Sunday, January 20, 2013

Observations of an Editorial Intern: A New Weekly Blog Series

#DailyWings: "I'm glad you're getting a chance to bust your chops on the journalism block." -an anonymous friend of mine

Introducing a new weekly post series on my blog: "Observations of an Editorial Intern" (as inspired by the CAFME Summer Intern Diaries)! This series focuses on my experiences of interning as a journalism student for a town publication. Any viewpoints expressed on my blog are not reflective of the publication I work for. 

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This isn't reporting class, I thought at my new work station. This is the real thing.

The first day tends to be the most nerve-wrecking. You're getting used to the work environment, the publication's style, the pacing. It's the one day when you really feel like an intern, because everything is so new. 

My "working girl" outfit
Friday was my first full work day at Chapel Hill Magazine's THE WEEKLY, where I will be serving as an editorial intern for the spring semester. I report on local news and events, take photographs, conduct interviews for profiles, copy edit articles and anything else that needs to be taken care of. 

Even though I've only had one official work day, it felt great to stay productive. Working 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. can feel like a long stretch, but when you're in the zone and focusing on your work, time passes by rather quickly. 

Still, there is still so much to learn. Interning at a local publication gives you the opportunity to take a glimpse at what being a journalist is like on a daily basis. Suddenly, it's not about you and your squeamish feelings over talking on the phone with strangers. Ain't nobody got time for that. It's about working as part of a team to produce quality news stories for local consumers of media. 

At the beginning, it's tempting to regress into shy mode and not talk a lot; I tend to be this way, especially when I'm nervous. But I've realized that even if you aren't very confident at first, once you start acting and speaking with confidence, you'll soon start to feel that way, too. Admittedly, this is something I'm trying to get better at -- especially when there are sources on the other line. You represent the publication you work for when you talk to them, after all. 

It's easy to just sit and listen to other colleagues make conversation, but at some point you should just decide to jump in. It helps to get to know your team members, whom you'll be working with for the next several months. There will always be something you can talk about; you might even be surprised. For instance, the moment I chimed in was when the topic was on the publication style guide; this was something I could relate to because I'd written the bloggers' style guide for Blue & White magazine. You have valuable opinions and experiences (I mean, if you didn't, you probably wouldn't have gotten the internship) -- share them! 

Of course, every office environment and "work culture" is different. The pacing in a newspaper office -- where there are daily deadlines and hundreds of reporters working on stories -- is different than the pacing in a magazine office, where features are often due on a weekly or monthly basis. Our office has a cozy kitchen and lobby with couches, which are nice to visit when I want to stand up and take a five-minute break from desk work. 

Two of the things that make me happiest are writing and traveling. The great thing about journalism as a career is that you don't have to choose between writing at a desk and discovering the world. As a journalist, you can do both. You're serving the truth. You're learning about the community and attending events you otherwise wouldn't have. You're telling real stories about real people. Some time in between researching the events I'll be covering and typing up interview notes on Friday, I thought to myself: Oh man, I'm one step closer to my dream job! (In a way. Baby steps, right?) 

Dare to step out of your comfort zone. 

Wendy Lu

What are some things you'd want to know about internships or what "a day in the life" is like, particularly in the journalism industry? Do you have any tips from personal internship experiences? 


Sunday, January 13, 2013

When Everything Good Happens

#DailyWings: "Life has many ways of testing a person's will, either by having nothing happen at all or by having everything happen all at once." -Paulo Coelho

A person's mood is like the waves of an ocean, a cosine graph. It fluctuates in a gradual manner. We all have our bad days, brought forth by a spilled coffee or perhaps traffic. And then there are great days, when everything seems to be falling right into place and we can't help but smile at the good fortune this world has brought us. 

Lately I've been living on a high. Wonderful things have happened, left and right -- an editorial internship at Chapel Hill Magazine's THE WEEKLY, reunion with my closest friends, excellent fall semester grades, beautiful 70 degree weather, a position as Arts & Entertainment Editor for Blue & White magazine, inspiration for poetry, enjoyment of the masterpiece that is "The English Patient". I can't help but wonder how I have been able to deserve this good life. (Or rather the past two good months, at the very least!) 

After weeks of straight studying for exams that never seem to end and pitching stories and tackling writer's block, it's incredible to see what has come out of it all. I feel like I'm moving forward. Then again, it could be that typing this all down will lead to a jinx. *crosses fingers* 

To ponder over Paulo Coelho's words: Last semester, it seemed like nothing was happening. Every day was just about the same, with minor changes such as in pizza toppings or class seating; I didn't do much about it except keep going. Now that everything has happened all at once, what is next for me? 

There is so much to look forward to, so much to learn and do and experience. With opportunity comes a certain level of anxiety, of course, but it's the good kind. The kind that has you shaking with anticipation of what's to come. 

I know this high will, at some point, start to descend; nothing good can last forever, after all. Eventually, a bad day will come round. Inspiration will run out, exams will return and deadlines will creep up like shadows in the night. I am wary of the downward spiral that is bound to come sooner or later. 

Perhaps the best thing to do when everything good is happening is simply appreciate. Enjoy and give yourself credit. Do all that is possible to keep the ball rolling, but once it begins to slow -- and it will -- be resolved to tackle the imminent obstacles head-on. 

When was the last time you felt the most alive? What would you do if all your dreams came true? Conversely, when you're down in the dumps, how do you pick yourself back up again?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Crescent City Connection in New Orleans
As curriculum developer for Everyday AmbassadorI also wanted to take this chance to share an awesome opportunity with you all: Want to win more than $350,000 in prizes and launch your next big idea? Enter the Dell Social Innovation Challenge by Monday, Jan. 28, 2013! All semi-finalists will have help creating a fundraising platform and be eligible for a matching grant. 

The first place winner (of 45 award winners!) will receive $60,000. The Everyday Ambassador team will be posting a few guides to help you enter the challenge during the next two weeks. Also, be sure to enter EA on the referral/promo code field! 

This is a great way to get your ideas out into the world. What do you have to lose? You have a vision -- how far will it take you?

Wendy Lu


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Looking Back, Moving Forward: A Year In Review + Fourth Annual No-Kiss Blogfest

#DailyWings: "May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art--write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself." 
-Neil Gaiman

One of my main new year's resolutions from 2012 was to meditate every day for a certain amount of time either somewhere on campus or at home, and I'm excited to say that, for the most part, I succeeded. There's nothing better than lying on the grass in the campus arboretum, your vision cloaked by an entire blanket of blue sky, and letting your mind wander. 

There are two ways for me to engage in meditation -- one in which I try to rid my mind of all thoughts and cognition, and only allow sensations and feelings to take over the present moment. The other way is to simply not fight any of the thoughts that come to mind, but rather let them come as they "flow." Both are helpful for me when I want to re-organize my mind (as if it were a sock drawer!), and both are good for long hours of travel. 

I've been able to do a good bit of thinking during my road trip to and from New Orleans. Music on full blast. Changing time zones. Writing poetry. Stealing away in my books for hours at a time. Pondering over this question: What do I want 2013 to be about? 

Looking back on last year's resolutions while completing my annual review of personal achievements, I've realized these two lists don't quite parallel. Many of my accomplishments have nothing to do with my original goals, which goes to show how things can change over time. As always, here's a look at what helped define 2012 for me: 

Year in Review:
  • Got into UNC-Chapel Hill's School of Journalism and Mass Communication
  • Learned to cook -- mainly potatoes, vegetables and multiple variations of pasta; I still haven't gotten past the squeamishness of raw meat
  • Reached 200 followers, 200 blog posts and 40,000 page views (thanks to you!)
  • Hosted my second major blogfest and first chapter critique giveaway
  • Published short stories in Carolina Creates Writers and The Collegiate Scholar
  • Found something beautiful to be happy and appreciative about every single day
  • Joined Everyday Ambassador as the curriculum developer
  • Interned at Shanghai Children's Medical Center and led the China Perspectives on Mental Health (CPMH) project
  • Hosted two writing workshops for North Carolina Fellows
  • Became best friends with my Nikon D5100
Most of these accomplishments were as a result of hard work over time and taking chances at unexpected opportunities. For instance, I only learned to cook after stumbling upon an outstanding smartphone application, Epicurious in the Apple App Store. For those of you who are still crafting your goals for the new year, feel free to refer to my guide: 5 Steps to a Resolution You'll Stick WithAs for mine? Here they are: 

Do you make new year's resolutions? What are you most looking forward to in 2013?

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And now it's time for Frankie Mallis's Fourth Annual No-Kiss Blogfest! Forty-two awesome bloggers have signed up to participate in this new year's tradition; it's not too late for you to join us! Also, be sure to check out the other blogfest entries. As a refresher, here's what it's all about: 

"Write a scene or post one from of your favorite books, movies, TV shows, pictures or WIP that show the almost kiss -- the rising, crushing, excruciating, longing, tension that comes  when two characters get oh-so-close to kissing that you can just feel it, want it, NEED it....and then...they don't!" 

This is my third time participating in Frankie's No-Kiss blogfest. You can find my 2011 and 2012 entries here and here, respectively. And I can think of no better way to ring in 2013 than with some heat! For today's blogfest, I took a bit more creative liberty with this piece than I usually do with most of my other blogfest entries. My fictional scene is based on two youthful characters from another short story I wrote two semesters ago. Enjoy! 

Cotton Candy and Other Distractions

The first time my family went to the state fair, I was seven and barely tall enough to ride the Jump Star kiddie carousel. My mom had always accompanied me to these kinds of things. She would hold my hand as I mounted the painted horse, one foot hanging over either side of the animal figure. 

Now I'm fifteen and I'm at the state fair with a boy I hardly know. His name's Benjamin Watkins, but everyone at school calls him Benny. Before, I never even talked to him -- only saw him running the track during gym. We found out we were into each other two weeks ago when he winked at me and slipped me a note in my locker, middle-school style. It's not official or anything, but now the whole school knows. 

My older sister Myra has told me about boys before, just like she tells me about everything else. She calls them greasy slime balls and says I better take care of my fragile heart, but what does she know? 

Benny's not the same, I think. So far, I've learned he's really into rock music, and in my book passion is always something to appreciate. He's nice, not like the assholes at school who make fun of my red hair and freckles. And there's something about the way he flips his hair and smiles all wide like he's happy to see me.

Pink strands of candy floss twist around my tongue. It's been ages since I've had cotton candy, and I don't remember it tasting this sweet. I'm thinking about how Myra had mentioned that it's important not to bare my teeth when Benny suddenly says, "Like it?" 

We're on a small hill, overlooking the fairgrounds. A thousand bright bulbs light up the entire exhibition, with colorful balloons bobbing up and down every few yards. It's peaceful where we rest, side by side, clutching our cotton candy and stuffed prizes. 

Benny's sitting in the grass next to me and wearing a dark blue Guns N' Roses T-shirt that Mom wouldn't approve of, but oh, he's gorgeous. Brown hair brown eyes brown everything -- like chocolate. I wonder how I'd been so lucky. 

"Oh yes. Strawberry's my favorite flavor," I say, grinning, and then quickly close my mouth. In my head, Myra's clucking her tongue and talking about how there's nothing less attractive than pink teeth. First date problems. "Thanks for getting the cotton candy for me." 

"'Course," Benny says. He shifts his position so that he's facing me. "I'm glad we got to do this." 

All of a sudden, he sounds a little nervous. This puzzles me. Benny's the confident and cool one. He's the class clown who thinks up of new ways to harass Ms. Teeter, the math teacher everyone hates. He's the guy whom everyone wants on their dodgeball team. He's the first guy I've ever really liked, but right now he's nervous and I'm thinking maybe he can tell that I'm new to this. 

Benny Watkins flips his hair like he's from One Direction and then, before I know it, his hand is on mine. I'm frozen and useless, not unlike the ice cream cone a small boy about ten yards away just dropped on the floor. Did he just take my hand? Yes he did, I think, and oh my gosh I don't know what to do -- 

"I really like you," he says. 

I turn my head, and realize his face is inches from mine. His eyes are getting smaller and smaller; he's closing them. A little voice inside me screams, The kiss! He wants to kiss you! But I'm new to this, so it's hard to know which way to turn my head -- left or right? My stomach is filled with squirming sensations that won't go away. I'm scared my nose is too big, but Benny's lips are coming and there's no time for fear. My other hand grips the paper cone, sticky from sweat and cotton candy. 

Just as Benny's lips part and pucker, I breathe and suck in as much as air as possible, not sure how long kisses are supposed to last. Suddenly, something gets caught in my nose. It tickles, and I can feel another sensation developing quickly, the kind you're not supposed to get when you're about to be kissed. My nose gives way. 


Leftover cotton candy sugar stings the back of my throatIt takes me a moment to recover, and when I open my eyes there's Benny Watkins, looking startled and one hand in front of him like a shield. 

I mumble a meek "sorry," my cheeks burning, as he passes me a napkin. He assures me that "it's fine," but any prospects of intimacy are gone now and I'm left wondering how could a sneeze have ruined the perfect moment for me.

Wendy Lu

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