Former Office Manager Toni Best recalls “100 Sentences: An Essay” by William Matthews, from NER 14.2 (1992).
I was working at a temporary position at Middlebury College when I saw a listing for Office Manager at a literary journal that had just moved to Middlebury from New Hampshire. After interviewing with Maura High, I was hired at NER/BLQ.
The first task was to unpack and organize all the back issues into a library. Next was to learn the system for typing the issue, which was entirely done manually back then, and get it ready for editing and, finally, sending to the publisher. Back then our subscriber list was received as a printout that we made changes on by hand.
I took some classes at the college and learned how to transfer our subscription list into an easy-to-search database where I could print renewal letters and labels myself. Next step was going through every issue from Volume 1, #1, and making another easy-to-search database of the contributors and the issue they appeared in.
I really enjoyed building long-distance relationships with some of the writers that we published: Carol Frost, Daniel Halpern, Joyce Carol Oates, Ewing Campbell, George Singleton, Daniel Pearlman, Wendell Berry, Jennifer Egan, Robert Olen Butler, Robert Cantrell, Kate McCorkle, Arnost Lustig, Glen Pourciau, Keith Lee Morris, George Looney, Victor Walter, Steve Almond, Brock Clark, and F. D. Reeve.
During my twenty-three years at NER, I worked with some amazing people: Maura High, Sydney Lea, T. R. Hummer, David Huddle, William Lychack, Devon Jersild, David Bain, Stephen Donadio, Jessica Dineen, Jodee Stanley Rubins, C. Dale Young, and Carolyn Kuebler.
Although I had favorite pieces in many issues, I am unable to recall each of them, ten years after retiring. I leave you with one in particular that stands out in my memory, William Matthews’s essay in entitled “100 Sentences.” I still enjoy some of the humorous and inspirational quotes today.
Toni Best began working at NER as Office Manager when the journal moved to Middlebury College in January 1988. After twenty-three years at Middlebury, she accepted an early retirement buy-out from the College and has been working in childcare since then. She and her husband of forty-six years enjoy traveling to visit their children in Alaska, Indiana, and Connecticut and recently have enjoyed trips to Hawaii and Italy.