Anja Kuipers and Will McDonald are NER’s fall term interns. For the past several months they spent their Tuesday and Thursday mornings helping out around NER, sorting submissions, creating posts for the website, drafting emails, occasionally reading submissions, and licking envelopes.
Will McDonald is a senior Political Science major from Westport, Connecticut. He is currently working on a thesis dealing with the impact of social media on political polarization in America.
Anja Kuipers: What brought you to NER?
Will McDonald: My sophomore year I went to NER Out Loud (an event in which students read pieces from NER) and they mentioned they had an internship. I take a lot of creative writing classes, so I’ve always been interested in writing and literature and it seemed like a very cool opportunity.
AK: What part of the internship do you enjoy the most?
WM: I enjoy sorting through the submissions to make sure that they get read by the correct person. It’s inspiring to see how many people out there are committed to writing and mind-blowing to me that there are so many established, award-winning writers who I’ve never even heard of.
AK: What are some of your favorite books?
WM: Catch-22 and The Sun Also Rises are two books that knocked me off my feet when I first read them. I once found an inscribed copy of Catch-22 while looking through an old bookshelf with my friend at his grandparents’ house and it felt like I was holding the Holy Grail. When I was younger, I really liked City of Ember – I feel like when you’re younger you can’t appreciate the writing as much, so it’s all about how cool a book’s concept is, and City of Ember’s whole plot got me going. That’s why I can’t tell if the sequels weren’t as good or if I was just too old by then.
AK: Any classes at Middlebury that made a particularly deep impression?
WM: I took this cool interdepartmental course called “Art & Craft of Statesmanship.” It was taught by (economist) David Colander, Governor Jim Douglas, and one of his former speechwriters. I learned a lot about speechwriting, which was a lot different than any other writing I’d done up until that point. You’re writing in someone else’s voice, you’re trying to write as clearly – not as flashy – as possible, and it’s a good experience for anyone who likes writing.
AK: What are some things you do in your free time?
WM: In the summers, I work at this summer camp for kids with chronic and serious illnesses called The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, which I’d argue is probably the happiest place on Earth. At school, I’ve mostly been living in my thesis carrel, but I’m near some friends so that’s been fun – maybe a little unproductive sometimes.
AK: Are you a dog person or a cat person?
WM: Dogs, 100 percent. I have a wiener dog named Scout, and while I’d like to claim the credit for picking a name that was inspired by To Kill A Mockingbird, it was all my sister. The whole claws thing freaks me out when it comes to cats.
AK: Any plans for after graduation?
WM: Maybe law school, but not next year, and maybe not even the year after that. I’m trying to take the long view and enjoy these last few months here as much as possible.
Anja Kuipers is a senior English and American Literatures major from Hilo, Hawaii. She is currently spending her fall semester dancing, finishing up a creative writing poetry thesis, and gradually losing her summer tan.
WM: So as an English major, you must be reading a lot. What’s on your list currently?
AK: Lots of poetry, mainly for thesis inspiration. Interning at NER has been great because I’m constantly surrounded by new authors to check out and names that I wouldn’t have otherwise come in contact with. In my down time I’ve been interested in contemporary American authors writing and race and ethnicity… Danzy Senna who writes about multi-racial and white passing identity, Junot Diaz… And separate from that I love Angela Carter’s books, Janice Galloway’s The Trick Is to Keep Breathing, and John Irving.
WM: You mentioned that you liked being surrounded by new authors at NER. What else do you like about interning here?
AK: Generally getting a sense of how the literary world operates on a logistical scale has been eye opening. I’ve always been interested in reading and writing, but have never had any insight or access to the literary world itself. Something as simple as emailing an NER author or sorting through submissions is still very cool to me.
WM: What was it that brought you to NER?
AK: I had a friend I worked with my freshman year who did the winter term NER internship. She loved it, and since then interning here was always in the back of my head. I work at the library in town and love being around books.
WM: What’s the biggest non-meteorological difference between Hawaii and Vermont?
AK: Wild boars. And the cultural makeup of Hawaii is vastly different.
WM: Any plans after graduation? Only 200 days away!! (tick-tock)
AK: Agh, don’t remind me. Senior year panic is already kicking in. I’m hoping to find a city to land in where I can work in something literature related, get paid enough to get by, and find enough time to keep doing acrobatics. I’m fairly open to where life takes me, so I’m mainly just excited for the next steps and seeing how things unravel.
WM: Did you hear about all these people who already have jobs?
WM: What’re you going to do with your life?
AK: Hopefully I’ll find some crazy situation in which I can be an acrobat/writer/dancer/educator/children’s librarian/artist/editor and live by the ocean. That’s the long-term plan. Stay indecisive for as long as possible.
WM: Will you continue with your passion for poetry, or do you think you’ll sell out?
AK: I think I’ll keep up with it in some capacity, even if it’s not how I make a living. I don’t want to make too many predictions about the future, though—who knows what will happen.