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Read Her Work:

Caroline Tien

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Flipping through the booklet of intern bios on the first day of ASME orientation, I fought a rising tide of panic. How had I gotten into this program, which--as friends would repeatedly remind me over the course of the summer--was one of the most prestigious editorial internships in the U.S.? On account of its size (1,300 undergraduates, 0 graduates), my college doesn’t offer a journalism major or minor, so, at the time, my experience with the field was limited to working for the campus communications department and cranking out an occasional item for the student newspaper. Technical terms like “TK” were foreign to me, the mechanics of pitching even more so. I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I’d gotten in on a fluke, that I didn’t belong in the polished conference rooms of the Meredith Corporation.

 

Thankfully, however, that feeling lessened with time, and I can safely say that I’ve enjoyed my experience in New York; at Smart+Strong Publications, where I was assigned to work; and with the ASME internship program. (Side note: truly can’t believe it’s coming to an end already!) For me, a typical day begins at 9 a.m. or so, when (after snoozing my alarm more times than I probably should), I get up, get ready, and make the 1.5-mile walk to work. There, I sit down at my desk, a cold brew in hand, and immediately get started on that day’s projects, which generally include a couple newsfeed items for POZ Magazine deputy editor Trent Straube. Around noon, I break for an hour-long lunch before returning to my station; around 6 p.m. or 7 p.m., I head home.

 

To future cohorts of interns: please don’t underestimate the amount you can learn from working at a smaller, more niche publication. At Smart+Strong, I’ve been treated like a genuinely valuable member of the editorial team, rather than a gofer whose sole function is to make coffee runs and deliver mail. So far, I’ve gotten the opportunity to write an inestimable number of newsfeed items, four feature stories, two statistics blurbs, and even a personal essay. (Some of my favorites include this piece on a drag queen who won a California beauty pageant last year, this piece on HIV in North Korea, this piece on the use of robots to soothe kids undergoing chemotherapy, this piece on how HIV-criminalization laws affected one former college wrestler’s future career prospects, and this piece on delays in a law that would enable college grads with cancer to defer making student loan payments.) One of my final assignments will be to write up some short bios for around 25 of the 100 people who will be honored on this year’s POZ 100 list, which recognizes outstanding HIV-positive activists and advocates. I’ve also had the chance to conduct and transcribe some interviews, both in-person and over the phone. 


By far my biggest triumph, however, was the astonishing viral success of not one but two stories I wrote earlier this summer: one about the 7th annual HIV Long-Term Survivors’ Awareness Day and one about a free sleepaway camp for kids whose parents have died from, are being treated for, or have survived a bout of cancer. (Shameless plug: check them out here and here!) For my 

work on these, I was awarded the “traffic monkey,” an informal office commendation in the form of (what else?) a stuffed monkey. 

 

Besides honing my researching, writing, editing, and fact-checking skills, however, I’ve also had the chance to see how magazine newsletters are put together, familiarize myself with the layout of Google Analytics and InDesign, learn about risk factors and treatments for such disparate diseases as HIV and cancer, and observe the process of caption and cover-photo selection. My coworkers at Smart + Strong have been an incredible source of support every step of the way, always eager to show me some new technical tool, go over edits with me, and give me advice going forward. 

 

As I head into my last week with Smart+Strong, I’ll be writing a print feature on breast cancer survivors’ dragon boat racing, a really intriguing sporting trend designed to help breast cancer survivors regain physical strength after surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. I’m really, truly going to miss waking up every weekday morning with hours of writing in front of me. This summer has been an invaluable experience: I’ve met some amazing people; gotten great career advice from the likes of The New Yorker editors, Esquire journalists, and Twitter media experts; and expanded my professional horizons. Can’t wait to (hopefully) return to New York City for a job this time next year!