Texas Monthly on the daily

It’s not uncommon here to open the blinds to a rain-streaked window. Most mornings are grey, but by mid-afternoon the day heats up to hot, soupy humidity. I kind of love it.

I take the bus to Congress Avenue. (For more on bus people, see this previous post.) I get off, walk to the formidable marble-fronted skyscraper that houses Texas Monthly, and take the elevator to the 17th floor. It’s usually filled with commuters who get on and off at various floors — the ones who ride from 1 to 2 are the worst. I am usually the youngest. I am sometimes the most casually dressed.

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Our view from the Texas Monthly offices on the 17th floor.

Floor 17 is a breath of cool air and a long, white corridor with a giant red “TM” at one end. I walk through the maze of an office (it takes up the entire floor) to my cubicle space. I am always early.

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The Texas Monthly logo that greets me every morning when I arrive and every afternoon when I leave. Nothing says ‘bold’ like red and white.

Post-commute hair repair is a daily routine because Texas is moist. The coffee is free, so I take some. Annie arrives, and our workday begins.

Texas Monthly is an amazing place to work. Today, there was half an apple pie in the kitchen up for grabs. World Cup games are always on in there, and there’s an oatmeal assembly area. Posters and printed pictures line cubicle walls — no office was ever less boring. Then there are the people. Yesterday, Francesca Mari bought me a chai tea latte to thank me for transcribing some of her interviews (read: doing my job). For the rest of the day, I walked on air. Every time John Spong walks past our editorial intern workspace, he greets us with a, “‘Sup, children?” Today his button-up was pink and polka-dotted and had teeny white buttons.

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Most of the hallways are lined with covers of old issues of Texas Monthly. They date back to when the magazine started; it’s interesting to see how times have changed.

Every week brings a new task. For the first few weeks I transcribed interviews for Pat Sharpe, renowned food editor and restaurant critic who’s also Texas Monthly staple. The week after that I worked on a conversation that Francesca had with a woman who spoke only Spanish — I knew that minor would come in handy.

I’ve attended a monthly editorial meeting in the intimidating glass-walled conference room, delivered batches of cookies to the communal kitchen, and had the opportunity to speak to Nate Blakeslee about “An Isolated Incident,” a long form story he wrote about an SMU student’s drug overdose. Tomorrow, Brian Sweany is giving us a tour of the Texas Capitol building. Next week we’ll discuss John’s story, “The Good Book and the Bad Book.” We can ask him anything we like.

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The walls surrounding the central kitchen are covered in quote decals from old TM stories. The quote in the middle is one of my favorites.

In short, I love it here. I am surrounded by people who love what they do, and who are some of the best in the business at it. My fellow editorial interns are some of the most driven and talented people I’ve met — they push me to excel. I’m reading and absorbing more than I ever have, and learning plenty along the way.

And yes, I’m still working toward that byline.

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Texas Monthly on the daily

Becoming “Clarita:” A week in the life of an intern

Celeste (Moretti, my boss) told me on Friday that they’d had no idea what I would be like. 

The received my “profile” via email along with those of three other students — a profile that (incorrectly) listed my specialty as strategic communication. Hah.

It didn’t list my age, likes/dislikes, Spanish level, or past projects. There was no photo. For all the ladies in the Observatorio de Género office knew, I was a greying, 45-year-old married woman with two kids, a stuffy wardrobe and a nervous tick in one eye. “You walked through the door,” Celeste said, “and you were this big mystery!”

Soon to be resolved… I’ve filled Celeste, Veronica, Diana, Cynthia and the rest in on my studies, where I go to school, my hometown, and my caffeine addiction. (When they found out, Veronica ran out to buy me more coffee, bless her.) Now they call me “Clarita” — little Claire.

They, in turn, are the nicest people in the world. We work in a small, bright office on one end of a larger floor. There are about six desks in the room — I have one to myself where I store my very own Observatorio notebook. Celeste, Veronica and Diana Maffía, the director, are always there, but on any given day someone new walks in, kisses me on the cheek (always the right) and introduces him or herself. 

It’s a chat-and-work atmosphere: laid back (Celeste jokes about her bright sweaters and jeans) and open. The ladies gossip in rapid-fire Spanish and I catch most of what they’re saying… Suzanna, who used to work with them, gave one of them the cold shoulder the other day, for instance.

The back cabinets are a coffee-and-cookie junkie’s dream. Stacks of styrofoam cups, a new box of coffee (gracias, Veronica!), chocolate galletitas, creamer, sugars, etc. etc. On Monday I was given a piece of chocolate chip poundcake, on Tuesday a chocolate-and-dulce de leche alfahor and a cappuccino, and on Friday a fresh nectarine. I think they’re trying to fatten me up. Not mad about it.

My work there is fairly straightforward: design a Facebook profile and a Twitter profile. Once the cover pages and logos are ready to be posted, I’ll get the pages up and running and post from them often. 

I’ve been designing the pages (I finished both cover photos on Friday), but Celeste and I had a meeting about what I could do beyond social media. This is when I read my profile. “Specializes in strategic communication, i.e. social media, designing campaigns, designing power points,” it read. I almost laughed out loud.

I explained to Celeste that this wasn’t exactly the case. “Soy una escritora,” I said, “I’m a writer.” I described my articles for The Maneater, Move, Vox and The Missourian. She listened, bemused. 

Then she offered to let me write for the company. “I want to give you something to do that will benefit you as well,” she said, smiling. “Whatever you do is guaranteed to help us.”

Have I mentioned I love the people I work with?

For now I’m to brainstorm what I’d like to do writing-wise after the social media pages are up and running. I’ll present my ideas at a Tuesday meeting some weeks from now.

And so the saga of Clarita continues. 

Becoming “Clarita:” A week in the life of an intern

Additives of an Internship

This week’s lecture topic: Photo editing. This week’s blogpost topic: Internships.

Seems unrelated, yes? Only those privy to the nitty-gritty details of my thrilling life (HAH) know that I attended an internship panel on Monday (through Mizzou Magazine Club) that put the proverbial bug in my ear.

Scoring the perfect internship can (does) seem extremely daunting. On Monday night, three former interns – three success stories – stood out to me: Justin Whaley spent the summer at GQ, Nina Bolka was placed at Vogue, and Karee Hackel served as the beauty intern at Seventeen Magazine.

GQ. Vogue. Seventeen. Shock and awe. An overwhelming feeling of “Oh my god oh my god I could never do that or be that amazing or possibly live up to these outstanding individuals.” 

Distant dream or not, their advice is worth sharing. Here are some tips and tricks from Missouri School of Journalism’s pro-interns:

  • Don’t box yourself in! Know what you’re passionate about, but never limit yourself to one area or even one medium. Maximize your options.
  • Make your cover letter compelling. Give it a hint of personality. The people reading it get thousands every day; make yours memorable.
  • Write! Develop your personal voice. Start a blog, start it early and post often. Get as many clips as possible both for the experience and to showcase your authorial/journalistic style.
  • Pick a few things you are passionate about and pursue them! No matter if they don’t relate to journalism (or, in my case, to literature), commitment and involvement always look good.
  • Send personal thank-you notes! A thank-you email within 24 hours is common practice. Handwritten thank-yous make you stand out.
  • If you do land an internship, to quote one of the panelists, “give a shit” about it. “They’ll remember you if you had a positive experience. They’ll remember you as an intern who gave a shit.”

Sounds simple enough. Maximize your options, good cover letter, write, get involved, thank-yous and giving shits. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the internship formula as relayed to me by Mizzou Magazine Club’s esteemed panelists.

May the odds be ever in your favor.

Additives of an Internship