Reading through the queries in my inbox, I’m reminded of my younger self. I wrote these exact letters six years ago, when I attempted to write and publish my second novel. Dreaming of being a writer, I not only worked on writing as a craft, but also began teaching myself everything I would need to know about the industry. Since then, I’ve learned a lot about writing as both—enough that I now find myself here, working as an intern for Andrea Somberg, an agent working for Harvey Klinger Literary Agency in New York City.
Last fall, when applying to spring and summer internships, I had no idea where I wanted to end up or what kind of work I wanted to do. My interests spanned teaching, community organizing and activism, research, curation and conservation, art, and of course, writing. However, I hadn’t taken my writing seriously in a year or two. But I took the chance to apply to a handful of internships in writing, editing, and publishing, and I’m glad I did.
Each morning, I wake up and log into the email account used by the interns, and I open up the folder filled with queries—of historical fiction, fantasy, young adult fiction, memoirs, self-help books, you name it—for me to read through. My very first day on the job, reading the hopeful letters and fresh book ideas of potential authors, I was struck with a sense of excitement. As a writer, I understood the gravity of the words written and felt a fellowship to these people. As a reader, I felt amazed at reading stories never told before and honored to be one of the first to read them. As an anthropology major, I felt joy at being able to witness so many stories from different cultural, geographical, ethnic, racial, gendered, and queered perspectives, to watch the world unfold before me in so many people’s eyes and writing.
At the same time, I understand the responsibility I hold in this position, because I get to have a say in the stories and voices we hear— this means I am able to push forward stories that increase meaningful representation and tell beautiful, unique stories, and weed out stories riddled with queerphobia, racism, misogyny, and the like. This also means, however, that I am responsible for sending rejection emails to writers I decide to pass on, and as a writer, I know both the disappointment and immense growth that comes from such rejection.
Of course, most queries we interns place into the folder of possible queries for Andrea to review will also end up getting rejected by her. But every once in a while, there’s a story that captures her attention.
One day, she emailed me saying that she had requested to represent one of the books I had read the queries of and flagged for her to read. Although the part I play in reading and relaying may be small, moments like those make it feel larger than life.
As I approach nearly a month through the internship, I imagine what my younger self would think if they knew I was where I am now, working in what is no less than my dream internship, and I plan for the future of this summer, and of my life career. I will continue to learn all I can about writing, to network and gain insight into the writing industry, and to pursue my dreams of being a writer and making a difference in the industry, and one day, I may find myself in Andrea’s place, representing the newest voices in the literary world, or maybe I will find myself in the place of the authors sending queries and eventually getting published.