On Being an Intern

A few months ago I approached Cirque, a literary journal based here in Anchorage, Alaska, and pitched the idea of volunteering for them. Having just being rejected for additional schooling, I wanted more experience with the literary world, so I could boost my resume a bit and not sit around… well… lamenting. Enter Sandra Kleven, the editor. She, along with Mike Burwell (an old university professor of mine and the second editor), gave me an internship with the magazine.

Being an intern is an interesting gig. I like working with Cirque, meeting new literary minds, and forming connections I’d otherwise be hesitant to. I got to make flyers for the readings we’ve done (and even one for our competition, AQR). It’s fun, and it’s also what I expected when volunteering at a literary magazine. After all, that’s what magazine people do, right? Go to events, promote their stuff, hang out with cool people.

WRONG!

Okay, not entirely “wrong” per say, but also not the only facet of being part of a magazine.

These past few weeks I’ve gotten used to the “other side” of this business.

For example, you know how magazines have a Call for Submissions? Well, being a writer, I’m very familiar with the process. Format the manuscript correctly, spruce up the bio a bit, send it in. Done.

Well, for the writers it is. But on this end – the magazine end – the craziness is just getting starting.

As soon as the Call for Submissions goes out, emails start pouring in and, as the deadline looms closer, the emails come faster and faster, until it’s like some giant beast heaves into the inbox, overflowing it with bios, poems, essays, short stories, and artwork. It’s intense. And I only see the Kellie emails in one of our accounts, not every single one that comes in.

Anyway, those emails can’t just sit there and magically be sorted, read and chosen. You have to go through them, one by one, and organize them, or at the very least heap them into more manageable piles. This is known as cataloging. This past week I’ve gone through over 170 submissions. One hundred and seventy, people! And I did it in a single day. A. Single. Day.

It was intense. Crazy. I got annoyed at all the people who submitted multiple submissions in one document, because that meant I not only had to open that one document, but also save all the individual poems or essays or stories in their own individual documents. Then close the multiple submission and move on. (To be fair, it’s not that big of a deal, it’s just more steps. I find it’s faster when the submitter submits each submission in its own individual word document. Click -> save as -> input title -> done.) By the end, I wanted to leave the computer and read a very – very – simple comic book instead. But I didn’t. I cataloged more. Because more submissions trickled in. It’s a long, tedious process of saving the documents a certain way, filling out a table with certain information, and putting all the data in a certain place. It’s important. But it also takes time. (Thank goodness I have a job where I can work on non-work related things… downtime is wonderful sometimes.)

Yet, even though it did take a while, I’m glad I did it. I’m glad I was exposed to an integral part of the system, because, even though it wasn’t very exciting, it showcased the “other side” for me.

Being an intern is fun, it’s also a lot of work, too. And I’m glad for both opportunities.

Warm regards,
Kellie

Hence, a Poem

Limbo

I don’t like it.
I don’t like being in limbo.
It’s a dark, scary void that
glasses everything over with grey and black,
fogging up my path,
suffocating my dreams. 

I don’t like it.

I don’t like not learning anything,
not furthering my career,
not following my passion,
not doing anything worth my while,
it seems. 

I don’t like it.

Even though I am
working.
I am
writing.
I am
editing the scraps that come my way
the blue moon books and once-in-a-while
jobs
the ones that show me who I am
what I do
and how the damn well I do it. 

But I still don’t like it.

I want more.

I want to become that colored-pen editor
that writer who everyone has read
that worker-bee who gets stuff done. 

And I will.

But in the meantime
in the waiting time
I’ll take what I can get.
In the void, it’s better than nothing. 

On that lovely note, I’m taking a continuing education copyediting course! Six full weeks online; perfect, since I’m juggling a full time job, an internship with Cirque and random editing jobs, along with a personal life. It started on Wednesday the 18th. I’m all ready learning new things. The lesson today, for example, centered on copyediting symbols used on hard-copy manuscripts. I learned all the common symbols and how to use them… then discovered they’re almost going by the wayside because of Microsoft Word’s Track Changes feature. (Ahh, technology.)

Anyway, that’s my random burst of happiness for the week. Hence, a random poem.
Have a lovely weekend, everyone.

Time to enjoy the 40-degree sunshine!
Warm regards,
Kellie

Post-AWG Conference

Last weekend I went to the Alaska Writers Guild conference.
Here are my thoughts on the aftermath …

Pros:
Speakers – They seemed to really know their stuff on a wide range of topics. The keynote speakers and author panel were especially interesting.

Attendance – Lots of people attended, which is great! From many different walks of life too, not all of them were writers. Plus a bunch of people I knew from the previous conference showed, so it was nice to catch up with them.

Critiques – 4 out of 5 writers in my group got a full manuscript request, two of which aren’t even completed which is extremely rare and completely exciting! Their agent’s critiques were helpful and hopeful. It says something wonderful about our little writing group.

Events – On the 2nd day’s lunch they grouped us together according to our genre (science fiction, YA, poetry) which was pretty cool. They had a mingling session on Saturday night, and a few workshops on Friday, too.

Cons:
Speakers – While most of them were good, some of the speeches were off-topic and others dissolved into a Q&A between a select few. Perhaps making sure they stay on track next time would be beneficial (though, you never do know, working with people, what’ll happen).

Attendance – Still a good thing.

Critiques – My critique was… well, let’s just say the agent wasn’t the right one for me. My agent was very nice and said good things about my writing, but then kind-of petered off after 5 minutes. I understand, now, looking back that the agent really couldn’t say much more since he wasn’t repping science fiction, but honestly I was a bit disappointed (read: crushed) about my 15-minute critique. To be fair, he did suggest an agent I could query, which was nice of him. But I expected more comments, what works and what doesn’t. So, to that end, I’m going to suggest next year, perhaps have every agent fill out a sheet of what works, what doesn’t, what needed help, what suggestions they have so everyone gets good comments out of it.

Events – While I thought the grouping idea was brilliant, they needed to have more chairs/tables set up for certain genres (such as sci-fi/fantasy and YA). It might have been fun to go to Friday’s workshops, but they were scheduled at 1-4 (which, for us working people, didn’t fit into our schedules) I’d suggest to move the times around just a little bit so everyone could join.

Overall, it was an experience, and I’m glad I went to it. If anything, hanging out with my Jitters group outside of Jitters was fun. Plus, I got to see a few writers that I hadn’t in two years!

My advice after attending the conference? Go to one. You never know who you’ll meet or what you’ll learn.

Happy Friday the 13th everyone and have a lovely weekend.
Warm regards,

Kellie

AWG Conference Tomorrow!

That crackling sound you hear are my nerves fraying as I try desperately not to think of the critique session I have tomorrow at 1pm with an agent from the Lower 48. Doug Grad, from the Doug Grad Literary Agency in New York, is one of the speakers at the conference giving out critiques. Fifteen whole minutes of his time will be spent with me – going over my submission, pointing out errors he sees and hopefully giving me advice on how to make it better. I’m both excited and terribly nervous.

I am excited about this conference as a whole though, it should be rather fun. The speakers are from a wide range of publishing, editing and writing fields, the days are packed with interesting topics, and I get breakfast and lunch both days, plus a dinner with the faculty on Saturday. It’ll be fun! And, bonus point, a few of my writing friends are attending, as well.

I know a plethora of these How To – Conference sites exist, but I’m adding mine to the mix anyway.

Here’s how I got ready for the conference:

1 – Research Then Sign Up Early As Possible
As soon as I heard about this I signed up for it, but not before I researched who would be speaking at the conference (anyone interesting?), where it would be held (local or out of state?), what opportunities would arise during the conference (critique session, dinners?). It’s important to go to the conferences to learn and network, but it’s also important to know what you’re getting yourself into. If the speakers aren’t what you’re aiming towards, save your money and choose a different one. If the price is too steep, try looking around your state, there could be a local conference you could go for instead.

2 – Start Getting Ready At Least Two Days Before The Conference (more if leaving town)
I say at least two days before the conference because of recent events that occurred in my household. I decided to start preparing yesterday (Thursday), and my sibling was shocked I did so. Well, it’s a good thing I started early because I had some hitches along the way. For one, the author cards I created took forever to actually make and my computer decided to crash just as I was going to click ‘print’ (excellent timing on its part, I must say). And then the printer decided that it wouldn’t print color correctly (also spectacular, though on its behalf the printer did spit out the business cards relatively okay). But, because I started early, I didn’t have to worry so much about since I still had today to fix those issues.

3 – Bring All The Supplies You’ll Need
This goes hand in hand with getting prepared early, but you’d be surprised how many people forgot a pen the last conference I went to. My solution? Bring two! If you lose one, you’ll still have a backup. Or, if you’re like me, you won’t lose either and have one to give away to some poor soul who lost his or her only writing device.

Chose between a computer and notepad (I’m going old school and taking a notepad). There’s going to be a lot of moving around during the conference, and you don’t want to be lugging around a ton of stuff (think, those bulky backpacks from – my generation’s – high school).

Slip your business cards in an area of easy grabbing and make sure there’s a secure place to put the cards you receive, too.

Get written material together – usually a sample chapter, a one-sheet description and a synopsis are all handy to have – and put them in a good protector (like a folder or envelope or such). I have a portfolio to stick everything in, including the pens and my notebook, so all of my stuff is in the same place (thanks UAA Scholar!).

4 – Get Ready To Network
Yes, network, talk to people. If you’re shy or introverted, try coming up with topics beforehand or practicing your one-liners. If you’re outgoing and boisterous, try to tone down and really listen to what these people have to say. Don’t shove your pitch onto anyone, but if someone asks what you’re writing or what your story is about, tell them.

5 – Have Fun
The most important step in all of this – through the listening to speakers and the networking and the opportunities – is to have a good time. No, it’s not a vacation. This isn’t really the time to be sipping wine and thinking about a beach, but it is a time to mingle with fellow writers and talk shop, to see a glimpse into the professionals of the publishing world. If you’re a writer then that in itself should be fun. I’m certainly looking forward to it.

Overall, just do your best to be prepared and have a good time. 

(And try not to be buzzing with nerves when you talk to the agent critiquing your work for fifteen whole minutes… as I am trying not to be.)
Warm regards,
Kellie