by Kira Schukar ’22

February 10, 2021—At five minutes to five o’clock, English Department student workers gathered in the virtual lounge, waiting for Coffee House to begin. Since going virtual, Coffee House has transformed from a weekly snack break into a number of student celebrations. Last semester, students had the chance to meet Professor Rachel Gold before her latest book launch. In early February, members of Mac Slams performed poetry for the English community.

February 10th was no different. Just before five o’clock, the faces of Eric Fong ’21 and Amy Vandervelde ’21 appeared on everyone’s screens. They would be the VIPs for the next half hour, as students and staff celebrated the launch of the department’s new podcast, The Ramblings. Joined by host Teddy Holt ’22, Amy and Eric star in the premier episode, “The Matt Burgess Fan Club.”

The podcast’s producers, Anna Chu ’22 and Hilary Kaufman ’23, hosted the event. As Anna explained the inspiration for the podcast, she emphasized the loss of community that students—especially seniors—have faced since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We wanted to give [the seniors] a platform to reflect on their achievements from the last four years,” Anna told the group. The podcast also gives the seniors a virtual space to share their experiences with younger students.

To Jan Beebe, the Department Coordinator, listening to the podcast reminded her of “having English majors in the department and hearing their random conversations”—the types of conversations that she normally hears in the lounge or during an in-person coffee-house.

“The Matt Burgess Fan Club” is certainly random. With Teddy hosting, the conversation quickly moved from Eric’s early writing about his body hair (found in the spring 2019 issue of Chanter), to fan fiction, to Amy’s attachment to her characters. Of course, Matt Burgess also comes up a lot in their ramblings.

After playing a segment of the episode, Anna and Hillary opened the floor to Amy and Eric, who thanked the podcast editors and producers. “It was a lot of fun because it was really just a conversation between Teddy, Eric, and I,” said Amy.

The Coffee House conversation continued into the Q&A segment of the night. “Amy,” Eric said, “do you like the sound of your own voice over the podcast?”

“Short answer,” she laughed. “No.”

The event ended as Amy and Eric commented on fanfiction in the department community. “I think it’s something all English majors read in our preteens,” said Amy. For Eric, reading fanfiction isn’t a phase. “It’s a lot of fun. It’s a great place to find writing that’s earnest,” he said. “It’s also great for exposing yourself to more writing.”

As for books, Amy recommends you read An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, the Truly Devious series by Maureen Johnson, and The Witcher books by Andrzej Sapkowski. Eric has just one book that he wants everyone to read: This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone.

Episode Two of The Ramblings, “Chanter’s Probably not a Cult, but the Mac Weekly Might Be” is out on Spotify as of February 24th. 

Once a month, the English Department will host a Coffee House dedicated to the seniors who appear on The Ramblings. The next release party is March 10, when the department will celebrate episodes two and three. Be on the lookout for this and other upcoming events in department emails!