It seems so unreal to me that a new term at Washington and Lee University is already in full swing. Didn’t we celebrate Christmas just last week? Has New Years’ even happened yet? For some reason, it has taken an unusually long time to get reacquainted with going to class every day, getting my reading done each night, finishing my writing assignments, things that, as a junior English major, should come as naturally as breathing. Maybe the difference is the variety of courses that I’ve enrolled in this semester. For example, I have never taken anything quite as hands-on as this editing internship with Shenandoah, Washington and Lee University’s literary magazine. I feel like I’m killing two birds with one stone: on the one hand, the internship amounts to a 400-level English class, which I can count toward my major and Creative Writing minor; and additionally, I feel that I have already gained important insight into how literary editing works, knowledge that will hopefully give me an edge over other applicants when I try to break into the publishing world after college.
Another exciting benefit of interning for Shenandoah is that it gets me off campus for an entire afternoon on Tuesdays and Thursday. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Colonnade as much as the next W&L undergrad, but there’s something about leaving campus and walking up Washington Street to the office that makes this course different from your average English class. On the first day of class, I was admittedly a little apprehensive about leaving the comfort of Payne Hall. The syllabus described completing a full-dress book review, presenting on other literary journals, and writing weekly journal assignments on my experiences throughout the term. I had never done anything like this, and my nerves started to kick in as I walked through the door of 17 Court House Square, an old attorney’s office that Shenandoah has only recently called home. I stepped inside to find a fairly small building with offices for the interns, our professor, R. T. Smith, and the work study student for Shenandoah as well as a little kitchen and bathroom. The space looks like most old buildings that the university has painstakingly renovated to maintain both its initial charm and its functionality. In fact, the strangest features are the large walk-in safes built into the foundation, which the previous owner obviously had more use for than a literary journal ever could. The classroom spaces are fairly tiny, filled with bookcases of old editions of Shenandoah and other reviews, a few computers, and a new large screen television that our professor uses during class to explain the technological features of the online review. In just a few short days, what began as a nerve-wracking spot far away from the comfort of the Colonnade has quickly become one of my favorite places in the Lexington community.
We’re two weeks into the term, and the two new interns and I are still learning the ropes: how to read essays for quality and content; how to write concise but informative blog posts; how to recognize the role of different literary genres. I also believe that the course’s assignments will also be helpful tools for learning to navigate Shenandoah. Within the month each of us will present reports on different print and online journals, which will give us various points of comparison with our own literary review. We will read Toni Morison’s novella Home during the term and will use this book to learn the art of crafting a well-written book review. On top of these tasks, each intern will compose a few pieces for the Snopes blog throughout the next few months, bringing you thought-provoking posts about books, authors, and many other literary topics. Until then, do yourself a favor and scroll back through our older posts. One compares J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous book The Hobbit with Peter Jackson’s upcoming film trilogy of the same name. A few of the past blog posts discuss if certain forms of the written word (comic books, social media, children’s fiction) really qualify as literature. Many focus on specific genres, such as gonzo journalism and flash fiction, and if you feel like going all the way back to the beginning of the blog, there’s an interesting series of posts about Shenandoah’s transition from a print journal to an online literary review. Every single post on our blog is sure to make you stop and ponder literature in a new and imaginative way, which makes my new student intern position as Snopes blog editor so exciting! Check back frequently to join me on this exciting new journey!