My Summer at the Virginia Quarterly Review
In the summer of 2019, Mary Clare Edwards ’21 followed in the footsteps of many Denison English students and interned with the Virginia Quarterly Review. She shares her story.
“I learned new fact-checking skills, proofreading marks, how to engage with VQR’s digital audience, and if a submitted piece of work would be a good fit for the literary magazine.”
“What will you do with an English degree?” is a question that I had somewhat successfully avoided and answered without much certainty in the years leading up to my second year at Denison. “You could work for a publishing company,” someone told me after I had mentioned my major.
Instead of doing the research, I ran with it. That suggestion is what I began to tell friends, family, and nosy strangers who questioned my career path. Truthfully, I didn’t have the faintest idea of what the publishing industry entailed, or how to break into it as an undergrad.
When my English advisor Dr. Margot Singer told me about the Virginia Quarterly Review (VQR) internship, I was still struggling to explain to others why I wanted to have a concentration in narrative journalism. That, many faculty members made clear, was a question that needed a more immediate answer.
I spent the rest of the year figuring out why; I attended my first Denisonian (Denison’s student-run newspaper) meeting and fell into a regular weekly routine of Monday content meetings, feedback with our Denisonian advisor Alan Miller, who also manages the Columbus Dispatch, and editing in the office through the weekend. I took Creative Nonfiction — which felt like learning how to walk again — and began to find my identity as a writer while drafting my first memoir. I listened in awe during the Beck Series as Victoria Chang read, was invited to attend a week-long journalism conference in New York City, snuck old issues of VQR out of the library to read in my free time, and found some of my closest friends at Denison along the way.
Knowing the deadline to apply to VQR was in April, I met with Professor Croley as soon as the application opened. Professor Croley is a former VQR contributor and established the Denison VQR Internship Program through Executive Editor Allison Wright. Every Denison VQR applicant interviews with Allison, and students are notified of a decision in early May.
I got the internship.
It was exciting to intern at VQR right after they won the 2019 National Magazine Award for General Excellence.
I worked closely with the editor, executive editor, associate editor, art director, and fellow interns from the University of Virginia and Sewanee in the editorial process of putting together the Fall issue. I learned new fact-checking skills, proofreading marks, how to engage with VQR’s digital audience, and if a submitted piece of work would be a good fit for the literary magazine.
In addition to magazine production, I helped to organize the 2019 VQR Writers’ Conference. It was the first year interns were given the opportunity to introduce faculty members that lead workshops in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction before readings, an assignment MFA candidates are often tasked with. I’m grateful to have spent a summer meeting and connecting with writers at every stage of their literary career.
Preparing for an internship:
Back in the fall when I was unsure if an editorial internship would be possible, Dr. Singer advised me to take a trip to Denison’s library to read issues of magazines I would be interested in potentially working for. I would pass this advice on to anyone who is just beginning their internship search. This, along with Twitter, was such great exposure to the literary world and how much is out there.
I felt prepared to work as an editorial intern at VQR thanks to the narrative journalism concentration at Denison. During the VQR Writers’ Conference, when attendees asked who I was reading, a lot of authors we discussed had been invited to read at Denison’s Beck Series.
I have narrative journalism faculty to thank for a most meaningful ten weeks in Charlottesville, Virginia. Working at the Virginia Quarterly Review as my first editorial internship was the best introduction to publishing, and I would encourage anyone with a Narrative Journalism concentration to start early and apply.
More VQR interns share their insights:
In the summers before I interned with VQR, Denison alumni Savannah Delgross ’19 and Sam Rice ’19 both interned for the magazine. To try and summarize how rewarding the internship is, I reached out to them.
“VQR has guided my personal and professional path in writing and editing. At VQR, I practiced meticulous attention to detail in all stages of making the magazine—contract writing, copyediting, fact-checking, designing, and marketing the issue on social media.
It wasn’t until I returned to campus as managing editor of The Denisonian that I realized how much I’d learned. I suddenly had more grit as an editor, using new approaches to production and witnessing positive results.
I became a better writer by reading through archives, edits of the current issue, and the slush pile (VQR’s Submittable account.) The VQR Writers’ Conference was a transformative experience for me, as it was my first time engaging with a group of serious writers outside of my English major program. I was able to immerse myself in the discussions about craft, genre, ethics, publishing, writing careers and lifestyles. Through these dialogues, I gained the kind of writing advice I aim to live by, the kind that’s always bustling in my head whenever I write. It was invaluable to hear diverse voices within the literary community.”
“I treasure my summer in Charlottesville, from interning at VQR to exploring the town, because I spent my office time getting hands-on experience in the field in which I most want to work. During my off time, I learned how to grow into myself. VQR not only keeps the interns directly involved in the editorial process but relies on them for much of the work. I felt like a part of the team. Charlottesville is one of the friendliest cities I’ve been to and was a delight to be a resident of for three months. I fell so in love with this place and the people there that I returned for the 2019 VQR Writers’ Conference, an event that interns help to organize for attending writers. I found the VQR staff just as hard-working, dedicated, and excited about their jobs as when I left.”