Farid Noori and Nick Kaye are the Winter Term interns for NER. They come in Monday through Thursday each week to help with a variety of tasks, including writing web posts, analyzing subscriber data, organizing office inventory, and developing marketing ideas. They also meet with fiction editor Jennifer Bates once a week to review and discuss submissions.
Farid and Nick sit down together to learn about each other’s backgrounds, interests, and aspirations.
Farid Noori is from Ghazni, Afghanistan, but grew up in Quetta, Pakistan, and Kabul, Afghanistan. He came to the United States for high school in 2011, and has lived in Maine and New Mexico. He is a junior at Middlebury College, where he studies Economics.
Nick Kaye: What was your experience with literature growing up in Afghanistan?
Farid Noori: As a Farsi native, I grew up surrounded by Persian literature, so there was a lot of Rumi, Saadi, Hafiz, and many other poets and writers that aren’t popular in the West . . . not yet.
I also learned Pashto (Afghanistan’s other official language), English, and Turkish, but didn’t engage with them as much as I did with Persian. During middle school, I became serious about English. It stemmed from a desire to study in America one day. So I started looking for reading material other than a boring 90s textbook series, The New American Streamline, that they still taught at Kabul’s various English learning centers. There were no English bookstores in Kabul, particularly after the war, so finding books proved to be difficult. One day, a friend of mine returned from a science contest in Korea with a few John Grisham novels he had bought at the airport. So, for a while, he was my favorite author.
NK: As an economics major, why did you want to work with a literary journal?
FN: I have always had an interest in writing, mostly because I want to share stories from my experiences in Afghanistan with audiences on this side of the world. That’s the main motivation. But going forward, the only way I see myself putting my econ degree to good use is potentially by starting adventure sports back home. And hence, [adventure] writing! Last semester, I took a creative writing class with Professor Christopher Shaw, and he really encouraged me to write more, and to check out NER, which I really enjoyed reading during study breaks at the library.
NK: What do you enjoy most about interning at NER?
FN: My initial interest in the NER came from my desire to read submissions, and to get familiar with the kinds of work that appeals to people. So I really enjoy learning about the publication process. Thursday discussions with the fiction editor are definitely a favorite. The NER workspace and culture is really enjoyable, too. I’m definitely happy to be part of a successful organization dedicated to spreading the literary arts, a good customer service, and engaging Middlebury College and its community with the literary world.
NK: What are some of your favorite books?
FN: John Grisham . . . just kidding! It’s hard these days to pick a favorite author or a book. I think I am still in search of that, especially in my limited experience with Western literature. But so far . . . Metamorphosis and One Hundred Years of Solitude. I wouldn’t necessarily say these are my ultimate favorites though. I am still looking.
NK: How do you spend your free time?
FN: I am an avid, competitive mountain biker, which consumes a good chunk of my time. These days, I am trying to learn cross-country skiing. Sometimes, I do Persian calligraphy and drawing (to take a break from data analysis). Lately, my evenings have also been taken over by brewing homemade Chai and sitting around the fireplace with a group of friends for good conversation. And if none of this proves worthy of my free time, I jump on a bus and explore a city, and take photographs of random city life.
NK: What do you hope to do when you graduate college, and how do you think working with NER will help or influence you?
FN: After graduation, I hope to fully focus on mountain bike racing. I am passionate about starting the sport of mountain biking back home in Afghanistan, building trails, and growing the outdoors community. I will chase these personal dreams for a few years and see where it leads. I would like to write a lot about these adventures, and I believe my experience with NER will be very helpful.
Nick Kaye grew up in Bangor, Maine. He recently completed his thesis in English and American Literatures and will graduate from Middlebury College this May. He is anxiously trying to figure out what’s next after college.
Farid Noori: Why did you choose to come to your neighboring state for college?
Nick Kaye: I really loved growing up in Maine—the sense of community, the woods, the water, and everything else. Looking at colleges, I knew I wanted to go somewhere that was familiar but also new. That’s what brought me to Vermont. It’s a lot like Maine, but there’s something about the culture and the landscape that feels fresh and distinctive.
FN: Why are you interested in literature?
NK: It’s hard for me to remember exactly when I took a liking to literature. I remember thinking as a kid that books had a certain mystique about them, and I wanted in on it. I spent a lot of time pretending to understand books that I couldn’t yet understand, and then, after long enough, I realized that I’d actually begun to appreciate what I was reading. I think I was part of the way through Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea when I had one of those epiphanies.
In college, I’ve had some really wonderful professors who encouraged my interest in literature. Timothy Billings, my academic advisor, taught me how to talk about literature in a way that is clear and meaningful; Maria Hatjigeorgiou set a fire in my mind with her class Literature and the Mystical Experience; and Christopher Shaw, my thesis advisor, showed me how to write sentences that people actually want to read, instead of getting caught up with academic jargon.
FN: What brings you to NER?
NK: I’ve been interested in literary magazines for a while now. I worked with my high school literary magazine, Mosaic, back in Maine, and here at Middlebury I’m co-editor-in-chief of Blackbird, which publishes students’ prose, poetry, and visual art. I think one of the most exciting things about working with a literary magazine is being the first one to read someone’s work. In college, you’re often taught to rely on existing criticism to interpret and evaluate a text, but when you’re working for publication like this, you’re forced to come up with wholly original ideas about the text. I think that’s an incredibly important and underdeveloped skill for many.
FN: What are some of your favorite books?
NK: This is tough. I really enjoy writing that’s concerned with mysticism and religious experience—Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and For The Time Being, for example, or Flannery O’Connor’s short stories. I also love writers who are deranged, off-the-rails alcoholics. Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is one of my favorites, and so is Charles Bukowski’s poetry collection Love Is a Dog from Hell.
FN: Where do you want to go next after graduation?
NK: Great question. This is pretty much what I’ve been thinking about every day for the last couple months. I’m applying for a wide variety of jobs in writing and editing, publishing, and marketing. I’m open to all different locations, but I’ve mainly been eyeing Seattle and New York City. I’d be happy with any job where I get to apply my writing skills to something that isn’t mind-numbingly boring. If I get to work with literature, that would be ideal. (Readers, please hire me!)[We highly recommend him! —The Editors]
FN: What’s something you have always wanted to do, but haven’t done yet?
NK: Submit my own work to a literary journal. I write short stories and narrative essays here and there, but I haven’t made an effort to develop any particular piece for publication. I would love to set aside more time for my creative writing. Working somewhere like NER is incredibly inspiring as a writer because you really begin to understand what makes a piece of writing work or not work—what makes something actually enjoyable to read. I can’t wait to use what I’ve learned here toward my own writing.
FN: Dogs or cats?
NK: Oh, man. I have both dogs and cats at home, so it would probably be totally uncool to choose favorites. Wouldn’t want to hurt any feelings. That said, I’m super excited to be taking care of our new office manager Elizabeth Sutton’s cat, Richard Parker, next week. Not being able to hang with your pets is undoubtedly one of the worst parts of college.