Ever since she was young, Rebecca Mennecke has had a passion for literature. She would obsess over books and authors like other kids obsessed over celebrities. “I distinctly remember meeting Patrick Carmen, the author of Skeleton Creek,” adding, “He was so personable. My sisters and I thought he was THE COOLEST.” Fast forward to the Fall 2019 semester and Rebecca is living a dream come true as an intern at the Chippewa Valley Writers Guild.
The Chippewa Valley Writers Guild (CVWG) is a program of the Eau Claire Regional Arts council that is committed to supporting writers in the Chippewa Valley. Rebecca’s internship with the CVWG involves writing articles for the organization’s newsletter and website, where she previews literary events and spotlights local writers. She reads the works of local writers, then interviews them, learning more about them and their craft.
Rebecca says that the CVWG internship is a dream internship. She gets to work directly with BJ Hollars, a professor in the UWEC English Department, and a writer who she looks up to. When she interviews authors, she’s not only writing for the CVWG, but she’s also getting advice and learning new things. During her spotlight on Dorothy Chan, another professor in the English department, Rebecca says she received great advice she could bring into her own creative writing workshops and share with her peers.
Professor Hollars is not only a site supervisor for the CVWG, but he is also the program director for the English department internships. When asked what it’s been like to be playing two different roles, Hollars said that he’s been able to “see the program on both a micro level and a macro level. That is, I can work with individual interns to better understand their experience, and then I can take a step back and try to view the program more broadly.” For Professor Hollars being the program director and a site supervisor has been eye-opening.
This is Hollars’s first year as program director, and he says that his hope is that “both our students and our community partners feel as if the internship experience has been mutually beneficial.” He describes the experience as a symbiotic relationship; the community partners and students are learning new information and skills from each other. Not only does Hollars have hopes for the present program, but he has hopes for the future of the program. He said that he’s excited to help students understand the potential importance of internships on their future careers. A goal that he wants to keep working towards is creating paid internship opportunities for students.
To Hollars a great intern isn’t just a person who ‘does a job’ or ‘completes a task,’ but people that “employ their own insights and skill sets to enhance a program broadly.” Rebecca does exactly that for the CVWG. While creating content for the newsletter and social media, Rebecca has also done a lot extra for the organization like streamlining their editing process, shifting the organization to Google Docs, and brainstorming new areas of interest. Hollars said that thanks to Rebecca’s insight, the organization is stronger.
Every day, Rebecca learns more about writing techniques, communication skills, and how not to get starstruck when talking to writers. She says that “it has been so amazing to get to know many of the brilliant individuals” who are a part of the rich literary community of the Chippewa Valley. Anyone who has a love of books and writing is highly recommended to take advantage of the opportunity to work at the CVWG, Rebecca said.
English internships come in all forms, from writing for the Chippewa Valley Writers Guild to a social media contributor for City Councilwoman Catherine Emmanuelle. Just like each student is unique, each internship in the program is unique. As Rebecca puts it, “What other internship would you get to read books and talk to writers? … Literally none that I can think of.”