A major in creative writing is a great start for international students looking to get into the business of publishing, literary criticism, magazines, or more. But to actually find a job in these competitive fields, some tangible work experience will be a huge advantage. Working as an intern during your college career is the best way for you to get experience, build connections, and ultimately get your foot in the door.
Not all international students in a creative writing major aspire to be the next William Shakespeare or Ernest Hemingway – plenty of students are in the major with an aim to land on the business side of the English world as well. For these people especially, doing a creative writing internship during school is a great way to get exposed to the many facets of the industry. Even for those who do want a career in actual writing, it can be a good idea to take a creative writing summer internship to become familiar with the business side of creative writing.
One popular creative writing internship option is to be a book publisher. Book publishers can be very large companies, so there are often plenty of available internships that are only marginally related to creative writing itself, such as those in human resources or legal departments. Another option for those looking to get involved in creative writing is an internship in sales or marketing with a book publisher, which will have international students deal more closely with the writing side of things but is still ultimately oriented towards a business skill set. The best bet for international students in a creative writing internship is to land a coveted editorial intern position. The work of an editorial intern often includes reading and possibly revising submissions and published work, generating promotional material, and sitting in on a company’s executive meetings.
Closely related to internships at book publishers are internships at literary magazines or journals. The key difference is that a literary magazine is usually a smaller-scale operation, meaning that interns will probably have the chance to be a more integral part of the company’s dealings. Potential duties are similar to those of an editorial intern at a book publisher, covering the entire process of literary magazine publication from the fielding and analysis of submissions to the proofreading of the rough draft to the distribution of final printed copies. Given their more intimate nature, internships at literary magazines are often higher commitment and thus a good choice for a creative writing summer internship, when international students have more free time.
More radically different from the above two examples is a creative writing internship at a literary agency. While many of the functions, such as reading submissions, are similar, an internship at a literary agency naturally focuses more on agency duties like representation, networking, and contracts. In fact, an agency may be the single best place to learn the ins and outs of the literary business, as interns will come into regular contact with publishers, writers (clients), and agents at the very intersection of their legal and business dealings. If a thorough understanding of the literary business is your goal, a creative writing summer internship at a literary agency may be for you.
There are plenty of other internship categories that make up a smaller portion of the creative writing internships out there. Educational and outreach groups, such as libraries, schools, and literature-oriented nonprofits, often offer internships to expose students to that very different side of the industry. Even though this article has focused on business-focused internships, there are technically creative writing internships available that do focus on the production of creative material. These materials may be with individuals, museums, or arts organizations. These less-mainstream internships are scarcer and harder to pinpoint than the more major types listed above, so if you want an educational or actual writing internship you’ll need to put in some good research to find one that works for you.
Usually involving limited part-time hours a week and valuable exposure to aspects of the literary industry, a creative writing internship is an invaluable way for international students to gain experience, expand their contacts, and get themselves started in an exciting career.