Monday, February 25, 2008
The American Theatre of Actors
314 W. 54th Street (just West of 8th Avenue)
New York, NY 10019
Box office: 212.581.3044
Dates/Times: March 12-15, Wednesday-Saturday, 8pm; March 16, Sunday, 3pm
Tickets are $15.
1) Tickets can be purchased at the door.
2) How it got there: I mailed a copy of the play to James Jennings, the theatre company's Artistic Director, who liked it. It took about three months from submission to placement with one of his resident directors for production. A friend pointed me in his direction, but the theatre can also be found in the Dramatists Sourcebook. Jennings gets 500 plays/yr from non-company writers and produces 10.
Friday, February 22, 2008
The latest of the "Smart Pop" series of fun books of pop-cultural criticism, Batman Unauthorized, is out this week and contains my essay "Holy Signifier, Batman!" Based on a paper I presented at last year's Popular Culture Association, conference, I basically just use Susan Sontag and Pop Art theories to insist that the 1960s TV show is better (or more likely to last) than the dark-n-gritty Batman currently in vogue.
Check it out if you like comics or art!
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
AWP AWARD SERIES The Award Series now welcomes submissions to AWP¹s annual book-lengthliterary competition for the Donald Hall Prize for Poetry, the Grace PaleyPrize for Short Fiction, the AWP Award for Creative Nonfiction, and the AWPAward for the Novel. Winning authors receive an honorarium from AWP andpublication by a participating press. Former students of an Award Series judge are not eligible to enter thecompetition in the genre that the judge (and former teacher) is evaluating.The postmark deadline for the 2008 Award Series is from January 1 toFebruary 28.
See our website for a list of judges, presses, past winners,complete guidelines, and the required form for submitting your work.www.awpwriter.org/contests/series.htm WC&C SCHOLARSHIP COMPETITION Writers¹ Conferences & Centers is conducting its annual competition toprovide scholarships for writers who wish to attend a writers¹ conference,center, retreat, or residency. The scholarships will be applied to fees toattend any of the over 100 members of WC&C, an association of outstandingconferences, centers, retreats, and festivals for writers. The deadline for the WC&C Competition is March 30, 2008. Two scholarships of$500 will be awarded. To enter the competition, please follow the guidelineslisted on our web site:
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Connecticut Teach Against Genocide (CT-TAG) Lobby Day
Date: February 19, 2008
Times: 9:30 am - 2:00 pm
Teach Against Genocide Lobby Day
It's a chance to personally ask your State representatives to support legislation that provides every student with the opportunity to learn about past genocides, so that they will know how to prevent future ones. The day will start with speakers, including Mia Farrow, and training on lobbying for this bill.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008, 9:30 AM - 2 PM
State Capitol, 210 Capitol Avenue, Hartford, CT
WHAT IS CT-TAG?
The Connecticut Teach Against Genocide Campaign (CT-TAG) works to pass and help implement legislation to have genocide education included in the curricula of Connecticut secondary schools. The legislation will also appropriate funding to ensure that educators have the necessary training and resources they need to teach this complex subject. For more information, please contact Danielle.
Monday, February 11, 2008
The Connecticut Guardian, the CT National Guard's newspaper, published a feature I wrote for last semester's Secondary Genre class.
Check it out if you want. It's on page 6. http://www.ct.ngb.army.mil/pao/guardian/2008/CG_Jan08.pdf
I'm hoping it leads to SGT Zimmerman receiving a Bronze Star, which he deserves but was never put in for due to shoddy leadership. (Officers never miss out on awards, though, but that's another story.)
Saturday, February 09, 2008
Thanks to everyone who has checked out my short on amazon.com and posted comments. There is less than one month in this second phase of the the contest, and the only way I can make it to the next round is through customer comments. If you haven't already done so, I would be most obliged if you'd follow the link to read the first few pages of my novel and leave your comments. You do have to be an amazon customer to leave a comment, though. And please, pass the link along to any friends, if you'd like. Thanks! Kirstin
Friday, February 08, 2008
Like most students in this program, my search for an internship started with nothing. Still, foolish and proud as I was, I refused to give in to my inexperience and lack of connections by getting an online internship like many students did. I wanted a real hands-on experience beyond hunching over my laptop an extra hour or two a day. A position in a publishing company seemed like a good direction for me. It was the foreign industry I knew little about but one that will control my destiny as I become a writer. But Delaware was the wrong state to start looking. Most of the “publishers” I found in the phonebook and called were actually small custom printing offices. I might as well get a job at a FedEx Kinko’s. The few presses that seemed suitable for a grad internship never returned my calls. Weeks passed and the third semester approached. My repeat calls went ignored. Only Dumb Luck would have me come across a small newspaper ad announcing the Delaware Book Fair. With all the local writers in one place, someone’s bound to give me a good lead. It was worth a shot.
The Fair was as small and impractical as the name suggested. Witless small-time writers lectured on modeling all your characters after Hollywood stars to make them identifiable and claimed that freelancers of nonfiction can make six-figure incomes and never check out facts since no one really does. Networking with those people would be fruitless, so I reduced myself to politely begging them for leads. They all basically said the same thing: I’m in the wrong state. As if God was mocking my dismal situation, dark clouds gathered and rain began to fall. Why couldn’t I just snatch a frigging online gig like everyone else? I thought. Still, stubborn as I was, I checked out the last exhibition tent. After being turned away from several tables, I rushed out in frustration and almost bumped into an old woman half my height.
“Whoops. Excuse me,” I muttered without looking at her.
“You’re looking for a publishing internship, are you?” I froze and looked at her.
“Um, yeah.” Believe it or not, the clouds actually parted at that moment. Everything brightened along with my hopes.
She handed me her card and introduced herself as Kelly Chandler, a director at a press called Oak Knoll. She explained that it sells antiquarian books and publishes texts for the bibliophile audience, along with literary criticisms and publication histories. I introduced myself and gave details of my MFA requirements. I told her I knew nothing about old books and the people who collect them. She assured me that it didn’t matter. Later, I sent her my résumé via e-mail and we set up an interview date. Prior to that day, I boned up my knowledge of the publishing industry and prepared for the worst. The only questions she asked were: What days and hours will you be available? Is there any correspondence I have to do with WCSU? That was it. She gave me a tour of the place and handed me a book from the 14th century, still in pristine condition, worth $700,000, as if she was symbolically entrusting me with the company's respectability. But it turned out that Oak Knoll keeps itself running by recruiting English majors desperate for internships, exploiting them for free labor. Since undergrad interns filled up all the cubicles, Kelly gave me an office belonging to a manager who was on an extended leave of absence. Dumb Luck didn't just provide me with an easy internship, it tossed in a fully furnished office of my own and a dog, not to mention a spoiling staff.
I’m exaggerating a bit on one aspect, though. The work isn’t always easygoing. Cataloging demands some extensive researching and background knowledge of the books’ subject matters. For example, a typical entry would look like this:
To write the description paragraph, I have to understand quite a bit about bookmaking and typography as well as its people to know what would appeal to those knowledgeable or interested in these areas. This requires me to do some audience analysis and niche marketing. I usually do all this by Googling the subjects and names that appear often in a book and cross-referencing them with similar texts I find online that give me clues on the audience's preferences. Depending on the content, rarity, and price of the book, a catalog item can range from a full page with pictures to a couple sentences describing a book’s subject and condition. That judgment rests mostly on me. Tedious work, but it has its perks. At times, I'd come across a book inscripted by Dickens or Twain. I'd feel their handwriting, trying to get some inspirational vibes that might improve my writing.
Johnston, Paul. BIBLIO-TYPOGRAPHICA, A SURVEY OF CONTEMPORARY FINE PRINTING STYLE. New York: Covici-Friede, 1930, tall 8vo., cloth, paper spine label, dust jacket. (xiv), 303 pages. $110.00
First edition, limited to 1000 copies. (Hart no.134). An important look at bookmaking from the Whittinghams to Elmer Alder. Many facsimile title pages and other illustrations. Essays on William Morris, Pickering, and other influences on American typography. Shows the work of Dwiggins, Rogers, Alder, and many others. Jacket is worn with pieces missing along edges. .
Lawrence was a “true professional” with a passion to pursue indie film projects. His production company was run out of his house, and although he didn’t have any projects in the works, his down to earth nature led to a conversation about our expectations and our goals for the future. We discovered that we had quite a few similarities. That evening, he and I acknowledged that it has taken each of us a while – (sometimes too long) to grasp our dreams and create a plan on how we should go about achieving our goals. We both are employed full-time and choose to pursue our dream to write and produce films on a part-time basis.
Since my intial meeting with Lawrence, we have collaborated on a few projects. I had a supporting role in The Anniversary, a short film he wrote and directed, and we wrote Out of the Box, a short script that looks at the lives and struggles of five women of color who are living with HIV/AIDS. This past summer, I also helped him produce Lifetime Membership, another short film he wrote and directed.
My various work experiences in theater, television and film production have ranged from being an actress in front of the camera to working behind the scenes, starting out as a production assistant. After I was laid-off from my sales assistant position in radio, I made the decision to get back into T.V and film production. I freelanced from 2002 to 2005. During those years, I worked on non-union commercials, short films, corporate videos, Health for Children (an educational video series for children), and an independent film entitled Moonshine (2006 Sundance Film Festival selection). These various and diverse jobs made me realize my joy in the storytelling aspect of the work in television and film production. My goal, from then on, is to be the proprietor of my own production company and work full-time as a screenwriter and filmmaker telling my stories. Getting to that place hasn’t been easy, as a freelancer I was barely making enough to get by (even with living at home), so in 2005 a full-time job opportunity availed itself and I decided to take it. I refuse to be a starving artist, and having benefits like health insurance and a retirement plan are important to me; I have made a professional compromise, and in so doing, I am taking the road less traveled to my goal.
Filmmaking is a very complex business; it does not matter if you come at it as an actor, writer, producer, or director. Taking a story idea and transforming it to fluid cinematic images on screen takes a great deal of work – it is blood, sweat and tears. After the story is written, revised, and rewritten again and again, the producer/director (which can be the same person) has to procure financing to make the film. A cast and crew need to be hired and preparation for pre-production, production, and post-production will ensue. This process is a struggle for even the most established and successful filmmakers like Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, and Steve Soderbergh who have major studio dollars backing their films as well as the monies to mount national and international publicity campaigns to accompany their films. It is much more complicated for the filmmaker with no money and no resources. What we have is a dream, a story and if he or she is lucky maybe a camera.
I would like to further develop the skill set it takes to be a successful filmmaker in this internship. My area of focus will be production management. Production Managers are attuned to the roles and responsibilities of writers, producers, and directors. Each of these roles is very different, but equally important to the filmmaking process. Although film is a collaborative medium, it is essential that an individual who wants to operate a production company understand how the roles and responsibilities of each position in production work together to produce films.
I plan to make the most out of this opportunity by fully engaging myself in tasks such as research, script reading, writing film grant proposals, publicity, learning implications of new media and technology in independent film. I have had experience in these areas in the past, but each job can provide new insight and/or opportunities that I hope will propel me forward. In the fall of 2008, I plan to produce and direct a short film for my enrichment project. This internship is going to help sharpen the skills I already have, expand my networking opportunities, and give me production credits for a reel and resume.
Productions companies, directors, and agents want good stories. Well-written scripts translate to good films and good films captivate audiences. The script is the blueprint for television and film. Without it the director has no vision, no budget can be created, there is no wardrobe, sets, actors, or crew. Screenplays lay the foundation upon where films are developed. My back ground as a screenwriter will be an asset for the DEF team and I believe I will be a stronger writer after this experience.
Last Spring (2007) I began to research possible internships. Through an internet search for small poetry presses in the Philadelphia area, I discovered Aralia Press. I called Mike Peich, Director of the Poetry Center at West Chester University and Aralia Press. It caught my interest because it was so close by, only 20 minutes from my home. From our first conversation, Mike expressed enthusiasm at the idea of my internship. Many possibilities existed. There was one glitch. He would be on sabbatical in the Fall of 2007, when I expected my internship and third semester to take place, and unavailable for supervision.
The West Chester University Poetry Center was created in 2000. It’s goals are:
➢ to provide the nation's finest instruction in the diverse traditional techniques of poetry;
➢ to provide an international forum for the discussion of poetic form and prosody;
➢ to train teachers in the art of teaching poetry and poetic form;
➢ to foster the necessary dialogue between practicing poets and critics in a culture that too often separates them;
➢ to recognize poetic achievement through the Iris N. Spencer Awards;
➢ to illustrate the important connections between contemporary poetry and fine printing.
Mike and I met in person and discussed options. Could I help immediately, in the Spring 2007? I could sit in on his classes and help at his small printing press where he produced small books of poetry from handset types and printed letterpress on fine papers. My schedule didn’t permit me to help in the Spring ‘07, plus I would not get credit for it. One of the other options was to help with the annual Poetry Conference in June. I assisted with much of the administration of this conference and used it for my Enrichment Project.
Due to illness in my family with my brother battling lung cancer and not doing well, and my mom battling esophageal cancer, I delayed my internship and two other third-semester courses until January 2008. Mike and I stayed in touch and decided to see what might evolve for January.
In the meantime I also contacted the Editor of Saturnalia Books in Philadelphia. Henry Israeli, the Editor, was delighted and anxious to meet with me. (Amazing what free labor means to people!) We met several times and discussed what I might do. Saturnalia was doing well, but needed an administrator – someone who could follow through on the 501c3 filing, someone to research foundations and grants, someone who could network for private funding – all of this and more were presented to me, plus reviewing manuscripts for publication. The books of Saturnalia impressed me. They appeared to be quality publications that included some artwork. But the position that Henry described felt overwhelming – too much expected and he was a one-man show.
I put my decision on hold through the Fall 2007, until things settled. Within a three-week period in November, my home sold, we moved, and my brother passed away. Then the December holidays happened.
I spoke again with Mike in late December, and told Henry I would not be working as an intern for Saturnalia. Mike and I met in January at which time he outlined his plan for my help. The Poetry Center had purchased the inventory from Story Line Press that remained after going out of business. Mike was interested in using that as a foundation to launch a new public press called Contemporary Poetry Review Press (CPR).
CPR will publish four things: (1) a collection each year as the winner of the Donald Justice Poetry Award; (2) critical work focused on contemporary poets and poetry; (3) anthologies, and (4) a series of monographs on living poets. All titles will be consistent with the mission of the Center.
The first step and my first responsibility is to apply for non-profit status or a 501c3. I will assist Mike in establishing a foundation for CPR to move forward, including administrative functions. Past volunteer and work experience has prepared me to some extent for this internship. I assisted a small non-profit, Girls Star, to establish their 501c3 about four years ago, and worked with setting up their program in local schools, as well as training facilitators.
My work with CPR, however, will be from the very infant stages of formation. I hope to gain experience in developing my editing skills and managing a small press. Although not directly developing my writing skills, the internship work is very much related to my primary genre, writing poetry. I will be exposed to the nuts and bolts of operating a small press publication. I will have the opportunity to review manuscripts. And, eventually, the opportunity exists for the internship to evolve into practical work. Primarily, I will be working in an atmosphere and spirit of dedication to promoting lively and serious poetry representative of our time.
Thursday, February 07, 2008
I work on my internship from my home office. Harry Rinker’s website is on-screen and my phone headset is always within reach.
No one responds. Sending emails and leaving phone messages puts you on alert, waiting for some answer, for someone to acknowledge that you’re out there, just waiting. Potential employers, appliance repair people, contractors, editors -- no one returns your inquiry. This seems to be a phenomenon of the last ten to fifteen years. Perhaps it’s driven by our familiarity with nanosecond communications that affects our attention span and ability to remember that we’re dealing with humans at the other end of a phone line or an e-mail (wireless or not….) Even when I was trying to give away my time and productivity in an internship, no one got back to me (at least not until it was too late.) I was searching for an online position or one that could be done remotely. I knew I’d be traveling this semester, and did not want to be committed to a specific work location and schedule. The internship deadline was looming.
When Harry Rinker stood up at the kickoff dinner at this semester’s residency, I listened carefully. Harry said he was in the antiques and collectibles business and was looking for help with his radio show bookings. Hmm, I thought, I like antiques and collectibles. I’ve done radio before. This could be interesting. I introduced myself to Harry that evening, and we caught a few minutes over our residency meals in the next few days to talk about what assistance he needed.
Harry Rinker owns Rinker Enterprises, Inc., an antiques and collectibles business that provides a full range of services in the industry, including appraisals, education, research and writing. Harry is an entrepreneur and he is involved in all aspects of the business, as well as being a collector himself. As he said in his residency workshop, for twenty-four hours a day he thinks, eats, and breathes antiques and collectibles. He thinks about what is happening today in the business, the trends, what should happen, the pitfalls and the positives. He is a strong proponent of maintaining ethics in the industry, despite the pressures of economics and the use of technology to distort facts. He writes columns and books, hosts a weekly two-hour nationally syndicated radio show, conducts appraisals at antique and collectible shows and auctions around the country and generally maintains a schedule that would exhaust a rock star. Harry runs a business and makes no excuses that everything he does has the purpose of turning a profit – if not today, then tomorrow, and more than once, if possible. His columns turn into books, his talks turn into repeat seminars and his latest ideas turn into new services of Rinker Enterprises.
We met at Harry’s home the week after the residency to take the time to go over the internship in detail. We talked about my background and goals. While I know a little about antiques and collectibles, I don’t have a breadth of knowledge. I’ve been told the origin of the few family antiques I own and I have opinions about what I like to look at, but don’t ask me to tell the difference between the early and late Victorian styles. Fortunately, this didn’t seem to be a requirement of the job, and Harry and I shaped an internship that I think will be educational and entertaining.
My internship has three components. First, I will book guests to be interviewed by Harry on his weekly syndicated radio show, WHATCHA GOT?, which airs on Sunday mornings from 8:00 to 10:00 AM EST. The show is broadcast on close to fifty affiliates in twenty plus states. Harry holds two interviews per show for five minutes each; the remainder of the time is used for listener call-ins. Typically, he hosts authors of recently released books on antiques or collectibles. For example, his guests on January 20th, 2008, were an expert on early American glass bottles and another on American political collectibles.
To book an author, I will research what new books have been released and track down an author’s address and phone information, either by contacting their publishers or by old-fashioned sleuthing on the internet. To find new industry experts, I will search the trade papers and internet sources for leads.
The second component of my internship is to analyze antique and collectible trade journals. Harry has selected five for my focus, although there are others that I’ll read periodically. I’ll be researching the content, style and quality of their articles, and looking for writing opportunities. For example, a journal might be interested in certain types of stories, or they might be missing articles on an aspect of the trade. Some journals may just need some well-written pieces on upcoming events and trends.
From the knowledge I gain working with the industry and analyzing trade papers, I will propose topics to Harry for articles I can write for possible publication. Harry believes that the ability to publish in an antiques or collectibles journal is an important part of my internship, and with his mentoring, it is feasible that I could acquire one or two clips. This opportunity would be an especially gratifying conclusion to my internship. My primary genre is creative nonfiction and my secondary is travel writing, so the process of publishing an article to a niche industry journal is especially relevant to my writing goals.
I’m already learning how vast the collecting industry is. If something can be purchased, it can be collected and there’s probably been a book written about it. From bookends and buttons to video games and Viking glass, there are individuals who are passionate about these items and spend time and money collecting and gaining knowledge about them. I look forward to talking to experts and publishers in the industry and gaining cold call marketing skills as I promote the radio show to potential interviewees. Some of the publishers I’ll deal with release coin books, which could lead to connections with publishers for my own book that relates to American coin history. Finally, I expect to learn about this fascinating antiques and collectibles business from a unique vantage point, since Harry Rinker is a nationally known expert.
You, too, may be a collector and not even know it. According to Harry, each of us has a collecting gene, and if you own ten of something you have a collection or at least the start of one. This has made me seriously rethink the contents of my closets and all of those boxes of family artifacts. I now understand the pull to action I get when I read the tag sale ads each weekend. At least through May, I can justify with one word the hours I spend strolling through antique shows, flea markets and estate sales and trolling my favorite eBay sites: RESEARCH!
1) For more information on Harry L. Rinker and his business, see the website www.harryrinker.com
2) Rinker, Harry L. How to Think Like a Collector. Cincinnati, Ohio: Emmis Books, 2005.
As Barrack Obama’s wave crossed my station, I took a glance at it, paused and reflected.
It was just published by the George Mason’s University History News Network.
Those who wish to read can find it at http://hnn.us/roundup/entries/47150.html
From the moment I found out I had to arrange an internship for the third semester of my MFA program, it was on my mind. It was a full year away then, but I realized here was a genuine opportunity. In today’s job market, access is everything. It is hard to imagine there was ever a time when you could carry your portfolio “door to door.” Now, if you are not a cousin’s friend’s sister’s brother-in-law, you can forget the warmth of a human handshake.
When I was an undergraduate at NYU, I was too young to realize I should have gotten the phone number of every classmate. Facebook had yet to teach the collective youth that the most casual acquaintance in your life could and should become a colleague in pixels. “You there, on the bike, do you play Scrabulous?” Western Connecticut State University, however, was going to force me to work for free. I had to give, at the very least, a day of my time, each week, to someone somewhere, for bupkis. This had to get me past security. I almost applied noxious marker to corrugated scrap and got out on I-95. “Will work for the work.”
The first question was where? Los Angeles would be tough to swing. Despite my best mental efforts, the city seemed to be out of the running too. I could barely afford the Metro-North when I was commuting to and from a Manhattan salary. I applied to the NPR This American Life internship in Brooklyn after I discovered they paid interns three grand a semester. A pipe dream most likely, a dream pipe bomb to be sure, they didn’t inform us hopefuls that there was only a single stingy slot to be filled until we got the thin envelope. Jerks. Filling the application had taken as much time as a grant. No doubt it went to someone’s kid brother.
In the intervening since my last undergraduate internship at New Line Cinemas, working for nothing had become almost as elusive as working for something. There were waiting lists at places like NBC and TBWA.
The second question was also where, but more specific. Did I want to work at a talent agency? I did that at NYU too, writing coverage on screenplays and manuscripts. The only thing to be had was bad writing and agent’s names. I have agent’s email addresses at this point; the honest truth is I just have to write something they want. Production? Perish the thought. I also did my time fetching Starbucks and holding back fan crowds. And this was really my whole problem. I didn’t want to intern for free; I wanted to work for free. For my time, I wanted real experience. I certainly didn’t want to be in a program with a bunch of twenty-year-olds building their character one Xerox sheet at a time. The first thing I ever did at New Line? I poured over and made copies of Page Six and similar Gotham gossip columns every time a studio VP’s name appeared there, whether it was them being seen with a star in a bar or punching out a star in a bar. Uh-uh. No sir. Not again.
I figured the best local internship that I could hope for was someplace where I could make both connections in production – local producers and crew – and put some new pages in the old portfolio. It was going to have to be advertising. Agencies split creative work into two positions, the graphic designer and the copywriter. I was hoping I could trade on my production skills for some writing work.
Optimism has always been my weakness. No matter how difficult it proves to make any strides in the creative world, I always think it is going to turn out okay. This may sound positive, but it rarely lights a fire under your ass when your ass could use a little Fahrenheit. As I mentioned, I started thinking about this internship a year ago, but here it was, closing in on 2008, and I had bupkis for my offer of bupkis. One agency said they only took undergrads for their internships, but they might want to hire me. Damn their normal way of doing things!
I ended up making a fresh round of cold calls the day after Christmas. Even then I was still picky, judging books by covers and only picking the places with the best-designed websites. Of the ten or so creative boutiques that I called, the secretaries in each one were still off making merry. But in a stroke of luck, in two cases, the owners picked up the phone instead. Finally, here was access. I should have groveled at this point. I should have taken anything. Instead I tried once more to explain exactly what I wanted. Damn optimism!
James Offenhartz is one of the creative pair that came up with the slogan, “What’s in your wallet?” He took Capital One credit cards from oblivion to the seventh most recognizable brand in the country. He is now creative director at his own agency in Stamford. His penthouse offices on the Stamford docks are full of space and light and long views of Long Island Sound. There are new Mac stations everywhere. There are friendly, creative people milling about. The moment that James greeted me in a tracksuit, I knew I was home.
We sat down at a glass conference table and I reiterated my hopes. We looked at my portfolio and he liked that it was eclectic. His major concern was that, occasionally, he might not have enough work for me to fill a whole day. I volunteered I could work on my own work, as quiet as a laptop. Looking around at the ads in progress, scattered across the table, any time there would be worth it. Again, I didn’t need handholding and direction; I needed assignments and criticism. He said he would try to give me mostly copywriting work, but there might be production too. I couldn’t have been happier.
A second interview, an hour later with the second agency, was doomed from the start. A perfectly respectable outfit that worked on local brochures and newspaper ads, it just didn’t have the same presence. An older gentleman in a bowtie took me through a maze of gray cubicles. A tiny Asian girl looked out from one of them without a smile, a sign over her aging PC saying something witty about being anywhere else. I met with four department heads and they were all more interested in what I was doing than in what they were doing. I just wanted to get back to that glass table and the skylights and those Macs.
The first day, James met with me for ten minutes. He showed me a print and video campaign for a university in New York, gave me some new drafts they were working on for the school’s graduate division, and said, “See what you can do with this.” Since I left New York to pursue writing and my master’s degree, I have worked a number of temporary jobs. Working in “Office Spaces,” in retail positions, the work is so often repetitive and micromanaged that I can’t even find the concentration to do it correctly. Even if this internship is just an internship, being in a situation again where someone gives you little to no instruction and expects the best from you was like stumbling on an oasis.
And I knew what to do. The college’s original slogan is “Matter.” For the graduate program I just changed one of the letters and made it “Master.” My ads were going to be about moving from being an apprentice, an employee, an underling somewhere, to being a master, of a skill, of a discipline, of one’s future. Opening up my own Macbook Pro, bringing up Illustrator, I wrote copy for four different mock-ups. I even pulled comp photos off the Corbis site and redesigned the ads too. I wrote, tossed words around in my head, surfed, got more coffee. At the end of the day, James said he’d take a look and we would talk the following week. Immediately though, he liked the new photos.
As I left for the day, the sun setting over Stamford, the scene reminded me of my old office view of downtown Manhattan. If an internship is an experience that prepares a student for the workplace, then I’ve achieved the goal already. My writing was sometimes my only connection to my hopes these past few years. The slightest taste of being in control again, creatively, with all that I have learned in the meantime, made me realize that the risk and the effort and the wait was all worth it.
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
In the beginning, I did not know what kind of internship I wanted to do. I only knew that daycare would probably cost me an arm, both legs, and a few internal organs.
My main criterion was that it had to be a job that I could do from home. When Brian posted a message on the M.F.A. blog about an Online Editor position with Fairness.com, I jumped on the opportunity. I sent my resume and a letter of recommendation to Dan Doernberg, the publisher of Fairness.com. We swapped a few emails back and forth and eventually had a phone interview during which I nervously babbled my way through a few simple questions about my qualifications and why I considered myself a good “fit” for the position. I emphasized my flexible schedule; “I’m a stay at home mom,” I said (no less than four times), “so I am very flexible.” Much to my surprise, Dan hired me about a week before Christmas, and I started training after the residency.
Fairness.com (www.fairness.com) is an online clearinghouse for articles on a wide range of fairness topics. The tagline, “Life isn’t fair…but we’re working on it”Ò reflects Doernberg’s personal interest “in helping to change…some of the ‘cultural infrastructure’ that makes it far too easy for the powerful to take advantage of the less powerful.” Visitors to the site can view articles on subjects that range from corrupt business executives to how Jaime Lynn Spears’ pregnancy will affect the way parents talk to their kids about consensual sex. As an intern, my job is to research articles that are appropriate for the site via RSS news feeds or through my own Web surfing. I then use a software program to link the articles from the publisher’s website to Fairness.com, and to catalog pertinent information about the people and organizations mentioned in the article.
I learned within the first few days of training that a “fairness issue” is not always easy to find. Doernberg seeks to enlighten his readers with articles that offer a new perspective on an issue or raise thought-provoking questions about it. For example, the news is full of stories about people who break the law – in fact, a good percentage of the headlines deal with home invasions, kidnappings and murders. Technically, one could argue that these actions are “unfair” because they violate the victim’s rights. Yet the fairness angle of such a story is obvious, and too simplistic for the goals of the site. On the other hand, I must also avoid articles in which the fairness implications are so wide in scope that visitors find them boring and repetitive. In this election year, for example, readers will encounter hundreds of news stories claiming that a presidential candidate favors policies that are unfair to certain groups. True, this is a fairness issue. But people can read about such issues on any news web site; the story is not unique or specific enough to further the goals of Fairness.com. Dan provided me with sage advice in my first couple of weeks: if I cannot state a fairness angle in basic "third-grade terms - if I cannot finish the sentence, "It's not fair that (Person A) did (unfair action) to (Person B) because..." - then the article probably is not appropriate for the site.
Here's an example of an article that falls somewhere between "too obvious" and "too broad." I recently submitted an article from the Washington Post about the hidden prevalence of elder abuse, and how such abuse extends beyond “visions of nightmarish nursing homes” to include neglect, financial exploitation and psychological cruelty. The author raises the questions, “How do we as individuals and as a nation measure the value of life in old age? And why have we not done more to protect and defend our most vulnerable elders…? Why has there been no public outrage?” The article suits the goals of Fairness.com because it provides readers with new, in-depth information on how people often take advantage of the elderly, and it raises new questions about why such abuse has gone unchecked.
While this internship does not involve any original writing, one of the benefits is that in reading real-world news stories, I see “seeds” of fictional stories that I might write one day. For example, I recently submitted a story about the thin line between “tasteful” and “offensive,” in which a Boston comic includes a joke about how she once went on date with a man in a wheelchair. She jokes that while the date was terrible, “at least the guy had his own transportation.” When the joke got only meager applause, she looked up to see four wheelchair-bound guests making their way out of the room. I started to think about what it would feel like to be one of those people, a character that has perhaps been looking forward to this “night out” for weeks, only to be ridiculed by a bad comic. Could be a good story, right? So while I might not be writing my own short stories every day, I feel as though this exposure to current events will ultimately open up new avenues of creativity for me as a writer. As a side perk, it also makes for much more interesting conversation at the dinner table. One of the best things about this internship is that it has brought me out of the “bubble” in which I lived. It has made me more conscious of, and emotionally invested in, the people and groups who do get taken advantage of every day.
Finally, a word about that great “flexibility” that I rambled about in my first interview with Dan. It turns out that I am not flexible at all. With a needy pre-toddler in the house, I have to do my two hours of interning either during nap times, after bed time, or early in the mornings. This means that some days, I get up two hours before every one else in the house – which seems wretchedly unfair, if you ask me. Fortunately, I know I am a becoming a more well-rounded person and a better writer for it.Sources
Fairness.com. “About Fairness.com, LLC.” Feb. 1, 2008.
Connolly, Marie-Therese. “A Hidden Crime.” Washington Post: Sunday Outlook. Jan. 27,2008.<<http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2008/01/25/A R2008012502774.html<<
Jones, Vanessa. “No offense, but…” Boston Globe. Jan. 29, 2008
Congratulations and good luck, Bob!
Friday, February 01, 2008
When Chris Torockio, one of my undergraduate writing instructors, published his novel, Floating Holidays, last semester, I brought a notebook and pen to his reading. I was writing an essay for my Technology and Production in Fiction class and Torockio’s editor, Diane Goettel, had scheduled a Q&A before the reading. A perfect opportunity, I told myself, to pick up the old stone and heave it at two birds. I’d get information from Goettel for my essay and support my former professor. What I didn’t see at the time was a third bird, eyes large, feathers bright and fluffy, hiding behind the other two. I didn’t complain, though, when my rock snapped its little neck and it fell from its tree right into my greedy hands.
At the time, the problem that lay hidden—my third little birdie—was a looming internship for the third semester. As the second semester rolled on and found me empty-handed, my casual concern became a nagging worry and, as the semester drew to a close, an obsessive panic.
A few residencies ago, Don Snyder sat on a table, casual as only Don can be, one leg crossed over the other, and talked to us about writing for Hollywood. It’s not how good you are, he told us. Success, he said, is mostly about perseverance, and it’s also about who you know. I’d been thinking about his lecture as I scoured the internet for possible internships but came up with nothing. I lamented—wished I’d been born into a Hollywood screenwriting family, had an uncle in New York publishing, a best friend of Hemingway’s grandchildren.
But I did know somebody. It didn’t dawn on me until I sat down to edit the Technology and Production paper I’d sent Dan Pope about online literary journals. Glossing over his comments, I read my section on The Adirondack Review and remembered Goettel, bubbly and chatty, talking to us before Torockio’s reading. She’d mentioned that she got into publishing by starting out as an intern, and that Adirondack, the journal she edited, accepted interns from time to time. Immediately, I went back online to check the journal web page. Perfect, I thought, checking the intern submission guidelines, which required two letters of recommendation. It’s about who you know, Don had said, and I fully intended to exploit my resources.
Although I hadn’t had Torockio in over three semesters—didn’t even go to the university he taught at anymore—I e-mailed him to ask for a letter of recommendation and he promptly responded. No problem, he said. I sweat through nearly two months waiting for Adirondack’s reply, and bugged Brian Clements (incessantly) about it until he offered a Sentence internship if Adirondack fell through, but Goettel replied just as the third semester started. She sounded as cheerful over the phone as I remembered from the Q&A. “From your application,” she said, “it sounds like you should work with our fiction editor, Kara.”
Great, I told her. Perfect. Right up my alley.
Kara Christenson, Adirondack’s fiction editor and my direct supervisor, contacted me soon after to tell me about my internship, and I’ll get to that shortly. It is perhaps the most important element of the internship course, however, that we meet people in our line of work—that we initiate a network. The Adirondack Review publishes short fiction, poetry, book reviews, interviews, and features on authors. What that means is that, if I submit to Adirondack, my work could receive more careful consideration, or more in-depth feedback, from editors. More importantly, though, Diane Goettel, as I mentioned earlier, is executive editor not only for Adirondack, but for Black Lawrence Press, the house that published Torockio’s novel. Black Lawrence, an independent house, primarily publishes stories that, as Goettel puts it, “we fall in love with.” In other words, Black Lawrence doesn’t pander to the market. Its editors seek good, though not necessary mass-market-salable, fiction.
Black Lawrence recently aligned with Dzanc Books, a 501(c)3 publishing house, which allows Black Lawrence grants and tax breaks. Although it became an imprint to Dzanc, Black Lawrence has retained its independence and freedom to seek stories its editors wish to publish. And how did Black Lawrence and Dzanc merge? In this case, too, it’s all about who you know. In addition to publishing books, Dzanc performs public services by hiring writers in residence to tutor high schoolers. Goettel met up with Dzanc founder Steve Gillis while she acted as one of their writers in residence for a Brooklyn high school.
Even with the merger, Goettel says that Black Lawrence is a “teeny” press. Still, this year they’ll publish more books than in their entire history, and with a relationship blooming with Consortium, Black Lawrence is quickly getting bigger and better. Consortium, a distributor for independent publishing houses, boasts over 90 publishers (“About Us”), and in the world of independent publishing, Goettel says, distributors are the “thing to have” since independent houses’ small staffs are often too busy to market books.
I’ve hopped on board a moving train, and can only benefit by watching the company expand. And even though I’m interning with Adirondack and not Black Lawrence, it can’t hurt, as Don might say, to know people.
For my part, it’s enlightening to experience the life cycle of a submitted short story, and the more stories I read, the better I get at recognizing elements that work and don’t work in my own fiction. My job as an intern places me on the lowest rung of the Adirondack ladder. Authors submit fiction to an e-mail address that forwards their work to a Google account, where it awaits reading.
Every day, I log onto the Google page and read submissions, and then comment on them. The process for accepting or rejecting a piece is pretty straightforward. If I don’t like a piece, I reject it. If I like it, I tell Kara to consider it. When two assistants have read a piece, Kara goes over their comments and makes a decision about whether or not to send it to Diane, who has the authority to publish. If both readers reject a piece, Kara sends a rejection e-mail to the author. If both accept, she reads the piece and often forwards it to Diane. If one accepts and one rejects, she decides whether or not Diane sees it.
The most difficult part of reading submissions is that, to a degree, I have to remove myself from my personal taste. Before starting, I read a few Adirondack issues to get a feel for the kind of literature they publish—literary with an edge, as it turns out. For the most part, I would read the stories Adirondack publishes even if I wasn’t interning. Either way, I’ve been workshopping fiction since I was an undergrad and reading since forever. I like to think I know good literature when I see it, regardless of whether or not I like it. Kara tells me I’m doing fine, but I still want to read more Adirondack fiction to feel like I’m successfully critiquing submissions. I like to think I’m up to the task.
“About.” Black Lawrence Press. 27 January 2008. <http://blacklawrencepress.homestead.com/About.html>
“About Us.” Consortium Books Sales & Distribution. 27 January 2008. <http://www.cbsd.com/about.aspx
“About Dzanc.” Dzanc Books. 25 January 2008.
 A tax provision that exempts nonprofit organizations from federal taxes. 501(c)3 status also opens doors for federal and private grants.
 A subsidiary branch. Simon & Schuster, Inc., for example, is a large corporation with a number of imprints, including Scribner, Pocket Books, and Simon & Schuster.
 Distributors act as a link between publishing houses and merchants. They store and often market books. More importantly, they initiate and maintain relationships with chain and independent retailers so they can place a publisher’s books appropriately.