“This should be good—the cover might’ve gotten a little muddy though.”
Finne Murphy, my fellow intern at the New England Review, jumps off a rock onto the sand beside me, an issue of the magazine in one hand, iPhone clutched in the other. Behind her, Middlebury Falls cascades down in a shower of yellow-tinged spray. “I think we have enough in this spot,” she says.
It’s a sunny Monday morning, and Finne and I are out and about in Middlebury, capturing some artistic shots of the most recent issues of the New England Review. We’ve been tasked with photographing the covers amidst the picturesque background of the town, and we’re both grateful of the chance to roam outside on this gorgeous August day.
I clamber back up the bank and head to the pedestrian bridge overlooking the falls. Finne watches me as I awkwardly crouch, positioning an issue on the bridge, sweat soaking through my shirt. I snap a few more photos and then we’re off to a new location.
As we walk up Frog Hollow Alley, Finne points out some rock sculptures outside Edgewater Gallery and we both fan out again, hunting for good angles. Near the back of the garden is a large sculpture made of washers soldered together. I ask a passerby if he’ll take a picture of us so I can use it in this post, and that concludes our photoshoot. Before heading back to the office though, Finne and I decide to walk to Shafer’s market and deli, where I immediately head for the refrigerated section and grab a glass bottle.
“See, I drink kombucha now—that makes me at least part Vermonter, right?” I say, brandishing it at her.
Finne just gives me a look. “Where are you from, again?”
“Nebraska,” I say.
“Wow, okay. What’s that like?”
“Everyone always asks that because nobody’s ever been,” I laugh. “But the part I’m from is pretty agrarian, very flat, not many trees . . . so essentially the opposite of Vermont. Same level of heat and humidity though. Where are you from?”
“Lake Tahoe, California,” says Finne. “Vermont is beautiful, but I don’t like the heat and the humidity in the summer. I’m from the mountains where it doesn’t get so hot. It’s also dry heat, which is easier to deal with.”
Talking about the weather is all fine and dandy, but I’m more interested in what Finne has to say about what’s she’s been up to lately. We head outside and settle ourselves on one of the picnic tables out front.
“What’s one really great memory you’ve had from summer so far?” I ask.
“Hmmm . . . Well, my mom and I started bird watching at the beginning of summer when I was home in the Sierra Nevada’s,” she recalls. “We were hiking and noticed a little bird that I assumed was just another chickadee. We had binoculars and a little bird guide and realized it was actually a sapsucker. This sounds lame, but it’s really like turning around and discovering an all new dimension. You look at the world a little differently, and I like that.”
“And what else have you been up to this summer besides NER?”
“I work at the college bookstore, and that’s been pretty good, although it can be a little slow. It’s nice though because I don’t have to sit at a desk for hours at a stretch.”
“Yeah, I’m splitting my time between American Flatbread and NER right now, and it’s a good mix because the magazine is pretty chill while the restaurant is always crazy busy and I’m running around all the time. Speaking of desks though,” I say, “what’ve you been doing over at yours? I always look over and think, ‘oh, Finne’s so far away!’”
“I’ve been working on preparing those audio posts from Bread Loaf,” Finne says, “which has been surprisingly difficult. It’s hard to take a 60-minute lecture and find a five-minute chunk to pull out and use. I usually just do one section instead of splicing it together. If I use stuff from further into the lecture, you just lose a lot of the context.”
“Fair enough. I’ve been working on compiling stories for the themed emails we send to our subscribers, the ones with three stories from previous issues. It’s fun to read the back issues and get creative with which stories could go with specific themes. And then there’s the classic intern-makes-the-coffee bit, but that’s really because I’m the one who drinks most of it.”
The cool thing about this internship is the level of independence Finne and I are given, and the way we’re assigned tasks based on our strengths. Finne’s been working on designing an ad using InDesign, and working on the audio projects, while I’ve been making good progress putting together themed emails with stories and poems to share with our email subscribers.
We do have a few projects in common though. Reading and discussing submissions is one of the predominant tasks at the office, and I always look forward to our weekly discussions with Carolyn and the other volunteer readers. Finne and I talk about our favorite aspects of the reading process.
“I like feeling like I’m part of discovering new literature and new voices. It makes you feel like your work is important,” she says.
“Yeah totally. I also feel really encouraged sometimes, because while it’s daunting to realize that there are so many writers out there submitting stuff, it’s also cool to look at pieces and think ‘I could do that, too!’”
“That’s true, I like to think that someday I’ll be one of those new voices,” says Finne.
“What are you reading right now besides submissions?” I ask.
“Right now, I’m mostly reading for my thesis. I’m reading The Picture of Dorian Gray, and I’m reading some Wilfred Owen’s poetry, and I’m going to see if I can compare them—I’ve just got this idea: Owen’s work is often grotesque and dark, lots of death, and then Wilde is all about beauty and the value of art, and so I might want to compare the ugliness of Dorian Gray and the ugliness of the war . . . we’ll see where it goes.”
“I’m trying to do the same thing,” I say. “Reading for possible thesis stuff. I’m making my way through Travels in West Africa at the moment, I really like women’s travel writing and hopefully something will come of that. And for fun I’m reading The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern.”
“What are you not reading right now?” Finne asks.
“Something that I want to read very soon is The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, because so many people have recommended it to me. Also, as I was looking up bookstores online the other day I kept seeing these ads for a new book called My Year of Rest and Relaxation, which sounds interesting.”
“You’re an English and Creative Writing major too,” I say, “and I’m curious to know which classes have been your favorite at Midd so far.”
“My favorite class at Middlebury so far has been the Creative Writing workshop with Professor Cohen, and the WWI Literature class with Professor Napier. I also took a horror movie class with Michael Newbury, that was a ton of fun. What were some of yours?”
“Some of the same professors, actually. I really loved American Psycho, with Newbury, and then of course Cohen’s Intro workshop was great. And I really enjoyed Lit Theory with Professor Losano,” I say.
“Nice! I also took a class in the geology departmentt that I really liked, and there were some film classes that were great, too . . . Did you always know you wanted to be an English major?” Finne asks.
“Pretty much,” I say. “My dad was an English major, and I’ve always been a voracious reader, and I tell myself that I’m an okay writer, so it just sort of went without saying. You?”
“I was pretty sure I wanted to be an English major before coming to college,” Finne says. “I’ve always favored my literature classes and have wanted to write fiction for as long as I can remember. On the first day of the first English class at Middlebury—Rob Cohen’s ‘The Short Story’—after listening to his lecture, I thought to myself, ‘Yes. I’m going to be an English major.’”
“That’s cool that you had that one ‘aha’ moment where you knew that’s what you wanted. Any thoughts on what you want to do after we graduate in May?”
“I’ll go back to California, though not necessarily Lake Tahoe, probably LA or somewhere. I’d really like to go get an MFA after graduation, and then the plan is to live with my twin sister,” Finne tells me.
“Nice! I’m still not sure what I want to do. I think there might be an MFA somewhere down the road, but I’d love to take a couple years to work, and to travel first.”
“And how did you find out about this internship?” Finne asks.
“I remember sophomore year, I took a class with Stephen Donadio, and one time after class we were talking about an assignment, and he pointed to me and said, ‘you should do the internship at the New England Review.’ And I thought, ‘yeah, that sounds like a lot of fun.’ So, I did. What about you?”
“I can’t quite remember,” Finne says. “It feels like I’ve always had some peripheral knowledge of it. Their advertisement around campus must be quite good; or at least it is subliminally targeting the bookish people around here.”
“Okay, here’s a random question for you,” I say. “Where does the name ‘Finne’ come from?”
“It’s kind of an interesting story, actually,” Finne replies. “My mom had three children and then she got pregnant with twins, and she decided to name her last kid Finne because she was finished having kids.”
“So, it was Finne as in, ‘the end’?”
“Yep. My twin sister’s name is Maeve, doesn’t have as funny a story. Why ‘Chloe’?”
“I think my parents just thought it was a good name. Apparently, I was almost a ‘Lucille’, but I definitely don’t identify as a Lucy.”
“Yeah I feel like if you were a Lucy, you wouldn’t be here—you’d be like a waitress at an old ’50s diner or something.”
“You’re probably right, I definitely wouldn’t be here in Middlebury,” I say. “Speaking of ‘here’ though, shall we head back to the office?”