Instead of resorting to selling insurance while trying to apply for grad school after I graduated, I figured I should continue my education with a more hands-on approach. An internship seemed the perfect fit, and having graduated with a GPA that was certainly nothing to brag about, I saw an obligation to prove that those grades didn’t necessarily reflect my work ethic but rather my poor test-taking abilities.
I applied for internships at a slew of newspapers, magazines and publishers, and for six weeks I made myself send out at least two applications per day. I wasn’t positive where I wanted to be, but I knew I wanted to be surrounded by words, lines of text, page numbers, and alluring graphics. After graduation, I was granted that and more as I accepted an internship with Sarabande Books, a nonprofit literary press in Louisville, Kentucky.
In September after my graduation, I started work with Sarabande and haven’t really looked back. It’s proved to be a fantastic opportunity that has not only surrounded me by brilliant, passionate people, but also allowed me to utilize my Ball State major in English and minor in Digital Publishing.
My English major comes in handy in most of the tasks you’d assume: copy editing text for our catalog, writing rejection letters, typing stories that are out of print, responding to e-mails, working with promotional materials and the occasional blog post. In my classes for my minor, I worked with digital photography and manipulation, graphic design, and pre-press printing processes (packaging files for printers). I think the Digital Publishing minor helped me stand out from the average English department graduate by giving me an additional set of skills.
I’m very thankful for all the design responsibilities with which Sarabande has trusted me. I’ve had the opportunity to design flyers such as the one for our Flo Gault Student Poetry Competition. I designed folded cube advertisements for our monthly Sarabande Reading Series and was able to incorporate pieces of art from personal friends. I’ve done work with promotional postcards for amazing poets like Rick Bursky and made bookmarks for writers like Lydia Davis to distribute at readings and even this year’s AWP conference in Washington D.C.
I’ve been really inspired by the work done in and around Sarabande. I’ve been introduced to influential people in the Louisville writing scene, met with amazing authors like Kiki Petrosino, had dinner with the likes of Jason Schneiderman and Jennifer Kronovet, and participated in very rewarding activities like our recent poetry workshop with the Kentucky School for the Blind.
My other, more basic, responsibilities go by very quickly and often provide the most chances for the interactions that I’ll cherish after leaving the Sarabandistas. Mailing book galleys, sending out contributor copies, and signing donation letters give me a chance to sit side-by-side and pick the brains of the marketing genius Caroline Casey, our fearless Editor-in-Chief Sarah Gorham, my go-to wizard Meg Bowden and our design demigod Kirby Gann. It is quite the excellent trade-off for a day’s work.
My days off from my internship are quite different. To make a bit of side money, I’ve been substitute teaching all grades and disciplines in a few local counties. It is certainly respectable work and very emotionally satisfying but boy, is it a rough job. I manage to sweat through two layers of deodorant each day as I’m challenged by 13-year-olds that tower over me and insist on drawing attention to my likeness with Scooby Doo’s pal Shaggy. I struggle with keeping curse words from erupting from my mouth and finding time to slip away to the bathroom. It all pays off, though, hearing kids get settled in their seats and turn to their friends to ask, “Have you had Mr. H as a sub before? He’s cool.” I’ve come to relish small victories like these.
I prefer working with print over teaching; although teaching is definitely my back-up plan. I just hope that I can learn all I can from individuals like Kirby Gann and the other Sarabandistas and eventually further my education in the general realm of typesetting, design and all things print.
Sarabande graciously offered me a short-term position as Submissions Manager following the end of my internship, and that, combined with being able to substitute teach more days of the week, should allow me to compile some more money as well as work experience. I’m contemplating a move to Chicago to look for work and still considering applying to grad schools, but we’ll see what the future holds. Fingers crossed.
On a side note to my fellow writers, Sarabande’s open submission period is during the month of September—more than enough time to clean up some of those rough edges before submitting! I thought I’d also mention two upcoming national contests held by Sarabande, open for submissions January 1- February 16. These contests are The Kathryn A. Morton Prize in Poetry and The Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction, the guidelines for which can be found at their respective links.
I would encourage anyone interested in an internship to apply to Sarabande. I believe the position has been filled for the Spring semester, but they’re always accepting applications. Information on that can be found here.
Best of luck to all of you in whatever you choose to pursue!
If you have any questions, feel free to email me at Lehimelick@gmail.com.