by Miriam Moore-Keish ’19
You’re sitting in the middle of Kagin Commons, trying to get that last bit of reading or that final sentence of your response paper finished, when a tour guide wanders in reciting off the same statistics you hear every day, “33% of Mac students complete an internship for credit before graduating…This past academic year, 396 students from 30 academic disciplines interned in areas ranging from fine arts to nonprofits, from education to government and business… We’ll talk about dorms in a moment, so if you could please save those questions for later.”
But what kinds of internships do Macalester students get? Specifically, what opportunities are available for students in the English Department? In this issue we are spotlighting Bethany Catlin ’19, who interned with Rain Taxi Review of Books over the summer. Rain Taxi is “a literary organization that champions aesthetically adventurous literature through publications, events, and service to the literary community.” Perhaps best known for organizing the Twin Cities Book Festival, the largest literary event in the Upper Midwest (which will be held this year on October 13, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds), Rain Taxi has hosted a number of events and speakers here at Macalester, most recently, Gary Shteyngart on September 24th.
Though she did assist in running similar events, like the reading and interview with Michael Ontdaatje and Louise Erdrich, Catlin spent most of her time working on Rain Taxi’s free quarterly review publication. She said, “Rain Taxi’s review is a fantastic way to acquaint oneself with new and upcoming work—we read lots of foundational and well-established literature here at Mac, as we should, but writers are emerging with new genre-bending ideas and perspectives all the time.”
Not only did Catlin get to edit reviews, she also had the chance to write her own, for Aard-vark to Axolotl: Pictures From my Grandfather’s Dictionary by Karen Donovan, published this year by Etruscan Press (you can read the review in the Fall 2018 edition of the Rain Taxi Review on the Rain Taxi Website). Working on reviews was Catlin’s favorite part of the internship. She said,“I loved working on reviews best—editing them, writing them, and corresponding with their reviewers. I feel like that’s the part of the job when Rain Taxi gets to take off its community organizer hat and put on its purest book enthusiast hat. My reading list has quadrupled.” Anyone can submit a review to Rain Taxi Review of Books. If you want to spread the word about a new book you’ve read, check out their Submission Guidelines.
Internships can provide rich experiences, but, in the humanities especially, little financial compensation. The hardest part for Catlin, and for many unpaid interns, is the lack of funding. The Macalester Summer Internship Grant was a great resource for Catlin but she still needed to get a part-time job to support herself. Additionally, Catlin admitted that, “the small size of the organization means that they really do work you, and they don’t have a replacement for you if you’re sick.” Despite the challenge, the internship process like Catlin’s at Rain Taxi, is and was a priceless experience.
Catlin “absolutely” recommends involvement with Rain Taxi, “whether that takes the form of an internship or volunteering at one of their events.
“I learned a ton, and was able to touch on and work with each part of the book industry, from writers to editors to publishers to publicists to book distributors to booksellers to reviewers to book lovers. If you’re thinking about wanting to go into the literature industry, Rain Taxi is a fantastic place to get a peek at what the process and the people look like.”