Sarah Miller and Emma Johnson, Fall 2022 interns
This fall, Sarah Miller and Emma Johnson spent their Monday and Wednesday mornings at the New England Review office. They helped produce content for the website, read submissions, tried to update the Wikipedia page, and helped out with other administrative tasks. Here they interview each other for our “Meet the Interns” series.
Shall we start with the business?
Sarah Miller: From Philadelphia, class of 2024, major in Creative Writing, opinions editor for the Middlebury Campus and co-host of Into the Weeds (Thursdays, 9:00-10:00 pm, WRMC 91.1).
Emma Johnson: From Chicagoland area, class of 2023.5, double major in English and Film & Media Cultures, writing tutor at the CTLR, regular attendee of the ceramics studio, and co-host of Carbonated Milk (Mondays, 7:00-8:00 pm, WRMC 91.1).
The more important business?
EJ: Taurus sun, Capricorn moon, Gemini rising, and in case you were wondering, my Venus is in Aries.
SM: Aquarius sun, Aries moon, Scorpio rising. I have no idea where my Venus is or what that means. I need to catch up on my lingo.
Do you believe in astrology?
EJ: Depends on the day. I do love how talking about astrology lets people be vulnerable with each other and do a little introspection. Overall? Fun and largely positive.
SM: Depends on what mood I’m in. I think I want to believe and always find it to be a very fun party trick/conversation piece, but I remain somewhat skeptical about the mystical world ever since I saw a psychic who made a very faulty prediction about my fall semester.
Best classes in the English department? Favorite professors?
SM: My favorite classes have to be Intro to Creative Writing, the Advanced Fiction Workshop, and Contemporary Literature—all with Professor Cohen. However, I’m doubly biased because I’m a Creative Writing major and Professor Cohen is my adviser.
EJ: Professor Cohen’s Fiction Workshop is definitely a highlight for me too. I’ve also loved the classes I’ve taken with Professor Gottshall, and Professor Billings.
Favorite classes at Middlebury outside of the English department?
EJ: Some of my favorite English classes have actually been outside of the English department. I’ve loved taking Russian literature classes with Professor Walker (The Art of Nabokov, and Gogol & Romantic Melancholy). I’m currently in Literature and the Mystical Experience with Professor Hatjigeorgio and that’s been fantastic. I’m also partial to any film class taught by Professor Keathley.
SM: Professor Dickinson’s Intro to American Politics has been one of the most interesting and tangibly useful courses I’ve taken at the college. During family political arguments, it’s nice to have data up my sleeve. I’ve also enjoyed dabbling in the Gender Studies department and particularly recommend Professor Essig’s Gender and the Body. This semester I’m in Decolonizing Porn, which I’ve had to field a lot of questions on!
What’s been your experience of the NER student reading group?
EJ: I’ve been a part of the reading group for almost two years now! I think the most challenging part of reading submissions has been reckoning with how my own tastes and biases shape what pieces I advocate for. There are genres I am more inclined to like and some I find myself dismissing. I’ve made a conscious effort to look under the hood of a piece and see how it’s working. At times, this has freed me to see beyond taste and look deeper into craft.
SM: I’ve only been part of the reading group for nine months or so, and I’ve really enjoyed it! Throughout my time at Middlebury and beyond, I’ve had a fair amount of experience workshopping the pieces of my peers so in the reading group it’s been very exciting to apply my critical skills to pieces operating at a higher level of craft. During my time in the reading group, I’ve definitely seen my analytical lens refine and have gotten to read some very fun, exciting work—both of which I hope, and think, have helped my own writing.
Favorite pieces published in NER?
SM: In Professor Cohen’s class, we read Suzanne Rivecca’s incredible story, “Uncle,” which I was delighted to discover was published in NER in 2007! More recently, I loved Bradley Bazzle’s “Where the West Begins,” which we read in the reading group before it was published in 43.3. I’d recommend giving both, and many many more NER pieces, a read.
EJ: Of all time? Crazy question. I’ll give you my favorite piece from the upcoming issue, 43.4. “The Last Tenants” by Yume Kitasei is a piece I think about often. In part because I fell in love with it during our reading group this summer. I think it might have been the first time I really advocated for a piece to move forward with such sureness.
Favorite NER cover?
EJ: I love this question because I just got to spent some time combing through the NER covers. Some highlights include: 43.2, 40.3, and 32.1. Don’t ask me why, I went on instinct.
SM: That’s a tough one. I’m especially drawn to 35.4, 41.3, and 40.3. Don’t ask me why either, otherwise I might need to go back and peruse the archives again.
Highlights of working at NER?
EJ: My absolute favorite part of working at NER has to be reading paper submissions. I’ve learned a lot of literary magazines no longer accept them, and I’m a bit of a luddite, so I love that NER is still willing to sift through the mail. There’s something special about opening manila envelopes and finding stories and poems tucked inside. It makes the connection between the reader and the writer feel more intimate, not as mediated. There’s nothing quite like spending half an hour learning how to read someone’s handwriting.
SM: I agree. I feel so privileged to hold someone’s paper submissions in my hands and feel a special little communion with them. It’s such a treat to be the first pair of eyes on an NER submission. I also really enjoy proofreading the issue because it gives me a chance to dive into some fabulous NER pieces.
Office Dos & Don’ts?
EJ: Do make tea often. Pet Oscar when possible. Do not forget to bring a sweater as it is often cold.
SM: Do sit in the comfy butterfly chair while reading submissions. Do print out reading group submissions. Do try and figure out how to update the NER Wikipedia page. Do not forget to bring a mug. I second the tea.
A collaborative list of favorites across genres:
Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson
The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera
The Broom of the System, David Foster Wallace
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard
Franny & Zooey, J. D. Salinger
White Teeth, Zadie Smith
The Secret History, Donna Tartt
Normal People, Sally Rooney
Middlemarch, George Eliot
Trust Exercise, Susan Choi
Neapolitan Novels, Elena Ferrante
Speak, Memory, Vladimir Nabokov
Trick Mirror, Jia Tolentino
The Right to Sex, Amia Srinivasan
The Argonauts, Maggie Nelson
The White Album, Joan Didion
Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke
Crying in H Mart, Michelle Zauner
Slow Days, Fast Company, Eve Babitz
“The Moon in Its Flight,” Gilbert Sorrentino
“Parker’s Back,” Flannery O’Connor
“Symbols and Signs,” Vladimir Nabokov
“The Aleph,” Jorge Luis Borges
“The Nose,” Nikolai Gogol
“The Itch,” Don DeLillo
“An Affair, Edited,” Mary Gaitskill
“The Custodian,” Deborah Eisenberg
“Gender Studies,” Curtis Sittenfeld
“Evolution,” Joan Silber
“‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers,” Emily Dickinson
“Scheherazade,” Richard Siken
“Kitchen Song,” Laura Kasischke
“Elegy,” Aracelis Girmay
“The Orange,” Wendy Cope
“The Pomegranate,” Eavan Boland