Update: The essay quoted in this blog has been pulled off the McSweeney’s site…
If you are following the Oxford American flap, you are aware that one of the issues involves summer interns.
And it seems that one of the OA summer interns has been writing about lessons from her experience there.
At McSweeney’s online site…
Remember Mary Marge Locker? The Tri Delta sister who won a contest to write a year-long column for McSweeney’s online, and who has spent a year writing about being a freshman at Ole Miss? I wrote about her in the third item down in this post last Spring.
That’s her on the left in the picture, as an Oxford American intern, drinking and underage at a party in Little Rock at the publisher’s office. It’s posted (with a caption but without id’ing her by name) in Marc Smirnoff’s strange defense on his new website.
If you’ve read parts of Marc’s point of view about this whole fiasco, you know that he’s asserting that the firing was provoked over his firing and warning a couple of interns, and firing an editor. Two interns and the editor then went to the board of the Oxford American with complaints about Smirnoff, and the firings ensued.
In a column in May, Locker mentioned that she was off to intern for the Oxford American, her first ever job, noting that she could not get a job at Square Books. In a column in June, she wrote about servants at sororities at Ole Miss, titling the piece “The Help,” and noting, “I’d like to thank my current boss for inspiring me to write about race.”
Her latest column, dated August 6th, describes the life-lessons from learning about editing in her summer job editing and fact checking.
I’ve lived alone, paid my own bills, dealt with the personal pressures of office affairs (take that word as you will), and committed to the more straightforward ups and downs of working a 9–5. The magazine’s got a social climate all its own, but I’ve gained more knowledge about how to handle different aspects of my own social life simply through the hard-learned invariables of editing.
But more important (when you’re low as hell on the totem pole) than the relationship-via-email you have with your writers is the in-office relationship with your editors. They make or break your experience—mine was made and then broken in half, but it didn’t really matter because I figured out how to be polite and make it work.
In her list of life lessons from her experience as an intern is this:
Don’t play in to scandals or drama,
but build real relationships when you can.
By real relationships, I don’t mean making out with your supervisor or anything, but rather finding common ground with coworkers and superiors, maybe for the sole purpose of leaving a lasting impression, or maybe for want of something greater—friendships, camaraderie. But this want, if let to fester in the wrong environment, is mistaken. You shouldn’t come into a job expecting relationships… you should strive simply for connections. Yeah, there are people to drink with on the weekends or hit up a movie with, but enjoy them without expectation. (This rule took me way too long.) In the nature of a 19-turned-20 year old, I wanted something that wasn’t what I got, because I’d never had a job and didn’t know what it meant to be a coworker. But now I have what’s better: connections, and comrades, without the forced bond of overly committed and strenuous friendship, even though for now we are friends, and it’s worth the possibility of continuing; but there is no pressure, just understanding and relief.
This has taught me what the bond of sorority sisterhood should be like.
Gawd. I just finished reading Smirnoff’s defense of himself. There are a couple of pertinent intern references that leave it up in the air who the difficult intern might be. One describes an exchange between Marc and the editor who he was about to fire, and names Lockner:
And I still can’t stomach a recent memory involving Enzinna and interns. Not too long ago, Mary Marge Locker, a current OA intern, and I were shooting pictures at an outdoor Shakespeare play when we walked over to a crowded nearby restaurant where we found Enzinna and Carol Ann having drinks (see, they kept hanging out together after October 8, 2011). After Mary Marge and I sat down, Enzinna, clearly drunk, began talking very loudly and meanly about another intern who he was sure (via intuition) that all the other interns hated. I tried to change the subject but he only came back louder:
“You just don’t like the fact that you aren’t the only with intuition! And you don’t like that I’m right!”
Though the damage was done, I rose from my seat and asked Mary Marge to join me outside for more photographs. The fact that a senior editor would trash another intern in front of an intern disgusted me profoundly and even though Enzinna later blamed it on his drinking, I think that moment was when I began to slowly but surely connect the dots. (I would later learn that it wasn’t “intuition” that gave Enzinna the idea about that intern but another intern who genuinely apologized to me for saying that. Such an apology never came from the senior editor.)
The second is from the section where Marc makes demands of the OA board:
Conduct a hearing for the intern I fired and who Massey later invited back to work at the magazine. We request the right to question her in front of The Board or an impartial tribunal so that we can present and question upwards to ten witnesses who, we are convinced, will corroborate our charges against her and dismantle any claims of “sexual harassment” she may have said (and invented) against Marc Smirnoff. (Note: The fired intern is not a minor and we therefore have the right to name her. We have decided not to do that yet. We also reserve the right to file a complaint about her behavior to the out-of-state university that sent her to us.)
I can now say I’ve read Marc’s point of view, all the way to the end. The man needs an editor.