Michigan State University
Michigan State University
Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures
WRAC Students Pitch In at Fourth Genre
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WRAC Students Pitch In at Fourth Genre

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Fourth Genre is a literary journal published by MSU Press devoted to creative nonfiction. The journal is currently under the editorial leadership of Dr. Laura Julier, a faculty member in WRAC. She produces the journal with the help of MSU graduate and undergraduate students interning with the journal as editorial assistants.

Last year, four graduate students and two undergraduate students completed editorial assistant internships with the journal; this year there will be five undergraduate students working as interns. All of the editorial assistants help by reading submissions and are involved in the weekly discussion of which pieces to accept, but they also have specific tasks based on their personal interests and professional goals. “Interns [are] involved in all aspects of the production to the extent that they want,” Dr. Julier says. “Some people are particularly interested in production, [while others] might be more interested in social media and marketing. Everybody reads manuscripts.”

The two undergraduate editorial assistants last year were Danielle Schwartz, a senior double majoring in Professional Writing and English, and Cynthia Bezinque, who graduated in May with a major in Professional Writing and a minor in Documentary Production.

Danielle—who will be continuing this year—applied to be an intern at Fourth Genre because she was interested in learning more about the production cycle, so her duties at the journal were tailored toward that. Describing her role, she said, “I worked almost solely on production last semester. I was coordinating with authors, gathering all the materials we needed to put the journal out there, and sending it on to the Press so they could make it a physical thing. I also was reading submissions the whole semester and … meeting weekly to discuss the 20 or so essays we read that week.”

Reading those submissions and participating in weekly discussions about them was a favorite part of the job for undergraduate intern Cynthia Bezinque. Cynthia came to Fourth Genre with a desire to learn about the genre of creative nonfiction and work on social media. “I like learning about nonfiction,” she said. “The readings are interesting, and [the weekly editorial meetings] are a good way to see how other people write and how the rest of the editorial team thinks.”

IMAG0668_balance.jpgPW students and Fourth Genre interns Cynthia Bezinque and Danielle Schwartz. Photos by Jay Hull

In addition to helping in the day-to-day workings of a literary journal, Fourth Genre interns also get to go to the annual Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Conference. At this conference, students market the journal to potential contributors at the massive book fair and also have time to browse the book fair themselves and attend panel discussions. Both Danielle and Cynthia loved the energizing—if occasionally overwhelming—atmosphere. “Being an undergraduate there was kind of daunting because I think it was more geared towards people who know what they’re doing,” Danielle said. “But it was definitely a learning experience for me and also a networking opportunity. I had a lot of fun and I learned a lot.” Cynthia agreed. “I thought it was fantastic,” she said. “I loved going to the panels. The [book] fair was great. It was overwhelming but I would love to do it again.”

The graduate students working at Fourth Genre this year were Shewonda Leger, Suban Nur Cooley, Erin Alvarez, and Becca Hayes. Like the undergraduates, each student had a role based on their own interests. For example, Shewonda worked on a digital essays component of the journal, while Becca handled organization and scheduling for things like the trip to the AWP conference. Erin worked on production and Suban focused mostly on reading submissions.

When Dr. Julier became the editor of Fourth Genre, one of her goals was to involve students more. She said that “[Fourth Genre is] a great opportunity for students... to learn things that they couldn’t learn from classes about publishing cycles, production management, [and] interfacing with a Press.” Both Cynthia and Danielle feel they learned a lot about nonfiction as a genre and the process of creating a journal. Danielle noted that the internship provided extra experience beyond what she learned in her classes. “It’s really applying what you’ve learned and then making it bigger,” she said. Cynthia added, “You’re really getting hands on experience in seeing how a literary journal is made, each step of the process.”

Cynthia and Danielle encourage other PW students to consider applying for an internship.  “Do it!” Cynthia said. “Fourth Genre is awesome.”

Written by Jay Hull