Thursday, February 26, 2009

Notes from a Godine Intern: Rachael Ringenberg

{Editor's note: the internship program at Godine has a more than three-decade–old tradition of fine young people — students or recent graduates, mostly — working with us for three to four months and learning the trade of publishing through real experience; they proofread, edit, opine, write copy, work sales projects, and even occasionally design, along with the myriad daily office duties we require to run efficiently; they're as important to us as a full staff member.}

I am one of the two current interns proudly continuing the institution of interns at Godine. These seasonal internships are unpaid and thus, as I have no livelihood interests at stake, I will let you in on a few of the secret happenings of a small press — just the ones that industry hounds are always after. Like the reticent Wonka and his chocolate factory, it is sometimes difficult to guess at what covert operations are hatched behind the imposing gates of David R. Godine, Publisher. (And it’s true, if you come to Boston and stand outside the door of the Godine office, you will first encounter a fierce ironwork gate.)

Aside from the completely overwhelming intensity to do things right and well, which takes one several days to understand, several weeks to adjust to as a pace, and probably months to indoctrinate; the secret I will to tell you today is that within the offices of Godine there are three typewriters. They are not kept as archaic relics of a bygone era for the occasional fond nod and soft pat of recollection. These friendly creatures are actual humming, clamorous, and fully functioning machines. Though David’s office is at the other end of our office flat, the steady rat-tat-tat that reliably follows his daily entrances to the office does waft its way down to our space, and is relied upon throughout the day as a sure sign that he has not left the building. Correspondence of all kinds launch furiously from David’s desk (one of the few consistent tasks that interns do is taking out the mail), which leaves me curious as to how the Post Office manages to be running a deficit with men like David loyally working for the cause.

If I were to encounter you in a jungle, and you were to confess that you’ve never held in your hands something typewritten on a modern typewriter, I would attempt to describe it to you as this: neatly inky. Having been at Godine for two months, I have already logged several hours at the typewriter. My personal opinion of them began with suspicion as I warily ticked through my initial assignments, followed by slight disdain when I realized how my mistakes were unforgivingly recorded, and currently you find me at cautious alliance. Alliance because there are a variety of tasks which fall to this workhorse, and so I too now rely on its steady orbiting ball. A post-it* scrawl elevated to a neatly preserved notation, a stack of envelopes set slightly apart from your average company mailing, a postcard able to be filled margin to margin with news.

* Another secret. Post-it notes, salvation to some offices, are rarely seen around Godine. Their ephemeral nature is viewed as unreliable and therefore, is dismissed.


  1. Following up on this would be a good project for an intern. I am sure you have a book to submit!

  2. This one's a keeper.

  3. I'm was a Godine intern in the summer of 1996 when the office was in Lincoln,MA. I loved every minute of it.

    I don't remember the typewriters, but I do remember that back then interns had to go down to the basement to meter the mail, which wasn't necessarily a bad thing, since that's where all the books were kept.

    Thanks for sharing your experience.

  4. Grace sent me a link and I read the entire post on Butterflies thinking it was yours. I liked the bit about the typewriters and post-its. Wholly appropriate.