goal is to be conversational eventually, but she’s still learning basic phrases like, “Good afternoon. I have an apple.”
Coming Up: The Admin Team
We hope you enjoyed this piece and getting to know our editing team. Please feel free to share with a friend or anyone you think might enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at the people behind Elyssar Press.
Our next “Meet the Team” will highlight the incredible administration team who keep Elyssar Press running.