As the back-to-school season dies down and students begin to plow through their heavy workloads, we were lucky to find two literature lovers ready and willing to take on even more.
Meet the first of our two amazing interns for this fall semester, Steph Heinz, a junior Creative Writing major at Susquehanna University, who will be posting, searching, writing, clicking, dreaming–everything but coffee-fetching–for Atticus publicity.
Someone who works with kids at a summer camp must have an impressive amount of patience. Do you ever see this skill affect the way you read or write?
I adore working with kids, but you’re right, it does involve a lot of patience. Mostly when you don’t want to be patient anymore. I think it’s helped me be less pushy when it comes to my own writing. I hate that feeling when I sit down in front of a blank piece of paper and really want to write, but can’t think of anything. I used to just get frustrated and give up, but I like to think now I’m able to sit with the paper longer and wait for something to happen.
Are there any book-geek stereotypes that totally apply to you?
All of them?
Haha, I’ve been a bookworm since before I could properly read, so there are quite a few stereotypes that I’ve been labeled with. I wear glasses, I’m not very athletic, and know little about sports. I can’t go anywhere without a book or seven. I read while I walk (and sometimes run into walls while I’m at it). I can’t go into a store without looking at their book section. I’m a constant day dreamer…
I’m sure there are more, but to be honest they’re probably too much of who I am for me to even notice them.
Are there any books or authors’ work that you appreciate but are also confused by? Are there any titles that you feel deserve second and third chances for their genius, or, quirkiness?
The one that comes to mind right now is Mark Z. Danielewski, because a portion of my summer was dedicated to trying to solve the puzzle that is House of Leaves. Most days I still can’t figure out if I think it’s genius or gimmicky.
What’s your favorite way or place to find something new to read?
My absolute favorite way to find new things to read is recommendations from friends, and not just the book they’re telling everyone to read. It really means a lot when someone comes up to me and says they know of a book or a piece that they think I’d enjoy, because not only are they sharing awesome literature, but they’re sharing something of themselves and their understanding of me. I’m also a collector of titles, I have dozens upon dozens of titles in a document on my phone of books that I’ve seen in stores or online that look interesting, but I don’t really know all that much about. I won’t normally actively look for any of them, but I always get excited when I happen to stumble across something on my list.
Who was the best reader you’ve ever seen or heard? What did they do that made it memorable, and, have you ever read your work in public? Do you have any tips?
For prose, I’d have to go with Joy Castro who came to my college and read from The Truth Book. There was something about her voice that was immediately both engaging and calming, but mostly it was genuine and embodied the words she had written. For poetry, I will always love watching Anis Mojgani perform, or really anyone who is a part of the Write Bloody crew. He’s the opposite of Joy Castro in a lot of ways, because he’s more energetic and dynamic, but my favorite thing about him is that he isn’t afraid to be funny. I’ve read at a few open mics on campus, which usually has an audience of about twenty-five kids who are also considering reading, ten of their friends, and about a dozen kids who are just trying to get some homework done in the coffee shop. I’m dreadful at it, the moment I start reading I tense up and get stage fright. It does help if I’ve read the piece a lot so I know I’m comfortable with it, and while I’m on stage I usually try to find a friendly face and ignore all the other ones so I feel less exposed. It has gotten a bit better since I started, so I suppose my best tip would be to simply get up and do it.
Do you see any problems or frustrations in publishing you’d like to be fixed? Even if it’s a long shot, do you have a suggestion or dream of how to make it better?
I know everyone always harps on e-books and the movement towards online publishing, and while I agree I would always prefer to hold a physical book, I also see a lot of the benefits to it. Instead I’m more frustrated about the bestseller market right now. Everything seems to be less about what people should read, and more about what people will buy. I’m not saying that everything published needs to be groundbreaking and introspective, sometimes you need to pick up something lighter and just enjoy it. It’s more about bestseller lists and publishing houses renting out space in bookstores to showcase the books they want to get on those lists, it’s starting to seem impossible to sell anything unless you’re already a household name or can pay enough money to have people read it. I think I’m just a romantic when it comes to ideas on book quality and distribution, but I’d love it if people were more motivated to find something they love to read instead of just accepting what they’re told to love.
Who are the two writers you would love to see co-author a book?
I’m perpetually nostalgic, so my writerly dream team will always be Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. As for a new pairing, I’m really not sure.
Do you have any topics you obsess about in your reading or writing?
For the past year or so I’ve been writing mostly personal essays and other types of creative non-fiction, and I think it’s become pretty clear how much of an impact my family has had on me since it always seems to come up in essays. I tend to focus a lot on the relationships between people and the character developments instead of the physical actions when it comes to writing. As for obsessions in reading, I’ve been hooked on circuses and carnivals for a while now, but I’ve never actually been to the circus or a major carnival. It’s gotten to the point that I’m scared to go, because I know it won’t amount to what I expect of it.
What were you most excited for when you were ten, and what are you most excited for this year?
When I was ten I was probably focused on the idea of my brother going to college, which I thought would mean my older sister and I wouldn’t have to share a room anymore. My parents reminding me that he still needed a room to come home to during breaks was a crushing blow.
Right now I’m excited for two upcoming trips. The first being Seattle in the spring for AWP. Currently, the furthest west I’ve ever gone is Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The second trip is to South Africa for a few weeks this summer as a part of a study abroad program at my college.
Why are you interested in an internship in publishing, and with Atticus Books?
Growing up, I always said I was going to be a writer, and it wasn’t until I got to college that I started to get interested in working with publishing or production. Having this internship is giving me a first-hand look at what a career in publishing could be, a bit of a peek behind the curtain I guess. In particular, I love the personality of Atticus Books. Even reading their submission guidelines I start to laugh and want to become friends with whomever had a hand in writing it. I was lucky enough to attend the AWP conference in Boston this past spring and actually met both Dan and Colin Winnette, the author of Fondly. They were both friendly and I could really see how much they cared about books, that warm and fuzzy kind of love for it.
As an added bonus, I’ve really loved the feel of any book published by Atticus. They smell nice and the covers are soft, and I’ve always been particular about the physicality of books.
Ok, let’s get the disclosure part of things out of the way right from the start. I’m Steph’s daddy!
That said, it doesn’t diminish how impressed I am with this young woman. Steph is one who always goes that extra step beyond just getting the job done. Atticus Books is quite fortunate to have her as part of their staff. She has an attention to detail that is sometimes missing in this new “digital age” of publishing.
I am very proud of what Steph has accomplished in her academic endeavors, and delighted with the thought that she is now getting some ink in her veins, like her father.
We are elated to have her aboard, Phil. Thanks for the commentary.