Our two spring interns, Georgia Vasilopoulos and Haeun Park, connect over Zoom and talk about their experience at NER.
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from, and what are you studying at Middlebury?
Georgia: My family is from Greece and I was born there, but grew up in Queens, New York City. I am majoring in Literary Studies at Middlebury, but I’m pretty heavily steeped in humanities classes so I try to supplement literature classes with religion, political science, and philosophy courses.
Haeun: I’m from Houston, Texas! At Middlebury, I’m studying English and American Literatures and also planning to minor in Sociology. Like Georgia, it’s a pretty humanities-heavy course load, but that’s where most of my interests lie anyways, so I’m okay with that!
Q: What attracted you to an internship at NER?
Georgia: Besides the free merch and obvious clout (haha), I felt a bit nostalgic for my high school’s literary magazine scene. I guess I’ve taken some strides to explore other interests since my days sitting around with a ragtag group of kids on Wednesday afternoons, drinking Yoo-hoo chocolate milk and offering a hesitant thumbs up or down in response to submissions, but I’m still drawn to lit lovers and I definitely found some at NER! I really wanted to contribute to the literary scene beyond my classes, and interning at NER was a chance to actively engage with current writing production rather than only reflecting on works that have lasted the test of time. Finding a home for the writing of authors from different parts of the world appealed to me. The literary magazine world is in a special position to capture a picture of the cultural scene—what is captivating people’s thoughts and attention at any given time—through the process of putting together new issues.
Haeun: I think what Georgia said about capturing a cultural moment is spot on. It’s such an honor to be even a small part of the process in publishing and promoting the myriad of voices in NER. I imagine their words rippling through time and space to touch some unsuspecting reader and feel amazed that some aspect of what I did helped it get there. Literature is constantly evolving and changing before our eyes, and I think part of what attracts me to literary publishing is the chance to be on the front lines of it all. It’s both exciting and humbling to know that we have some sway in determining what kind of stories get told, knowing that every issue adds something to the conversation. As a reader and writer, it’s an amazing feeling to be surrounded by other readers and writers all working towards the same mission.
Q: Of the things you’ve done at NER what was your favorite, or most challenging?
Georgia: I really enjoyed the freedom I had to pitch new ideas and promote writers’ work. I started highlighting writers’ work spaces, which was a window into what inspired them and what they surrounded themselves with to produce the writing that ended up in NER. I also liked posting about new books published by NER authors because I got to see how their journey as writers progressed since NER and all the accolades that came along the way. The most challenging task was definitely articulating my impressions of submissions. Considering the high caliber of work published by NER, there was always pressure to be very selective in my review of submitted pieces but I also had to pinpoint exactly what felt compelling or what was lacking.
Haeun: The author book posts were always fun! As part of my research process, I loved going through the archives to find the issues where the author published with NER, reading their past pieces, and then returning to their latest release. Every title was like going through a small journey through their career, and I loved being able to celebrate and promote their progress and accomplishments. Speaking more generally, I loved every opportunity to connect with the readers and writers of NER— exchanging e-mails, conducting interviews, discussing submissions. Working remotely can feel a bit isolating at times, but being able to talk about literature with such thoughtful and enthusiastic people on a regular basis inspired me immensely. Also—the collaborative nature of the work here at NER made it so that it never felt like I was doing it alone!
Q: Did anything surprise you about working at a literary magazine?
Georgia: I have honestly been amazed at the community NER brings together. Every re-Tweet and emphatic thanks from NER authors for highlighting their work always brings out my dimples.
Haeun: I’ll have to second that! The vibrancy of the literary community really blew me away. Running the social media channels made me realize just how present and engaged everyone is online, and it made me all the more excited to work on and publish the next post.
Q: Of the pieces you’ve worked on/read at NER which was your favorite, or most memorable to you personally?
Georgia: I had a chance to read Vida James’s “Storm King” over the pandemic summer of 2020, and it ended up being published in NER 41.4. The particular moment in time that I was introduced to it will remain memorable due to the nature of quarantine culture, and it was a nice source of relief—it immediately stood out to me from the slush pile and I had a lot of faith in its publication. It felt good to finally see it in the pages of the magazine when I started working as an intern in the fall.
Haeun: I find myself returning to Marianne Boruch’s “The Lyrebird, Hidden. His Dance, Hidden. His Wish,” published in NER 42.1, again and again. I’m in love with the humor and life at the heart of the poem, its lyrical twists and turns, how the lyrebird is rendered as both delightfully strange and achingly human. But most of all, I love how Boruch balances this vibrancy with a subtle thread of melancholy at the end of the poem: “But me, a life member, / the World Congress of the Disappointed, I understand hope.” Poetry during the pandemic has acted as a particular kind of lifeline for me, and this line with all of its resonances has stuck with me ever since my very first encounter with it.
Georgia Vasilopoulos ’21 participated in the student reading group in summer 2020 and served as an intern for the entire 2020-2021 academic year. She graduates this May with a major in Literary Studies. Haeun Park ’23 participated in the spring reading group and will continue working for NER during the summer, before heading to Oxford in the fall.