Our summer publicity and podcast interns worked from various locations near and far this summer, but here they are pictured in (or at least superimposed on top of) the NER office, among boxes of journals ready for shipping and comfy chairs for reading. While we hope to get to spend more time with them in person soon, here we get to learn a little more about who they are, what brought them to NER, and how they spent their summer vacations.
Q: Where are you from, and what are you studying at Middlebury?
Yardena: I’m from Cleveland, Ohio, and am studying English and German.
Rebecca: I’m from Pocatello, Idaho, and I’m studying English and Philosophy.
Q: What attracted you to an internship at NER?
Yardena: Early in my freshman year, I went to an NER Out Loud event and was blown away by the stories and talented performers. I made a mental note to check it out further at some point but, with the chaos of starting college and then eventually getting sent home early, I never managed. During this past year, my professor Karin Gottshall suggested I get involved with NER. I ended up joining the spring submissions reading group, an experience I really enjoyed (and would recommend!) for the chance to peek behind the scenes at how a literary magazine is run. I am a huge podcast fan and have been dabbling in audio production for a few years now, so I was really excited at the prospect of marrying those two interests when NER put out a call for podcast interns for the summer.
Rebecca: I’ve been considering publishing careers post-Middlebury, so when I was looking at summer jobs, I had it in mind that I wanted to gain some familiarity with the field. As I was looking, I felt really drawn to the idea of working for a literary journal; it seems like one of the freshest mediums for disseminating new creative work. My first thought was to apply to work at NER, but at that point, it was mostly because of its connection to the college. But now, I definitely regret not being very acquainted with NER—beyond picking up copies once in a while and leafing through them in the library—before applying for this internship! And the one kind of podcast that has really grabbed my attention in the past is podcasts about literary pieces; it is so beautiful to hear them read aloud in what feels like a pretty intimate setting. So, it seemed perfect when NER put out a call for podcast interns!
Q: What’s your biggest takeaway from working for a literary magazine?
Yardena: I think right now the biggest lesson I’ve learned is how much talent there is out there. As part of our intern duties, we read through a ton of incredible pieces and solicited audio recordings from authors to post on NER’s website. Those gifted writers were also able to provide beautiful, moving readings of their own pieces which have been such a pleasure to work with. I’m also learning that editing, whether for audio or text, is as instinctive and painstaking as writing.
Rebecca: Similar to Yardena, I think I hadn’t fully appreciated how many submissions journals like NER receive. And the quality of those submissions, too, is astounding to me. I’m not even sure how the selection process is possible, but I guess that’s owed to the staff and the volunteer readers at the journal; I value learning about and being able to see that process first hand. I’ve also learned that simpler is probably better in terms of producing a podcast, and that’s for the listener’s enjoyment and benefit, not just for the straightforwardness of editing. At first, I was thinking about finding ways to incorporate sound effects or trying to make it more elaborate, but I think a simpler and rather uncomplicated production foregrounds the piece and the discussion surrounding it really nicely. It feels like giving the piece all the room it deserves.
Q: How did you go about selecting pieces for the episodes?
Yardena: So much reading! We ultimately decided to go with pieces from the two most recent issues of NER, but we considered material from a year’s worth of back issues. Other important factors for us were the length and form of the piece—could we imagine it being read out loud?—and whether it inspired any questions we’d ask the authors if given the chance. We also knew that we wanted to pick one prose and one poetry piece, in order to make sure that the podcast would have something for everyone.
Rebecca: Yes, lots of reading! Yardena and I looked both read all the pieces in both 42.1 and 42.2 rather closely. It was quite difficult to pick two pieces—one for each podcast episode we worked on—out of all that amazing work. But ultimately, with the parameters of selecting one poem and one prose piece (and one piece from each of the two most recent issues), we settled on “Crash” and “From Questions for the Interrogation.” I think we are both interested in the work that literature and writing can do to interrogate memory, so I don’t think it’s any coincidence that both of the pieces we chose do that in their own ways.
Q: What’s a favorite NER piece that you’ve read in the past?
Yardena: That’s tough to answer, because NER publishes so many genres and kinds of writing. A prose piece I really enjoyed is “Driving Days” by Thomas Dai (42.2), and a poem I could not stop thinking about after reading was “Dream Ending in a Lover Burning My Mother’s Wedding Gown” by torrin a. greathouse (41.3).
Rebecca: Marianne Boruch’s piece “Every Available Blue No Reason the Sky Is Because” from NER 42.1 is among my favorites I’ve read. I love how Boruch chooses to give the bowerbird at the poem’s center a kind of human consciousness: a puzzling obsessiveness, a private life of its own. And, like Yardena, I was very much affected by “Dream Ending in a Lover Burning My Mother’s Wedding Gown.” The poems that have the most impact on me almost always possess a thought-provoking conclusion: a line that turns the reader inward to search for meaning. Both of these pieces do that beautifully.
Q: What most surprised you about working with audio?
Yardena: I was really surprised, and at times overwhelmed, by how many factors go into determining the quality of the end product on both the recording and producing ends. Also, how much freedom you actually have when it comes to the editorial aspect of processing audio from different sources for a podcast and deciding what to include, what to cut, and where to put everything in order to create a finished product. Not to mention picking music and writing a host script!
Rebecca: I think I would second what Yardena said about intuition. I thought that cleaning up the audio, freeing it of any breath sounds or background noises, was sort of the principal aim. But when I tried that out on the first file I worked with, I listened back and thought it sounded kind of stilted and awkward. At about that time, I started taking better notice of breath sounds in the production of songs, too. I had never noticed them, and it’s true that they do go at least consciously unnoticed if you aren’t actively listening for them. But ultimately, breath sounds are crucial to the audio seeming natural and unedited.
Q: What’s your go-to snack spot in Middlebury?
Yardena: Boba tea from Yogurt City is always a favorite, and super easy to get to from campus. I also recently got a vegetarian burrito from Taco de Town for the first time, which was excellent.
Rebecca: I’m a big Royal Oak (and maple latte) gal, but if it’s the afternoon when I probably shouldn’t be drinking caffeine and I’m wanting something more substantial, I love to go to Noonie’s!
Yardena Carmi ’23 participated in the student reading group during the Spring 2021 term and throughout the summer, in addition to working as a summer intern. Her episode of the NER Out Loud podcast, with Michael McGriff, will be released in September. Rebecca Amen ’22 also participated in the student reading group while working as an intern throughout the summer. Her episode of the podcast, with Jess Lee Kercheval, will be released in October.