‘When Opportunity Knocks,’ essay by Heather Lowery

by
 
When Opportunity Knocks
An essay by Heather Lowery
Heather Lowery (photo credit: Lindsey Marie Photography)

Heather Lowery (photo credit: Lindsey Marie Photography)

When I first set foot on the Wilkes University campus, I never imagined I would have the experiences that I have had since I enrolled. Sitting in a classroom full of people I assumed (some correctly and some incorrectly) were smarter than me, had me scared. I was ready to quit after the first class, something I had never conceded to previously (I do not count the ballet, jazz or instrument lessons I stopped when I was younger). I walked outside and called my mom. “Mom, these people are so much more suited to this than I am. I’m way out of my league,” I told her. She suggested I go back inside, open my mind and breathe. “Sometimes the things that are best for us scare us the most,” she added. I could hardly disagree, though I hated the fact that she was probably right…again. I took a deep breath, put my phone away and walked inside. I opened my mind to something completely new to me and I have not looked back since.

With graduation a mere month away, I cannot help but look back on my most recent experience as an intern. I started the MFA degree with the paper, as all MFA students do. I was hardly thinking about the internship the next semester. However, when the first semester wrapped up and I was at residency, I was faced with the decision between the publishing and education track. Seeing as I eventually want to teach in college I thought going with an education internship would be ideal. Then I was approached by Lori A. May, who just happens to be my site supervisor [for Poets’ Quarterly]. She suggested I try something new. There I was again, faced with change.

Publishing. What did I want to do with publishing? I had once dreamed about being an editor for some major publishing house. But my editing days have since been put behind me, or at least the days where I slave over someone else’s work instead of my own. I had no idea what I would even do with an internship in publishing. I could not help but think, “How is this going to help me?”

It was a good question, and it was answered within the first two weeks of my internship. Really, how was an internship in publishing, something I had no prior experience in, not going to help me? I was wrong in assuming it would not help me. In fact, there has not been one assignment that has not pushed me forward across the threshold of change and into the great expanse of indispensible knowledge.

We started the semester at the end of July. Within a few days I had a to-do list from Lori for the entire month of August. I will admit it freaked me out. I was overwhelmed at the listed tasks, one of which included reading a good-sized anthology and writing a book review on it. Problem number one: I am a slow reader. Problem number two: I have limited experience writing book reviews, as in, I have only tried my hand at it once before. In time, I finished the book and attempted writing the book review. Luckily, Lori enjoyed it enough to publish it on the PQ website. Boom! And just like that I had a publishing credit to add to my CV.

Over the course of my internship I have done nearly ten interviews, and have written numerous essays and blog posts. If I am honest, and I am—some would say destructively so—I will admit that I hardly did any personal writing, or writing of my own during the internship. It was not that I did not have time; that would be a lie. I had plenty of time. I just did not feel like writing. So potential interns should not worry about not being able to get any writing done. If you want to write, you will be able to write. Mine was a personal decision. And a decision I made every single day. Though, it has been good for my brain, and my soul, to take a break from what I have been working on and solely focus on the internship. The shift in pace has renewed my spirit for which I am truly grateful.

What should one expect when beginning an internship in publishing? Nothing and everything at once. Do not come in with expectations, because they will most likely be shattered as soon as you get the first assignment. However, if you are like me and you want to have expectations because they serve more as goals than things you want to get out of the experience, then expect to be surprised and challenged and bettered. You will be surprised. You will be challenged. You will be bettered, either as a person or a writer, or both. Take my advice—try something new.

I took a position as an intern assistant editor for a poetry literary magazine called Poets’ Quarterly. Lori A. May was my site supervisor, or as I secretly refer to her, the boss lady. I warned her that I was not a poet by any means and I had never seriously read poetry. She assured me that I was going to be fine. “Think about it,” she told me. It was good advice. I thought about it and when I could not think of a better internship I accepted her offer. I was nervous. I did not want to let Lori down, a person who I had gotten closer to with each residency. Lori was someone I looked up to, admired, respected. What was going to happen if I did not meet her standards? To my utter disbelief, I never received an email that said what I was doing was complete crap. I got constructive criticism, advice and guidance.

Lori allowed me to spread my wings. With the importance of crossing genres, I needed this experience more than I originally thought. I learned about visual poetry, trailblazing poets like Seamus Heaney, and current poets like Loren Kleinman and Joy Gaines-Friedler. I caught up with Wilkes alums Jim Warner and Brian Fanelli, among others. I revealed my struggle with writing and working out in an essay published in between issues. I compiled a list of publishers and a separate list of faculty according to area for marketing purposes. I researched grants for nonfiction writers and poets. And I learned about Blogger, the site that houses the Poets’ Quarterly website, to which I uploaded the archives from the old website.

I think it is safe to say I have been busy this semester. But when looking back at everything I have done, I see a more rounded writer, a more involved citizen in the literary community. I would not have traded this experience for any other internship. It has been exciting and nerve-wracking. It has been worth every minute of struggle, every moment of stress.

Advertisements

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: