Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go. ~ E. L. Doctorow

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Internship and Writing Project Leave Bad Taste in Mouth

When I began my internship with Mr. H, an English professor/playwright, in July, his close friend Mr. C needed a web page to inform potential investors and other interested people about the ballet company International Ballet Classique in Delaware County. As a board member, he hoped to keep costs down for the non-profit company by utilizing the free service of Wikipedia and Mr. H's interns. Ultimately, receiving free publicity. Mr. H offered the project to me, thinking it could lead to a Wikipedia writing business.

How often would I receive professional writing opportunities with no experience? I thought about it for a few seconds--encouraged by Mr. H's confidence in me--then said yes. I knew this experience would help me find paid writing jobs in the future.

The first step was to email Mr. C and attach a writing sample. I used the only one I had to date from college: Alice in Wonderland re-imagined. When I called him, he and I spoke about my piece and my writing aspirations. He assured me when ever an idea for an article came to him, he would let me know. Then asked me to keep in touch with him via email throughout the process.

Once I hung up, I got to work researching the company through websites and online articles. Mr. C also mailed me a copy of the Brandywine Country magazine with an article on IBC's ballet master and mistress, Denis Gronostaskiy and Anastasia Babayeva. I sifted through the information I accumulated, jotted down notes in my journal, and compiled the research into a word document. During my search, I noticed most of the sites regurgitated the same small amount of information, but the magazine article proved helpful, providing insight into the two dancers.

During this phase, Mr. C emailed me Wikipedia entires on other ballet companies to study the structure of their pages. I gathered details from entries I felt were aesthetically pleasing and user friendly and set up an outline based on those notes. Then, I filled the outline in with all the research I had highlighted to use for the entry.

Afterwards, I noticed gaps from a lack of information. I emailed Mr. C, updating him on what I completed to this point, and listed all my questions to be answered by Executive Director Josie Singer. Unfortunately, Mrs. Singer was burdened with family problems and unable to answer my questions for several weeks.

Finally, I received an email from Mr. C with some answers to my questions, but not all. I then incorporated them into the outline. The company was busy with rehearsals for The Nutcracker, so Mr. C suggested I write two separate entries on Denis and Anastasia while I waited for the rest of the answers. I thought it was a great idea, giving me three entries to my name, instead of just one. He then informed me the links to Wikipedia entries could be placed directly on a web page, giving their visitors direct access to biographical information about them. Even better! This project would not only provide me writing experience, but make my work available to many people.

My email correspondence with Mr. C alleviated traveling expense and time, but increased confusion and response times. The middle man process was frustrating, but I encouraged myself everyday to keep working hard to complete the shorter entries while waiting for a response to my questions for the company entry. My internship had cultivated several writing opportunities and fostered a strong social connection. I was genuinely happy with my choice to leave teaching to become a full-time writer.

Well, since I had no interest in being a T.A., my internship with Mr. H was put on hold. When I applied for the position, I was under the impression that I would be editing, researching, and improving my writing. The beginning of it stayed true to the ad, but once he started back with his college classes, I spent the entire time revising and adding images to his instructional handouts, reading chapters aloud to him, and typing up the essential information from the readings so he could create tests for his students. I no longer researched and edited his plays, reviews, and articles or created newsletters, which is what I thought the internship entailed.

When we discussed the current status of the internship, he offered me a list of upcoming projects that were geared more to a writer and asked me to get back to him, letting him know which ones were of interest to me and what days I would be available.

I emailed him two days later. I didn't receive a response.

Soon after, I emailed Mr. C the two entries on Denis and Anastasia for final approval. He responded several days later raving about Jeremy Gill's, Delaware County's new Maestro, successful debut and let me know he was waiting for a response from Mrs. Singer. Picking myself up from my fizzled internship with Mr. H, I responded to Mr. C's email expressing my congratulations and hope in landing an editorial internship advertised on Craigslist with MetroKids magazine.

I never received a response.

Since I still hadn't heard from Mr. H, I applied to MetroKids, received a call back from the editor, and started the internship, updating their attractions list online and writing articles for the magazine a week later. Finding this internship that fit my goals renewed my confidence.

Several days later, I sent another email ensuring Mr. C was well and to inquire about the entries' approval.

Still no response.

At this point, I started developing a complex. Were my emails going through? What did I do wrong? Had I unintentionally bruised an ego? Why wouldn't anyone send me a response?

Finally Mr. H emailed me back when I responded to his self-promoting email. I admit I was pretty peeved by his audacity to ignore my email, but expect me to critique his writing. I set aside my emotions, hoping I would find out what was going on, and updated him on my educational and professional endeavors.

He was happy to hear I was keeping busy, asked me how the Wikipedia entries were developing, and passed along his sadness for the ending of my internship. I respectfully told him I was unaware that the internship ended, since he never said anything to that affect. Told him, "In fact, he gave me a list of other projects for me to work on, which I was grateful for, but I never received a response." I also laid out the current circumstances with the Wikipedia entries and asked for his advice. I saw a light at the end of the tunnel, I might find out why he didn't respond to me and determine what happened with the Wikipedia entries.

I ensured my correspondence was professional and lacked anger or accusations, even though I felt his internship was falsely advertised and his behavior was unbecoming.

I didn't receive a response.

Now, I was pissed. Mr. H had no problem during my internship pointing out the improper way I spoke, and educating me on polite social etiquette I should follow when corresponding with contacts and colleagues. Now all of a sudden he can't talk to me? He's above his own advice? I still hadn't received an email back in over two weeks from Mr. C. My irritation was reaching critical level, and I was appalled by the lack of professional courtesy both gentlemen have offered me.

If I did something wrong, I am positive I would have heard about it. Mr. H had no problem telling editors and other contacts he worked with they did something wrong while corresponding with him. So, what happened? Did I hit a nerve? Or was what I did so apprehensive it didn't warrant a response?

Right now I am starting NaNoWriMo and working with my new internship. I lost a few things up to this point, but I gained valuable knowledge that guides me everyday. Whether I ever receive a response or not, I need to encourage myself to keep moving forward, write for myself, and know better opportunities will present themselves.

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