Image: Anja Kuipers
Anja Kuipers ’18 talks to NER intern Sylvie Shure ‘24.5 about pursuing curiosity, kindness through email, and reading with an open mind.
Sylvie Shure: Where are you now, geographically and professionally?
Anja Kuipers: I currently live in Brooklyn, New York and work at the National Book Foundation as their administration and operations coordinator. This is my second winter in New York, and I’m doing my best to keep my spirits up during this long stretch of gray!
SS: What are some of the steps that got you to the National Book Foundation?
AK: Prior to joining the Foundation, I was working at an indie bookstore in Washington, DC doing marketing and events and processing a gazillion online orders. I also previously organized a reading series with 826DC, had a publishing internship in children’s publicity, did office admin part-time for a trapeze school, worked with dance organizations in a few different capacities . . . I’m sure there are a few other steps along the way I’m forgetting! So many of my experiences have been in response to my own questions about what creative community means to me and what kind of life I want to build for myself, as well as curiosity and a restless personality. My career path hasn’t been the most direct, but I feel lucky that I’ve been able to make a life where I get to prioritize supporting writers and artists.
SS: You were both an intern at NER and a reader. What was a highlight of your experience with NER? Can you recall any specific memories or responsibilities?
AK: One of the memories I hold onto from my internship is a casual email exchange I had with a contributing author. I couldn’t even tell you what the email exchange was about (confirming content for a web interview, perhaps?), but I remember how pleasantly surprised I was by how kind and friendly the author was. It sounds so small, but being acknowledged and having that human interaction made the work I was doing feel so much more real and grounded. Even now, I find that the surprising intimacy of an email can sometimes be the highlight of my day. I still dread catching up with my inbox as much as anyone else, but every once in a while someone’s kindness or humor startles me in its generosity.
SS: What’s one skill you developed, either in school or through internships, that most benefits you today in your professional work?
AK: It’s not very glamorous, but developing customer service skills has done more for me throughout my career than anything I learned in the classroom. I worked at Ilsley Public Library throughout all four years of college, and it was there that I first learned how to interact with patrons, answer the phone, and deal with someone frustrated over a missing book. That job meant so much to me during my time at Middlebury (helping out with the annual gingerbread house event was one of the highlights of my college experience), but looking back, I also realize how significantly it shaped my attitude toward work.
SS: As you’ve built your career, is there anything that’s surprised you about publishing or the literary world?
AK: This wasn’t necessarily a surprise, but working in different corners of the literary world has helped me better understand just how drastically underfunded the literary arts nonprofit sector is. Nonprofit literary arts organizations, magazines, and small presses do so much on a daily basis with incredibly tight budgets, but I hope that culturally there are larger funding shifts so that this work can continue to exist.
SS: What do you read for pleasure? Have you read anything good lately?
AK: I’m currently in the middle of Sabrina Imbler’s How Far the Light Reaches, an essay collection that weaves together memoir and Imbler’s exploration of ten different sea creatures. I read pretty broadly for fun—lots of middle-grade and young-adult fiction, romance, poetry, and essays. One of the most valuable parts of my previous work at the bookstore was being exposed to books across genres and age levels, and I try to continue that open-mindedness with regard to my personal reading.