Not Siri. Not Alexa. Tess Weitzner and Hannah McKenzie. Neither of us are voice-controlled robots stuffed in your pocket or claiming real estate on your kitchen counter. However, we thought it’d be fun to answer some of the most ridiculous questions these digital voice assistants have been asked, allowing you to get to know us, the January 2019 NER interns.
NER interns Tess Weitzner ’18.5 (left) and Hannah McKenzie ’20 (right).
What are you made of?
Tess: I’m made of every good story I’ve ever read, and I guess every bad one too. Anything by Angela Carter, Toni Morrison, Leif Enger, and Stephen King. More recently, I’ve been getting into Alice McDermott, Colin Barrett, Emma Cline, and Celeste Ng. I go especially weak for masterful short stories and unreliable narrators. Want to make me dessert? Whip up an unlikable protagonist I can’t help but pursue. I can’t think of a harder or more satisfying task.
Hannah: Curiosity, a little bit of stress, and GF oatmeal from Ross dining hall.
What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?
H: I’m sorry, but you do realize you’re talking to an English major? I can’t answer that, however, we could discuss The Canterbury Tales or the work of the Inklings. Way more interesting, in my opinion. Or we could talk contemporary British fiction? Basically anything revolving around my time spent abroad in Oxford. The literary history, the libraries themselves—it really is a paradise for bibliophiles and lovers of words. My response may as well be: American or British?
T: African or European?
Where do you live?
H: In my head, mostly.
T: Besides home in Sleepy Hollow, New York, I too reside comfortably in my head. I am a total, helpless space cadet. I think this trait makes me a better reader, but I’m at a disadvantage when it comes to things like not constantly bumping into people in busy spaces. I like to say that I’m “getting better at being better.”
What makes you angry?
H: Well, not so much angry, but I have an aversion to spoilt endings. I can’t stand it when someone recounts the plot of a novel I haven’t read or divulges the drama in a TV episode sitting in my Netflix queue. At the same time, however, I’m such a planner. I like to know how everything is going to pan out. So I’m forever battling between the comfort of the known versus the reward existent in the unexpected.
T: Those who think the arts and humanities are frivolous or unworthy of funding. That, and the reality that morning people dictate the world’s operating schedule.
Is winter coming?
T: She is here, she is comfortable, and she has no plans to leave anytime soon. She’s one of my best friends…
H: You know it. April 14.
What do you dream about?
H: If I remembered I would tell you. I don’t think it’s that I don’t dream, because I do have vague recollections of scenes I’ve dreamt every once in a while. I’ve actually considered keeping a dream journal. Perhaps having that physical reminder to keep track every morning would guide me into the habit of recollection. I’d like to be better about capturing my own history, not just through logging dreams but journaling in general, even writing more poetry. It would be rewarding in ten, twenty years to sit back and re-discover my mental state at this time in my life. I’ve actually run across a few of the stories and poems I wrote when I was a kid and not only is it eye-opening to see how much I’ve changed (thank goodness!), it’s also just entertaining.
T: When I dream, there’s usually water. Nothing biblical or apocalyptic, just calm seas or a steady stream. I have a strange obsession with shark movies (great ones, like Jaws, and bad ones, like everything else). So, in addition to the water, there are often sharks, but passive, indifferent sharks who don’t really express an interest in the chomp chomp. I’ve actually just hit my fifth year in my “one line a day” journal, and sometimes I include dreams in those entries. It’s one of the greatest gifts I’ve done for myself because every day I can compare what I was up to one, two, three, four years ago.
What is your favorite song?
H: Usually whatever my brother is singing or whatever’s on his Spotify playlist. I tend to latch on to his music preferences and like to sing along with him when we’re together. Music by Amos Lee, John Mayer, Norah Jones, and Ray Lamontagne will forever frequent our family room’s speakers. As with books, though, it’s difficult for me to pick a favorite song. There are different songs for different occasions and moods.
T: “September,” The 1978 hit from Earth, Wind & Fire.
Have you ever seen the rain?
T: That’s a good one too. Though, it used to be my alarm song. I’m taking a two, maybe three, year break.
H: Eye roll. I’ve lived in England. And Ohio.
Do you sleep?
H: Yes, and I’m a BIG napper! Sometimes it’s difficult to find the time to get in those eight hours, especially in the spring when the lacrosse season begins. However, I try to be strategic in planning my schedule so that I can squeeze in a mid-morning or midday snooze if need be. It doesn’t happen every day, or even every week, but that just makes it all the more special and deserved when my limbs finally find the duvet and my head hits the pillow.
T: It’s both a blessing and a curse that I can fall asleep at a moment’s notice anywhere. It makes me an easy traveler and a rotten meeting attendee. I think it was in fifth grade Hebrew school where I learned to yawn through a clenched jaw.
Do you want to build a snowman?
T: Like heck I do! I will give mine a top hat, a pipe, and a friend. I have a hard time making just one snowman because I worry they’ll get lonely.
H: Now that song’s going to be stuck in my head the rest of the day.
What’s the traffic like from here to the airport?
H: I’m not sure because I opt to drive home to Ohio for school holidays. Unless there’s construction on I-90, I can usually make it back in nine hours. And the time goes surprisingly quickly, especially if I listen to podcasts or a book on tape. Plus, the anticipation of arriving home supplants the monotony of the highway. When I am able to imagine what awaits me back in Hudson—hikes with my labs in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Chipotle dinners with my brother—I don’t really mind the time or space to look forward to all of those things.
T: Full of other nervous grads floating in the wind.
Do you know any good riddles?
T: So there’s this English major trying to find a stable entry-level job once she graduates…
H: Oh that’s clever, Tess. But also a bit dark. Mine’s more of a joke: what do you call a cow with no legs?… Ground beef.
T: Ha! That’s rich. Okay, okay, you’re right, my first one was too dark. And a stereotype I’d hate to perpetuate. How about…what do you call a short criminal walking down the stairs?
H: Huh. Not sure. I’m stumped.
T: A little con-descending.
H: Good one.
Is this real life?
H: At this moment in time, I hope so. Interning at NER this J-term has been such life-changing (not to be cliché or anything) experience. In just four weeks, I feel as though we’ve submerged so deeply into this other world—reading submissions, discussing the editorial process for a lit mag—and realizing that it is a possibility and can be a feasible future excites me for a future of connecting with literature. I’m encouraged that my time spent around the written word has the power to energize rather than drain. I want more words in my life.
T: I hope so too! My time at NER has been tremendously rewarding. I was over-the-moon thrilled to have had the opportunity to learn how to critically read and talk about literature from some of the best. That being said, I don’t know if this is all real or just the product of some dizzying nap I took between 4 – 6 PM. I’m graduating in two days, and starting work in four. Ending my time at Middlebury with the community at NER was a treat beyond belief.
Make me laugh.
T: I once performed in an “interspecies” dance with horses, a dog, and the bugs beneath our feet.
H: Say please.
What are you scared of?
H: Staplers. I’m not going to try to explain this to you because 1) you probably won’t understand and 2) you’ll most likely make fun of me, but staplers have been a terror to me for many years. Such a fear makes existing in an academic setting difficult at times. I’ve been told engaging with phobias can be healthy, though, so I always work up the courage to staple my own essays. I just keep the stapler at a deliberate distance from the rest of my person.
T: Parallel parking.
What are you doing later?
T: Editing Episode 3 of the NER podcast, preparing the NER library display, updating author news, and reading some incredible NER submissions. This week, we’re doing poetry. (Lucky, lucky us.) And, at lunch, I’m participating in a 20+ person flash mob where we will dance to Earth, Wind, & Fire’s 1978 hit “September.” They won’t see it coming!
H: I have a long list of things that I need to cross off after work today, but I won’t bore you by listing those mundanities. Once February break begins later this week, I’ll curl up on the couch in front of the fireplace and pop open a few book spines, perhaps some favorites by Louise Erdrich and Ali Smith. I’m currently reading a couple of novels at once, which is something I’m not very fond of, however, both Tommy Orange’s There There and Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s Friday Black have my attention. At present, though, it’s time to get back to editing the NER podcast and preparing for our discussion about poetry submissions. So I guess it’s bye for now! ⧫