Intern Post, Chris Schmidt: A Passionate Pursuit – Putting Education, Experience to Work

iamawriterImagine you’ve worked at the same type of job for over two decades, but then one day it hits you: your teenage daughter will graduate from high school in less than two years and you don’t want to do what you’ve been doing for the rest of your life.

And… you’re middle aged.

That happened to me in 2008.

Although I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was old enough to read on my own, prior to my mid-life “awakening,” so to speak, for more than two dozen years my life revolved around administrative and office management roles—in part due to my mad typing skills of more than 120 words per minute (true story). But I never stopped wanting to be a writer.

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream. ~ C.S. Lewis

Fast forward to life in 2011. Armed with a shiny new Bachelor of Arts in literature, writing and film earned at Arizona State University, two semesters logged in as an intern with Superstition Review, as well as the title of cofounder and manager of Scribes @ ASU, a writing club intended “to further the social, cultural, and academic interests of the students enrolled in a literature-based degree program,” it was time to put my education to work.

Fortunately, during my final two semesters at ASU and while working as an intern with [s]r under the mentorship of Trish Murphy, founding editor, I discovered my love of everything publishing related. However, I knew if I planned on getting anywhere, I needed experience in the field. And the sooner the better… I wasn’t getting any younger.

Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away! ~ Dr. Seuss

In less than a month following graduation, another seasoned editor took a chance on this (tongue-in-cheek) “old dog” and brought me on staff as an editorial intern at a print and online publication catering to all things beauty. With infinite patience, the editor-in-chief taught me new tricks that consisted of fact-finding, writing blogs and articles, posting online social media and managing the magazine’s website. I couldn’t have been more ecstatic.

Following three months of showing up at my cubicle and regular staff meetings, acquiring invaluable knowledge and a greater passion for the business, I sought my first “real” job in publishing.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t as easy as I had hoped to land a position in the industry. After more than six months of applying for both freelance and full-time opportunities—and either being rejected or unable to find the right fit—it was tempting to fall back on my administrative and office management experience. The logic-thinking side of my brain knew there was nothing wrong with that, but the creative side countered louder: I went back to school to write!

One evening, after yet another rejection (“We’re sorry, we chose someone with more experience”—the proverbial Catch 22 where experience is required, yet can’t be gained until someone hires you first), I scanned the online Craigslist postings under the administrative category… just in case.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. ~ W.C. Fields

If a headline could scream, this one did—complete with bells and whistles. Adorned in big bold letters, the word PUBLISHING radiated a thousand promises. The advertised opening, about four days old, publicized the position of administrative coordinator for a small commercial publishing firm within a few miles of my home. And the best part? I was qualified.

Yes, I’d be managing an office, including phones and spreadsheets and mailings, but I would also be working with ad insertions, copy-editing and social media. Convinced I could do the office part with my eyes closed and my hands tied behind my back (almost), and with new-found enthusiasm and an emotion I equated to hope, that night I submitted my application. I interviewed two days later, received a job offer the next morning and began my new role the following Monday.

Deadlines, grammar and A.P—oh my! ~ Me

Working for a small company means I juggle a variety of responsibilities daily—from admin to materials trafficker, to customer service, assistant editor, social media guru and website content coordinator, to eNewsletter administrator, researcher and writer. I work with sales, advertisers, circulation, PR, IT and design. And, on a bi-monthly basis, I interview field personnel for featured Q&As in one of the company’s publications.

The expertise I’m gaining in the publishing industry is instrumental. But, I’m convinced my accomplishments over the past three years would not have been possible without my education at ASU and the fundamental experience I obtained while working on the [s]r staff, through my internship with In With Skin magazine and training under the leadership of select educators and editors. My freelance portfolio also continues to expand and includes several blogs and articles for In With Skin; articles for Paradise Valley Lifestyle magazine; nonfiction pieces for Kalliope, a former online literary magazine at ASU and guest blog posts for [s]r.

Grow old with me! The best is yet to be. ~ Robert Browning

While serving my internship with [s]r, in an Oct. 2, 2010 interview I was asked: “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?”

My response: “…I see myself enjoying the fruit of my education and passion for the art of the written word… as well as working in some type of publishing/editing capacity.”

With another six years to go until 2020, I’m awash with anticipation, on track as I approach the mid-century mark—an old dog balancing on the edge of a hat brimming with shiny new tricks.

If you feel like there’s something out there that you’re supposed to be doing, if you have a passion for it, then stop wishing and just do it. ~ Wanda Skyes

Past Intern Updates: Katie McCoach

Katie McCoach, Issue 6 Nonfiction Editor, discusses her experience at Superstition Review and other internships and how they gave her the experience to pursue her ideal career.

dsc_0507Until my internships with Superstition Review, Ellechor Publishing, and Folio Literary Management, I had no idea where my Creative Writing and Communications degrees were going to take me. I knew I enjoyed the degrees I had chosen for myself, but what job would I end up with? I felt like the only choices I kept hearing were technical writing, teaching, or apply for MFA programs.

Those options weren’t for me. But then the lingering question; what was?

Well, a few internships later I discovered my dream job, and the path to take to get there. Fast forward a year and here I am now, pursuing my dream. Half of my time goes to an author marketing company where I spend the day executing marketing campaigns for traditional and self-published authors, and the other half of my time is spent freelance editing as Katie McCoach Editorial. I edit and critique manuscripts, query letters, website content, and newsletters. When I look back at how in the world I got here, it comes down to six things interning did for me, so I wanted to share them here for you.

  1. Real Life Experience – I know you hear this all the time. Enough already, right? But it really cannot be expressed enough. The internships I held were all very different from one another and from each of them I discovered this whole world I knew nothing about. I learned how to communicate with authors, how to hone instinct in selling, selecting, and editing, and I saw the different roles each person can play in the publishing industry. Many of the things I learned in my internships I would never have learned by just my degree alone.
  2. Discover What You Want  – A couple years ago, I was the Nonfiction Editor for Issue 6 of Superstition Review. Here I learned the in and outs of a literary magazine: how to communicate with authors and pique interest, how to develop an instinct for selecting the best work for the issue that season, and I had a chance to read amazing work by so many brilliant writers. At one point, I was asked to give comments on one of the pieces, to see if there were any suggestions or feedback we could contribute. This was my favorite part, and it wasn’t even one of my typical duties. That’s when the first hint of what I wanted to do as a career began to hit me.
  3. Conduct the Ultimate Interview – Internships are jobs. Although they are temporary and often times only a few months long, they are still jobs. This is your chance to conduct the ultimate interview – how does this job fit with your personality? How are your skills best utilized? Can you see yourself here in five years? How could you move up in the industry? I worked for a literary magazine, publishing company, and literary agency. I saw very different roles of the publishing industry, and from it I discovered where I fit best.
  4. Path to Your Dream Job – Every person in your industry started somewhere, maybe even interning exactly where you are now. So ask them – how did they get their job? What about their boss’s boss? The path to your dream job becomes readily available to you as an intern and this is your chance to begin it.
  5. Perspective – I chose to intern at companies that were all related to publishing and from this I saw different parts of the industry that I could have never seen if I hadn’t worked in the areas I did. Interning at Superstition Review I saw the literary magazine side of publishing. The publications in literary magazines across the country influence contests and grants. These contests can mean referrals for lit agents, which in turn can mean a sale to an editor, and the next book a publishing company picks up. There is much more to it than that of course, but I now am able to see the industry as a whole, which gives me perspective, especially in relation to the job I chose to pursue.
  6. Connections – This is another one of those things we hear a lot. I currently live in Los Angeles and I am surrounded by the film and TV industry. I see first-hand how connections are the only way to establish your place in that industry. The same goes for publishing, though depending on the path you choose, it might not be quite as cutthroat. When I first moved to LA I attended one of those kind-of-awkward-but-you-push-through-it networking events. I was wary at first, and then I met someone who was starting her own marketing business. She needed an editor for her website content and what do you know, here I was, an editor. On top of gaining business with her, she also had a friend who was a literary agent, and that agent knew other freelance editors, and by then my connections had tripled. This happened just from a two-hour networking event, so imagine what a semester-long internship can do.

Interning was definitely the right choice for me and my career path, and – I have to cliché it up right here – I would not be in the position I am today without it.

If you are a current or past intern, what has interning done for you? If you are debating interning, what things do you hope to gain from the experience?

Katie McCoach graduated from Arizona State University in May of 2011 with her Bachelor’s of Arts in Creative Writing and Communications. She currently resides in Los Angeles, CA as a freelance editor. She has had essays published in TrainWrite and Kalliope. You can visit her at and on Twitter @katiemccoach

Meet The Interns: Katie McCoach

Katie McCoach is in her senior year at Arizona State University majoring in Communications and Creative Writing with her focus in Fiction. Katie is originally from a small town in Maryland and decided on a whim to attend college 2000 miles away from her childhood home. She has had a nonfiction piece published in Kalliope and currently writes for a volunteer newsletter.

Superstition Review: What is your position with Superstition Review and what are your responsibilities?

Katie McCoach: This is my first semester with Superstition Review as a Nonfiction Editor. It is my job to solicit submissions, correspond with authors, review submissions, and decide on which pieces will be published in the magazine. And at the end of the year we have our launch party for the issue.

SR: Why did you decide to get involved with Superstition Review?

KM: I am very interested in the publishing business/world and there is no better way to learn about than be apart of it. I love that I get to be a part of the decision making process of what is published; it’s great to be able to show readers what these authors have in them and be a part of that.

SR: Besides interning for Superstition Review, how do you spend your time?

KM: A lot of my time is spent on schoolwork and at my part-time job, but also a lot of it is spent writing; I’m completing my capstone in fiction and I write nonfiction and blog on the side. Besides that I love just being able to grab a margarita with my friends and unwind.

SR: What other position(s) for Superstition Review would you like to try out?

KM: I think interview editor would be a neat position. In my nonfiction class this summer I got a taste for interviewing and I also write mini interviews at my part-time job; I find interviewing different people so interesting because they all have stories to tell.

SR: Describe one of your favorite literary works.

KM: I’ll have to say my favorite author instead, which is Augusten Burroughs. I’m pretty sure I read Sellevison first which is his only fiction piece and it’s hilarious, besides that I’ve read all his nonfiction works and love them. He is an incredible memoirist and my favorite pieces happen to be the simplest moments versus his crazy childhood or alcohol addiction. I love when memoirists make the small moments the most interesting and that is what I reach towards and will hope to find in submissions this semester.

SR: What are you currently reading?

KM: I just finished a young adult series by Scott Westerfeld called Uglies. Even though I should have outgrown young adult fiction by now, I think that they are the most enjoyable works; my favorite part of reading is just letting go and with Scott Westerfeld’s work I can do just that.

SR: Creatively, what are you currently working on?

KM: Right now I am working on my capstone project, which is a few fiction short stories and revising them a lot. And another longer project I’m working towards is a themed short story collection.

SR: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

KM: In 10 years? That’s too far to know! I am not one to overly plan my future because I know things never go as planned completely, but I do hope to be published, living in California and working with a publishing company or in the background of the movie industry. As long as I never stop writing and am happy–if in 10 years I can say that, then I’ve reached success.