MWW16: Learning to Lead, Learning to Chill Out

Bear with me here, because this is going to be a long one. My Facebook memories are full of MWWs past and I’m gonna get emotional and nostalgic.

2016 was my fourth year at the Midwest Writers Workshop. I started out in 2013 as a little baby agent assistant intern all excited and nervous and no idea how to talk to anyone, much less my agent, Victoria Marini, so mostly I hung out with my fellow interns and hovered awkwardly. It was amazing. It’s where I met and became friends with Summer Heacock and Roxane Gay. It’s where I solidified my friendships with Jackson Eflin and Brittany Means, who are two of my best friends, and have been with me at every MWW since.

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2014. Jackson and I are the only returning interns, so we start calling ourselves Katniss and Peeta. Brittany moves from attendee to fellow intern. I assist Bridget Smith, and delight in telling one man that he was the first and one of two full manuscripts she asked for the whole weekend. Daniel JosΓ© Older is there, and to this day, if you mention his name around us, we’ll all sigh dreamily and talk excitedly about how his keynote speech kept everyone on the edge of their seats. I’m more confident. People recognize me. People are excited to see me! I’m excited to see them! This internship is quickly becoming about the community almost more than the professional experience.

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In 2015, I don’t apply for the internship – I get asked to return, and to lead. I take the agent assistant interns, and Jackson takes the social media counselors. We get to go to a few committee meetings, we get to train our crew, we basically run that shit. The interns are a tight-knit group of nerds. I assist Janet Reid and have a damn good time doing it. Between that and leading I don’t have much time for rest but tbh that’s how I like it. I do the after-partying, I’m comfortable talking to faculty and agents, and I don’t know how I’d survive any of it without Summer as one of my best friends.

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You’d think, after all that experience, that I’d go into 2016 all smooth and carefree and ready to take on the day.

Uh, no.

This year, I wasn’t assisting an agent. I was just in charge of a group of interns who were trained in a class taught by MWW’s awesome leader, Jama Kehoe Bigger. I went in thinking I’ll have nothing to do and my interns barely know me at all, what will they think of me? I know how to be a leader, but I felt like now I was seen not as a leader and friend, but a leader and adult and boss and I didn’t know how to be that.

I didn’t know any of the agents. I was nervous as hell to meet Julie Murphy. Brittany and Jackson were going to be there, but for the first time none of us were working in the same area. Summer was going to be there but MWW moved to a much larger space, and I didn’t know how much I’d see her. There was a mix-up with the T-shirt place, and I didn’t get an intern T-shirt – the largest they carried was a 2X and there’s no way that’s fitting me.

My anxiety basically ruled me that first Thursday of MWW16. I didn’t feel in control at all. I didn’t feel like I belonged like I had every other year. The first night, my friends and the 2015 agent assistant interns all get the same frantic message: I think my interns hate me.

To everyone else I probably seemed a-okay, if a little manic. But oh man, I was a mess that first day. 13692626_10157132830700697_5023136383583059040_n

Don’t worry. This isn’t a tragic story. It didn’t stay that way.

It helped, definitely, that while I didn’t have an intern shirt, I did have a tank top that Jackson screensprinted for me. I can’t pretend that having “QUEEN” printed on my back didn’t help the confidence.

Sure, I didn’t see Jackson and Brittany and Summer as much as I wanted – I kind of want to be around them like all the dang time – but I did see them. Any time we all had breaks, we found an empty space and talked and decompressed and had fun.

Maybe, occasionally, too much fun.

I talked to Julie Murphy on multiple occasions and didn’t die at all. I also probably didn’t embarrass myself THAT much! I eventually just calmed down and put the fangirling aside and learned to be a person.

Mostly.

It also didn’t hurt that there was a Pokestop in the Student Center and that, along with Summer, intern Kara Harris, and agent Molly Jaffa, we kept it in lures for most of the weekend. I caught a Scyther on Thursday night and it definitely wasn’t during a time when I should have been paying attention to something else, shut up, it was a SCYTHER, what would YOU have done???

And the interns? They were smart and funny and WAY prepared for their jobs. They handled me emailing them a dozen times each day with pitch requests and schedule changes from attendees, they got to know their agents, they bonded with each other. A few of them have already put up blog posts about their time at MWW and their desire to return.

And I guess it didn’t turn out they hated me after all.

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