From the Intern Desk: The Terrible Offense of Being Classified as an Adult
By Brianna Gielow
I’ve been being a little coy when I tell everybody that I went to the YAWP program ‘back when I was in high school.’ The truth is, it really hasn’t been long enough to say ‘back when’ yet. I would have just graduated this spring if I hadn’t decided to skip out on my senior year. My high school experience sucked in nearly every way you could think of- classes were boring, the teachers were almost as uninspiring as my peers, I had lots of fights with my friends, and I felt intellectually stifled. So I went to join other like-minded hippie kids at Bard College at Simon’s Rock, a liberal arts college for kids who want to leave high school a year or two early. It was possibly the best decision I’ve ever made.
I’m telling you all this so that you understand what a serious compliment it is when I say that Grub Street sometimes makes me wish I was still in high school.
I interned with Grub Street this summer partially for the chance to be involved with the Young Adult Writer’s Program’s Summer Fellowship. My two years in the program were my main qualification for getting the position at all, and so I was given the role of the Official YAWP Intern. During the three weeks of the Fellowship, I came in every day and braved the shoddy internet access in the lobby in order to be available for the teachers and students if they were to need anything. My tasks consisted mostly of making photocopies, printing things out, and finding snacks. When there were no errands to run or online registrations to process, I spent my time listening in on the class going on in the front room and working on my own writing. I also got to accompany the group when they went on their field trips to the MFA and the ICA. I carried the Charlie Cards and tried to keep a head count on our journeys, and then got to hang out with the instructors and enjoy the exhibits for free. It was a pretty wonderful way to spend a few weeks of my otherwise boring summer.
But there was still a part of me that was a little unsatisfied. Whenever I scolded someone for not signing in and out for lunch, I felt like an imposter. I’m only a year or two older than most of them. Why was I behind the desk instead of in the classroom? I wanted to be sharing my work with my peers and getting feedback from Reggie, KL, Becky, and Jen, instead of scribbling by myself in between tasks. I wanted to be in on the conversations the students had during lunch, instead of half-listening from the corner. I felt kind of like a ghost from YAWPs past, back to haunt the program but unable to experience everything the living/current participants got to learn and do.
I was glad that KL and Reggie’s class was in the front room, where I could listen in more frequently. I have had (and loved) both Jen and Becky as instructors during the summers when I was a student, but I’d never spent any time with Reggie or KL aside from one or two free Saturday programs. Getting to know them and listening to their lectures and feedback for the students was wonderful- and entertaining. They made a wonderful team, and my envy of the students increased when I heard the kind of discussions they got into about word choices, craft, and writing in general- the same kind of serious discussion that I was so excited to be a part of back when I was in their shoes. You don’t often find people who are willing to go over your work in that kind of depth when you’re in high school (at least, not at my high school). I found myself getting really excited that these freshman and sophomores were being exposed to that kind of real critique and conversation about writing, which will hopefully counteract the kind of unenthusiastic and shallow stuff that can go on in high school English classes. I smiled to myself from my lair in the corner, tapped my fingers together, and thought, “Yes, yessssss, teach them well, train them to be the Grub Street minions of the future!”
If the readings the students gave on the final day of the fellowship are any indication, it seems that the instructors did indeed teach them very well. It was incredibly interesting to hear what they had been working on after watching them come in and out all week but never seeing them in the classroom. They were eloquent and insightful and clever. Many performed better than many adults I’ve seen read. It was quite impressive. And after it was over, I’ll freely admit to feeling a few pangs of sadness and nostalgia as they all met up with their parents and piled into the elevator for the last time. If I hadn’t had somewhere to be and a ride waiting for me, I probably would’ve hung around for ages, chatting with to the teachers and looking for odd jobs I could do around the office to keep me there a little longer.
My jealousy, up to this point, was painful but bearable. I wanted to be in their shoes, but had the comfort of remembering that I had been there once and being able to chat with the instructors in the morning made it more than worth my while to be there. I fed off of their energy, vicariously felt their excitement, was inspired by their enthusiasm. But then one day while scrolling through the Grub Street website, I noticed a few things on the list of fall courses that would have turned me green with envy if such a thing were possible. There are several multi-week programs now being offered for teens on Friday afternoons, one of which is solely devoted to workshopping. I didn’t get to do that when I was in high school! I was having a hard enough time coping with the fact that I will be back in Great Barrington by the time the rest of the fall adult classes start up, but now they are offering things specifically for teens that I am not even eligible for anymore! I would have absolutely eaten up that workshop two years ago! It’s an outrage!
To make it up to me, I think Grub Street should offer me a special class, taking place during my winter break, in which I am the only student and all the YAWP instructors come together to give me personalized prompts, instruction, and feedback. This would ease my pain enough that I might be willing to forgive them for the terrible offenses of classifying me as an adult and not being located closer to my school. I wouldn’t ask for a stipend like the summer YAWPers get: so long as I pay no expenses, I would be perfectly satisfied. I’m not going to be unreasonable about it: I only want just compensation for the emotional trauma of being excluded from all these new programs. It’s only fair, right?
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