For my last blog I thought I’d talk a little about some of the things we interns have been working on for the past twelve weeks – mainly reading manuscripts sent in for the magazine. Each one of us has had our own roles to play, but everyone has spent at least some time reading over some hopeful stories. At first it was very hard to be critical (with of course some exceptions), for how could I criticize another person’s work when I myself have never been published? Professor Smith helped us out with that brain buster by asking us two simple questions. First: Are you ever critical of professional sports teams? And then, after everyone nodded their heads: Have you ever played on a professional sports team? Finally it became apparent to us that what we really needed was to take ourselves out of the game (hah). We could not just say we didn’t like the piece and then offer no explanation. We had to justify both our likes and dislikes. To make it easier to vocalize these justifications we came up with a list of criteria that each piece accepted into Shenandoah should contain. The list included things such as inventive style, unique (but familiar) characters, wit, ingenuity, character development and many others. This type of list was extremely useful when trying to pin down the thing that made the story feel just slightly off to you or, better yet, made it unbelievably successful.
The more manuscripts we’ve read the easier it has gotten to categorize them, but it is interesting to see how the interns disagree from time to time. When we comment on manuscripts we leave a few detailed lines on a sticky note for Professor Smith to look over. Most of the time those post-its read pretty much the same, but there have been several occasions when that was not the case. I suppose that’s to be expected though because tastes in writing do differ and we are bound to disagree every once in a while. I am just glad that ultimately, here at Shenandoah, we are not a democracy or else we’d be here all summer long.