The LARB Intern Interview

Editor’s Note:  Each year, the Los Angeles Review of Books hosts a summer internship program that features the LARB Publishing Course: a weekly seminar series on how to edit, design and ultimately publish a magazine. As part of the Course, the interns take over LARB‘s tabloid print magazine and publish their own edition. It is a real world experience: the interns acquire content, edit and copyedit the articles, solicit art, and ultimately bring it to press. 

The internship program is over now that it’s November, but the LARB Intern Magazine is finished and has just been sent out to our members. I corresponded with three of the interns most involved with producing the magazine: Steven Williams, the Managing Editor, Cypress Mars, the Deputy Managing Editor, and Zach Mann, the Layout Editor and Copy Desk Chief. 

 

Jacob: What made you want to apply to the LARB summer internship program? How did it match up with your expectations? 

Steven: I wanted to apply to the Summer Internship program at LARB because I loved the idea of being associated with an institution that really cared about making a difference in the literary scene. Interestingly enough, I do not plan on continuing in the field — I plan on attending an early career graduate business program — but the skills I learned and developed at LARB are so widely applicable. It was such a gratifying experience from a personal growth standpoint.

Zach: Upon earning my MFA, I sought out volunteer opportunities in publishing in Los Angeles. I think it’s a bigger scene than it gets credit for, but still tiny compared to the employment pool. If I had a first choice, it was the Los Angeles Review of Books, and I was fortunate enough to transition from the copydesk to the internship program. And to be honest, the program felt a lot like graduate school, in a good way.

Jacob: All of you came to LARB with experience running a campus publication. How did that compare to your experience producing the magazine this summer?

Steven: Though not a literary journal per se, I was Senior Editor at Vassar College’s weekly newspaper, The Miscellany News. My experience there was vastly different. I was used to turning over pieces at a break-neck pace. At LARB, the editing process was incredibly thorough in comparison. At The Miscellany News we just could not afford to have a draft change drastically between the time it was handed in and the time it went to print. You had to work with you had. At LARB, it was a luxury to be able to make drastic changes to a piece, and have a real discussion with the author.

Zach: When I was Editor-in-Chief of Riprap Journal at CSU Long Beach, I did everything with a cluttered Gmail account and one folder on my personal computer. So stupid, looking back on it. If I had to do it again, I would commit a lot of energy to infrastructure: shared spreadsheets and calendars, Dropbox. I would also lean more heavily on the writers when it came to revision — even though, as this summer taught me, the editor-writer relationship can be thorny.

Jacob: Cypress, how was summer in Los Angeles? I know Steven and Zach are LA area natives.

Cypress: I’d never been to LA before this summer. The city made a lot more sense to me after I realized that people in LA say, “I don’t love that,” to express dislike.

Jacob: Zach, you acquired several pieces for the magazine this summer — could you talk about your favorite piece you acquired and the process behind it?

Zach: A couple years ago, I took a class on the Los Angeles poetry renaissance. My professor for the class, Bill Mohr, suggested a topic for my term paper that would wed my own interests in crime fiction with his class’s focus on West Coast grassroots literature: Joseph Hansen. I had never heard of Hansen, and after writing that research paper on him, the fact that I hadn’t heard of him (and that few people have) bugged me. Between his detective novels, his role in equal rights activism, his career teaching creative writing, and his potent personality, Joseph Hansen’s absence from the Los Angeles zeitgeist seems glaring. When I had the opportunity to acquire content for the LARB Intern Magazine, I saw an opportunity to add Hansen’s name back into the conversation. I approached Bill Mohr, whose passion for highlighting underappreciated writers is unmatched, and he agreed to write an essay on Hansen, someone whom he had become friends with in the 1970s at Beyond Baroque. And so the professor for whom I had once written an essay on Hansen then wrote an essay on Hansen for me. There were bumps along the way — having my own opinions on the subject, I had to learn how to edit for clarity, not intent — but mostly it was a pleasure, from seeing the essay come together to digging up an old photo of Hansen by Fay Godwin.

Jacob: What was the hardest part of working on the magazine for each of you?

Steven: I had a bit of an idealized process of what putting together the tabloid was going to be like. You assume everything will go smoothly (things will be in on time, authors will agree to your ideas), but the truth is it’s a challenge.

Zach: My biggest contribution to the magazine was the layout, and that was challenging because, well, I’d never laid out a magazine before. I watched some Youtube tutorials of Adobe InDesign, consulted with LARB’s graphic designer, and fumbled my way through it. Emphasis on the word fumbled. My favorite part of working on the magazine was just managing to pull that off.

Cypress: The last rounds of edits were hard. I was already back at school by that point but wanted to see the magazine/the pieces I was working on all the way to fruition. I’m glad that I did. It was amazing to see the pieces/artwork that we had been talking about all summer suddenly come together into a magazine.

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