"I don’t think many people know or think about the process that goes into putting [a magazine] together...I was interested in seeing that firsthand. I was also hoping to add some published clips to my writing portfolio—and that did pan out, once the editors knew they could rely on me."
Program of Study: English with a concentration in creative writing
Career Interest: Creative writing, freelance writing, public relations
Internship: Style Magazine/Chesapeake Life
Location: Baltimore, MD
Briefly describe your internship and your responsibilities as an intern.
Basically, three days a week, I would go to the magazine’s office to fact-check articles, put together event calendars, and do any minor writing or clerical work that no one else wanted to do. Eventually, the editors had me going out on assignment to do art reviews, and I did some phone interviews for sections of the magazine. For example, Style has a section called Savvy Shopper that features boutique products made by artisans—hats and accessories and things. I called the woman who made the hats, then wrote up a blurb for the magazine.
How did you find your internship?
Madison Smartt Bell, the main English professor that I worked with at Goucher, knew that I was going to be in Baltimore right after graduation. I had a grant from the Kratz Center for Creative Writing to stay in town and complete an internship. Madison had met Laura Wexler from Style at a party, and she asked him if he knew any students who might be good interns. So he got my foot in the door. But I did visit the CDO to look at other internships before that opportunity arrived. I looked at Port Discovery, the Baltimore Shakespeare Festival, and other places. But Style seemed like the best fit for me, since I thought that I wanted to go into magazine writing.
What resources did you find particularly helpful in your internship search?
When I was looking for internships and found the ones that I ultimately didn’t take, I found some good resources at the CDO. The office was helpful in helping me groom my resume and explore my options, even though I ultimately didn’t take any of the internships I found on my own.
Why did you choose your internship? What factored into your search and applying?
My main interest is in fiction writing. At the time, I thought that a good day job for someone who wants to do that would be magazine writing. I figured that this would be a good experience, it was close by, and I was familiar with the publication.
What were you most apprehensive about going into your internship?
Making it there on time was a big worry. I had a car, but I wasn’t comfortable driving in downtown Baltimore. So I would take the MTA bus from campus. I was never quite sure that I was going to make it on time. I gained a whole new respect for the Goucher employees who commute to campus on that bus—I was always running down the loop road trying to make it! So that worried me quite a bit. But it was a pretty laid back office and a very small staff, and they understood if I was a little bit late. Once I was there, I wasn’t worried about anything. I knew I could do the job.
What did you hope to gain from your internship experience?
I was curious about how a magazine was actually put together. You see them on the newsstands, and I don’t think many people know or think about the process that goes into putting them together. So, I was interested in seeing that firsthand. I was also hoping to add some published clips to my writing portfolio—and that did pan out, once the editors knew they could rely on me.
How did your internship experience influence your academic and career interests/goals/plans?
While I had a blast at Style, I realized that I didn’t want to work for a monthly magazine full-time. I learned that I have a knack for magazine-style writing, but the pressure of having deadlines got to me. Of course, I still have deadlines—through my editor at Style, I landed a freelance gig writing art and music features for Baltimore City Paper, something I’ve been doing for the past three years, in addition to working in Goucher’s Office of Communications full-time. But as a day-to-day job, it’s not for me. I’ll probably continue to freelance on the side for the rest of my writing career, but I’m really focused on my creative work. Still, I think that having an internship is important even if it only ends up teaching you that you don’t want to go into that line of work. And the contacts I made there definitely paid off.
What were the most challenging aspects of your internship?
Before Style, I’d never interviewed anyone for an article, so I was completely green at that. I had no idea what I was doing, and no one told me how, so that was challenging at first. I used to be really nervous about talking to people and asking them questions about themselves. It’s one of those skills you have to learn firsthand, though, and it got easier. It was also hard to adjust to the office environment. I’m a very, you could say…eccentric person. I don’t do things the way that a typical 9 to 5 worker would do things. But luckily, they were really laid back and didn’t really care how I approached assignments as long as I got my work in on time. It was a good fit.
What were most rewarding aspects of your internship?
Seeing my name on the masthead was huge. It sounds really funny now, because that’s something that’s hapened a lot since then, every week in the City Paper. But at the time, that just blew my little mind. I was like, “J. Bowers…yeah, I rule!” My articles were printed alongside everyone else’s, just like I was a staff member. That was very cool—having the chance to actually contribute to the publication.
Any funny/ embarrassing things happen during your internship?
Oh yes. The best was falling off the bus. I always got off the bus a few blocks away from the Style offices and walked the rest of the way. One day, I was wearing a long skirt, and when I stepped off the bus, it ripped right up the back, and I still had to walk the whole way to the office. I fixed it with duct tape, but it was mortifying. Another strange thing was the hat interview I was alluding to earlier, I was talking to a woman who makes wacky hats, and she called herself Ms. Rainbow. Every time I called her for this article, she urged me to have a rainbowy day, and it was just really, really, difficult to have a professional conversation without laughing at her, because she was just spouting whimsy all over the place. So, that was pretty funny as well. Those are probably the two things that I remember most.
How do you feel your internship prepared you for the real world?
I realized the value of contacts. It’s so crucial to make contacts, make a good impression, and stay in touch with those contacts, because people will help you out down the road. For example, Laura Wexler, I talked to her every day that I was there, but they change interns at Style all the time, so I didn’t think I made much of an impression. But when I moved back to Baltimore after grad school, she was very willing to help me find freelance work. And I’ve since written an article about her storytelling series for the City Paper. I learned how important it is to develop these mutually beneficial professional relationships.
What advice would you give to students to help them make the most of their internship experience?
Take it seriously. Act like it’s a real job, because it is. It’s going to go on your resume, and the contacts you’re making will help you down the line, somehow, even if you can’t see how right now. Listen actively to everything your supervisor says to you, and do your best. Down the road, you’re going to need references, you’re going to need someone to help you get your next job, and if you play your cards right during your internship, that’ll be no problem.
How do you utilize the skills you developed in your internship experience in your job now?
First, interviewing, I’m interviewing all the time now. I do a lot of interviews for the Goucher Gazette, for the website, and for the Baltimore City Paper. Second, I got a look at press releases and press kits from the journalist’s point of view—a handy perspective, when I’m writing releases for Goucher that will be read by journalists all over the country. And last, just all the nuts and bolts of journalistic writing. Fiction writing is very different from the writing I do here at Goucher or as a reviewer for City Paper. It’s a whole other animal. It was crucial for me to create a division in my mind between the writing I do for myself and the writing I do for my employers—and Style gave me a good head start.