Our two fall interns, Julia Beck and Susan Deutsch, sat down to chat about their experience at NER (and were joined by the office dog, Oscar).
Julia: Hi, buddy!
Susan: Hi, Oscar! Hi. You’re the true MVP here at NER. Do you wanna come up?
J: Come here! Come on!
Oscar jumps up onto the window seat.
S: His tail’s wagging! So. We know why Oscar’s here. Why are you here at NER, Julia? How’s that for a segue? We’re both super seniors—
S: And it’s our last semester, our last full semester at Middlebury.
S: And we’re both here.
S: In this office.
J: Yeah. That’s a good segue.
S: What have you been doing during the rest of your time at Middlebury, before this final semester?
J: So I’m a Spanish major and Education Studies minor, and I love both of those departments a lot, but more recently in my Middlebury career I got more excited about the Creative Writing department. I joined the NER submissions reading group, and I thought it was really cool, and I wanted to learn more about the literary world and stuff like that.
S: Yeah, we definitely saw each other at the reading group.
S: And sat over there, at that table, and ate chocolate. What’s your favorite part of interning here?
J: Wait, no, what about you?
S: Oh, what about me!
J: What do you do at Middlebury besides the New England Review?
S: Well, I’m a Religion major. Which was unexpected.
S: It’s something I came to at a point in my life where I was very interested in stories, and I was very tired of reading the canon of American and English literature.
J: That’s why I’m a Spanish major, too.
S: Right, right. So I wanted to read other sorts of stories about other sorts of subjects and people, and I took a religion class, which was actually one of my favorite classes. “Literature of the Mystical Experience.” So now I’m a religion major. But I also really like writing, because that’s also about stories, and I love working at NER, which makes space for such amazing stories and voices. I really enjoy being part of the literary world.
J: Very cool.
S: I also applied to work here a few times before I got to, so… here we are.
J: We’re glad you’re here now!
S: Thanks! Me too.
J: What kind of tasks do you enjoy doing day-to-day at NER?
S: Hmm, let’s see. Well, I really liked organizing the S’more Readings and helping with NER Out Loud. That was fun.
J: Very fun!
S: I like doing Submittable stuff, it’s very calming. And I also—this is going to sound lame, but I like shelving things. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to move around a little bit. How about you?
J: I like making the website posts a lot, working on WordPress. I don’t know why in particular, it just feels productive in some way. The posts are usually interviews with people or spreading the word about events, so reading those is interesting. I also like screening submissions, mostly because it’s so funny to read—
S: The cover letters are great.
J: Yeah. Such a variety of writers are out there who all want to be published in the same issue. Not even just the same journal, the same issue. But they’re all so different. You can see their personalities in their different cover letters, and it’s so funny.
S: People are so cool. I’ve had such interesting cover letters, even just in the past hour. I really like the nonfiction cover letters.
J: They’re usually way more interesting that the fiction ones, for some reason.
S: Right. Nonfiction writers really craft it. That’s what they do, is write factually about themselves. And that’s what a cover letter needs to be, too, introducing both you and your work. So for nonfiction writers, in their cover letters they’re like, ‘This is my story, and this is also my story that I want you to publish.’ If that makes sense.
J: Mmhm. What was something that surprised you about working at NER? If anything.
J: Or what’s something you’ve learned?
S: Well, I’m not gonna lie, I feel like something that surprised me is that we still get paper submissions. I’ve never mailed in a submission, personally.
J: That’s so much work.
S: I don’t even know if I own stamps.
But maybe it’s a generational thing. And some people don’t have access to the internet or computers.
S: So that was a bit surprising. In retrospect, it shouldn’t have been— but I was still a bit surprised. But we’re ready. We’ve got our crates and boxes to organize them, and our spreadsheet. I really like the physical, tactile aspect of paper submissions, actually.
S: How about you? What was surprising, or what was something that you learned at NER?
J: I think what surprised me was that submissions aren’t open most of the year, but they still get, like, ten thousand submissions a year.
S: It feels like we’ve seen that many come through since we’ve been here.
J: So it’s both the huge number and that it comes from just a few months. Both of those are surprising to me individually, but together feels pretty wild.
S: We’ve only got like 200-some left for nonfiction. And we finished fiction!* Right?
J: I don’t know. I have no idea.
Oscar wanders by, tail wagging.
J: I’ve also enjoyed the dogs in the office a lot.
S: Yes. Oh, I get so happy when I see the little sign on the door: “Dog In The Office. (It’s still safe to come in, though!)”
And then Oscar. What a great greeting today. I think he missed us.
J: He was so excited.
S: The dogs and the tea. Great perks to working in the office. And all the journals! I’m looking at the shelves of other literary journals over there. That’s just really wonderful. I like that kind of exchange—I didn’t realize that they did that.
J: Yeah, I didn’t know they did that either. It’s really cute.
S: And it makes sense. Like, “Hey! Let’s share our work. We’re all in the same world and we all really love reading good stuff.”
Eli, the office manager, enters the kitchen to make tea.
Eli: You’ve gotten through most of the nonfiction?
E: All right, keep going with your interview. That’s important.
J: Crushed it.
E: And don’t forget to mention what great staff there is here. They work so hard making tea!
S: Well, I mean, the two of us are both sitting here with our tea.
J: Yeah. Wait, Eli, you’re really into Cuba, right?
E: Yeah, I’ve been.
J: Well, I’m actually doing a class there over J-Term. I’m going with a Middlebury Institute professor. He’s a professor of translation.
E: Really? Because we’re trying to do a Cuban Writers in Translation Issue.
S: Ooh. Go solicit some Cuban authors!
E: So did you talk to Carolyn about this?
J: No, not yet.
E: You definitely have to. Because we’ve been trying to do a Cuban Writers In Translation issue for a long time.
J: Well, I can introduce you to my professor.
S: You could translate something and be in the issue!
J: That’s my project! Everyone in the class has to do a project while we’re there, and I’m going to meet this famous Cuban author and translate one of his short stories. That’s like all I have to do for the class.
S: What? That’s so cool!
J: I’ve never done translation before, so I’m not sure I’ll be any good at it, but it’s such a fun opportunity to try it for the first time. I’ve always been interested in it because I love languages. Well, I love Spanish at least. It’s so cool to do it for the first time in Cuba, with the author that I’m translating, with a professor who has a PhD in translation helping me.
S: That’s wild.
E: Put this in your Meet the Interns interview!
S: It’s going in there!
E: That’s a great opportunity.
S: Very cool. Almost as cool as my J-term, where I’ll be interning at the New England Review with a lot of cool people. See that segue?
J: Oh my god, you’ll get to do a second Meet the Interns interview!
J: That’ll be fun. The internet will get to know you so well.
S: Oh yeah. I’m ready for my moment of fame on the NER website.
* “finished fiction” doesn’t mean “finished reading fiction submissions”—just finished reading the cover letters and tagging them for staff