Interns, normally selected from among Antioch College students, are a vital part of The Antioch Review, so we caught up with Michael Shirzadian and asked him to reflect back on his time here.
Your job at The Antioch Review
I had the privilege of interning for the Antioch Review from fall 2008 to spring 2009. My job was to enter stories and essays into AR’s manuscript database, and to prepare submissions for AR’s first round of readers. Although the process could be tedious at times, I learned a lot about the internal mechanisms of a reputable literary journal, and, better, I was able to interact with editor Robert Fogarty, whose knowledge of and passion for literature—especially the essay—served as inspiration to me, a reminder that the best editors avoid cynicism and celebrate the diversity extant within every story, essay or poem. Working with Bob was instructive and truly a pleasure.
One of my favorite moments working for the Antioch Review took place during an office tour in my first week. Bob had handed me an edition of the journal published in 1980, and, flipping through its pages, I noticed a story published by my favorite writer, Raymond Carver. At the time I had only read Carver’s stories in lit. Anthologies, so to happen across one in its original published venue was, to me, surreal; it reified Carver, rendered him flesh rather than that ethereal literary heavyweight I had only studied. That day, I performed my duties with a kind of reverence, as if Carver’s ghost was hovering above me, looking over my shoulder to confirm that I had brought to my duties an air of solemnness befitting such an important and historic journal. I felt that I was part of something big, and I was.
What you learned
My experiences at the Antioch Review proved useful during my tenure as an M.F.A. student at the University of Colorado, where I served as editor for Subito Press and Timber Literary Journal, organizing manuscripts, reading cover letters, assessing fiction, sending out acceptance/rejection letters, copy-editing and of course printing and marketing our publications. Lessons learned while interning at the AR rose out of the ether of subconsciousness: reading manuscripts is the fun and easy part; re: cover letters, less is always more; this kind of work doesn’t always pay well, or at all. And so on.
Journals like the Antioch Review—one of the oldest, continuously published lit. Magazines in the country—enjoy a special historical perspective. They outlive the phenomena that their pages interrogate; they catalog ideas that give rise to movements, and endure while those movements effect cultural or political or literary change; they exist after these movements have passed; they reflect a collective vernacular even while they help shape it; they can outlast the institutions which charter them.
I’m happy to have been a small part of AR’s long history, to have contributed—however imperceptibly—to that timeless fellowship of the human spirit that compels every writer in every era to pick up the pen in the first place.
Michael writes and teaches English in Grants, New Mexico. He received his M.F.A. from the University of Colorado and will begin his doctoral work at The Ohio State University this fall.
© The Antioch Review, 2014